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PARSHAS VA'ESCHANANBut you shall command Yehoshua, and strengthen him and give him resolve, for he shall cross before this people and he shall cause them to inherit the Land. (3:28)
Upon a cursory reading of the text, the phrase, "For he shall cross before this people," is superfluous in light of the following phrase, "And he shall cause them to inherit the Land." Clearly, if Yehoshua was leading the nation in Eretz Yisrael, he would cross before they did. In his Aderes Eliyahu, Horav Yosef Chaim zl, m'Bagdad, distinguishes the leadership characteristics of Yehoshua's from that of his Rebbe and predecessor, Moshe Rabbeinu. Yehoshua "crossed" before the nation, very much like a monarch who precedes his people. Moshe, on the other hand, was a roeh, shepherd, who led from "behind."
At first glance, the variance between king and shepherd is in the "subject" of their leadership. A king leads people; a shepherd cares for sheep. While this is certainly true, a deeper distinction goes to the very nature and quality of their leadership styles. It all reverts back to the basis of their specific purposes in leadership. The shepherd is charged with caring for the welfare and safety of the sheep. Therefore, he stays behind to observe that all goes well, every sheep is in its place, none have strayed. For if something were to happen to any of the sheep, the shepherd would be called to answer to the owner. The king, however, does not guard over the people. On the contrary, the people must protect the monarch. Therefore, he travels in the forefront, with the nation behind - to guard him from harm.
The shepherd's goal is to address the visceral/tangible needs of his flock. Each individual sheep has significance; each of its necessities are considered. In the Moshe Rabbeinu/Klal Yisrael equation, this translates into a leader who is concerned with every aspect of his people's needs - both physical and spiritual. He ignores nothing. Thus, Chazal refer to Moshe as raaya meihemna, the true and trusted shepherd.
A king concentrates on the spirit and attitude of the nation. The people's mood, dedication to the country, and ability to conquer enemies are all major elements of his concern. He cares about the "nation" as a whole. Therefore, he stands in the foreground, setting the standard by example, seeing to it that the nation is aware of what is expected of them. He is present to judge and lead. His relationship is not as personal. This was Yehoshua's function as a leader.
At that time, Moshe designated three cities. (4:41)
In Sefer Mishlei 24:30-33, Shlomo HaMelech teaches us the inevitable consequence of indolence. Al sadeh ish atzeil avarti, "By the field of a lazy person I passed and behold, it was entirely covered with thorns, its face covered with weeds, and its wall of stones was in ruins. I saw, and I took a lesson: a little sleep, a little dreaming, a little folding of the hands to rest; your poverty will come racing after you." The wisest of all men tells us that it does not take much. A little slacking off, and one gets into the habit. Habit becomes natural and, before one knows it, he is struck with poverty. As Horav Yisrael Belsky, Shlita, explains, we are not talking about a person who has completely neglected his field. No! He has merely "folded his hands to rest." He is neither asleep nor awake. He is lazy, laid back, wants to take it easy. Such a person will not achieve. In fact, even his accomplishments will eventually collapse. This is the fruit of laziness.
The Rosh Hayeshivah points out another lesson to be derived from Shlomo HaMelech's words. "I saw, and I took a lesson." The king who was so powerful, whose brilliance and wisdom was without peer, took a lesson from the "layman." Under normal circumstances, the most astute are those who dole out the lessons - rather than learn from others. Indeed, if they would have chanced by the lazy man's field, they would have reprimanded him, all the while ignoring the personal message which could have been addressed to them with equal validity.
For someone to give mussar, rebuke, to others, he must first qualify himself. Before his words of rebuke are directed at others, they should first be self-directed. Unless he personally lives by his words of rebuke, they will not be accepted - or even heard by those who need them most.
In Parashas Va'eschanan, Moshe Rabbeinu describes the future spiritual dysfunction and deterioration of Klal Yisrael. The ultimate sin would be idol worship, an abominable practice from which a Jew has grown to become revolted. Yet, this would be the ultimate downfall of the Jewish People. They would one day return with complete dedication to Torah and mitzvos. Moshe wanted to strengthen the nation's commitment to Hashem. In order for this to occur, he himself had to take his own words to heart and commit himself more deeply to Torah and mitzvos. This is why, immediately upon concluding his homily to the People, Moshe ran to perform a mitzvah. Designating the Arei Miklat, Cities of Refuge, was Moshe's way of manifesting his intense love for mitzvos. This is very much akin to the president of a synagogue making an appeal and immediately declaring that he himself would be donating a large amount of money toward the cause. This is in stark contrast to those instances and people who are more than happy to volunteer others to deal with problems concerning which they should themselves set the example.
You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources. (6:5)
In his thesis on ahavas Hashem, love of the Almighty, Horav Eliezer Papo, zl, author of the Pele Yoetz, writes, "Love for Hashem - there is no quality/virtue better than it, for all service to Hashem, and (indeed) all Yahadus, Judaism, is derived from it." Loving Hashem is one of the Taryag, 613, mitzvos. It is a constant mitzvah, one which is fulfilled only through thought and contemplation, resulting in a person's awareness of Hashem's beneficence and all that he owes Him. The Pele Yoetz writes that love of Hashem takes on two different forms or dimensions. The first, which is the most natural and, hence, most common, is ahavah machmas atzmo, one loves Hashem as a result of himself, his personal needs and personal satisfaction. This means one loves someone who benefits him. One has a positive feeling towards someone from whom he derives pleasure. Obviously, we derive great benefits from Hashem, beginning with life itself. Every drop of good that one enjoys in life, and even that which he does not realize is good - all comes from Hashem.
If the Almighty were to "turn off" the flow of good, we would be left with nothing. All of this is reason enough to love Him. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand our obligation to Hashem. Love is a natural expression when one uses his G-d-given mind. There is, however, a second form of ahavas Hashem, one which also originates in the recesses of the mind. In this form, one realizes Hashem's greatness, His consummate perfection, His awesomeness. The more one studies Torah and delves deeper into its profundities, his awareness of Hashem develops greater acuity, thereby instigating greater love. This is referred to as ahavas ha'Romemus, love of His transcendence. He is overawed with Hashem's Divine eminence and sublimity, His magnificence and splendor, with the list of adjectives endless. One begins to realize that the presence of everything that he loves in his life is due to Hashem. Every physical entity from which he derives pleasure receives its power and existence from the Almighty. In other words, our first "love" should be to Hashem. Indeed, our ability to express love is granted to us by Hashem. This sense of cognition is the result of a Torah-developed mind. The more one studies, the greater his acknowledgement of Hashem and the deeper his love for Him. The two go hand-in-hand.
This transcendent sense of love for Hashem is experienced by individuals whose sole focus in life is Torah. While every ben Torah experiences this form of ahavas Hashem, some experience it in a greater measure. One such individual was Horav Moshe Pardo, zl. Born in Turkey in 1910, he was at first a businessman specializing in textiles. He exemplified the Rabbinic dictum of, Asei Torascha keva u'melachtecha aria, "Make your study of Torah permanent and your work temporary." This is an attitudal concept whereby one acknowledges that the only endeavor in his life which has enduring value is the study of Torah, while his sojourn in the world of the mundane in nothing more than that - a sojourn, something casual and necessary.
Rav Moshe spent hours in the bais hamedrash learning and teaching. These were followed by constant acts of tzedakah v'chesed, charity and kindness, to all segments of the community. At the age of forty, Rav Moshe decided that it was about time that he did something with his life. He saw the challenges confronting young men and women of Sephardi heritage. Many were recent ?migr?s from North Africa and the Balkans, who were quickly becoming absorbed into secular Israeli culture and society. There were no schools that catered specifically to their needs and heritage. Rav Moshe saw this as his Heavenly mandate, so, for the next forty-six years, he devoted his life and soul to establishing, guiding and supporting mosdos haTorah, religious institutions of all kinds to save thousands of Jewish children from spiritual extinction. He first established Ohr HaChaim institutions in Bnei Brak. What originated with six girls in a rented apartment has now become a flourishing complex of institutions. Porat Yosef was supported through his endeavors. He did not stop with those. He encouraged young men who were graduates of these yeshivos to trailblaze the country and establish yeshivos throughout the Land. Tiferes Moshe, Shaarei Teshuvah v'Chaim, Ohr David, Nevei Eretz Talmud Torah, Tiferes Teveria, and Bais Shmaya are but a few of the many Torah institutions which exist as a result of his tireless endeavors for Torah.
Indeed, the Steipler Gaon, zl, once said concerning Rav Moshe, "It is important and well worth seeing him (Rav Moshe) in This World, because, in the Olam HaEmes, World of Truth, who knows whether we will merit to see him in his sublime spiritual plane?"
Rav Moshe confronted challenges. Success was not always predestined. He was relentless in his pursuit of Torah and chesed endeavors. Whenever an obstacle stood in his way, he pushed forward. His attitude remained the same, as he himself summed up his life's work, "I never thought about my personal honor. The question that was single most on my mind was, 'Is this (endeavor) l'kavod Shomayim, for the honor of Heaven?'"
What kept him going against what many considered to be insurmountable odds? He dealt with apathy, spiritual neglect, financial hurdles, and secular cynicism and obstruction. His response was, "The Navi quotes Hashem as saying, V'zocharti lach chesed neurayich, ahavas kelulosayich, lechtach acharai ba'midbar b'eretz lo zeruah; 'I remember for you the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals; how you went after Me into the wilderness, in a land unknown' (Yirmiyahu 2:2). While one might emphasize the eretz lo zeruah, 'unsown land' as a reference to the many hardships which I experienced in my quest to build Torah, my personal focus has always been on the lechteich acharai, how you went after Me. My goal was always to follow Hashem, to seek every opportunity to increase kavod Shomayim, the glory of Heaven, by saving Jewish souls. Every Jewish home which I catalyzed, every Jewish family which came closer to Hashem made my hardships well worth it. I gave up a successful business and instead became a baal chov, very much in debt, so that I could 'follow Hashem.' Whatever I have achieved was purely out of my boundless love for the Almighty."
This is how Rav Moshe lived and died. As he aged, he became weaker, as his body was beset with various illnesses. He was attended by dear friends whose sense of gratitude to this unique individual was overwhelming. Their outpouring of love for him was inspiring. His final mortal days were spent in the intensive care unit of the hospital as he fought the last round of infections that ravaged his already frail body. Shortly prior to his final moment, he asked his close friend, Rav Shimon Baadani, to tell him divrei Torah on the parsha. Even in his most painful moments, he sought the solace of Torah - so great was his unbridled love for Hashem and the Torah. As he felt the end creeping upon him, he turned to Rav Shimon and asked, "I have recited viduy, confessional. How may I spend my last minutes?" Rav Shimon replied, "Think about the mitzvah of loving Hashem." At that moment Rav Moshe summoned whatever strength was left in him and whispered intensely, "I love Him so much!" and with these words on his lips - he died.
And impress them sharply upon your sons, and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk upon the way; when you lie down, and when you get up. (6:7)
A simple reading of the pasuk implies that one is to teach the commandments to his children/students, who are considered like his children. He should also speak words of Torah, with the primary topic of his conversation always being Torah-oriented. Last, he should occupy himself with Torah at all times: when he is in his home: or when he is traveling: at night when he lays down to sleep; and when he arises in the morning - Torah must be his primary focus in life. Perhaps, we might apply writer's license to interpret the pesukim as an orientation for parents and teachers on how best to impart the Torah's lessons, values and commandments to our precious children. V'shenantam le'vanecha, "And you shall impress them sharply upon your sons." How is this best performed? By v'dibarta bam, "speak of them:" You must make Torah the primary focus of your conversation. Children growing up in a home in which Torah is the spoken "language" receive a message concerning its significance. B'shivtecha b'veisecha u'v'lechtecha ba'derech: "whether you are at home or on the road": You always find time to learn and make sure that your children are acutely aware of your sedarim, study sessions. Furthermore, b'shochbecha u'bekumecha: "when you lie down and when you get up," nothing should take precedence over your children's education. Every waking minute of the day, from early morning when you arise until the time that you retire for the night, your children's spiritual and moral development must be constantly on your mind.
When queried concerning his recipe for success in raising children, the Brisker Rav, zl, commented, Tehillim mit treren, "The tearful recitation of Psalms" - on an almost constant basis. This, of course, means when time allows. The Brisker Rav never lost focus. His children were the future and, as such, he was compelled to think about them constantly.
Although they never had biological children of their own, Horav Simcha Wasserman, zl, and his Rebbetzin were experts on the subject of child-raising. Indeed, when one of his talmidim, students, asked the Rosh Yeshivah how he developed such expertise in a field in which he sadly did not have personal experience, Rav Simcha replied, "I do have personal experience. I have the experience of how my parents raised me." I share with the reader some of Rav Simcha's powerful insights into this critical topic.
"A child is like an immigrant who arrives in a new country. He makes observations and eventually adopts the customs and culture of his host country. Parents are a child's country. If the parents are happy, if they smile often and cooperate with one another, the child will learn that this is the lifestyle in 'this country.' Thus, he, too, will become like them. When parents are happy, children are happy. When parents are depressed and unamicable, the children will be lethargic and unfriendly." It rubs off. When parents communicate through barbs, sarcasm and patronization, the children will grow up with a warped sense of communication with others.
"The first mitzvah of the Torah concerns procreation. The Torah enjoins us to reproduce, but the obligation does not end with bringing a child into the world. It continues with raising him properly, in molding him into a decent, upstanding human being, who contributes to other people and to the world. The obligation to raise our children is not a separate mitzvah, but rather, an extension of the mitzvah to reproduce."
In life, we have functions. When we succeed in satisfactorily fulfilling our functions, we are happy. Rav Simcha observes that one of the greatest functions that we have as Jews is that of raising children and transmitting the Mesorah, Tradition, to the next generation. We have in our hands a very special gift which the Almighty entrusted us with developing into a worthy human being. To paraphrase the Rosh Yeshivah, "The Torah does not want us to raise institutions. It wants us to raise people. The secret of raising people instead of institutions is unselfishness."
While there is great joy in raising children, joy is not the goal. There is tremendous nachas to be derived from raising children. Nachas, however, is not the goal. It is not all about "us." We bribe children, so that they will be happy. Why? Because we want to be happy. Happy kids makes for happy parents. Are we acting in the child's best interest, or are we placating ourselves? We are constantly giving children trinkets, toys and sweets, because this makes them happy. We are, regrettably, teaching the child to be a taker. If he or she is not satisfied with what he or she receives from us, he or she will go elsewhere, because he or she has been nurtured to become a taker. When a parent, however, is a giver, if the parent gives because the parent wants to give and enjoys giving - the child grows up a giver."
When the parent is focused, and knows and understands his obligations to his child, everything that he is doing as he is raising his child is for the child's benefit and not for his own self-interest. Many people map out their child's life based on their own personal ambitions, which are selfish and not for the good of the child.
A child must be raised for the child's sake - not to promote the parent. Perhaps this is what Shlomo HaMelech means when he says, Chanoch lanaar al pi darko, "Educate the child in his way." Do what is best for the child. Yet, we are human, and it is difficult to divorce ourselves completely from our self-interest. To the extent that we act out of concern for the child, the greater will be our success in raising him and, concomitantly, the greater will be our nachas and joy.
Rav Simcha applies the same concept to the world of Torah chinuch. In the world of Jewish education, one's concern must be child-oriented. It is all about the student. If one's motivation is purely for the child - and not to impress parents, principals, board members - he will know how to teach. If, however, he has ulterior motives as well, then there is no guarantee of success.
A young man once approached the Rosh Yeshivah with a question. His father was concerned about his ability to earn a living once he left the kollel. As a result, primarily in order to assuage his father's anxiety, he was considering a career in teaching. The question was: Should he take a teaching course in order to learn how to teach? Rav Simcha questioned the young man's choice of vocation - why teaching as opposed to business? He replied that he wanted to maintain a connection with Torah. Rav Simcha gave the reply, "When a person teaches with only the benefit of the students in mind, he will find that he possesses the personal resources to do the job. If your motivation, however, is primarily personal, if you are entering the field of Torah chinuch for your own sake, then I think you had better take that course."
When we act towards our students as parents should act towards their own children, we are helped from Above in a manner that allows us to communicate naturally with our students. We sense their needs and are, thus, able to address them in a proper and successful manner.
Teaching, as well as parenting, is a balance of love and discipline, with even the discipline to be given with a dose of love. Every rule must be established upon a motivation of love. This applies equally to punishment. We never get even. We discipline to teach, but always out of love. Too much love ruins the balance in the same manner that too much discipline turns off the child/student. Everything we do is for the sake of the child. Thus, it is always well thought-out and balanced.
Rav Simcha relates that, in his parents' home, there was tremendous warmth and affection. We must remember that his father was the venerable Horav Elchonan Wasserman, zl, Rosh Yeshivah of Baranovitch, primary disciple of the Chafetz Chaim and of the Gedolei Ha'dor, preeminent Torah leaders of the pre-World War II generation. His mother had a rule: The children were not to ask for anything. I guess she felt that asking implied need, and the parents provided what was needed. If a child asked for something, he did not receive it. There was limited money in the Wasserman home, and it was something the parents wanted to impress on their children. The message was: "If we can afford and we have, you will be given. We know what you need." The children grew up confident and filled with trust. They were taught self-control, accepting the fact that they would be given what they needed. As Rav Simcha remarked, "We learned that we could not walk around being 'wanters' and 'takers.'"
Rav Simcha relates, "One day, our mother came home with some honey. My younger brother, Dovid, was four years old at the time, and he wanted some honey. He knew, of course, that if he would ask for the honey he would not get it. So, he moved a chair over to the table, stood upon the chair and made a loud brachah: she'hakol niheyeh biDevaro (the blessing made on various foods, including honey). He figured that now our mother would be compelled to give him the honey. After all, he had already recited the brachah and one must not make a brachah l'vatalah, in vain. Her immediate response was to go to the kitchen and obtain a glass of water and give it to him. He was not getting the honey!"
Children must learn from day "one" that there are things which they may do and there are things that one may not do. Consistency is the best tool for teaching self-control. Once one has made a statement he should not revert and attempt to alter it. One should be careful concerning what exits his mouth, but, once it has left his mouth, he has no other recourse but to support it. One who undermines himself has very little chance of receiving support from his children.
V'ahavta es Hashem Elokecha - You shall love Hashem, your G-d.
In Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:1, the Rambam writes: "It is a mitzvah to love and fear the Almighty, as it says, V'ahavta es Hashem Elokecha; "You shall love Hashem, your G-d." And it also says, Es Hashem Elokecha tira, "You should fear Hashem, your G-d." Apparently, Rambam feels that the mitzvah to love Hashem precedes that of yirah, fear. There is, however, a pasuk in Devarim 10:12, V'atah mah Hashem Eloekecha sho'el meimach, ki im l'yiraah es Hashem Elokecha… u'l'ahavah oso, which clearly places fear before love. How do we reconcile the pasuk cited by the Rambam with that of the Torah in Parashas Eikev?
Horav Akiva Eiger, zl, distinguishes between two forms of fear: yiraas ha'onesh, fear of punishment; yiraas ha'romemus, fear of Awe. The fear one has of punishment is on a lower level than love. Fear of Hashem's pre-eminence, awestruck by His Omnipotence, follows love. The pasuk in Parashas Eikev, in which fear precedes love is addressing punitive fear. Rambam, however, speaks concerning yiraas ha'romemus, fear of Awe.
Mrs. Goldie Jundef
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