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Parashat Ekev

"He Looks at the Land and it Quakes"

When the Rebbe from Bouyan visited Eretz Yisrael he disembarked at Haifa and was driven to Tel Aviv. Throughout his journey he looked out from the window of the car at the landscape outside. One of his escorts turned to him and said, "Teach us, rabbi, what do you see there?" The Rebbe smiled and replied, "It is written (in our parasha, chapter 11 pasuk 12) 'the land which Hashem your God looks after; His eyes are constantly upon her, from the beginning of the year until its end.' - if God always looks at her, I also want to!"

It is known that the amount of newsworthy events that transpire in our little country in a single week is not matched by much bigger countries in a month. Nothing remains quiet and stable; everything changes. In all arenas - security, politics, agriculture, finances, war and peace, strikes, successes and failures, victories and defeats, business news. Unfortunately, and often to great sorrow, the news is tragic. There are also rays of light, glimmers of hope.

And all this for one reason: "His (Hashem's)eyes are constantly upon her (the land of Israel)". There is Divine providence associated with this land, immediate effects and consequences which are related to our condition. If we are good, it has a positive influence on the land; and if we are not, there is immediate reaction. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to strengthen our performance of mitzvoth in order to increase the good. We must repent in order to minimize the evil. If we do this, the good will overcome evil and spread light and good fortune.

"Warning! Minefield!"

An old Jew spoke: Many years ago I traveled to sit in the shadow of the Rebbe from Kloizenberg, of blessed memory. When I arrived, I found him reading the Torah parasha according to the custom of reading it twice followed by its (Aramaic) translation. It was an unforgettable experience - he would read a verse, then explain in to himself in his own words. He reached the verse, "And you will consume all of the nations which Hashem your God gives you, do not pity them and do not worship their gods, because this is an obstacle (modern Hebrew: landmine) to you. " (7:47) and then stopped, cocked his head as if confounded, and then repeated the verse. Word by word, he read and translated to himself, and did not cease his amazement and cried "This is incredible! 'Do not worship their gods - because this is an obstacle to you" - if idol worship were not an obstacle, would it be permitted?!" A wonderful observation. Why does the Torah need to give us a reason not to worship idols? Furthermore, does Jewish Law not tell us that one is not even allowed to save his life by worshipping idols?! One should rather give up his life!

At the table, later, the Rebbe posed the question and proceeded to answer it over the course of the following 4 hours! What did he say? What did he answer? "Who can remember?" sighed the old man.

Therefore, great Jewish scholars have (for the most part) refrained from works of philosophical nature written by earlier Jewish scholars, such as the Rambam's "Moreh Nevuchim" (Guide to the Perplexed.), and others. However, there are wonderful answers to all of the questions, castles built up to the heavens - but that that may be why they aren't remembered and all that is left is the questions...

While we don't know the answer of the Rebbe from Kloizenberg, but there may be a simple answer to this question. This answer personalizes the verse to guide each and every one of us.

Certainly, the sin of idol-worship is the most serious in the Torah, and is mentioned over 50 times. Even if a true prophet were to command idol worship for a temporary time-period, he would be cast as a false prophet and killed! But those who did worship idols ascribed to them divine powers. They claimed that if a constellation were favored, it would affect its powers on earth for the good - for wealth, happiness, and health. It could be that people tried it, and it worked for them. They might have said, "Sure, it's prohibited. But it's worth it because it does work! Let's do it anyway because we'll benefit from it."

Therefore, God comes and warns, "Do not worship their gods, because this is an obstacle to you." You should know that you cannot benefit from prohibited activities - the fruit that you pick will be rotten! 3000 years of bitter experience have proven this over again: no one benefits from transgressions! In the days of Nevuchadnezzar they bowed to his idol. They thought to impress him. But the answer was given in the decree of Haman, with the absolute decree to wipe out the Jewish people. As it says in the Talmud (Bava Metzia 71):He who lends with interest will suffer a loss of equity. In the short term, it seems like a gain, but in the long term there will be a major loss or setback. "One who buys and sells fruit from the Sabbatical year (which is forbidden to be bought or sold) will end up having to sell his possessions, his house, eventually himself as a working slave (Kiddushin 20a). There is no fire without Shabbat violation (Shabbat 119b). In short: One cannot profit from a transgression. While it may look attractive in the short term, in the long term it always catches up with you. It's a minefield. This applies not only to Torah commandments, but to rabbinical ones, as well.

A story is told about a businessman that was careful to close his business during Chol Hamoed. Once a big sale presented itself on Chol HaMoed at a very high price. Despite his wife's exhortations to the contrary, the man succumbed to the temptation of a large profit and completed the sale, profiting greatly. A short while later, the man was stricken with sudden, unexplainable toothache. He visited the dentist and was made to undergo several procedures to cure his toothache. When the bill arrived from the dentist, the man was astounded. The bill amounted to exactly that amount that he had gained from his transaction on Chol Hamoed which had given him so much profit. "What have I gained? Not only did I work hard to get that sale, but I suffered with pain, my family suffered too with me, and I had to give up all my profit from then." This man learned that which our rabbis teach us "...and God said: listen to Me, since no one who listens to me loses!"

based on the halachot of Rabbi Ovadia Yossef Shlit"a

Eating Rice and Vegetables:
Is one who is eats a dish of whole rice with cooked vegetables permitted to make a blessing of "ha'adamah" on the vegetables before making a "mezonot" on the rice? We have already explained at length that there is a dispute with regard to the blessing on whole cooked rice. The opinion of the Rosh was that only on mashed rice does one make a "mezonot," but when rice is cooked whole it's blessing is "ha'adamah." The Rif and Rambam, however, did not distinguish between whole and mashed rice, and it seems that they would say that a "mezonot" is made even on whole rice. Maran Yossef Karo in the Shulchan Aruch (208:7) ruled like the Rif and Rambam.

From here we find that if one makes a blessing of "adamah" one would not be able to make a "mezonot" on the rice, and if one did thus bless the rice one would therefore have made an unnecessary blessing because according to the Rosh the rice is included in "ha'adamah" made on the cooked vegetables.

(Although Maran ruled that one makes a "mezonot" on the rice, there is a principle that we are always lenient when there is a doubt with regards to blessings and we therefore go against the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch.) However, there is a solution which circumvents the aforementioned dispute. It is well known (as many contemporary authorities have written) that when eating two kinds of food (as in our case), having specific intent not to include a type of food when making the first blessing will leave intact the requirement for a blessing on whatever was excluded. So too here, if one specifically excludes the rice when first making the blessing of "ha'adamah" on the vegetables, one may subsequently make a blessing of "mezonot" on the rice since it was specifically left out of the first blessing.

Obviously, the outcome here does not lead one to say a blessing which was not necessary to begin with, since (as many contemporary authorities have written) when the purpose for making an additional blessing is to avoid entering into disputes of the earlier authorities there is no issue of unnecessary blessings. Therefore, in our case this is true as well, and the purpose of excluding the rice from the blessing on the vegetables is to avoid the aforementioned dispute between the Rosh and the Rif and Rambam, and one is therefore permitted to do so (see HaRav Ovadia Yossef's responsa 'Yabia Omer' section 8 chapter 26).

In Summary: One who is presented with cooked vegetables (such as potatoes, etc...) and rice should first make a blessing on the rice and then on the vegetables. If one prefers to first eat the vegetables, one should have intent not to include the rice in the blessing. This will enable one to subsequently make a separate blessing on the rice. However, if one did not have such intent one should not say the blessing on the rice but rather should think the blessing in his heart.

"From the Wellsprings of the Parsha"

'All of the Mitzvah you should be careful to do'
Rabbeinu Ovadiah Seforno of blessed memory wrote: Human beings look to three areas which determine the successfulness of one's life: 1) life with health and joy, 2) good, successful children, and 3) wealth acquired with honor. There three areas are promised as a result of doing the mitzvoth. As it says, "All of the Mitzvah that I command you today you should be careful to do in order that (1) you live and (2) multiply and (3) you will come and inherit the land of Israel - because keeping the Torah and mitzvoth promises happiness in this world aside from the eternal good in the world to come!

'And now Israel: What does the Lord your God want from you?'
What does it mean when it says, "And now, Israel: What does the Lord your God want from you? Only that you fear the Lord your God to go in all His ways...." This injunction is constant; this is what we were created for! Why does it say "And now?"

The Holy Or HaChayim of blessed memory that this verse is mentioned subsequent to the mentioning the sin of the Golden Calf, after which time we needed mitzvoth much moreso than prior to that event. This can be compared to one needing to borrow money. If one is not in debt, one needs to leave only a small collateral. However one who is in debt and comes to borrow money must put up much more.

'He is your praise and He is your God'
From the Ramban, of blessed memory, we find this to be an injunction that all praises should be directed toward God. Upon every object and event we should say "Blessed is God, baruch HaShem." We should thank and praise him for everything that happens; for health, for income, for happiness and for family. "And He is your God," know that all is dependent on Him, and one should not ascribe one's accomplishments to other causes. It is He who has given you the wisdom and abilities to succeed, he made you look favorable in the eyes of the buyers and businessmen, He is responsible for having provided you with wonderful opportunities. All is from Him, all thanks to Him, and there is none but Him!

Rabbeinu Moshe from Kuzi of blessed memory

Rabbeinu Moshe from Kuzi of blessed memory who was among the medieval Tosafists took upon himself the mitzvah to rebuke others and circulated among Spanish communities to awaken people's hearts toward repentance. He had some kind of Divine assistance, and before coming to any town his arrival was preceded by earthquakes and the townspeople would have disturbing dreams - all to prepare the people to capture his rebuke and listen to his castigation. Multitudes repented and in particular strengthened their observances of Shabbat and Tefillin. When Rabbi Moshe from Kuzi indicated his departure from a town, he was begged to stay in order to teach and guide the citizens in the ways of the mitzvoth. He therefore decided to compose for them a practical guide book of laws which, based on Divine inspiration, he Divided into two parts: the first was positive commandments and the second was negative commandments. He called this book "Sefer Mitzvoth Gadol" or the Great Book of Mitzvoth. When he finished this giant composition, he had a revelation from heaven which called to him, "You left out the most important mitzvah! The (negative) mitzvah in our parasha (Deuteronomy 8:11): Be careful lest you forget Hashem your God!'"

Rabbi Moshe from Kuzi thought about this and saw that indeed this is an explicit mitzvah and included it in his book. This is how he wrote it (Mitzvah #68): 'Be careful lest you forget Hashem your God' - this is a warning that the Jewish people should not take pride in the fact that God does good for them, and they should not say that it is their own hard work and good fortune (separate from God) lest they forget that they owe everything to it says, "Lest you eat and be sated, and good houses you shall build and sit in them, and your sheep and cattle shall multiply, and your finances will prosper - and your heart will soar and you will forget Hashem your God. And you will say to yourself 'by my might and the strength of my hand did I accomplish all of this.' And you will remember Hashem your God, because he is the one who gives you the strength to do all this."

From here there is a warning that one should not take pride in what Heaven provides, whether it is money, beauty, or wisdom; we must be humble and modest before man and God, and thank our Creator that has provided us with all. After including this mitzvah in his book after this Divine dream, Rabbi Moshe from Kuzi found that this is explicit in the Gemara (Sotah 5a): "From where do we see a warning against haughtiness (in the Torah)? From here (our parasha): ...and your heart will become exalted and you will forget Hashem; be careful lest you forget Hashem your God!"

How great are your creations, Hashem!

Often we find ourselves overcome with feelings of awe and amazement from some experience that has struck within us deep chords of intrigue. There are also things we encounter that we completely ignore; even similar events to those that evoke amazement may go by unnoticed. For example, most people are astounded upon hearing a canary utter complex humanlike sounds. However, we should be equally amazed at the human capacity to create words, too. So much happens in the utterance of a single word but we hardly ever give it a second thought. We never stop to think about the different component sounds that are needed to create a single word such as, for example, the word "shalom." Neurons have to fire from the brain to tell several sets of muscles to coordinate their contractions in order to produce a coherent pattern of sound. For this word there is a progression from sounds created by teeth, tongue, then lips. And some words are so much more complex! We should stop sometimes to think about this, how words come out of our mouth. Once in a while we should also contemplate what words should not come out of our mouths, and how to prevent prohibited speech, gossip, slandering, lashon ha'ra, and taking God's name in vain!

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