This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Va’etchanan is being sponsored by Ari and Rifka Stern of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for the success of their children in all their endeavors. To the Stern family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses and good wishes.
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The Haftorah for our Parsha begins:
“Nachamu, Nachamu Ami yomar Elokeichem” — “Comfort, comfort my people — says your G’d.” (Yishaiya, 40:1)
This sentiment seems to be silent, but yet a theme of Parsha Va’etchanan.
But, even now, consolation: a full twelve years after the Gush Katif Expulsion — twelve years after Jew expelled his fellow Jews from their homes on Divinely ordained Jewish land in easily the worst post-Sho’a pogrom of our generations? A repeat expulsion from Amona and other expulsions of Jews from their homes in Eretz Yisrael in between: Shabbos Nachamu? One wonders how long it really took B’nai Yisrael to console ourselves after each of the destructions, the persecutions throughout our history. One could wonder whether the term Nachamu – consolation could, in reality, be a euphemism for convenient amnesia/ forgetting just as the Sho’a raises memories too uncomfortable, unwelcome for those who R’ Meir Kahane z”l coined as “comfortable Jews” – comfortable Israelis.
(Note: When referring to the Gush Katif Expulsion, this author includes as well, those evicted from the four towns in the Shomron at the same time.)
Twelve years later, the disbelief and the hurt continues to be too fresh, too raw, too festering, too agonizing for those of us who acted on behalf of our Gush Katif brethren. And the pain of the past three years of the ongoing Islamic Terrorism War on Us on OUR Land — the Talmudei Chachamim murdered in the Shul in Har Nof, the young teenage girl bludgeoned as she slept in her bed in Kiryat Arba, the overturned auto of the Rabbi who was murdered and the Rebbetzin seriously injured on an Erev Shabbos on a road in Har Hevron, the Father and brothers murdered on an Erev Shabbos enroute to a venue for an Aufruf and more are all yet too freshly raw and festering, as a bellicose rhetoric by a government of equivocating and self-interested secular or so-called “religious” politicos amounts to nothing. Meanwhile, a soldier is prosecuted, persecuted, imprisoned to making sure that an fatally injured terrorist, who killed another soldier, was in fact dead.
In the beginning of Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu recalls for the B’nai Yisrael how he entreated Hashem for permission to cross the Jordan River but that his request was denied. Instead, he was consoled by viewing the Land from Mount Pisgah. (L’lmod Ul’Lamed – Parsha Va’etchanan, page 161).
R’ Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (page 390), renders translation of Sefer Devarim, Perek 3, posuk 25, Moshe’s prayer to Hashem, and comments citing Ibn Ezra:
“Allow me please to go to the other side and I will see the good Land which is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Levonon.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 3, posuk 25)
Ibn Ezra (verse 24) writes: The purpose of this section of Torah is to enable us to cherish The Land of Israel.
If the Land of Israel will be dear to us, we will observe the Almighty’s commandments to prevent our being exiled from it.
….Failure to keep the Torah’s commandments in Eretz Yisrael implies a lack of love for the land.
R’ Pliskin also notes (“Growth Through Torah”, page 389) citing Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz (Daas Torah: Breish’t, page 187):
…The numerical value of… Va’etchanan… amounts to 515. Moshe prayed to the Almighty, say the Sages, as many prayers as the numeric value of Va’etchanan. So strong was Moshe’s desire to enter the Holy Land.
The principle we see is that the way to elevation is persistence and stubbornness. In spiritual matters one needs to adopt the attitude, “I don’t care about anything else. This is matter is crucial and I’ll keep trying and trying.”
Moshe Rabbeinu then recalls for the Am the trials of B’nai Yisrael in Bamidbar and enumerates:
“…The decrees and… the ordinances that I teach you to perform, so that you may live, and you will come and possess the Land that Hashem, the G’d of your forefathers, gives you.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 4, posuk 1)
Later in our Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu provides further explanation of the laws concerning the Cities of Refuge (Irei Miklat), first enunciated in parshat Masei (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 35).
Shem Mishmuel (by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, as translated R’ Zvi Belovski, pages 380-382) indicates that the laws regarding Cities of Refuge connect with Moshe Rabbeinu’s recitation of “the decrees and… the ordinances” to express that there is hope and consolation even for the accidental murderer who has lost his life force and must stay in a City of Refuge to avoid the deceased’s avenger.
Shem Mishmuel expresses that the Cities of Refuge signify to B’nai Yisrael that despite whatever travails may occur in the future, they can rise above their challenges and feel consolation in their hope. This includes whatever level the generation entering Eretz Yisrael may have been on visa-vi the generation which left Mitzrayim and who were witness to Hashem’s myriad of Miracles and yet transgressed with the Golden Calf (Egel Zahav), the Spies (Miraglim) and with various rebellions in Bamidbar, that they, and succeeding generations should never despair and lose hope. This should be of significance to those who subscribe to this Parshat HaShevua list and who live in Beit Shemesh, one of the locations designated by Hashem as a City of Refuge.
Shem Mishmuel notes:
“The very existence of the Irei Miklat and the laws surrounding them have a clear implication: there is always hope for the future.”
And after the destruction of the First and Second Beit HaMikdash, the starving, the famine, the persecutions, the expulsions and inquisitions, the Sho’a: there was comfort and consolation that one day, the B’nai Yisrael would be redeemed and returned to our former state; a people in it’s land with it’s Beit HaMikdash for all time.
But it would seem that this comfort, hope and consolation would have had to be an evolution as Jewish life, in whatever venue that they resided, in whatever generation, eventually stabilized.
Back in Philadelphia, years ago in the old country, a Holocaust story was told of how Nazis confronted a group of Chassidim:
The Nazis rousted and harrassed the Chassidim, telling them “dance Chassidim, dance and sing!” And the Chassidim were silent. Again, the Nazis accosted them, “Chassidim, dance and sing!” Then, the Nazis aimed their rifles, “Chassidim, dance and sing, or we will kill you!”
At first, slowly, muted, nervously, a niggun with words was heard faintly. The niggun and the words grew in volume as the Chassidim began to dance. “Mir Villen zei Ibber Leiben, Ibber Leiben, Ibber Leiben, Mir Villen zei Ibber Leiben…” “We will outlive you!”
Yes, we have outlived every nation, every vile personality which put upon B’nai Yisrael and so, we should, in theory, be comforted. And we have outlived the presidency of Hussein Obama and will outlive his Iranian Ayatolah buddies and Iran’s nuclear machinations, the EU, the BDS movement, the “extremely careless”, possibly traitorous, self-enriching Clintons etc., as well as the rashayim among us.
But we must take strength from the Torah’s enunciation of the Irei Miklat and never despair or lose hope that we can rise above contemporary challenges, despite the despots — externally or within, and feel consolation.
Rav Zev Leff provides a lesson for all Observant Jews with his citing of Michtav Eliyahu and his comments in a Machon Daniel “MD Torah Weekly” on our Parshat a number of years ago about why Gedolim are taken from us, and how this could provide hope and consolation for us after the mourning of Tisha B’Av:
We must ask ourselves: Why are the gedolim taken? If Hashem wants to teach us… and not hurt us, then leave the Gedolim. We need them to lead us, to teach us. Michtav Eliyahu says that’s exactly the reason:
People do mitzvot by rote, approaching Torah superficially, without seeing the holiness of Torah and life. They rely on the Gedolim to think and feel for them. …to get a bracha from [them]…. So Hashem takes the Godol, and then we no longer have anyone to do it for us. We are forced to think for ourselves. Then there’s hope that we can be cured. You have to learn from the Godol how to be a godol yourself.
The greatness of a Godol is that he’s flesh and blood. Where are the places… we go to remember them?
…Their graves, not… their batei midrashim. Why? To know that they were flesh and blood. But that flesh and blood was a Moloch Hashem… And if I know that another human being like me became a Moloch Hashem, then why can’t I become one too? But if I make him into a superhuman, what does he have to do with me? I am not super human. I cannot apply it to my life. If the Chofetz Chayim was a human being, with the same tongue and teeth, the same mouth for speaking loshen hora that I have, and he could control it, then maybe so can I. But if he was not an ordinary human being like me, then it has nothing to do with me.
The point that Rav Leff seems to be making which is both pertinent to our Parshat Va’etchanan and to Shabbos Nachamu is that our hope and consolation must come from within our collective, unified selves. We need to do mitzvot, from the heart and with consistent fervor, as Aaron HaKohen served in lighting the Menorah daily in the Beit HaMikdash. Our tefillot need to be with intent — whether in an Aliyah b’Torah or with the thrice daily Aleinu — each and every word carefully pronounced. We need to look to Tzadikkim as a paradigm of how we must act and interact with each other — V’ahavtah L’rei’cha Komocha: wanting for our fellow Jew as we would want for ourselves, rather than looking our noses down at our fellow observant Jew as being less so because his Rabbanim and learned traditions may not be precisely like ours, or defaming secular Jews as “gentiles” and preferring to sit in government with Arabs rather than seculars who are their brethren.
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer “Growth through Torah” cites from our Parsha Sefer Devarim Perek 4, posuk 5:
“See that I have taught you statutes and laws as Hashem, My G’d, commanded me, to do so in the midst of the land.”
R’ Pliskin then adds (“Growth through Torah”, page 390-391):
That is, you should live an elevated life among other people…. True sanctity and perfection is to live among people and behave both towards Hashem and towards your fellow men in a manner consistent with Torah values. (Arvai Nachal)
…The true test… is when you have to deal with others. Only when you are in the company of other people can you fulfill all the aspects of Torah.
And so we see, just as with the Chassidim, who under Nazi duress, began to dance and sing, the Jews will yet survive the downfall of vile, corruptible post-zionist governance. The Jews will yet survive and bring the sanctity and elevation of the Beit Medrash outside, into interactions with their fellow Jews b’derech, throughout Eretz Yisrael:
“Mir Villen zei Ibber Leiben, Ibber Leiben, Ibber Leiben, Mir Villen zei Ibber Leiben…” “We will outlive you!”
However, it seems to stand to reason that nachama: consolation, hope is insufficient of itself, without acting in real, concrete Jewish ways — spiritually with kindnesses, mitzvot of intent, and as a national unity for the protection, security and preservation of the kedusha and sanctity of Jewish lives on the entirety of OUR Land, and wherever Jews reside throughout the rest of the world. Ultimately, with Hashem’s Help, the righteous will prevail.
Yes, we will outlive you, Bibi, Bennett, both evil Ehuds, Bogie, Livni-Herzog, Lapid, etc. (running the gamut of the vast majority of politicians from ALL sectors), and yeah, the Obamanater, the crooked and corrupt Clintons, and the Iranian Ayatolahs too! We, those Deemed (with a capital “D”) to be among the righteous, and Hashem will win out in the end. “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami yomar Elokeichem” — “Comfort, comfort my people — says your G’d.”
B’Ezrat Hashem, as we pray and hope for each year, that the Tisha B’av just past FINALLY be the last Tzom for B’nai Yisrael.
May we, the B’nei 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 and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
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.