Vaeschanan 5774

Towards the end of this week’s Sedra Moshe Rabeinu relays the most peculiar sounding message to Klal-Yisroel. Moshe Rabeinu says to Klal-Yisroel: “it is not for your greatness that Hashem chose you, for you are the smallest of all the nations. Rather it is for the love of Hashem unto you, and for his keeping his oath that He swore to your fathers…” The most peculiar part of the statement is that the words the Passuk chooses to refer to ‘great’ and ‘small’ are words that generally are used in reference to numbers. In other words it seems that the Passuk is saying that Hashem didn’t pick us because we are a multitude or a large nation, because we are really very few. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with reading the Passuk in such a manner and indeed this is how the Targum (Unklus) seems to read it. Rashi, however, takes a different approach.

Rashi, commenting on the first part of the first Passuk, says that greatness (מרבכם( can be understood in its simplest form to mean multitudes, and states that it is fully legitimate to read it as such. However, he adds another, Midrashik, interpretation. The latter explanation is that our not being great refers to the fact that we are not great on our own accord but rather only as the result of Hashem willing us to be so. While when it comes to greatness Rashi seems to allow for two different sorts of explanations, Rashi none the less chooses to explain our smallness in only one way. Rashi says that our being small has nothing to do with our numbers, but rather refers to our innate personality trait of humbling ourselves. Rashi seems to be inconsistent: what does humbling ourselves have to do with any of the aforementioned approaches regarding greatness? Furthermore, if indeed there is any truth to the numerical interpretation of greatness, then by default the numerical explanation of ‘small’ must be true as well.

Perhaps the latter difficulty is the exact reason that Rashi makes no mention of the explanation of small as equated to numbers. Since in the case of מרבכם Rashi clearly says that it can be understood as reference to numbers, then intuitively, without Rashi needing to say so, מעט can also be understood as such.

We remain now only with one technical difficulty: what is the correlation between our only being great because Hashem’s causing us to be so, and between our humbling ourselves?

All beings are only as great as Hashem has caused them to be. This holds true regarding everything in the world. There is, however, a difference between people and other entities, whether inanimate objects or living creatures. While most creations function essentially in their innate manner but can be changed or trained through external forces to act otherwise, people are different. People possess the ability to control themselves. If an individual focuses on his greatness he is then limiting himself to the exact greatness that Hashem allowed him. Thus such a person cannot be any greater than any other non-human creation, for these are limited to being only as great as they were created. If, however, one chooses to act humbly, he is thus not only realizing that his greatness is only as great as what Hashem has willed it, but he is now exalting himself above all other creations because he has chosen to recognize Hashem. Such a person can truly strive for greatness because he now understands what true greatness is all about.

What Moshe Rabeinu is telling Am-Yisroel is that it is not for humbleness alone that Hashem has chosen us, but rather because this recognition fosters a love from Hashem.

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This week’s Sedra includes the Krias Shema that we recite three times daily (Shacharis, Maariv, and Al Hamita). We probably tend to take for granted the various explanations mentioned in the Poskim for the first Passuk. When we recite Krias Shema on a daily basis we are bound to the explanations given by the Poskim. However, in the Chumash there are various other explanations from the classic Meforshim.

Rashi takes the approach that Moshe Rabeinu is talking to Am-Yisroel – that Am-Yisroel should listen, and heed: Hashem our God will one day be recognized as the omnipotent (and the only one). The Sifsei Chachamim explains that Rashi is compelled to explain the Passuk in this way because otherwise why does the Passuk not simply say “Hashem Elokeinu Echod” and not interject the second Hashem into it as this second Hashem seems to be superfluous. Rashi thus explains the first Hashem as referring the fact that we recognize Hashem’s singleness, and the second as referring to the fact that one day He will be “Hashem Echod Ushemo Echod”, that all will recognize Hashem’s singleness.

The Targum Yonasson however takes a different approach: he evokes the Medrash (Bereishis Rabba) that Bnei-Yaakov told Yaakov Avinu on his death bed Listen “Yisroel” – our father: Hashem our God – we reaffirm that we recognize him as Hashem the one and only. It is true that frequently the Targum Yonasson will deviate from the simpler explanation and go with a more Midrashic explanation. When he does so, however, there usually is some issue with explaining the Passuk in that simpler way. Why couldn’t the Targum Yonasson have explained more in line with Rashi?

It would appear that Rashi is perhaps also not giving us the simple explanation, the Pshuto shel kra. While Rashi doesn’t have to add into the Passuk quite as many words as does the Targum Yonossan, he nonetheless does add in the words that one day Hashem will be One for the whole world. Rashi also deviates from the tense of the Passuk, as the Passuk ends off “Hashem is one” and Rashi explains it as Hashem will be One. Perhaps this is the issue The Targum had with explaining the Passuk in a manner similar to Rashi. Even though Targum Yonossan is forced to insert words he doesn’t have to change the tense of any of the words, or alter anything in the Passuk. This being the case, the question is: what compelled Rashi to explain things the way he did?

The lashon of Havaya refers to the fact that Hashem was, is, and will be. This means that while we are bound by time and we are only able to view things in a time constrained fashion, Hashem views things in a multi tense way as He is simultaneously in multiple tenses.

Given this perspective of Hashem’s being “multi tensed”, Rashi’s interpretation does not constitute a deviation from the simple reading of the Passuk, from the Pshuto shel kra. Nor did Rashi view it as if he was changing the tense in any word.

We must realize that while we live in a world in which we see no end to blasphemy and intolerable behaviour, this very world while being in its present non-pleasant tense at the very same time it is in its past tense with all the tzidkus of the past. And yet greater than that it is in its future tense when Hashem will be recognized and accepted by all as Hashem Echod.

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This week’s Sedra opens with Moshe Rabeinu telling Am-Yisroel about how he beseeched Hashem to let him enter Eretz-Yisroel. Moshe Rabeinu prefaced this Tefillah to Hashem with the following words: אתה החלות להראות את עבדך את גדלך ואת ידך החזקה אשר מי קל בשמים ובארץ אשר יעשה” “כמעשיך וכגבורתך– “Hashem Elokim You have started to show Your servant (Moshe) Your Greatness and Your Strength; that there is no other power that can do like You Do or that has strength like Your Strength.” The obvious question here is: Why did Moshe Rabeinu feel it appropriate to preface his Tefillah with a reference to Hashem revealing His Greatness to him? What does Hashem’s Greatness have to do with Moshe Rabeinu entering Eretz-Yisroel?

Rashi first offers a point by point explanation as to what each segment of Moshe Rabeinu’s introduction referred to and what they had to do with Moshe Rabeinu’s desire to go into Eretz-Yisroel. However, Rashi then concludes that the simple explanation is that since Hashem started to reveal His Greatness to Moshe Rabeinu through the wars against Sichon and Og, Hashem should therefore allow him to see as well the war against the 31 Canaanite kings. The simple explanation is rather baffling: if Hashem showed Moshe Rabeinu His Great Power in these two wars why should logic dictate that he (Moshe Rabeinu) should be able to see 31 more battles?

There is yet another question: why does Moshe Rabeinu feel it necessary that we should know the exact wording of his Tefillah to Hashem to grant him entrance to Eretz-Yisroel?

The Tanna Devei Eliyahu (Rabba) tells us anyone that worries about, and desires the Glory of Am-Yisroel, and the Glory of the Shechina, merits Ruach Hakodesh.

If we look at Moshe Rabeinu’s actual request he doesn’t say that since he already merited seeing Hashem’s Glory therefore he should continue to see more of it. Rather, Moshe Rabeinu merely states in his preface that he had already begun to see Hashem’s Greatness. Moshe Rabeinu’s request doesn’t speak of anything other than Moshe Rabeinu’s sheer desire of entering the Good Promised land.

When someone genuinely cares about something, that something doesn’t remain external, a separate outside entity, but rather penetrates and becomes personal. Moshe Rabeinu truly cared about Kavod Hashem and Kavod Yisroel, and therefore wanted to see things through to the end. Moshe Rabeinu introduced his supplication with what it was that caused him to have a burning desire to see Eretz-Yisroel. To Moshe Rabeinu Kevod Shamayim was so great that he yearned to see the process that had begun through.

We live in a time when unfortunately individual monsters from within our own communities are so to speak pulling Kevod Shamayim into the gutter. We tragically have In our midst monsters who are committing crimes against humanity. The antidote for these atrocities is Kiddush Hashem.

Two weeks ago we read in the Haftorah “Heal me Hashem and I will be healed, save me Hashem and I will be saved” (Yirmiyahu 17, 14). The Passuk seems very redundant: if Hashem heals us then clearly we will be healed! The Vilna Gaon explains this apparent redundancy as follows: Hashem is always there to heal us and save us, we however, must be willing to accept it.

Perhaps none of us are capable of the Kiddush Shem Shamayim necessary, but maybe – should we actually desire it and be willing to accept it – maybe then Hashem would actually be Megalleh Kevod Malchuso Aleinu. There is perhaps no more appropriate time than now that we have entered the seven weeks of Nechema (Consolation) to allow ourselves to personalize and desire Kevod Shamayim. There is possibly no better moment than right now to allow ourselves to accept Hashem’s promised Nechama. May we realize how much we need the final redemption, and may we actually merit it soon.

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Vaeschanan opens with Moshe Rabeinu’s recounting of how much he beseeched Hashem to at least let him enter Eretz-Yisroel. Chazal tell us that we shouldn’t think that Moshe Rabeinu wanted to come into the Land merely to taste its delicious produce. Rather, his strong yearning to enter Eretz Yisroel was motivated by his desire to fulfill the Mitzvos of Eretz-Yisroel.

Moshe Rabeinu was the greatest Chochom and Navi. All of what he was and of what he had achieved did not suffice. Moshe Rabeinu felt that he should beg Hashem to let him also fulfill Mitzvos Hatluyos baAretz.

It should be noted that Moshe Rabeinu didn’t beg to finish the conquest of the land, nor did he request to settle into Eretz-Yisroel. Moshe Rabeinu merely asked to pass through Eretz-Yisroel. If Eretz-Yisroel wasn’t yet conquered would Moshe Rabeinu even have the opportunity to fulfill the Mitzvos of Eretz-Yisroel? Who says he would have had enough time in Eretz-Yisroel for any of the Mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel to have become applicable?

It is clear that Moshe Rabeinu felt that just passing through Eretz-Yisroel, even if it wasn’t conquered was a good enough cause to beg Hashem’s indulgence. It is also clear that Moshe Rabeinu wanted to enter Eretz-Yisroel even if Eretz-Yisroel had not yet reached established status.

In short it is clear that the greatest man of perhaps of all time wished to enter Eretz-Yisroel even if only flittingly, and even if Eretz-Yisroel wasn’t yet considered fully as Eretz-Yisroel.

Baruch Hashem Torah is flourishing in many places around the world. Baruch Hashem we are able to pass through Eretz-Yisroel and even live in Eretz-Yisroel without needing to beseech Hashem before doing so. Eretz-Yisroel still lacks its full conquest, and the Mitzvos of Eretz-Yisroel are most likely only deRabbannan, but such reasons didn’t stop Moshe Rabeinu from begging to be able to enter.