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by Daneal Weiner

Hello everybody! Tisha B'Av prohibits learning things not related to the destruction so it did take a chunk of time out of my schedule. I don't know how much I'll have for you on
Parshas Va'eschanan.

P.S. My notes are not from Rabbi Fox's shiur, as usual, but from R. Perlman of Ohr Samayach.

First of all, last week we matched ideas in Parshas D'varim with Megillas Esther and Purim. In the very beginning of this weeks parsha (2nd verse) we have the words ‘hachilosa l'haros. The Ba'al Turim points out that the first word only appears one other time in all 24 books of Tanach and the second word appears only two other times. All three of these occurrences are in Megillas Esther!!! G-d willing, one day we'll find out what that means. Next!

Last week we also discussed why Moshe referred to the mon by it's color white, that it's a reminder of Hashem's loving kindness. This week starts with the word ‘Va'eschanan' which ArtScroll translates as ‘imploring'. The Da'as Zikainim brings a medrish which says there are 7 different words describing prayer. Rashi points out that the root 'chanan' is only ever used in a context of a free gift. Moshe is saying he made a final effort to get into Erets Yisrael. It would make sense to us for Moshe to be imploring H' with the likes of, "After aaaaaaall I did, can't I just step foot...?" Rashi tells us the word ‘Va'eschanan' is teaching us that Moshe is not using such tactics. He's actually asking Hashem, "Even though I don't deserve it, please let me go in anyway?" Like a free gift. Moshe is asking H' for an act of loving kindness. What do we see at the end of Moshe's request? (3:25) "My L-rd. You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness....(3:26)Let me now cross and see the good land...this good mountain and the Levanon."

It just so happens that Lebanon is part of the original borders but it is not believed that Moshe was dying to see the great brown North. Rashi says "this good mountain" is the Temple mount and "the Levanon" is the Temple itself! The root of Levanon is ‘lavan', white! Moshe is using his best argument for his free request. There is going to be an entire structure built who's sole purpose is to enact loving kindness. That's "tshuva," to use the words of the Chovos L'vavos. That Hashem has given us a means to atone for our sins, to clean our slate, is the greatest act of kindness there is. Every Yom Kippur a red tongue of wool was brought into the Kodesh K'dashim and if the nations prayers were accepted than the wool would turn white. Moshe was trying to tap into this energy source of kindness to evoke from H' approval for his request rather than depend on merits.

Those of you who are real Moshe Rabbeinu fans are saying, "Just one foot stomping minute!" Moshe Rabbeinu is the humblest of all men! There is no way he would implore G-d by saying he deserves it! What is Rashi implying with this big news that Moshe asked for it for free? An excellent question!!! How about this one, why did Moshe want to enter E'Y anyway? The sea air was good for his rheumatism? To retire on a front porch overlooking the Western Wall? MITSVOS, man, MITSVOS. He wanted to do all those mitsvos that could only be done in E'Y!

When we run out and buy those lottery tickets, we know we don't deserve to win. So we say "Oh G-d please, I promise I'll give a million to the poor and a million to the needy and 10$ to every meshulach that shows up at my front door and..." etc. We don't deserve it now but with the merits we WILL earn with our FUTURE mitsvos is what we use to talk G-d into giving us the cash. Unlike a tsaddik, as Rashi points out, who asks of G-d not due to his merits, FUTURE merits, but as a free gift.

There is more buried under the word Va'eschanan. It has a gematria of 515. Chazal tell us this is a hint that Moshe prayed to H' 515 times. Finally G-d has to command him (3:26) "Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter." Why command Moshe to stop? If H' doesn't want something to be than how could it be? So what if Moshe continued to pray? We learn an unbelievable lesson!!! If Moshe would have prayed one more time Hashem would have ‘given in' so to speak!!! You think prayers don't do anything?!? (Not you personally but you know what I mean.) You think davening 3 times a day is just an exercise in time management? It's real! It makes things happens. So much so that G-d had to command Moshe to stop praying! And to demonstrate the importance of prayer, prayer is not always the means to the end but the end itself!

Someone in the family gets sick ,chas v'shalom, and so you pray that they should be well. Prayer is the ‘means' to achieve health. It doesn't necessarily work that way. If you have been negligent in your communication with H', He may cause good things to happen in your life to stoke the coals of prayer OR, He might make you or someone close sick or suffer a serious financial loss, ch'v'sh, in order to get you to talk to Him. These events are then the means to achieve prayer! Any family with at least 2 kids can tell you how one causes trouble when the other is getting all the attention. Our G-d is a jealous G-d. Hopefully, when health and finances are restored, it won't be taken for granted and the lines of communication will continue. Most people don't appreciate that the prayers giving thanks should be at least as intense as were the prayers asking for something. Take this with a grain of salt. In Rav Chaim Luzzato's ‘The Way of G-d' he touches the surface of the infinite number of events which could bring about hardships in a person's life. It is safe to say this is one aspect to reflect on in case of trouble, lo alainu, but by no means the only one.

So now that we know the reality of prayer, why did H' want so much not to fulfill Moshe's request? If Moshe built the Temple in Yerushalayim it could not have been destroyed. When we go thru the closets and the attic, there are some things of such sentimental value that we will never throw them out. G-d would have felt that way about the Temple if Moshe built it. (It actually goes a little deeper than that. Moshe's physical efforts would have instilled spiritual immortality into the wood and stones.) This would pose a problem in about 1100 years when B"Y would anger G-d to the point of destruction. If the Temple were indestructible then H' would have had to take out His anger on B"Y. Not good. So Hashem commands Moshe not to pray any more which basically guaranteed the continuity of B'Y. What a concept!

It is probably due to all of the above that the Shl'ah HaKadosh recommends: When you pray for something, be sure and add the words, "...if it's good for me." We know that G-d answer's every prayer. It's just that often the answer is ‘NO!' We are too subjective to know what's good for ourselves. I'm sure many are familiar with the studies done in the States and in Israel about instant lottery winners. I think it was only regarding 5 million-plus winners. These families statistically have more divorces, more suicides, more drug abuses, need more psychiatric care... but that ain't gonna stop us from buying that ticket and praying our little hearts out that this week we nail the big one! Some people don't even bother with the small change. "I only buy a ticket when it's over 10 million." Who hasn't joked at least once, "C'mon G-d, test me on this one!" Fortunately, G-d knows our limitations better than we do. Once again, the Shl'ah HaKadosh recommends: When you pray for something, add the words, "...if it's good for me." And don't worry, if something is good for you, that simultaneously, essentially and intrinsically means that it's good for Klal Yisrael as well. What another ‘what a concept'!

Some of you may be wondering , we saw Moshe giving the best argument. It stands to reason he prayed at the best time. When would have been the most appropriate time for Moshe to pray for entrance to Erets Yisrael? That would have been the last Rosh Hashanah (R"H) he experienced. Moshe knows that B"Y is going in to E'Y and he doesn't want to die before that happens. R"H is when the book of life is inscribed. Not all fates, however, are sealed on R"H. Some remain pending till Yom Kippur (Y"K). That is what the 10 days of Tshuva are all about. But Y"K is not the final final either. The world is judged on Shmini Atseret which is the last day of Sukkos. (On Sukkos 70 sacrifices are brought on behalf of the 70 nations.) If G-d really wants to give a Yid a chance He waits till Shmini Atseres for signs of improvement. Shmini Atseres is always the 22nd day of Tishrei. Take a wild guess how many hours there are between Erev Rosh Hashana and just before the crack of dawn, Shmini Atseret??

If your answer was close to 515 then you were close! The answer is 515. Remember that a day starts the evening before so the crack of dawn would be half way thru the 22nd day. 21.5 x 24 = 516. Moshe Rabbeinu prayed every single hour from Rosh Hashanah till almost half way thru Shmini Atseres! Why stop short of half way? Good question! My guess would be that .5 rounds up to the whole. So? Another good question. Add it to the ‘ G-d willing, one day we'll find out what that means' pile. Next!

Now that we've spent 2 ˝ pages on 3 words, all that's left in the parsha is, the cities of refuge, the 10 Commandments, the Shema, not succumbing to prosperity, teaching your kids Torah... ...slim pickin's. I'm actually feeling guilty. I don't have to be up for 5 hrs and I'm stopping ˝ way into the next page. I'm picturing the tens of thousands of you who rush to print this and fax it to your millions of family and friends and I can't bare to imagine all that wasted paper. Easily remedied. Baruch Hashem!

4:2> "You shall not add to the word that I command you nor shall you subtract from it, to observe the commandments of H', your G-d, that I command you." 4:3>"Your eyes have seen what Hashem did with Baal-peor, for every man that followed Baal-peor, Hashem your G-d destroyed him from your midst." When the Midianites sent their daughters out to seduce B'Y, it was with the intention of getting them to serve this god of theirs, Baal-peor. The service of Baal-peor was (Roget's isn't helping so I'll say) pooping on the idol. What was meant by this service is one thing but of all the things to chose from, G-d says don't add or subtract...remember Baal-peor!? What is the connection???

The simplest connection is the comparison that adding/subtracting is tantamount to idolatry. This idea may be emphasized by the answer of Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin. The Midianites were not fools and when it came right down to it, they knew it wasn't going to be easy to get the Jews to serve an idol. But when the service is a disgusting act the Jews could easily rationalize, "She thinks I'm serving this thing but in my heart I'm totally disgracing it!" This possibly emphasizes an aspect in not adding/subtracting to mitsvos. All would agree that as an act of defiance, certainly it's on par with idolatry. But a person can think, "G-d wants 4 species on Sukkos? I'll show my love by using 5!" Moshe therefore needs to let B'Y know, don't do it. All you're really saying is you know better. Don't! Don't add or subtract to the Torah! Just do what it says. Rav Hirsch points out that this certainly is not referring to any fences or protective measures the Sages have built around Torah commandments. G-d does say explicitly, "ushmartem es mishmarti" to protect His commandments. Furthermore, Chazal have meticulously differentiated what is Torah law and what is Rabbinic law.

To answer the first question, Rav Hirsch says Baal-peor elevates physical needs to a godly status. Along these lines Rav Chaim Shmulevits adds that this was easier for the Jews to accept since although before an idol, it was actually a form of SELF-worship. No personal shame. No embarrassments. If one gets gratification from it then it's good enough for a god! An idea running rampant in Western ‘civilization' as homosexuality, tattooing, body piercing and only being half dressed become societal norms. H' ya'azore!

Rav Wolfson asked, why is it that on every other holiday an excerpt of the Torah is read from somewhere outside of the weekly reading in which the holiday falls and yet for Tisha B'Av the Torah portion comes right out of this weeks Parshas Va'eschanan? It's so simple and yet so profound. We read particular exerts because they have a bearing on the holiday. And since nothing in Judaism is circumstantial or one faceted, it is certainly the case that when the those Torah excerpts come around, in the regular weekly cycle, their respective holidays now has a bearing on that parsha at that time! (I had to write that a few times so don't feel bad if you have to read it a few times to figure out what I finally wrote.) So the Rav says that there is no Tisha B'Av except for Tisha B'Av. Nothing else is like it. Not in it's pain and not in its soon-to-be glory! So the only Torah excerpt that could be snipped and read is from the portion of the week in which Tisha B'av falls! Yet another ‘what a concept!' kind of answer.

Last week we spoke of the divine 7-3 split. Of many things that come in 10; a) only 7 are prominent. b) Sometimes we don't see the three at all. c) Sometimes there just is a 7-3 split. An example of ‘a' is the 7 of 10 sphiros. An example of ‘b' is our music scale, A-G. In the days of the Mashiach it will go to 8 and eventually it will become 10. An example of ‘c' are the 10 plagues which show up 7 in Parshas Bo and 3 in B'shalach. Another example would be the 3 haftorah's preceding Tisha B'Av and the 7 following. The 3 preceding are called the three ‘of affliction' for obvious reasons, and the 7 following are 7 ‘of consolation.'

After the churbans of Tisha B'Av, we immediately start off this first Shabbos with the haftorah Nachamu from Isaiah 40. "Nachamu nachamu ami yomar Elokechem..." "‘Comfort, comfort My people.' says your G-d..." and continues, " Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been fulfilled, that her iniquity has been conciliated..."

It is no coincidences that the Western wall remains standing to this day as does the ‘Arch of Triumph' in Rome, a monument to the victory of the destruction of the Temple having carved on it the Roman troops returning with their spoils of war, the artifacts of our holy Temple. Before the rebuilding the 3rd Temple, the arch will fall. It's reported that cracks have already begun to show!

Get cracking yourself and have a comforting Shabbot Shalom.

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