Rabbi Yaacov Haber's
for the Week
Hashem speaks to us about the blessing and the curses
that can come upon the Jewish people. He speaks to us like a father speaks
to his children explaining to them the importance of their decisions and
dispositions in life. He says, 'Your whole life stands before you. Make the
right decisions and you will be blessed. Make the wrong decisions and your
life will be miserable.'
Sadly these verses read like a history of our people. As a people we have
been tortured, killed and humiliated. We have been tossed from country to
country. Today we can also see the blessings. For the first time in 2000
years Israel is green and flourishing. There are yiddishe simchas every day
and there are more children studying Torah then perhaps any other period in
history. This Parsha is alive and mind-boggling.
Yet, it still hurts to reread the curses of the Torah, it still brings tears
to our eyes to think about how our grandparents suffered and died. Why on Shabbos?
Better on Tisha B'Av!
I believe that there is a deep lesson in this portion of the Torah.
Rabbi Mordechei Kaminetsky tells the following story:
After the Nazis invaded the small village of Klausenberg, they began to
celebrate in their usual sadistic fashion. They gathered the Jews into a
circle in the center of town, and then paraded their Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusial
Yehuda Halberstam, into the center. They began taunting and teasing him,
pulling his beard and pushing him around. The vile soldiers trained their
guns on him as the commander began to speak. "Tell us Rabbi,"
sneered the officer, "do you really believe that you are the Chosen
People?" The soldiers guarding the crowd howled in laughter. But the
Rebbe did not. In a serene voice, he answered loud and clear, "Most
The officer became enraged. He lifted his rifle above
his head and sent it crashing on the head of the Rebbe. The Rebbe fell to
the ground. There was rage in the officer's voice. "Do you still think
you are the Chosen People?" he yelled. Once again, the Rebbe nodded his
head and said, "yes, we are." The officer became infuriated. He
kicked the rebbe in the shin and repeated. "You stupid Jew, you lie
here on the ground, beaten and humiliated. What makes you think that
you are the Chosen People?" From the depths of humiliation clouded in
dust, the Rebbe replied. "As long as we are not the ones kicking and
beating innocent people, we can call ourselves chosen."
The Parsha is about our chosenness! We must conduct ourselves as a chosen
people. When all is well, when blessing abounds, it feels good and easy to
feel chosen. But when life turns tragic, when the chips are down, chosenness
becomes a challenge.
Do we maintain our dignity and our character when life
takes a downturn? Do we maintain our composure when others would lose their
temper? Can we refrain from taking revenge when we are being persecuted? Can
we hold our "middos
level" when we seem to be lone rangers? If we can we are
chosen. That was the message of the Klausenberg Rebbe. This difficult
portion of the Torah ends with the ultimate charge from Hashem,
always remember the Avos.
I will always remember Eretz Yisroel. Even
during the worst times when you are in the land of your enemies I will
not detest you and retract on the covenant that I made with you. You are
chosen!" Hashem's challenge is to remember that we are chosen; our
challenge is also to remember that we are chosen, even during the most
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and
the spiritual leader of the OU's Pardes Program
questions are very welcome
"A tree of life for those who embrace it"
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