Parashat Va'eschanan - Shabbat Nachamu
August 8, 1998
Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler
"Study and live by my commandments...then the nations of the world will affirm that we are a wise, understanding, great nation."
Yalkut Yeshayahu [40:445]
"Israel sinned two-fold, she was punished two-fold, and will be consoled two-fold, as it is written: 'Nachamu, nachamu, ami.'"
What is meant by "sinned two-fold [kiflayim]"? Two times what? Surely a better term would have been "sinned greatly, grievously, terribly, extensively."
The term two-fold harbors within it an important lesson. Transgressions blemish the potential moral and ethical characteristics that we are all capable of developing within our spiritual beings. However, there are some aveiros that also degrade the image of G-d within us. Such sinful acts blur the distinction between man and the other creatures of the world. We sin kiflayim, two-fold.
Jewish family life with its code of sexual morality has been the distinguishing mark of the Jew throughout the centuries. Of course, there were individuals in every generation who fell prey to secular values even in the realm of sexual morality. What distinguishes our generation is that there is a driving force to legalize and ultimately sanctify that which our Torah designates as an abomination. This movement will destroy our humanity and the image of G-d in which we were created. This is the two-fold sin that plagues our contemporary society. Such behavior will ultimately lead to the two-fold punishment in which our humanity will be diminished.
In this week's haftorah message we are consoled by Hashem two-fold. "Nachamu, nachamu, ami yomar Elokeichem"--we will once again become a holy nation. We need to resume the lifestyle ordained for us by Hashem. A lifestyle that all nations know to be a source of wisdom and understanding, of perfection in the eyes of G-d and man.
The haftorah records a rhetorical question [40:25], "To whom can you compare our G-d?" Indeed, do compare. Place our Torah lifestyle, family life, business ethics, social responsibilities alongside the value system of secular humanism. There is no comparison. Secular humanism has led to the moral decay of American society and a spiritual holocaust that continues to have a negative influence on contemporary Jewish life. Torah values are our only nechamah, the ultimate consolation in our struggle to fulfill our mission as a holy people and kingdom of priests.
"Is there a great nation that has righteous decrees and ordinances to compare to this entire Torah that I place before you this day?"
"Let them hear My words so that they shall learn to be in awe of Me all the days that they live on the earth and they shall teach their children."
Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler
Rabbi Tendler is rabbi of Community Synagogue of Monsey, New York
and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Rabeinu Yitzchak Elchanan in New York City.
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