Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

Parashat Ekev


Things are always changing in this world of ours, and we adapt ourselves to the changing reality with dizzying speed. It used to be that a family would never travel all together on an airplane. Who knows? Maybe something would happen, Heaven forbid, and the other family members would be spared. Nowadays, air travel is safer than the highways. We find ourselves constantly reexamining common protocol in light of new technology. Once, when people would speak to parents about Torah education for their children, many parents agreed to send their children to Torah schools and yielded much "nahat," in every sense of the word. Others, however, hesitated. They wondered, what about the matriculation exams? The children need those exams to be accepted to university; these exams are the key to success in life...

Even then, this wasn't necessarily true. The rebbe of Vishnitz zs"l speaks often about his trip abroad, where he met experienced accountants and attorneys who worked for successful millionaires without an academic background. Indeed, "The blessing of Hashem is what makes one wealthy."

Unquestionably, the Creator won't withhold wealth from someone who opts for Torah education.

Nevertheless, one could perhaps understand the concern of many parents for the financial future of their children, their desire to offer them an education that will open possibilities for prosperity. However, understanding their claims does not mean agreeing with them. There is a well known ruling of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a requiring parents to send their children to a Torah educational system. Today, however, circumstances have changed. The growing demand is in the field of computers, hi-tech, for which, in Israel, matriculation exams are of so significance. In this field what's important is understanding, quick comprehension, sharp analytical and logical thinking, creative thought and innovation. All this and more is provided by Torah education, in-depth learning of Gemara, the thorough analysis of sugyot, probing the root of the halachah and the logical conclusions and ramifications thereof. Alumni of Torah education are the best suited and trained to achieve excellence in the field of hi-tech in which there is such a demand. The heads of technological institutes and companies testify that they continuously make use of the intellectual talents of yeshivah students. Therefore, parents who want the best for their children - both spiritual and financial - should register them in Torah educational institutions, before the new school year begins.


"You will eat, be satiated and bless"

The Sefer Hahinuch (missvah 430) writes that the concept of reciting a berachah to Hashem lies in our declaration that the Almighty is the source of all blessing and good fortune. He controls all blessings and issues them to whomever He deems worthy. Through our performance of missvot and finding favor in His eyes, we merit His bestowal of blessing upon us.

"You will eat, be satiated and bless"

Hazal tell us that one who eats without first reciting a berachah is considered as having inappropriately used the property of "hekdesh." The Almighty grants permission to partake of His world only after reciting a berachah. Rabbenu Yaakov Ba'al Haturim zs"l explains a pasuk in Tehillim on this basis. The pasuk states, "I said to Hashem, You are God - the source of my goodness, there is none above You" (Tehillim 16:2). Meaning, once I recite the blessing over the food and thanked the Almighty, he then gives me, as it were, the goodness of the world and the right to enjoy it as if it were my own. Furthermore, in "Binah L'itim" (Derush 34) our pasuk is explained this vein: "You will eat, be satiated and bless Hashem your God for the good land - that He gave you." Meaning, after the recitation of the blessing, the produce of the land is given to man for his benefit and enjoyment.

"You will eat, be satiated and bless"

Rabbi Yaakov Abuhassera zs"l writes that one who eats like an animal will have a very hard time making a berachah like a Jew...Indeed, one must remember Hashem even when he eats, ensuring to speak words of Torah at the table and sense that he is eating at the sacred table of Hashem. Only in this manner can he recite a berachah with the proper concentration and sense of closeness to Hashem. This is alluded to in our pasuk: "You will eat, be satiated and bless Hashem your God." "Elokecha" (your God) has the same letters as "achilah" (eating). Thus, the pasuk may read as indicating that if Hashem is before you even as you eat, then you can recite a berachah. Thus, the Torah continues, "Be careful lest you forget Hashem your God"!

"You will eat, be satiated and bless"

The Alshich zs"l comments that we recite in Birkat Hamazon, "We thank You for having granted OUR FATHERS a precious land..." because we were exiled from our land on account of our sins. But when Yehoshua originally composed the berachah, the text was, "for having granted US..." Thus, our pasuk warns, ""You will eat, be satiated and bless," meaning, that you will able to recite "for having granted US." This privilege of reciting this text is dependent upon the continuation of the pesukim: "Be careful lest you forget Hashem your God..."


Rabbi Yaakov of Barcelona zs"l

Our parashah bids us to remember the punishments brought against Egypt, to recognize that there is a sense of justice in the world, and the Creator ultimately punishes the wicked. In this context, Rabbi Yossef Mesas zs"l of Telmesan tells the story of Rabbi Yaakov of Barcelona, a student of Rabbi Yehudah Ben Barzilai. Once, the city was overtaken by a swarm of locusts that destroyed everything in sight. The mayor called the city council to an emergency meeting, and walked by foot from his home to the municipality to observe and assess the damage. Along the way, he met Rabbi Yaakov, who was on his way to the Bet Midrash. "Tell me, rabbi," he asked, "what do the Jews say about all this? Why did the locusts come here?"

Rabbi Yaakov answered, "The locust came as a result of the plague of locusts."

"You speak in riddles," said the mayor.

Rabbi Yaakov explained, "The gentile youths of the city attack every Jew that they encounter like locusts, and beat them mercilessly." He showed the mayor the bruises, abrasions and wounds that spotted his body. "Because of this sin, the locusts have come."

"Why haven't the Jews petitioned the authorities?" asked the mayor.

"They have repeatedly reported these unfortunate incidents, but no one bothers to investigate the crimes. Our blood has become free for the taking," answered Rabbi Yaakov.

"And how do we know that the locusts came specifically on account of this sin?" asked the mayor.

"Well," responded Rabbi Yaakov, "why doesn't the mayor try to correct this evil and see what happens to the locusts?"

The mayor laughed at the idea, but went along with it. He arrived at the municipality and issued an edict that anyone who harms a Jew will be severely punished, both physically and financially. Just as the edict was made public, the clouds of locusts dissipated, and the Name of Hashem was publicly sanctified.


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

Chapter 8: The Laws of Ssissit

Interruption and Diversion of Concentration During the Berachah for the Tallit

One who generally wears several four-cornered garments one after the other, and the garments were lying before him as he recited the berachah, then even if he did not have intention for the other garments, he does not need to recite a new berachah. Since he generally wears many garments, we consider his intentions as if they had the other garments in mind. Even if more garments were brought before him as he put on those that were with him at the time of the berachah, he does not require a new berachah, since its requirement in this instance is in question.

If he is accustomed to wearing only one four-cornered garment, and he put on the first garment without intention for any other garments and the second garment was in front of him at the time of the berachah for the first garment, then he does not recite a berachah over the second the garment, for its requirement is in doubt.

Preferably, in any such instance when the recitation of a berachah over the second garment is in doubt, one should completely divert his attention and do some sort of interruption. Then he definitely must recite a berachah on the new garment he is now wearing, thereby satisfying all views..

If one wore a tallit without first checking the strings and then discovers that it was pasul (invalid) as a result of either the garment itself or the strings, and now he wishes to put on a new tallit, he must recite a new berachah over the second tallit. This applies even if this occurred immediately following the original berachah, since he had no intention whatsoever during the recitation of the berachah for any subsequent tallit.

If one intended to wear two tallitot one after the other and, after reciting the berachah and wearing the first tallit, he took it off, and now proceeds to wear the second garment, he still does not recite a new berachah, since the original berachah was specifically intended for the second garment, as well.

One who took hold of a tallit and recited the berachah, but before he could put it on someone came along and switched his tallit for another, the first berachah cannot be counted towards this new tallit, and a new berachah is required.

According to the Shulhan Aruch, one who puts on a tallit at home and intends that the berachah should apply as well to the tallit he will put on in Bet Kenesset, he must nevertheless recite a new berachah over the tallit in Bet Kenesset. The trip from his home to the Bet Kenesset constitutes an interruption, and he must therefore recite a new berachah, despite the fact that he intended for the berachah to count towards the second tallit.

However, many later authorities dispute this ruling of the Shulhan Aruch, and maintain that one's trip to Bet Kenesset is not considered an interruption so long as he did not divert his attention from the tallit.

Since we never recite a berachah whose requirement is the subject of dispute, even against the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch, one should be concerned for this view and not recite a berachah in such a situation.

Certainly if one recites a berachah over a tallit in one room and has in mind that the berachah should apply as well to a tallit in another room in the same house, he does not recite a new berachah on the second tallit in the other room.


The Crocodile

The crocodile is the largest reptile in the world. Its body is flat like that of a lizard, its tail is long and compressed from the sides, and its large, flat head takes up about one-fifth of its overall length. The crocodile feeds mainly off fish and other animals, and sometimes it will eat mammals, as well. When these mammals come to drink water, it snaps at them with lightening speed and devours them. The crocodile's teeth are remarkably well-suited for catching its prey. Its incisors lock together especially hard, leaving the victim with virtually no possibility of escape.

Most crocodiles are nocturnal hunters who generally sit motionless in ambush. Their entire body remains underwater, only their eyes peering out from above the water, and their nostrils and ears jutting out above the surface. For this reason, it is exceedingly difficult to detect the crocodile's presence. The crocodile doesn't chew its prey; it eats it whole. Sometimes it tears its prey to pieces through strong head-movements or with another crocodile pulling at the other end. Given the fact that the crocodile does not need any energy to regulate its body temperature and that its efficient digestive system can ingest virtually everything, leaving behind very little of its prey, it generally needs only one good meal a week.

It isn't very easy to like crocodiles. They are dangerous and threatening wherever they are, especially given the fact that they eat humans, as well.

Why does this quality, of their being man-eaters, make them even more frightening? Because the human being is not meant inherently to kill or be killed. Unfortunately, however, in society there are times when a person does, in fact, find himself in such a tragic situation. And we mean here specifically physical murder, not spiritual harm. Instances of horrifying murder, so senseless and abominable, surface regularly among human society.

The Jew, who stands mortified as he witnesses acts of murder unprecedented among the Jewish nation, knows the answer behind it all, taught to us by Avraham: "Indeed, there is no fear of God in this place, and thus they would kill me." This concept requires one to educate his children from the youngest age along the path of Avraham, along the path of Torah and missvot. Only the fear of God guides us and directs us towards an understanding of what's more important and what's less, what is the true value of human life, the inherent value of morals and ethics, a recognition of the sanctity of life and the sanctity of the Jewish people. It brings about a mode of conduct by which one acts not spontaneously, but rather with a sense of, "the result of the action is in the thoughts, first."


The Deserted Woman of Jerusalem (6)

A story taken from the book, "Hasaraf MiBrisk," the story of the life of Maharil Diskin zs"l

Flashback: Mereishah became an "agunah" when her husband was caught cheating his customers and fled the city in shame. She barely managed to support her children, and as her oldest son's bar-misvah approached, Rabbi Aryeh Leib Salant returned from Germany and reported to her that he saw her husband, who gave him money for his wife and promised to be back in time for the bar-misvah.

The one hundred marks Mereishah received from her husband was like a treasure! She used the money to buy her son a beautiful pair of tefillin and paid her rent, thus avoiding the eviction order she faced. She painted her apartment and purchased festive clothing for the bar-missvah boy and his siblings. The rumor quickly spread that her husband was on his way home, and many neighbors and friends shared in her joy, hoping that her suffering will finally come to an end. After all, her husband - Baruch Mordechai - already achieved atonement through his exile, and the Jewish people are merciful people, the sons of merciful people; they have long forgotten his crime. Upon hearing of his success in business, they said to themselves, "Great- maybe he will bring with him enough money to open a business here and support his family respectably. Hopefully his wife will no longer have to work at this dismal stand in the vegetable market, hoping for some customers to come by and spend a few coins."

The date of the bar-missvah approached, and with every passing day the anticipation grew. Both the deserted wife and her bar-missvah boy waited anxiously. His younger siblings, who hadn't known their father since they were mere toddlers, waited along with their mother. So did the neighbors who remembered him well, for his crime. The merchants in the market, who pitied the impoverished woman, also waited for her husband's return. The boy's friends, who empathized with him, also anticipated the relief of his suffering.

The day before the bar-misvah finally arrived. The friends were drafted to bring benches and tables from the Bet Kenesset; neighbors brought cakes and various dishes, the men brought fancy wines. Many guests came to the tiny home, that had just been painted white. Many of them came more out of curiosity then friendship. The father said he would show up for the bar-misvah; if he has not arrived until now, then undoubtedly he is planning some surprise, certainly he is introducing an element of suddenness so as to intensify the joy and celebration.

The guests indulged in fine wines and delicacies, and they ate heartily from the deserts prepared by the neighbors. They wished the boy and his mother that his parents - both of them - should merit to bring him and all their children to Torah, a wedding canopy and good deeds. They then turned to the door to see if the father would appear, and how he would come in - but he didn't come.

The hour became late, the joy gradually faded and guests left one by one. By morning, only the mother and her children were left, their eyes pouring tears...

to be continued...

In our parashah, Mosheh stands and warns Benei Yisrael to recall the fate suffered by those who angered the Creator and His nation, from the plagues in Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh's army at Yam Suf, to the dramatic death of Datan and Aviram, who were devoured by the ground, together with homes, families and possessions. We must learn the lesson from these incidents to observe the Torah and missvot. The Ramban asks, why does Mosheh urge the people to remember specifically the death of Datan and Aviram who joined Korah's revolt, without making mention of Korah himself, who instigated the entire affair?

The "Saba" of Kelm zs"l provides a simple answer. Korah's sin can be well understood - he was jealous of his cousin, Elissafan, who was granted the title of Nasi for the family of Kehat. He also longed for the position of kohen gadol. Indeed, the lust for glory can bring a person to grave errors that he would normally not commit. But Datan and Aviram - what personal interest did they have in the revolt? Certainly, this was pure evil on their part.

When we see politicians who seek to drag people along with their ideologies, we understand - they long for popularity, to achieve prestige, and must therefore ride the wave of animosity to incite people into their camp. But what can be said to justify the hatred and enmity spurred by the press? This is but pure evil, not more or less. They harbor an ingrained desire to become our enemies, to fight against anything sacred, to ridicule and scorn.


"He is your glory, He is your God," says the pasuk in our parashah (Devarim 10:21). The Ramban zs"l explains, "He will be your glory, in that you will give all your glory to Him, and Him you will praise always, and you will not give His glory to anyone else." His comments bring to mind the interpretation of the Alshich zs"l of the pasuk, "Sing to Him, praise Him, speak of all His wonders." The Alshich explains, "Sing - to Him."

Meaning, if you want to sing, sing only songs of kedushah. "Praise - to Him"; if you want to sing praises, sing the praises of the Almighty. "Speak" - if you want to speak with your friends or family, then speak of His wonders, look for the Hand of the Almighty in everything around you, and strengthen the faith within you.

We have living with us today Jews from the previous generation, may they continue to live happy and healthy lives for many years to come. Their roots are firmly grounded in our heritage, their faith is ever so pure and firmly established, and the Name of God never leaves their lips; every sentence seems to incorporate terms such as, "Baruch Hashem," "Thanks to God," B'ezrat Hashem," etc. We have become somewhat desensitized and distanced; something has gone wrong. The prophet already laments, "Faith has been lost, it has been eliminated from their mouths." Rashi teaches us (Bereishit 27:21) that the discerning difference between Yaakov and Esav was that Yaakov attributed everything to divine assistance, while "it was not Esav's want to have the Name of God fluent in his speech." We often forget to take a look at which direction we follow...

Some will argue that in the past this was common and the accepted norm; today it would sound peculiar. To the contrary - would it be more peculiar than the situation of Yossef, a boy all alone, a penniless slave, located in idolatry-infested Egypt? And what does the pasuk say about his experiences? "His master saw that Hashem was with him," and Rashi explains, "The Name of Heaven was fluent in his mouth." The pasuk continues, "and that everything he does - Hashem makes it successful in his hands." Indeed, this is the natural result. If one continually attributes everything to the Creator, then he receives His unlimited blessing, and success is guaranteed.

In the work "Ssava'ah Me'hayyim" (19:a), the story is told of Rabbenu Hayyim Plagi zs"l (known as the "Habi"f"), the rabbi of Izmir, who wished to set up a sophisticated, state-of-the-art hospital in his community to serve his constituents, and which would be run according to halachah. He accepted upon himself the responsibility to raise the enormous sum of money required for such an ambitious project. His fund-raising campaign brought him to Senior Lionne Adot, one of the wealthiest members of the community, who donated a generous sum towards the project. The rabbi wrote him a letter thanking him for his support and asked him to make a personal request to Baron Rothschild - with whom he conducted business dealings - to contribute towards the construction of the Jewish hospital.

Senior Adot faced a serious dilemma. The accepted protocol in the world of commerce is to maintain total separation between business and charitable contributions. The generous baron might become angry with him, rightfully so, for taking advantage of their business relationship for the sake of a donation. He might then discontinue his business dealings with the Senior.

Then, nothing will have been accomplished - the donation won't come, and he himself will be personally harmed. He therefore went to the rabbi's house to excuse himself from granting the rabbi's wish. He asked the rabbi to understand his problem and forego on his request.

The rabbi heard his emotional plea. After the Senior concluded his remarks, the rabbi asked, "Tell me, did you read my letter?" The Senior was taken aback by the question and quickly responded, "Of course - down to the last detail!"

"I know you read until the last detail - but did you read the beginning?" continued the rabbi.

"Of course!" answered Senior Adot.

"So how did the letter begin?" inquired the rabbi.

"Dear - " the Senior began quoting.

"You see - you did not read the letter from the beginning," interrupted the rabbi. "It opens with the acronym, 'B'H',' or 'B'ezrat Hashem' (with the help of Hashem). This is to demonstrate that I trust in divine assistance, and in this way His help is guaranteed."

Senior Adot overcame his hesitation and turned to his colleague, Baron Rothschild, to ask for his support in the building campaign. The philanthropist responded favorably to the request and donated a generous sum that allowed for the development of an advanced, sophisticated and beautiful complex.

This is what is meant by our pasuk: "He is your glory" - if His glory is commonplace in your mouth, then, as the pasuk continues, "and He is your God Who performed for you all these wonders and miracles" - you will see his salvation first-hand, with your own eyes.

Let us therefore restore the glory to its rightful place, and let us make the Name of God fluent and routine in our mouths.

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Jerusalem, Israel