Have you ever met someone who knew right from wrong but was still a bad person?
Sure you have. We all have. And it’s hard to understand sometimes. If they knew what is right, why did they do the wrong thing? It seems illogical! It just doesn’t add up.
But the truth is, we are all exactly like this person, even if only to a smaller degree. We often know that we should be acting differently than we actually are, whether in the way we treat our friends and family, or in our financial affairs, or in our relationship with Hashem and Torah observance. We all know that there are things we should be working on and improving on…. but often, it just doesn’t happen. And somehow, just like our friend we spoke about earlier, we land up living a life that is different than the way we know it should be.
In this week’s parsha, Parshat Ekev, Hashem actually describes the Jewish people this way. He calls us a “stiff-knecked nation”. The Sforno, one of our most famous commentators on the Torah, says that to be “stiff necked” means that someone could logically prove to you that you are wrong and it wouldn’t make a difference. You still wouldn’t listen. That’s the way Hashem described the Jewish people…. So clearly the problem didn’t start yesterday. It’s been going on for thousands of years!
Why does this happen? If it is so illogical, then why do people so often live in ways that are different than what they believe to be true?!
There was a whole movement in Europe a few hundred years ago called the Mussar Movement, or Ethics Movement, who wrote a lot about this phenomenon. One of the main rabbis who thought and wrote about it was named Rav Yisrael Salanter. He worked out why people do this and he summed it up in a sentence:
“The greatest distance in the world is between a person’s mind and their heart.”
Someone can believe in one thing intellectually, but unless they find a way to return that to their heart, to internalize it, to know it with every fiber of their being, it won’t affect their actions. This is what the verse in last week’s parsha meant when it said:
“You should know today and return it to your hearts that Hashem is God, there is none other besides Him.”
We see here that Hashem knew all along: It’s not enough to know what’s right and wrong. It’s not enough to believe in something. We then have to return it to our hearts. We have to work out how to internalize those facts. That’s what the sages of the Mussar Movement discussed…. techniques on just how to do that. Once we internalize what we know is true, then they can affect our actions and we can begin to start perfecting ourselves and living lives that are steeped with great and noble ideals. Then we can achieve greatness.
By Tal Segal
100 Brachot a day???/Speed Bumps
The Posuk in Devarim 10:12 says “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord, your God, demand of you? Only to fear the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul,” This verse seems difficult to understand. Hashem is ONLY asking us to love and fear Him, as if these levels were easy to attain!!
So why does the Torah make it sound so easy?
The gemara says that we learn from this possuk that one is obligated to make 100 Brachot every day.
מה ה מעמך אלקיך שואלdon’t read מה read מאה 100. If you spell it מאה then there are 100 letters in the posuk. The Maharsha explains this gemara that if one is particular to say 100 Brachot a day with real Kavannah (concentration) he will attain the attributes that the posuk states!
There was once many many years ago a small, peaceful village with a main road going through it. At first it was just horses and carts going through it and it was safe for children to play and enjoy themselves and no one got hurt. As time went by the village grew into a bustling major city and the road became a huge main road splitting the city into two big cities. As technology advanced speeding cars replaced the horses and carts and it became dangerous to cross the road. Speed bumps were put in place to slow the traffic down!
There are two cities – two worlds this world Olam Hazeh and the world to come Olam Haba. Many years ago we had our Bais Hamikdosh, we were closer to Hashem and these two worlds were much closer together. As time went on this world changed into a hi speed rapid place and we are all speeding along the motorway whish splits this world and the next. It has actually become dangerous to cross into the next world! Therefore Rabbis instituted our 100 speed bumps throughout our day to slow us down and stop and think for a second who is in control. We have so much to be grateful for, imagine if Chos Vshalom you could not see or walk or hear etc. The Brachot make us aware of how much we appreciate Hashem’s kindness that is constant and never ending.
When we make a bracha we should say it slowly and think who are we talking to?? We should all make 36500 Brachot a year! If one says a bracha with kavana then one can attain true fear of Hashem because if He wanted to He could just stop issuing His kindness. We can attain Love of Hashem because we will be ever grateful to him that he provides us His Children with everything we need to live a good life and to be happy!
Let us strengthen our love and fear in Hashem with just a few Brachot a day, and we will learn to appreciate and be thankful to Hashem!
First aliya: This section begins with a promise: if the Israelites observe G‑d’s commandments, they will be blessed in a multitude of ways, including the obliteration of their Canaanite enemies. Moshe enjoins the Israelites not to fear these enemies, for G‑d will miraculously deliver them into their hands. Moshe instructs the Israelites to destroy all the idols and their accoutrements which they will find in Canaan. Moshe then discusses their forty-year desert ordeal, and the many tests and miracles which accompanied them. Moshe provides a description of many of the wonderful features of the Land of Israel, and the Israelites are commanded to bless G‑d after they eat and are sated.
Second Aliyah: Moshe admonishes the Israelites that the new-found fortune which will be their lot once they enter the Promised Land should not lead them to forget the One who provided them with the wealth. Such a blunder would lead to their destruction and ruin.
Third Aliyah: Moshe tells the Israelites that they will inherit the Land of Israel not due to their own merits and righteousness, but because of the promise G‑d made to the Patriarchs. In fact, Moshe reminds them of the many times they angered G‑d while in the desert, placing special emphasis on the sin of the Golden Calf, when G‑d would have annihilated the Israelites if not for Moshe’ successful intercession on their behalf. He also makes brief reference to the other times when the Israelites rebelled against G‑d.
Fourth Aliyah: Moshe recounts how after the Golden Calf debacle, G‑d commanded him to carve two new tablets upon which G‑d engraved the Ten Commandments, to replace the first set of tablets which Moshe had shattered. At that time, G‑d also designated the Levites to be His holy servants, because of the devotion they demonstrated throughout the Golden Calf incident.
Fifth Aliyah: Moshe charges the Israelites to love and fear G‑d, and to serve Him. He expounds on G‑d’s greatness, and impresses on the Israelites their great fortune: that G‑d has chosen them to be His treasured nation. He again reminds them of the many miracles G‑d had performed on their behalf since they left Egyp
Sixth Aliyah: Moshe tells the Israelites that the land of Israel is constantly dependent upon G‑d for irrigating rains, and that the land is constantly under G‑d’s watchful eyes. We then read the second paragraph of the Shema prayer. In this section we are admonished to observe G‑d’s commandments, which will cause G‑d to supply bountiful rainfall and harvests. Non-observance will lead to exile. We are commanded regarding prayer, tefillin, mezuzah, and teaching Torah to our children.
Seventh Aliyah: Moshe informs the Israelites that if they follow G‑d’s ways and cleave to Him, they will easily occupy the land of Israel, and no man will stand up against them.
There was a man who spent his entire life looking for kulahs (leniencies) in all aspects of halacha (Jewish law) – whatever it was, he would search around until he found a rabbi who had a more lenient opinion he could rely on. After 120 years, he came up to Shamayim. Hashem looked at the man’s life record and said, “Well, you certainly did everything I asked of you. Angels, please take this man straight to Gan Eden!” The angels escorted the ecstatic man straight into the gates of heaven and brought him into a small room. But when they arrived, all there was in the room was a dark, damp cell, a table, and one small candle! The man was shocked and quickly looked at the angels and asked in horror, “This is Heaven???” The angels looked at him and said “According to some opinions.”
Rav Shmuel Salant’s Advice to the Old Man Neglected by His Children & Grandchildren
A sobering true story that warns us about one of the more base sides of the human psyche. There was a man who had a very hard time making a living. He decided to move to Jerusalem and opened a small grocery in the Old City of Yerushalyim. Business took off and by the sweat of his brow he eked out a living and raised, together with his wife, a beautiful family of seven children. All his life he worked very hard and saw his children and grandchildren flourish. To help support his growing family, he continued to work full-time until he was seventy years old.
After the passing of his wife, his strength began to fade and he could no longer work. He spent his days going to shul, saying Tehillim, and listening to shiurim. But, his golden years were marred by a powerful bitterness. His children and grandchildren, for whom he slaved all his life, barely spent any time with him. They were all wrapped-up in their own lives and hardly came to visit. They would pop in, give a sniff to see whether he was still alive, and disappear.
Finally, when he got so fed up with their disappointing behavior, he went to the great sage, Rav Shmuel Salant, Zt”l, to pour out his heart. Rav Salant listened carefully and told him the following instruction. “Go to a blacksmith and buy an expensive, heavy safe. Bring it home and put it in a very noticeable place.” When the man asked Rav Salant how this would help, the Rav said, “Just leave it to me.” Mystified, he followed the Rav’s instructions and waited to see what would happen.
The next time his first-born popped in for a quick visit, he noticed the safe right away. Curious, he asked “Father, what’s in the safe?” His father answered noncommittally, “Oh, just some things I’ve saved over the years.” His son told his siblings, “You know, our father has an expensive safe! I tried to move it and it was quite heavy. He must have saved up all of those years he was working.”
Like wildfire, news traveled through the whole family and practically overnight, things started to change. He would get regular Sunday visits with the grandchildren in tow, his daughter’s in-law suddenly started offering to cook meals, and his granddaughters came over to clean the house while his grandsons came to show him their report cards. For the next ten years, he enjoyed his nachat greatly.
One night, he peacefully passed away in his sleep. After the funeral, his children came to divide the estate. They immediately went to the safe and started looking for the key – which was nowhere to be found. Finally, after looking through his papers, they found a letter that said, “My Dear Children, The key to the safe is with Rav Shmuel Salant.” Quickly, they went to the Rav who gave them the key with a smile upon his lips. Hurriedly, they returned back to the home and excitedly opened the safe. To their shock and dismay, they found it full of odds and ends with no value at all.
They got very angry. Their father duped them all of these years. They ran back to Rav Salant to complain about their father’s behavior. Rav Salant smiled at them. “Don’t be angry at your father. It was my idea. He bitterly complained to me that none of you were visiting him. I told him that you needed some incentive so I created an imaginary pot of gold and you took the bait, hook, line, and sinker. Don’t be disappointed. Although it wasn’t sincere, you still benefitted greatly from doing ten years of kivud av v’eim(Honoring Parents).”
What a chilling story about what drives humanity. There is a grim saying: “Hakesef yaneh et hakol – Money is the answer to everything.” As our parents grow older, let’s make sure that we honor them and spend time with them, not because of what they have to offer but out of a sense of hakarat hatov, lifelong gratitude to them, and in fulfillment of the Fifth Commandment to honor our father and our mother. But, this is not only true in regards to kivud av v’eim. It pertains to friendships as well. They should not hinge on whether there is money or not. Nor, should the quality of a shidduch be based on one’s latest IRS 1040 tax return form.
In the merit of being sincere in our responsibilities, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss