This week, our Parshat HaShevua Parshat Devarim is being sponsored by Edo and Atara Lavi of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for a full, complete refuah shleima for Yishaya Shalom ben Malka. To the Lavi family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses and good wishes.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
by Moshe Burt
A number of years ago, Rav Aba Wagensberg spoke out in a shiur that Sefer Devarim represents Moshe Rabbeinu’s Mussar to B’nai Yisrael as the time of his death drew near.
Rabbi Wagensberg gave over the thought that the B’nai Yisrael, after all of the rebellions, all of the contention, all of the failures which the rebellions and contention wrought, after the blatantly false accusations of nepotism hurled by segments of the Am at Moshe and Aaron HaKohen and more, Finally: came to the collective, unequivocal realization that Moshe Rabbeinu, now in his final days on earth, was indeed Hashem’s annointed — the undisputed leader and that his words are the words of Hashem.
Shem Mishmuel (Selections on the weekly parshiyot and festivals rendered to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski) comments on our Parsha (page 373):
This book is qualitatively different from the other four. Chazal tell us (in Megillah, page 31b) that the curses in Sefer Devarim were said by Moshe himself. We may assume… that the material in Devarim, while of course presented by Hashem to Moshe, contains more human input, however slight, than the previous four books. Perhaps it can be considered an in-between stage, bridging the gap between the main Written Torah… and the Oral Torah. Devarim contains elements of both — it is the written word of Hashem…, but with an element of human content, like [oral] Torah.
R’ Wagensberg also related to Sefer Devarim, as distinguished from the previous four s’forim, in an analogy regarding the order in which one puts on and removes his tefillin. We learn that when one begins his morning tefillot, he dons the tefillin shel yad (tefillin for the arm) first, and only afterwards does he don the tefillin shel rosh (tefillin for the head). At the conclusion of davening, he removes the shel rosh first, and then the shel yad.
For forty years, Am Yisrael traveled through Bamidbar (the desert), and now they stood at the cusp of their entry into Eretz Yisrael. So just as when one begins to pray and to learn, he dons tefillin shel yad and then the tefillin shel rosh, when he leaves the Shul or Beit Medrash, he removes his shel rosh first and only after, his shel yad so as to signify his application of the tefillot and learning of Shul and Beit Medrash to his actions and interactions with his fellows in the day-to-day living in the world outside.
The tefillin sequence equates with a person’s active learning of Jewish law (Halacha) and Jewish history in the previous four s’forim of Chumash, and then in Sefer Devarim, receiving Mussar concerning the practical, day-to-day real-time, real-life applications of what has been learned. In essence, the donning of the shel yad first, and the removal of it last equates with applying in the world outside what has been learned in Beit Knesset and/or the Beit Medrash.
Every believing Jew, whatever his level, must take on day-to-day real-time, real-life reality application of his learning, and translate it into his own righteous leadership mantle within the body of B’nai Yisrael, but without the contentiousness of a million generals.
Application of this individual righteous leadership mantle and of spirituality and learning from Shul and from Beit Medrash to the world outside seems meaning to deal with one’s fellow Jews, at every level, sincerely, justly and righteously, and without bias and disdain.
Recently, Israel National News reported that a prominent politician and member of a so-called “religious party” asserted the following:
“Any Jew who observes the Torah and commandments is for us a Jew… A Reform Jew, once he does not follow the religion of Israel – then let us say, there is a problem. I cannot allow myself to say that he is Jewish”…
The report continues:
Orthodox Jews – who strictly adhere to the laws of the Torah – view Reform and other non-Orthodox theologies as illegitimate, due to its departure from Jewish law and even rejection of the Divinity of the Torah.
Even so, [the member] comments that Jews who merely identify as “Reform” should not be considered Jewish have no basis in any interpretation of Jewish law.
[The member] did attempt to reach out to Reform Jews in the same interview, adding: “These are Jews who took a wrong turn along the road and we need to ensure that every Jew will go back into the fold of Judaism and accept everyone with love and joy… we would like for all of those Jews to go back to Judaism according to halacha [Jewish law]. That is all.”
The politician’s addition was kind of a lame caveat considering his initial statement — words which should never have been uttered in the first place. This author countered in a talk-back comment on the report:
I always learned: “Born a Jew, Always a Jew.” Reform Judaism is an oxymoron. But Reform Jews are STILL Jewish. Is [this political leader] saying that any Jew not Orthodox is not a Jew?
In the years prior to Aliyah this author and his Jewish boss back in Philadelphia had several discussions about his having encountered certain fellow Jews who would make such an inference about a non-observant Jew. This author would always respond as never hearing of such a thing and not believing in it for a second. But then again, this author became Ba’al Teshuva at age forty-two. In this author’s humble opinion, the remarks of the aforementioned member of the so-called “religious party” represent divisive sinat chinom unbridled, unchained.
The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, Shlita, z”l writes on Parshat Devarim in his sefer, “Inspiration and Insight” Discourses on the Weekly Parashah (page 252);
A prime method of uprooting this devastating trait [sinat chinom] is by striving to fulfill the mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’rei’echa Kamocha, to love one’s fellow Jew as oneself (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 18). Ramban (ibid) understands this commandment as instructing us to desire only good for our neighbor in all facets of his existence, just as we desire only good for ourselves, be it with regard to material needs and acquisitions, honor, or attainment of wisdom.
One who lives up to these words of Ramban, … will surely be found guiltless with regard to sinat chinom.
This is a lesson that many Jews, and particularly politicians claiming religious stripes, need to internalize and take deeply to heart if we are to indeed pray and hope for, that B’Ezrat Hashem, this Tisha B’av FINALLY be the last Tzom for B’nai Yisrael.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs and the remains of the two Chayalim from last summer’s Gaza war be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Good Shabbos and Daven Hard, Fast Easy on Tisha B’av!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.