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by Fred Toczek
A survey of parsha thoughts from Gedolei
Yisroel compiled by Fred Toczek. Perfect for printing and
use at your Shabbos tisch.
EIKEV: 5757 & 5762
NEXT PARSHA: RE'EH
Moshe's continued address to the Israelites:
A. A Promise of Prosperity. Moshe
assured the people that prosperity and good health would follow their
observance of the Mitzvos (Commandments).
B. Conquest of Canaan. They had no need
to fear the numerous Canaanites, for Hashem would be the Israelites'
protector. However, the conquest of Canaan was to be followed by the
destruction of all forms of idolatry.
C. Wandering in the Desert. Moshe
commented that the forty years of wandering in the desert served to
test the people's loyalty to Hashem's commandments. The hardships
there had disciplined them to learn that "man does not live by bread
alone, but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the L-rd."
Moshe described the bountiful Land of Israel including the seven Minim
(seven varieties of fruit).
D. The Danger of Prosperity. Moshe
warned that the prosperity the Jews would enjoy in the Promised Land
might lead them to disregard Hashem's role in their welfare. Such
ingratitude would be severely punished, and the disloyal Jews would
share the fate of the heathen nations who perished.
E. The Jews' Earlier Acts of Rebellion.
Moshe reminded the people of their earlier acts of rebellion. After he
had spent forty days on the mountain receiving the Luchos (Tablets of
Stone), he had returned to find the people worshiping the Golden Calf.
Hashem had declared His intention to destroy the people, but Moshe
interceded on their behalf. He had broken the Luchos, destroyed the
Golden Calf, and punished those who had honored it. He also
recalled four other instances of the people's disobedience at Taberah,
Massah, Kibros HaTa'avah and Kadesh Barnea.
F. The Second Set of Luchos. After Moshe
had championed the Israelites' cause by asking Hashem to recall the
merits of the Patriarchs, Hashem told him to return to the mountain to
receive a second set of Luchos. These were to be placed in the Holy
Ark, the Aron HaKodesh. The Kohanim and Levi'im had been appointed to
perform the services of the Mishkon, and permission had been given for
the people to continue the journey from Sinai towards Canaan.
G. What Hashem Requests of the Jews. All
that Hashem requests from the Jews, Moshe said, is for them to love,
fear and serve Hashem by keeping the Mitzvos. Their personal knowledge
of His greatness, manifested by such incidents as the deliverance from
Egypt, the miracle of the Red Sea, the experiences in the desert, and
the miraculous punishment given to Korach, Dasan and Aviram, should be
sufficient to assure their observance and fulfillment of the Mitzvos.
The commitment to Hashem's laws would ensure a successful harvest
through the regularity of the autumn and spring rains; but these would
be withheld if the people became disobedient. Moshe assured the people
that their adherence to Torah would result in their victory over the
Canaanites and the acquisition of extensive territory in the Promised
II. Divrei Torah
A. Something To Say (R' Dovid Goldwasser)
1. Grace After Meals. "You will eat and
be satisfied." R' Beer Mezritch notes that the Grace After Meals needs
more feeling than prayer, for prayer is a rabbinical decree whereas
Benching is a Torah commandment. On this verse, the Karliner also
notes that we should get satisfaction from the blessings after the
2. Modeling G-d. "And it came to pass
that because the midwives feared G-d that He made them houses." R'
Baruch Mezbitzer commented that Hashem requires us to do whatever He
does. As He is merciful and compassionate, so should we be so.
B. Rabbi Frand on the Parsha
Manna From Heaven. "The One who fed you manna in the desert
in order to test you." How is G-d's providing the Jews with manna a
test? On the contrary, it appears to be a tremendous blessing. Rashi
explains that Hashem was referring to the laws that governed manna
(e.g., that it couldn't be stored for another day, that it couldn't be
gathered on Shabbos, etc.) That was the test. That is, would the
Jews observe the Torah when they didn't have to worry about their
livelihood? Affluence can be as much a test as poverty, for it comes
with tremendous responsibility. The Maggid of Mezritch once said that
when we face trouble, sickness or mortal danger, G-d forbid, we all
become religious. But, when things are going well, do we give G-d much
thought? That was (and is) the test of the manna.
C. Living Each Week (R' Avraham Twerski)
1. Always On Duty. "It shall come to
pass, because you will listen to these ordinances and observe and do
them." The word use in Hebrew for "because" is "eikev," which is a
rather unusual word to convey this meaning. Commentators have
ascribed various interpretations to this word. Rashi notes that eikev
can also mean "heel" and the implication is that one must always take
care to observe those mitzvos which are trod upon because people do
not consider them "important" based upon their mortal understanding.
Rabbi Moshe Lieb of Sassov offered another interpretation. With every
eikev, or step, that we take we must pause and consider whether it is
consistent with the Divine ordinances. "In your ways you must know G-d"
(Proverbs 3:6) is a fundamental ideal of living a Torah life. Nothing
is excluded from the domain of Torah observance.
2. Nutrients of the Soul. "Man does not
live by bread alone, but by everything that emanated from the mouth of
G-d does man live . . . you shall eat and be satisfied and bless G-d."
The Chassidic works ask: our bodies receive our nutrition from the
food we eat. But, how does food sustain the neshamah (soul)? The
answer is that nothing in the world could exist without having a
nucleus of G-dliness. When we eat food, our bodies are nurtured by the
physical components of the food, while our soul is nurtured by the
Divine nucleus (the food's spiritual component). The preparation for
absorption of the spiritual component is the blessing before/after
eating it, in which we express our gratitude to G-d for
providing our physical needs. This, then, is the meaning of the above
verse - we do not survive only because of the physical component of
bread, but by the Divine word that is within it. That is why one must
recite the blessings - to enable our souls to receive its nourishment.
E. Growth Through Torah (R' Zelig Pliskin)
Be Willing To Make Positive Changes. "For you are a
stiff-necked people." S'forno comments that it is impossible for there
to be righteousness and straightness of heart together with the trait
of being stiff-necked. Being stiff-necked means following the
arbitrary feelings of his heart and his own subjective thinking, even
if it is inconsistent with a Torah viewpoint. We must, of course, act
based upon our mortal understanding; however, if thinking is mistaken,
then we must resolve to make the necessary changes. Often, this is
difficult, for it much easier to repeat old habits. It takes a strong
act of will to bring about real changes in our behavior. The
dividends, however, are limitless.
F. Torah Gems (Aharon Yaakov Greenberg)
1. Individual Observance. "It shall come
to pass that if you hearken to these judgments, and keep and do them,
the L-rd your G-d will keep . . . and He will love and bless you." The
warning to observe the commandments is in the plural, whereas the
promise of reward is in the singular since it is different for each of
2. Fear of Heaven. "What does the L-rd
your G-d require of you, but to fear the L-rd your G-d always." R'
Hanina said, "everything is in the hands of Heaven except for the fear
of Heaven." (Berachos 33). In order to fulfill the commandments, one
typically needs something (e.g,. a house upon which to hang a mezuzah,
a garment upon which to put tzitzis, etc.) The exception is the
commandment to fear G-d for it can fulfilled regardless of the
G. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
1. Awareness of how Hashem has already
helped you will enable you to overcome worry. "If you say in your
heart, these nations are more numerous than we, how can I conquer
them. Do not fear them, remember what the Almighty, your G-d, did to
Pharaoh and all of Egypt." Bitachon (faith in Hashem) eliminates worry.
What is worry? Worry is being afraid that in the future there will be
a situation that you will not be able to cope with. But if you
remember how Hashem has helped you in the past, you will find it
easier to trust Him in the present and, in turn, eliminate worry.
2. Reflect on the entire context of the good
that happens to you. "[Lest] your heart be exalted, and you forget
that Almighty, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt from
the house of slavery." Ibn Ezra explains: Lest your forget that you
were slaves who were in a very lowly state of mind and that Hashem
took care of your needs. Rabbi Mordechai Gifter commented that this
teaches us a lesson in gratitude: it is not sufficient for us just to
be grateful for the specific good we receive; rather, we must reflect
on the entire context of the good. For this we must think about our
situation before we received this kindness. The more we are aware of
our pre-existing situation, the greater will be our appreciation for
the kindnesses which Hashem and others bestow upon us.
3. Difficult life-tests elevate you. "In
order to afflict you and in order to test you to do good for you in
your end." The Chofetz Chaim commented that the affliction of the
Israelites was in order to test them out to see if they would behave
in an elevated manner even though they had difficulties. The Hebrew
word "masoscho," which means test also means to be elevated. Both
concepts fit together. When someone acts in an elevated manner when he
has difficult life-tests, he becomes elevated. We should look at
difficulties in our lives as opportunities to improve our character
traits and elevate ourselves. When we view difficulties in this light,
they will be much easier to cope with.
4. Joy helps you appreciate Hashem. "And
it will be if you forget the Almighty, your G-d." We find in the
Midrash that the word "vehayah" refers to joy. What joy could there
possibly be in forgetting Hashem? The Kotzker Rebbe said that this
verse can be understood by dividing the words differently: "If you
forget to be in a state of joy," that is, if you forget the vehayah
which refers to joy, this will cause you to forget Hashem. If someone
lacks joy, he will find it difficult to appreciate Hashem. Hence joy
is one of the forty-eight tools for acquiring Torah. Lack of joy leads
to many faults and difficulties. When in a state of joy, you have a
greater appreciation for Hashem and all that He has given you.
5. Have compassion for all living things;
Focus on satisfaction not desire. "And I will give grass in the
field for your animals and you will eat and be satisfied."
a. The Talmud states on this verse that one
must feed his animals in the morning before he himself eats. This is
to teach us compassion for all living creatures. Even when you are
hungry, your first thoughts should be of helping those who are
unable to help themselves.
b. The Brisker Rav noted that the blessing
for animals is that they should have a large quantity of food, but
the blessing for us is to feel satisfied when we eat. Eating
excessively can be hazardous to one's physical and spiritual
well-being. Keep your focus on satisfaction and aware from desire.
H. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)
The True Fear of G-d. Torah writings are
replete with the fundamental requirement that a person must have yiras
Shamayim (fear of heaven). This term is usually understood to refer to
man's fear of G-d. The Baal Shem Tov gave the term a twist by
interpreting it as the "fear that G-d has." But how can we say that G-d
fears anything? The Baal Shem Tov explained this with a parable. A
parent wishes to protect his/her young child from injury and therefore
warns him that if he exposes himself to danger, he will be punished
(e.g., a parent may discipline a child who runs into a street where he
might be hurt by a car). The child will then refrain from running into
the street because he fears being punished by his parent. If the child
has more understanding, he would realize that the reason he should not
run into the street is to avoid being injured, rather than to avoid
being punished. So it is with G-d and man. We are given various
mitzvos and prohibitions, whose transgression causes harm to our soul.
Like the young child, however, we may be unable to understand why we
shouldn't violate these commandments.
Hence there is a punishment attached to the
transgression to deter us. Ideally, however, we should fear the
harm of the transgression rather than the punishment. G-d "fears" for
our welfare, and being a devoted father, fears that in our folly we
may do things harmful to us. It is the fear for our welfare, says the
Bal Shem Tov, the fear of the harm of the transgression rather than
the punishment, that a mature person should have.
I. Wellsprings of Torah (Rabbi Alexander Zusia
Every step you take. "And it shall come to pass because you
hearken to these ordinances . . . " For the conjunction "because" the
Torah uses the expression "eikev" which, when used as a noun, means
"heel" (i.e., the part of a foot used in walking). This is to teach us
that whenever a person takes a step, literally or figuratively, he
must first reflect whether it would be in accordance with the will of
Hashem, and if he should find that it is not, he must desist from it.
(Or Tzaddikim, attributed to the Rabbi of Sassov) As Rabbi Twerski
tells over in Living Each Week: Rabbi Ben Tzion of Bobov was once
visited by the chief of the gendarmes of Poland, who described the
many taxing duties of his position. "When I get home at the end of the
day," he said, "and I remove my cap, I am off duty." The Rabbi smiled
and said, "Inasmuch as I never remove my yarmulke (skull cap), and I
wear it even in my sleep, then I am never off duty!"
J. Majesty of Man (Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz)
Giving ourselves credit. "And you will say in your heart,
'it is my strength and the power of my hand that did this valorous
deed." As the Israelites were nearing Israel, Moshe took the
opportunity to warn them of the possible emotions they might
experience as they forged their way into the Promised Land. Their
conquering of the seven mighty nations could give rise to feelings of
pride causing them to perhaps believe that it was their hand -- rather
than Hashem's -- which led to their miraculous victory. How could they
have made this mistake and denied Hashem's hand? Our evil inclination
can force us to deny Hashem's role, and instead believe that our
cunning, talent and strength were the sole reason for our success.
K. Reflections on the Sedra (Rabbi Zalman
The spark within each Jew. One can almost hear the pleading
tone in Moshe's voice as he urges the people, "What does G-d demand of
you except to fear Him . . . and love Him and serve Him!" The Talmud
wonders at Moshe's expectation -- is fear of G-d so simple a matter?
And the Talmud answers that for Moshe, fear was an elementary
experience, a "small thing." But Rabbi Schneur Zalman notes that Moshe
was speaking to Israel, people for whom true reverence was hardly a
"small thing." How does Moshe treat it so lightly? The Rabbi answers
that every Jew has a spark of Moshe inside him/herself, an intuitive
reverence for G-d and His word. Moshe meant not to deprecate fear of
G-d, but to emphasize that it is within the grasp of everyone. The
spark of Moshe in the Jews' heart may be concealed to the point of
seeming disappearance, but when the Jew desires, it reveals itself.
When that spark shines, then no spiritual height or religious
experience is out of reach.
L. Peninim on the Torah (Rabbi A.L.
The Bircas Ha'Mazon (Grace After Meals). "And you shall eat
and be satisfied and bless Hashem your G-d for the good land which He
has given you." This verse implies that the Bircas Ha'Mazon isn't
merely a formal offering of gratitude for the meal we have eaten, but
an acknowledgment that Hashem is the source of all things. Indeed, we
even submit our thanks to Hashem for providing us with our land. Why
is it necessary to specifically mention the land during Bircas? Horav
B.Z. Baruk, z'tl offers the following analogy in response. A person
who was hunger stricken and thirsty is walking in the desert,
completely exposed to the elements. Suddenly, a plane lands and a
beautifully furnished home complete with a table laden with various
delicacies ready for his consumption appears before him.
Obviously, in such a situation, his gratitude would extend beyond a
simple acknowledgment of the delicious meal. He would appreciate
everything. Similarly, we should acknowledge that every meal is
a brand new creation, resulting from Hashem's benevolence.