Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Eikev 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת עקב תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Eikev 5769

Transforming what we trample on towards HaShem
This week’s parasha, Eikev, is unique that there does not appear to be an underlying theme to the parasha. The parasha commences with the blessing that the Jewish People will receive when they follow Hashem’s instructions. The Torah then exhorts the Jewish People that upon entering Eretz Yisroel they should not be intimidated by the might of the nations. Moshe continues to warn the Jewish People not to forget that HaShem is the One Who provides them with their sustenance. The Jewish People are then reminded of their sin that they committed by worshipping the Golden Calf and how subsequently Moshe received the second set of Luchos. The end of the parasha discusses the love that HaShem has for the Jewish People and the requirement to love HaShem and perform His will. What, then, is the message that the Torah is conveying to us in this week’s parasha?
Subjugating all our desires to HaShem’s will
The Pinei Menachem writes that all of one’s desires must be subjugated to HaShem. It is said (Eichah 1:11) nasnu machmadeihem biochel lihashiv nafesh, they traded with their enemies for food to restore the soul. The Arizal understands this verse to mean that one has to give up his desires to restore his soul. On Shabbos, writes the Pinei Menachem, one is granted a neshama yeseira, an extra soul. The purpose of this gift is so that one can have his soul restored, as we know that the Gemara (Taanis 27b) states that when Shabbos ends, avdah nefesh, one loses the extra soul.
No more trampling on insignificant matters
Based on this insight we can better understand the theme of this week’s parasha. We are constantly reminded that our accomplishments are not our own. Everything that we accomplish is because HaShem gave us the strength to do so. Perhaps this is the meaning of what Rashi writes in the beginning of the parashah. It is said (Devarim 7:12) vihayah eikev tishmiun, this shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances. Rashi writes that the word eikev can also mean heel. Thus, the Torah is stating that when one performs mitzvos that one normally tramples on with his heel, then he will be rewarded. This teaches us that even the so-called insignificant matters in life also must be subjugated to HaShem’s will.
The Shabbos connection

Regarding Shabbos it is said (Yeshaya 58:13) im tashiv miShabbos raglecho, if you restrain your foot because it is the Shabbos. This verse can be interpreted homiletically to mean that on the Holy Shabbos, one should even restrain his hergel i.e. that which he does by rote, and even those actions should be transformed into actions of holiness in the service of HaShem. It should be HaShem’s will that we will be able to direct all of our actions and our thoughts towards performing His will, and then we will merit that He will do our will and bring us the much awaited salvation, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
Someone cares
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: Recently, to our great sorrow and grief, the children of the Bobover Rebbe zt”l observed the customary shiva (seven day) period following his death. As is to be expected, the amount of people, both men and women, who came to be menachem aveil (comfort the mourners) was both inspiring and overwhelming. From all over the world, people flocked to Boro Park, Brooklyn, to comfort the family and pay their last respects to the memory of the Rebbe.
Entire volumes could be written based solely on the stories and anecdotes related to the Rebbe zt”l’s family over those few days. Amazingly, a number of women who came to comfort the Rebbe's daughters told of an almost identical experience. One of them told her story as follows:
“I am a divorcee. I have no children and very little family. I live a very lonely life. I was told that the best time for me to go to the Rebbe was late at night, when all the other visitors had already left, so that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable sitting around in a roomful of men awaiting my turn. I was the last person to see the Rebbe that night.
When we had finished talking, the Rebbe asked my how I planned to get home. I told him that I didn’t live far away, and I was going to walk.”
‘So late at night?’ the Rebbe asked. ‘No - you can’t walk!’ The Rebbe picked up the phone, and called me a car-service. ‘Go downstairs,’ he said, ‘I’ll be there soon.’
“I went downstairs to wait for the car-service. Soon afterwards, the Rebbe was there too. He waited until I was safely in the car, and only then did he retreat into his house.
“Soon after I arrived home, my telephone rang. ‘Who could possibly be calling this late at night?’ I thought. It was the Rebbe. ‘Hello - this is the Bobover Ruv. I just wanted to make sure you arrived home safely.’ ‘Yes, thank you Rebbe, I'm fine.’
“Now I know, I told myself, why I went to the Rebbe. Because he cares. Sometimes the burden of being alone is too much to bear. After all, who really cares if I get home safely, or if I was run over by a car, G-d forbid? No one knows, and no one cares. So what if I die? The fact that the Rebbe actually cared whether or not I got home safely meant so much to me. It gave me the courage and strength to go on living.”
How can you not study Torah?!
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Rav Yitzchok Zilber, founder of Toldos Yeshurun, an organization that re-educates estranged Russian Jews about the heritage that was snatched from them, is known as the Father of contemporary Russian Jewry. A native of Kazan, Russia, Rav Zilber was born just before the Russian Revolution in 1917, but was discreetly taught Torah by his revered father and not only completed Shas several times during his years in Russia, but also taught Torah to many others. During World War II, he was imprisoned in Stalin’s gulag, yet he managed to remain Shomer Shabbos despite the inhumane conditions. He later had to flee from the KGB, which wanted to arrest him for his Torah activities in Russia. In 1972, he immigrated to Israel. As he walked off the airplane on his arrival in Israel, he embraced the custom agent.
“Chavivi! My dear one!” shouted Rabbi Zilber as he gave the man a bear-hug embrace. “It is so wonderful to be here and talk to a Jew like a Jew!” The man offered a polite smile and a pleasant Shalom.
“Please tell me,” pleaded Rabbi Zilber with an intensity that seemed to announce a question whose answer would solve all the problems facing Jews for the millennia. “For years I am struggling with this problem. Please tell me, how did you understand the Ketzos HaChoshen on the sugya of Areiv?” (The Ketzos HaChoshen is a classical commentary on the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat, Code of Jewish Law.)
“Ma zeh Ketzos HaChoshen (what is a Ketzos HaChoshen)?” came the reply.
Rav Zilber was puzzled. He tried another query. “Maybe you can explain how you understood the Mishna in (tractate) Uktzin in the last chapter.”
“Mishna? Uktzin? Ketzos? What are you talking about?”
Rav Zilber, recalling the difficulties he had trying to teach and study Torah in Russia was mortified. In honest shock, he asked the man. “how is this possible? You mean to tell me that you live here in Israel and have the ability to learn Torah. And you don’t know what the Ketzos is? You never heard of Mishna Uktzin?”
Rav Zilber began to cry.
They say that the customs agent was so moved by Rabbi Zilber’s simple sincerity that he began to study Torah. (Reprinted with permission from
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Eikev 5769
I will not be giving a class in Navi this Shabbos afternoon.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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