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JULY 12-13, 2002 4 AB 5762

Pop Quiz: Which king did Hashem tell Moshe not to fear?


"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel" (Debarim 1:1)

The fifth book of the Torah, Debarim, opens with Moshe Rabenu rebuking Israel for its past deeds. Two verses later it says, "Moshe spoke to the Children of Israel everything that Hashem commanded him," implying that everything that Moshe Rabenu now told the nation, including the rebuke, was because Hashem commanded him. Moshe really did not want to rebuke the people but he did so after Hashem commanded him.

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter explains that we learn from here an important lesson on how Torah is to be taught. When one learns secular knowledge, the main thing is to gather and remember the facts, to understand the information and learn to apply it. When it comes to learning Torah there is an additional element that must be included, and that is Yir'at Shamayim - the fear of Hashem. This element is not a subject that is an addition to Torah knowledge. It is an intrinsic part of the Torah itself. If one possesses Torah knowledge without fear of Hashem, then he doesn't have any Torah knowledge. So even though Moshe didn't want to rebuke the people, because he was afraid they wouldn't accept it, nevertheless Hashem commanded him to do so, because Torah can't be transmitted without mussar (rebuke). This brings the person to fear Hashem and eventually to love Hashem.

We know that it is no fun to be chided and reprimanded. The generation of the desert were able to take it. If we want to grow and if we want our children to follow our ways, then we must realize that this will happen only with mussar and encouragement. Without it we will not reach our growth potential and will find it more difficult to help our children remain loyal. We read this perashah before Tish'ah B'Ab because the concept of rebuke brings teshubah, and teshubah gives us merit to rebuild the Bet Hamikdash. May we merit to see the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance and your burden and your strife?" (Debarim 1:12)

The Midrash in Eichah distinguishes among three prophets who prefaced their prophecy with the word "Eichah."

The first was Moshe, who objected to his obligation to deal personally with all of Klal Yisrael's strife and complaints. Yeshayahu, the second, lamented B'nei Yisrael's infidelity with the words "eichah haytah l'zonah - How had the faithful city become like a harlot?" Third, Yirmiyahu, who beheld Klal Yisrael in their disgrace, said, "eichah yashbah badad - Alas, she (Klal Yisrael) sits in solitude."

These three statements apply to our people in the various stages of their development and ultimate disgrace. Rabbi M. Rogov explains that Moshe, who was with us during our period of glory, lamented the constant bickering and complaints to which he was subjected. During Yeshayahu's tenure, Moshe's burden would have been viewed as a source of "joy." The counsel and authority of Torah leaders was no longer in demand. The members of Israel, who were so faithful under Moshe's leadership, had transferred their loyalty to other authorities. They had strayed as a harlot.

This digression reached a greater proportion during Yirmiyahu's time. At least Yeshayahu saw the Jewish people before him. As long as the Jew exists, there is always hope for his return to the faith. In Yirmiyahu's time, regrettably, this was not the situation. The country had been ravaged and laid to ruin. The people were driven into exile. This was the greatest lament, for there was no longer anyone with whom to communicate.

Perhaps we can derive a simple lesson from this Midrash. We often bemoan our lot in life, not realizing that it is all relative. What we may view as hardship may be enviable to one who has less or suffers more. We should learn to view our fate in the proper perspective; it reflects the decision of Hashem, who in His infinite wisdom recognizes what is best for us. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And we circled Mount Seir many days. And Hashem spoke to me saying 'You have long passed this mountain, turn you northward'" (Debarim 2:1,2,3)

The Midrash interprets the phrase "turn you northward," as "hide yourselves for Torah" (the Hebrew words for north and hide have the same root). This Midrash suggests a profound idea. Throughout our history, we have attempted to solve all of our problems with one common remedy - assimilation. If only we would develop a greater, more open-minded relationship with the gentile world, we would be accepted as equals and all our problems would dissipate. Unfortunately, a perusal through Jewish history indicates the opposite. Every time we have attempted to break through the religious barriers by assimilating with our gentile neighbors, we have been driven back in the most cruel and bestial manner. On the contrary, we experienced our few "moments" of reprieve when we remained separate, not groveling as cowards willing to shed our identities in return for gentile recognition and acceptance.

Rabbi Rogov points out that this is the meaning of our verse. Hashem says to B'nei Yisrael, "You have long passed this mountain." Stop encircling Har Seir, attempting to ingratiate yourselves in Esav's eyes. The only hope and salvation for B'nei Yisrael is when you "hide" yourselves in the Torah. Through our complete devotion to Torah and misvot, we will develop a unique sense of Jewish pride. This will be our source of courage and strength throughout the exile, as we wait for the ultimate salvation, the advent of Mashiah. (Peninim on the Torah)


This week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 1:1-27.

This haftarah is the third in the series of three haftarot dealing with rebuke that are read between the 17th of Tamuz and Tish'ah B'Ab. In this passage, the prophet Yeshayahu tells the people that Hashem doesn't need their sacrifices. Rather, He wants them to refrain from evil and seek justice.

On Tish'ah B'Ab, we read the book of Eichah (Lamentations). It is no coincidence that in Parashat Debarim (which is always read on the Shabbat before Tish'ah B'Ab), Moshe uses the word eichah when he tells Hashem that he cannot single-handedly carry the nation. In the haftarah, Yeshayahu also uses the word eichah, asking how the nation has fallen so low that she has become like a harlot.

Answer to pop quiz: Og, king of Bashan.

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