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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.
A. Moshe's charge to Yehoshua. Moshe was 120 years old,
and announced that his leadership was drawing to its
close. He revealed that Yehoshua had been chosen by
Hashem as his successor to take command and lead the Jews
successfully into Israel. In the presence of the entire
assembly, Moshe urged Yehoshua to be strong and
courageous, and to place his full trust in Hashem.
B. Writing of the Law/Public Reading on Succos. Moshe
then committed the Law to writing and delivered it to the Koheinim and Elders. When there would a king over Israel,
he would be charged with reading it publicly on Succos
(during the year after the Shemmitah year) to the
Israelites assembled at the Sanctuary; thus, every man,
woman and child of Israel would be constantly reminded of
their obligation to obey Hashem.
C. A Copy of the Law in the Sanctuary.
The copy of the
Law written by Moshe was to be placed by the Levi'im at
the site of the Aron HaKodesh to bear witness against
Israel is they were to deviate from its teachings.
D. The Teaching of Ha'azinu.
Moshe was told to assemble
the people to teach them the passage of Ha'azinu, which
would again remind them of the consequences of turning
II. Divrei Torah
A. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
1. Help people overcome their fears.
"And Moshe went
. . . " Ibn Ezra explains that before Moshe died he
went to each tribe to notify them that he was about to
die, but they should not be afraid because he was leaving
them with Yehoshua who would be a reliable leader. We
learn from Moshe that we must do everything to alleviate
2. When studying Torah properly you will experience much
light and consolation. "And now write for you this
song." This verse contains the last commandment in
the order of the Torah (i.e., to write a Torah scroll).
The Chofetz Chaim noted that this mitzvah comes right
after the verse which states that Hashem will hide His
presence from the people because of their transgressions;
this teaches us that even in times of darkness when we
engage in Torah study we will find much light and
3. Give your children positive Jewish experiences. When
the king was to read the Torah before the entire Jewish
nation, he was told to "gather together the nation,
the men, women and the little children . . . in order
that they should learn, fear Hashem, and observe the
Torah." Rashi cites the Talmud that the children
were brought along in order to bring rewards to their
parents; the Talmud calls this concept a "precious
jewel". What do we learn from this?
a. Even though young children do not understand what is
being said, just being present when the king read the
Torah before the entire nation would have a major impact
on them for the rest of their life. They would gain a
sense of the importance of the Torah to the entire Jewish
people. Even today, we must do everything we can so that
children learn from an early age the importance of the
Torah; every experience makes a profound impression.
b. As noted in Peninim on the Torah, the choice of words
used to describe the parents -- i.e, those who
"bring them", rather than just the
"parents" -- teaches us an additional lesson.
Perhaps the Talmud wishes to stress the importance of the
parents in the child's Jewish educational experience. In
order for children to benefit fully from their Jewish
education, the parents must be actively involved and come
together with them to listen, learn and experience.
B. Kol Dodi on the Torah (Rabbi David Feinstein)
"Seeing" Hashem's presence. "And I will
surely hide My countenance on that day . . . and now
write for yourselves this song . . . so that this song
shall be for Me a witness on the Children of
Israel." The "song" refers to the Torah;
the words "for Me" indicates that by means of
the "song", we can see Hashem's presence. There
is a very important point hidden in these verses. At
times when Hashem so to speaks "hides His face"
and doesn't make His presence manifest, it is most
important that we then immerse ourselves in the
"song" of the Torah, for in it we see His
presence and the truth that there is a G-d.
C. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)
1. Living is growing. Moshe said, "I am 120 years
old this day; I can no more go out and come in, and G-d
has said to me, You shall not go over this Jordan'"
The Rabbi of Gur said that by his 120th birthday, Moshe
had reached the ultimate in spirituality and holiness
that a human being can attain. The only possibility for
Moshe to have achieved additional spiritual growth would
have been in Israel, but inasmuch as he was denied
entrance thereto, he could not progress any further. To
Moshe, a life without possibility of growth was not worth
living and when he realized that the Divine decree
restricting him from entering the Holy Land was
irrevocable, he willingly accepted death. To Moshe,
living meant growing. Moshe is referred to as Rabbeinu,
our teacher, who taught us not only by his
pronouncements, but also by the way he lived and died.
Unlike Moshe, who reached the ultimate heights possible
for a human being, we all have abundant room to expand
our growth. We must heed Moshe's lesson and always strive
to grow, for growing is true living.
2. The key ingredient. "At the end of seven years,
at the time of the sabbatical years at the festival of Succos . . . assemble the nation, men, women and children
and the stranger in your grates, that they may hear and
that they may learn and come to fear G-d, and observe to
do all of the words of this Torah." The mitzvah's
stated purpose is to imbue the younger generation with
the fear of G-d and the commitment to observe the Torah.
It is scheduled on the Succos that immediately follows
the Shemittah year (i.e., the seventh year during which
the land is to lie fallow). The celebration of this
mitzvah must indeed have been impressive and inspiring.
Jews from all parts of Israel -- men, women and children
-- gathered in the courtyard of the Sanctuary in
Jerusalem, and the king of Israel stood upon a specially
designed stage and read the Book of Deuteronomy. This
moving scene must have certainly inspired the young
children. But, why did it have to follow the Shemittah
year? Wouldn't it have been equally impressive at any
time? The Torah here conveys a most important concept.
While teaching is important, it isn't enough. Impressive
services have an impact, but may not be sufficient. For a
mitzvah to be engraved on the hearts and minds of young
people, another ingredient is required. The mitzvah of
Shemittah is given the highest priority in the Torah.
(Indeed, the failure to observe Shemittah is cited as the
reason that Jews were driven from their homeland.)
Allowing the land to lie fallow was both a personal
sacrifice and a test of faith. Israel was primarily an
agricultural country, and this mitzvah was an act of
mesiras nefesh (placing oneself at great risk). What the
Torah is telling us is that if we wish our children and
grandchildren to adopt the values we espouse, we must
demonstrate to them the depth and sincerity of our
convictions. We must show them that we can withstand
mesiras nefesh. Mesiras nefesh doesn't necessarily
require heroic acts -- indeed, it may more often be
manifested in less dramatic behavior, such as committing
oneself to prayer, study, charity, etc.
3. When bad things happen. . . . And many evils and
troubles shall come upon them, and they will say in that
day, "Have not these evils come upon us because G-d
is not among us?" The question, "why do bad
things happen to good people?" has concerned every
thinking person. The Talmud states that when Moshe
requested of G-d, "Let me know your ways"
(Exodus 33:13), he was posing this very question. The
Book of Job, whose authorship some ascribe to Moshe (Bava
Basra 15a), is devoted to discussion of this question,
and the conclusion is that there is no logical answer.
Rather, it is a principle of faith that G-d is just and
benevolent, and all we can say is that the occurrence of
bad things to good people is beyond our capability to
understand. A popular modern author has tried to resolve
this problem logically, and concludes that bad things
happen to good people because G-d is not in immediate
control of everything in the world, hence unjust things
can happen. Moshe foresaw that we would be bothered by
this question, and warned us against this simplistic
solution because it constitutes a denial of Divine
providence and/or omnipotence. Faith can apply where
logic cannot. We must accept that G-d is just and
benevolent, even when our logic is unable to appreciate
D. Peninim on the Torah (Rabbi A.L. Scheinbaum)
Faith in Hashem.
"And there shall come upon them
many evils and troubles; so that they will say in that
day; it is not because our G-d is not among us, that
these evils have come upon us?" The Pasuk begins
with the phrase "many evils and troubles," but
at the end it only uses the word "bad." What
stimulated the transition, which has diminished this
individual's troubles? In order to resolve this problem,
we must first understand the true meaning of
"tsarus" (trouble). The origin of the word if
"tsar," which implies tightness or restriction.
This alludes to moments when one is so tormented by
troubles that he feels enveloped and unable to maneuver
himself out from under the darkness that plagues his
life. Such a situation results from one's lack of trust
in Hashem, which leads to a crushing feeling of
helplessness and defeat. This attitude contrasts to the
one held by an individual who believed in Hashem and in
his heart accepts His Divine Providence in every facet of
his existence. As Dovid Hamelech said in Psalms,
"Even as I walk in the valley of the shadow of
death, I fear not, for You are with me." For every
trouble, he will seek solace through his faith in Hashem.
This is meaning of the Pasuk. The first part refers to
one who hasn't yet recognized Hashem's constant vigilance
over him and is, therefore, greatly pained. In the second
half of the Pasuk, the individual has "found"
Hashem and is conscious of His Omnipresence. He still has
troubles, but they no longer debilitate him. He has now
found the source of all comfort. (Horav Eliezer M.