AUGUST 18-19, 2000 18 AB 5760
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"It shall be that if you forget Hashem, your G-d" (Debarim 8:19)
Our verse discusses the danger of forgetting. The Talmud (Temurah 14) says: It is better when Torah is broken than if it is forgotten! The Hafess Hayim explains that when there is an attack to stop Torah learning on one side, there is a quick opposite response on the other side to build and strengthen Torah. In a place where people step on the Torah there will be people who will save the Torah. In countries where there were decrees to close down yeshivahs and Talmud Torahs, the people responded with teaching Torah to the children and to the people in basements and tunnels in secret and late night hours.
However, it is a far greater danger when Torah is neglected and eventually forgotten. The feeling is gone. It is likened to when a surgeon cuts dead flesh with his scalpel and there is no pain, so too when we forget about the Torah, we don't realize the problem that we have. The youth that grow up without Torah learning grow up without good character or manners. They don't look or act like Jews and no one seems to care. Since there is no war against the Torah, the Torah is left on the shelf and the people are content with attending prayers, hearing Kaddish and hearing the Torah read in shul. It could get to the point where people think that this is all of Judaism. This is the greatest danger, because Torah may be forgotten from the next generation.
Therefore, Hashem has promised us in a later verse (Debarim 31:21), "For the Torah will not be forgotten from his seed." Due to the great danger, Hashem makes a special promise, a guarantee that it will never happen. People will always learn Torah. Any person who does not attend any Torah study group should now join and be part of it! Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"It will be that you listen" (Debarim 11:13)
The second paragraph of Shema, which we say every day, appears in this perashah. Since we say it so often we tend to overlook its important lessons. Hashem says to us, "If you listen to the misvot, the rains will fall correctly and your crops will be blessed, etc." Then, when we lower our voices a little it says, "If our hearts stray from Hashem, G-d forbid, there will be no rains, etc." and other events will happen which will make us realize our mistakes so we can come back to Hashem. The lesson is, whenever something goes wrong, before we go around blaming the world, maybe Hashem is nudging us back to Him. The principle of Reward and Punishment is pivotal in our religion. When we do good, we deserve Blessing and G-d forbid, the reverse also happens. Although there are many other factors which may influence the Heavenly judgment, let us not forget the basic rule: Listening to Hashem brings berachah and going against Him brings problems! May we merit to bring on ourselves only berachah. Shabbat Shalom.
"And you shall know in your heart that Hashem chastises you just as a father chastises his son." (Debarim 8:5)
Pain is subjective. The amount of suffering you feel is dependent on how you view it. A person might have injured himself and feels great pain. This is compounded if he thinks that there is a good chance that the injury is serious. But pain is lessened if someone goes to a doctor who checks him very carefully and tells him, "Although you might feel pain, nothing is broken and in a few days your pain will be entirely gone." In this situation, most people feel relieved, and although the pain is still there, it subjectively becomes much lighter almost immediately. Similarly, when you know that a certain pain is beneficial for you, it does not really bother you too much. Some medicines are difficult to take, but when a person knows how much they will help him, he is ready to take them and can cope with the discomfort much better than if he would view the matter as totally negative. Therefore the Torah tells us that whenever Hashem causes us suffering, it is for our benefit.
A kind and loving father will at times need to take a child to a doctor for stitches which can be painful. But this is entirely for the child's benefit, for his physical well being. A young child might not understand this and could think that his father has suddenly become cruel. But an older child with more understanding realizes his father's motivation and is grateful to his father for helping him. The same parent will find times when he might need to use harsher methods than usual to discipline his child when softer approaches (which should be the norm) do not prove effective. This is also for the child's benefit and his spiritual well being. It takes even more understanding for a child to comprehend this in the appropriate way. So too, whenever Hashem sends you suffering, it is for your ultimate welfare. Those who have an appreciation for the kindness and mercy of Hashem will understand this in its proper perspective. Internalizing this awareness, as this verse tells us to do, will enable you to experience suffering in a much more positive way.
(Growth through Torah)
"And you may say in your heart, 'My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth.'" (Debarim 8:17)
Since it already says "kochi - my strength," the words "v'osem yadi - and the might of my hand" seem redundant.
When a Jew is blessed with affluence, the Torah expects him to give sedakah and share his wealth with the needy. Sometimes there are wealthy people who are "tight fisted" and refrain from giving, thinking erroneously that the outlay will reduce their assets. The word "osem" in Hebrew can also be interpreted as "closing up" (see Yishayahu 33:15). To dispel the illusion of some wealthy people regarding sharing wealth with the less fortunate, the Torah says, "Do not think that 'my strength' and 'osem yadi - my closed up hand' made me all this wealth. On the contrary, open your hand, and then you will be blessed with even more."
Answer to Pop Quiz: Long life for you and your children.
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