Chodesh Elul, and Teshuvah
by Rabbi David Etengoff
It says in this week Parasha “an Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the L-rd; even the tenth generation shall never enter the assembly of the L-rd. Because they did not greet you with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt, and because he
Our parasha is a rich repository of the Mitzvot of the Torah. Indeed, 74 of the 613 Biblical commandments are stated here. One of them is found in the above-quoted passage: the eternal prohibition for a male Ammonite or Moabite to marry a Jewish woman (“enter the assembly of the L-rd,” Talmud Bavli, Yevamot 73a). Two reasons are given for this prohibition: “Because they did not greet you with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt, “ and “because he [the people of Moab] hired Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim against you, to curse you.”
Rabbi Chaim ben Moshe Attar known as the “Or Hachaim,” asked a fundamental question regarding the dual reasons presented by the Torah for the above-stated prohibition: “Since [Moab in particular] hired Bilaam to curse the Jewish people [ultimately resulting in the deaths of 24,000 Jewish males], why did the Torah include the seemingly quite secondary reason of “Because they did not greet you with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt?” Or Hachaim’s response opens new vistas of Torah understanding. In his view, the failure of these nations to greet us in an open-handed and generous fashion with gifts of food and water was sufficient cause to enact the law that forever barred the males from marrying Jewish women. This is the case, since: “…they more than any other nations were obligated to act with Derech Eretz (in an ethical and moral manner) because of the nearly unlimited kindness that Avraham Avinu (our father Abraham), had demonstrated toward them.” We must remember that Lot, Avraham’s nephew, was the ancestor of both Ammon and Moab, and that Avraham, the founder of our nation, had rescued Lot from the murderous hands of raiding armies. As such, Ammon and Moab quite simply owed us unlimited Derech Eretz. At a minimum, this surely would have included “greeting us with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt.” Yet, this is exactly what they failed to do. As such, this and this alone, suggests the Or Hachaim, was sufficient reason to eternally exclude the men of Ammon and Moab from marrying Jewish women.
Our Sages placed a great deal of emphasis upon the singular importance of Derech Eretz. This is particularly the case, since during the 26 generations from Adam to Moshe; Derech Eretz was the moral and ethical code of mankind:
Rabbi Yishmael bar Rav Nachman declared: “Derech Eretz preceded the [giving of] the Torah by 26 generations.” Thus the verse states: “And He [G-d] drove the man out, and He stationed from the east of the Garden of Eden the cherubim and the blade of the revolving sword, to guard the way to the Tree of Life.” The expression “the way” (“Derech”) refers to Derech Eretz. Afterwards we find “the Tree of Life” (“Eitz Hachaim”), this is the Torah.”
This passage is fascinating in that it appears to be the source for the oft-quoted saying: “Derech Eretz kadmah l’Torah,” (“Derech Eretz precedes the Torah”). While this statement is almost always given a homiletic interpretation focusing upon the primacy of ethical behavior, it seems that it most authentically should be viewed as an actual historical statement. That is, Derech Eretz literally preceded the Torah by 26 generations.
Given all of the above, we are now ready to ask an essential question that is particularly regarding for the month of Elul: “What is Derech Eretz?” We need to ask ourselves this question so that the expression does not get lost in the dustbin of sound bites and slogans that make up so much of today’s culture. In addition, if we can understand this term theoretically, we have a much greater chance of integrating its content into the challenges of our daily lives.
In his commentary to Parashat Noach, the world-renowned chasidic rebbe and scholar, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (1847-1905), known as the “Sefat Emet”, explains “that Derech Eretz are the middot (moral and ethical characteristics) of an individual.” Moreover, in his commentary to Parashat Acharei Mot, he holds that this refers specifically to the consent “to avoid the pursuit of jealousy, self-indulgent pleasures, and glory.” This statement is similar with the famous mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) that states: “Rabbi Eliezer Hakafar said: ‘Jealousy, self-indulgent pleasures, and the pursuit of glory remove a person from this world.’” (4:21) unfortunately, each one of these traits has the potential to become all-consuming in nature, and thereby capture a person in a self-spun web of disgusting behaviors. Moreover, someone who pursues jealousy, pleasure-seeking, and the pursuit of glory is often blinded to the noble and good in man. Then, too, someone who falls deeper into the pit of these unfettered desires potentially removes himself from the redemptive and transformative power of teshuvah (repentance) – perhaps the greatest gift that HaKadosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One Blessed be He) has bestowed upon mankind. The month of Elul represents closeness to Hashem and the reinvigoration of the love relationship that obtains between G-d and man.
Once again we are preparing ourselves for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, for the Days of Awe. Once again we will stand before Hashem and literally beg Him for our lives, livelihood, and the health and happiness of our families, friends, and the entire Jewish people. As such, we need to focus upon each and every aspect of Derech Eretz in our lives in order to develop and refine our ethical and moral characteristics. In particular, and in light of the comments of the Sefat Emet, we need to cease being jealous, stop pursuing raw and undisciplined pleasures, and stop chasing after kavod (glory). May HaKadosh Baruch Hu endow us with the strength of character and presence of mind to grow in Derech Eretz and thereby invest Elul month with deeper spiritual meaning and heart-felt yeshivah.
facts of life: take this serious\One Message With One Voice
If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother (21:18)
Three of the essential ingredients in raising happy well-integrated children are The Three Fs Firm, Fair and Friendly.
Firm : Children need to know where they stand. They like nothing more than clearly defined limits. A parent who makes a demand and then backs down gives a child a sense of insecurity, for the child never knows exactly where the boundary is. Children push the limits precisely because they wish to know that there are limits. When we are firm, we give our children a defined world in which they can establish their relationship to the world at large rather than a vast expanse of frighteningly unknown possibilities. Of course, as parents we should therefore limit our demands to those things over which we are prepared not to back down. We must choose our battlefields wisely.
Fair: A child has a sense of what’s fair and what’s not. True, children are somewhat biased in their view of what fair consists of, but they are the first to recognize uneven-handed treatment. As parents, we must be unstinting in guarding against any kind of favoritism, either to siblings or to our own agendas.
Friendly: The correct proportion of positive interaction to negative interaction should be 80/20. In other words, every interaction that requires disciplinary words or action should be balanced by four times as many positive and loving experiences. In addition, however exasperating children can be, its always more effective to oblige them in a friendly manner. When they need correction, it should be done in a friendly tone of voice. Shouting certainly makes one feel better, but it’s nearly always counterproductive in the long run. It shows weakness and insecurity.
Apart from The Three Fs, theres a fourth ingredient that is equally as important.
Consistency is necessary not just in the behavior of each parent, but between the parents themselves. We learn this message from this week’s Torah portion:
If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother
A child is only considered to be in the halachic category of wayward and rebellious if he does not listen to the voice of his father and his mother. Among other things we learn from this verse is that both the father and the mother must have similar voices. The deeper meaning of both the parents having similar voices is that they must both speak with one voice, that they should not contradict one another in what is expected both of themselves and the child. The message that is broadcast in the home must be consistent, for without this keystone in child rearing, the child cannot be considered at fault.
Sources: based on Rabbi Noach Orlowek” (Aleinu Leshabeach)
10 Steps of Greatness
by Rabbi Avigdor Miller
In order to acheive greatness one has to learn many sepharim like Mesilat Yesharim, Hilchot Teshuva from Rambam, Ramban, ect. But what about the regular person, how can he acheive greatness, greatness doesn’t come right away, one acheives greatness step by step, no one can jump the ladder. So after much research through many Sefarim, Rabbi Avigdor Miller Z”tl made his 10 steps of greatness, made that everyone, no matter who you are, will be about to acheive greatness. If you do this easy program, you have acheived a great amount.
Ground Rules, don’t tell anyone they will think you’re crazy and will discourage you, do all of these privately and secretly. Also don’t do anymore right away you will tire yourself out.
1. Spend 30 seconds everyday thinking about Olam Haba.
2. When no one is watching say once a day “I love you Hashem”.
continued from last week
3. Once a day do an act of kindness secretly if someone sees, it doesn’t count. Why? because objective is not just to be a nice guy, we are talking about emulating the ways of Hashem. Hashem does tremendous kindness in making food and everything that we have, Hashem does so hiddenly. He doesn’t advertise anything. This is the best way to do emulate the ways of Hashem. But nobody does this, thats right if you want to be a nobody don’t do it.
4. Once a day encourage somebody, compliment somebody and don’t be stingy. Say something nice, make someone feel good, because the Rebono Shel Olam encourages the humble. Humans have many worries, encourage one person make him feel good. When you compliment someone it enters their body. You won’t lose anything. No one does this anymore. If you want to remain a nobody mind your business. Do it only once a day.
5. Thing about what you did yesterday spend one minute a day to think about yesterday, everynight spend a minute to think about what i did today how did I speak to people, did I utilize today properly, did I pray properly, did I thank Hashem, was I honest, only one minute a day.
6. Chazal says all your activities should be LeShem Shamayim, so when are going to do it, there no chance in the next world. Once a day think I’m eating Leshem Shamayim to give me a boost and energy to serve Hashem. Only one meal even a tiny snack. Rambam says one can eat on higher level be magnifying existance and appreciation of Hashem. Think about what you are eating comes from, dirt, carbon dioxide, oxygen, sunlight, ect. Hashem takes nothing mixes more nothing and more nothing and makes food for us. Don’t tell anyone what you are thinking about when you are eating this. Rabbi Miller would always turn his fork to remember to eat Leshem Shamayim.
7. Hashem made a human being Tzelem Elokim (In the image of Hashem). The human face is a reflection of Hashem’s face, the sanctity and divinity of the Shchina is in the face. It is the closest thing to the resemblance of Hashem than anything in this world (However one should keep in mind that Hashem doesn’t have a body or likeness of a body). Gemara says if you smack your friend in the face you are smacking the Shchina Chas Veshalom. Once a day look at someone’s face and say privately this person was created in the image of Hashem. When you wash your face think you are washing Tzelem Elokim
to be continued next week…
Morris Sapperstein always considered himself one of the unluckiest men around. That’s why he was blown away when one day, he stumbled upon a genie. The gene offered Morris one wish. “Well,” said Morris, “I’ve always wanted to go to Fiji, but plane tickets are so expensive, and boats are so slow. Can you build a bridge from Los Angeles to Fiji?”
“l’m sorry, Morris, the genie said.” You’re pretty much asking for the impossible. That’s six thousand miles of bridge. Plus, you ‘II need fuel stations and motels on the way. l’m sorry, but you’re going to have ask for Something else.” Oh, “said Morris, disappointed. Well, can you grant me the ability to understand women?” The genie cleared his throat. “How many lanes did you want that on that bridge?”
First Aliyah: This section begins with a discussion regarding female captives of war, and lays down the conditions under which a soldier may marry a captive. The right of a firstborn son to a double portion of his father’s inheritance is then detailed. The section concludes with the procedure for dealing with an strangely rebellious child.
Second Aliyah: Commandments discussed in this section: Speedy burial of the deceased, returning a lost object to its owner, aiding a neighbor when his animal has fallen because of its burden, the prohibition against cross-dressing, and the obligation to send away a mother bird before taking its chicks or eggs.
Third Aliyah: Some commandments discussed in this section: Building a safety fence around a flat roof; the prohibitions against sowing mixtures of seeds, plowing with a mixed pair of animals, or wearing a garment which contains a mixture of wool and linen (shatnez); wearing tzitzit; the penalty for a husband who defames his wife; the punishment for adultery; the penalty for rape; and certain prohibited marriages.
Fourth Aliyah: Some commandments discussed in this section: maintaining pure and hygienic army encampments, impurity resulting from seminal emissions, prohibition against prostitution, prohibition against lending with interest, and the obligation to honor vows.
Fifth Aliyah: This section details the right of field workers to eat from the produce they are harvesting. The Torah then briefly discusses marriage and the bill of divorce. A divorced couple cannot remarry if the woman has been remarried to another man (and divorced again or widowed) in the interim.
Sixth Aliyah: More mitzvot: A newlywed man is exempt from military service for a full year. It is forbidden to accept utensils used to prepare food as loan security or to forcibly take a debtor’s possessions as collateral, and a poor man’s security must be temporarily returned to him on a daily basis. Kidnapping is a capital offense. We are commanded to always remember that Miriam was afflicted with tzara’at for speaking badly about Moshe.
Seventh Aliyah: We are forbidden to withhold or delay a worker’s wages. Relatives’ testimony is inadmissible in a court of law. Various mandatory gifts for the poor are discussed. The procedure for corporal punishment is outlined. The mitzvah of Levirate marriage (yibum) is introduced: if a married childless man dies, his brother is obligated to marry the widow. If the brother refuses to marry the widow, he and she go through a chalitzah ceremony, which frees her to marry whomever she wishes. We are instructed to maintain accurate weights and measures. The reading ends with the mitzvah to remember Amalek’s evil deed, ambushing the Israelites on their way from Egypt.