Friday, Menachem Av 22, 5776 / August 26, 2016 - Hakhel year
This week's Parsha, Eikev, begins, "And it shall be because you will listen to the commandments of G-d and you will keep and do them that G-d your G-d will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your body and the fruit of your land... And G-d will take away from you all sickness; and all the evil diseases of Egypt He will not put upon you."
Moshe explains to the people that even the hardships and tests that G-d put them through during their forty years in the desert, were for their benefit. "And you shall consider in your heart that just as a man reproaches his son so your G-d chastises you. And you shall keep the commandments of the L-rd your G-d to walk in His ways and to fear him."
Q. What is the meaning of, "Just as a man reproaches his son so your G-d chastises you"?
A. Rabbi Dov Ber, known as the Magid of Mezritch, explains with the following parable, why righteous people may at times experience suffering and the wicked may prosper:
A father, who wants to teach his son to walk, will start out by walking together with the child and holding his hand. Then he will let go of the child’s hand, leaving the child on his own. The child may fall and the father will pick him up. The father will then move away from his child and the child will then take a step toward his father and the father will retreat a bit further so that the child will take a few more steps on his own. The father will repeat this process in order to get the child to walk greater and greater distances on his own.
To the child it may seem that the father is moving away from him and ignoring him, yet the father does this out of love and care, for he knows that the child's growth and development depends on this.
The same is with G-d. At times it may seem that G-d is ignoring us, yet, in truth He is not ignoring us but rather moves away from us so that we will continuously move closer to Him. Through this process, we ascend higher and higher spiritually towards Him.
This is what the Torah means with, "just as a man reproaches his son so your G-d chastises you.” The reason and purpose a father chastises his child is out of love for the child for the sake of setting him in the right path and for his spiritual growth.
So too, the tests which G-d puts us through, should be taken as proof that He considers us His children. He cares for us, just as a parent cares for their children. He wants us to grow on our own.
Shabbat we bless the new month, Elul. Rosh Chodesh will be the following Shabbat and Sunday.
Montrealcandle lighting time: 7:24 / Shabbat ends: 8:27
Thursday, Menachem Av 21, 5776 / August 25, 2016 - Hakhel year
In the beginning of this week's Parsha, Aikev, Moshe tells the people of Israel, "V'haya Aikev Tishma'un" - "And it shall be because you will listen to the commandments of G-d and you will keep and do them that G-d your G-d will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you… And G-d will take away from you all sickness; and all the evil diseases of Egypt He will not put upon you..."
Throughout this Parsha, in his parting words to his people before his passing, Moshe reminds them to adhere to the words of the Torah and to observe G-d's commandments. He informs them that their success in the Promised Land, which they are about to enter, depends on their commitment and observance of G-d's will, for then they will merit G-d's blessings.
Our sages explain that the word "Aikev" can also be translated as "heel."
Our sages explain that the Torah used the term "heel" in connection with the observance of the mitzvot to emphasize that one should be very careful to observe even the mitzvot which people step over them with their heel; i.e. mitzvot which people may deem them unimportant.
In Pirkei Avot (Chapters of our Fathers) our Talmudic sages tell us, "Be careful to perform a minor mitzvah just as a major one, for you do not know the reward for each mitzvah." Each of the 613 mitzvot is G-d given and as such we cannot measure which mitzvot are "more" or "less" significant.
The Talmudic sages give the following parable to explain why G-d didn't specify the exact reward for each mitzvah. A king hired workers to plant trees and attend to them. He told the workers that each tree had its price, which he guaranteed to pay. However, the king didn't disclose the different prices for the various trees. He said to himself, "If I tell them the exact reward for each of the trees, they will all plant the trees that will earn them the most. If I do not disclose the reward for each tree, the workers will plant different trees and the orchard will be beautiful."
The same is with mitzvot. If G-d would have revealed the reward for each of the mitzvot, everyone would perform only the mitzvot which bring the greatest reward and ignore the rest.
However, the Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai says that from two mitzvot; honoring ones parents, and sending away the mother bird before taking its young, for which G-d did reveal their reward, one can understand the great reward for all mitzvot.
Honoring parents is considered one of the most important mitzvot and may involve much personal effort to perform. Sending away the mother bird is considered one of the easiest mitzvot to perform. Yet, the Torah tells us that the reward for both of these mitzvot is long life. "This teaches us," says Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, "that the reward for performing all mitzvot is very great."
HAVE A VERY GOOD, HAPPY, HEALTHY AND SUCCESSFUL DAY