Parshat Eikev 5781: Kindness, Appreciation and Gratefulness vs Ingrates and Usury?

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat HaShevua, Eikev is being sponsored by Dov & Lauren Greenberg of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated in honor of their son Moshe Yitzchak’s Bar Mitzvah. To the Greenberg family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by 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.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Eikev 5781: Kindness, Appreciation and Gratefulness vs Ingrates and Usury?

by Moshe Burt

Our Parshat Hashavua vort for Eikev which bears thought and contemplation in light of its relevance in this period of
the Chinese corona virus world pandemic, now with its variants, as well as the current chaotic Israeli politics and governance.

Moshe continues his mussar speech to B’nei Yisrael in Parshat Eikev.

Sefer Shem Mishmuel (by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, as translated by R’ Zvi Belovski, pages 386-387) renders translation of the opening posuk of Parsha Eikev:

“And it shall come to pass, if you listen to these mishpatim (social ordinances) and you guard them and do them, that Hashem Ke’ilokecha will guard the covenant for you and the kindness which He swore to your forefathers.” (Sefer Devarim Perek 7, posuk 12)

The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash renders this translation of the beginning of our opening posuk:

“This shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances…” (Sefer Devarim Perek 7, posuk 12)

The Stone Chumash (Parshat Eikev pages 980-981) cites Rashi in explaining the word “Eikev”:

“you will hearken [listen]“ = eikev — the reward: in midrashic terms also means the “heel”, alludes to the sort of commandments that people may regard as relatively unimportant, so they tend figuratively to “tread on them with their heels.” Thus, the Torah assures Israel that if they are careful to observe even these neglected commandments, they can be certain that Hashem will reward them with His Covenant and Kindness.

Stated another way, this means being attentive to the little Mitzvot; the details, the Mitzvot that one tends to overlook, to ignore, to tread one’s heels on in life’s mad dash, but without which the Jewish people would lack the merit which sets us apart from common man. The little mitzvot are the small details, the ones epitomized by V’Ahavtah L’re’echa Komocha — caring for, and attentiveness to your fellow Jew as for yourself.

Shem Mishmuel seems to express Eikev as three means of observance: listening, guarding and doing the mishpatim (the laws). In turn, he equates listening with intellect, guarding with life’s emotions — with one’s heart, and doing with the bodily and physical performance of the Mitzvot. (ibid, Sefer Shem Mishmuel, page 386)

We now cite a posuk from Parshat Va’etchanan:

“Who can assure that such will be the heart of theirs, to fear Me and observe all of My commandments all the days, so that it should be good for them and for their children forever?” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 5, posuk 26 as rendered to English in the Sapirstein Edition, Torah With Rashi Commentary, page 69)

The Schottenstein Edition, Talmud Bavli Gemara Mesechta Avodah Zorah, Hei, Amud Alef notes:

“The Baraisa cites… verses which express this same concept [referring back to Sefer Devarim, Perek 5, posuk 26]:

‘If only My people would heed Me [etc.]… in an instant I would subdue their foes.’ (ibid citing Tehillim 81, posukim 14-15) as Rashi renders it : ‘If only it would be as you say.’

The Rabbis taught in a Baraisa:

‘Who can assure that this heart should remain theirs, to fear Me and observe all of My commandments all the days’ — Moshe told Yisrael: Ingrates, sons of ingrates! For when the Holy One, Blessed is He, Said to Yisrael, Who can assure that this heart should remain theirs (“Who can assure…” as rendered to English in The Schottenstein Edition, Talmud Bavli Gemara Mesechta Avodah Zorah, Hei, Amud Alef), they should have said, ‘You Assure that we remain righteous.’ Yisrael, however, resisted doing so, because they would then have been indebted to Hashem for His assistance in their struggle against their evil inclination.

Note 58 on this Baraisa states:

Thus, by refusing to ask Hashem for assistance, they demonstrated an unwillingness to be grateful to another.

This author just finished reading a current report on the Israel National News website which seems to fit the characterization of “unwillingness to be grateful to another :”

Daycare assistant who exposed severe child abuse in Rosh Ha’ayin daycare is left with a criminal record – for not reporting the abuse.

…The daycare assistant who exposed the abuse by daycare operator…, worked for over two weeks …at the …center in Rosh Ha’ayin. During that time, she was exposed to severe instances of child abuse, and she recorded [the operator of the center = mb], went to the police, told the investigators what was happening, and even reported that the daycare had closed-circuit cameras which recorded the events.

Israel Hayom discovered that despite her report of the abuse at the daycare center and her testimonies in court, the Prosecutor’s Office ordered the police to interrogate [the assistant = mb] under warning, on suspicion that she was guilty of not reporting. Recently, the case against her was closed, but not due to lack of guilt, which would have allowed her to request its erasure. Instead, the case against [the assistant = mb] was closed due to lack of public interest, leaving her with a criminal record which may influence her job prospects in the future, certainly if she wishes to work with children.

A source in the law enforcement system told Israel Hayom: “They did a great injustice to her. She was the one who exposed the saga and the Prosecutor’s Office decided that she should be interrogated as a suspect. She broke out in tears when she heard that the case against her hadn’t been closed due to lack of guilt.”

“On the one hand the Prosecutor’s Office used her in order to convict Mauda and the assistant. On the other hand they treat her [the assistant who exposed the abuse] like a criminal. They used her and tossed her out”

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin discusses an aspect regarding feelings of righteousness causing conceit in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim, pages 102-103:

…Many… misinterpret our role as Hashem’s chosen people to mean that we are inherently superior, rather than that we have greater responsibility…. For some of us, it’s simply our affluence and our success that makes us feel that we can do… or say anything with impunity. After all, there is no Mitzvah to be nice. Six hundred thirteen commandments, and not one of them says outright that we have to be nice, right?

Wrong, Dead wrong!

…One of our greatest scholars has [this] to say about the Mitzvot: Rav Abba bar Aivu, who is known within Talmudic literature simply as Rav (“Teacher”) emphatically declares: “The sole purpose of the Mitzvot is to refine mankind.” He goes on to explain that our detailed performance of the Mitzvot does not make a difference to Hashem. It makes a difference to us. The Mitzvot simply are created to refine us. To make us nice. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah Breish’t 44:1)

The reason there is no specific Mitzvah to be nice is that the purpose of all of the Mitzvot is to make us better human beings.

It was prescribed by the rabbis of the Talmud centuries ago. They… hinged this… upon an abundantly familiar biblical passage, so that it is very easy for us to remember: “V’ahavta et Hashem Kelokecha b’chol l’vavcha u’v’chol nafshecha u’v’chol m’odecha — And you shall love the Lord your G’d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Devarim, Perek 6, posuk 5)

In other words, you should act in such a way that your very actions increase the awareness and love of Hashem in this world. Others [meaning gentiles] should see [one’s] behavior as a Jew and say, “How wonderful! What a mench! If this is what Judaism produces, what a beautiful system it must be. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Yoma 96a)

Rav Goldin’s citing (above) from Talmud Bavli Yoma 96a kind of reminds this author of a story told in L’lmod U’Lamed, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, (p. 81-82) and cited in a Parshat Hashevua (Parshat Mishpatim) several years ago. Rabbi Katz cites Yerushalmi Bava Metzia, Perek 2, Choshen Mishpat 266) a story about Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach which sets a standard for Jewish sincerity in his dealing with with others and with Hashem.

It seems that one day Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach needed to purchase a donkey for traveling. He purchased the donkey from an Arab. At that time, neither he nor the Arab noticed that the donkey bore a small package in it’s saddle.

Sometime later, a student of the Rabbi found the package and opened it. He was amazed by it’s contents. Rabbi Katz writes that the dialogue between Rabbi Ben Shetach and his student, and the story’s conclusion went something like this:

“It’s a diamond, Rebbe… A perfect diamond. It must be worth an enormous amount. Sell it and you’ll never want for money. Imagine all of the Mitzvot you will be able to do with the new-found money.”

Rabbi Ben Shetach shook his head and responded “I may be able to perform many Mitzvot with the money … but they will never cancel the demerit that will be mine if I keep property which is not mine. No, I will return the diamond to its rightful owner, the Arab.”

But the student responded, “why not keep the diamond? The Arab will never know of his loss.” Rabbi Ben Shetach responded, “But Hashem will know what I have done. I did not earn the diamond and so it is not mine.”

Rabbi Ben Shetach was as good as his word and returned the diamond to the astonished Arab. “I don’t believe that anyone could be that honest” said the Arab. “The Jews must have wonderful laws. Blessed be the G’d of Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach.”

Rabbi Ben Shetach’s strict adherence to Mishpatim, to common decency to his fellow man created a great Kiddush Hashem and should serve as an example for all to follow, to fulfill all of Hashem’s Mitzvot with equal zeal.

Rabbi Chaim Zev Malinowitz, zt’l, until his passing, Rav of Beit Knesset Beit Tefillah Yona Avraham in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, would say a brief Halacha vort nightly, following Maariv. On two occasions he provided a paradigm of Mitzvot as the means to refine mankind, and to be kind to one’s fellow Jews, when he spoke of the importance of giving kavod and expressing appreciation when one is hosted for meals and/or for sleep accomodations.

On one occasion, Rav Malinowitz, zt’l spoke about the importance for guests to insert into their Birkat Hamazon a special Blessing for their hosts which this author cites with the Artscroll Siddur’s translation of the Bracha and commentary:

“May it be Hashem’s will that this host not be shamed nor humiliated in This World or in the World to Come. May he be successful in all his dealings. May his dealings be successful and conveniently close at hand. May no evil impediment reign over his handiwork, and may no semblance of sin or iniquitous thought attach itself to him from this time and forever.” (Artscroll Siddur, Ashkenaz, page 193 citing the text found in Shulchan Aruch)

The Talmud (Brachot 46a) gives a rather lengthy text of the blessing that a guest inserts… for the host. It is quoted with minor variations in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 201) and many authorities are at a loss to explain why the prescribed text has fallen into disuse in favor of the briefer version commonly used.

On the other occasion, R’ Malinowitz, zt’l expressed that while guests readily compliment their hosts on the food served or for the accommodations, often “thank you” seems to be omitted, seemingly as if a small, minor detail.

While the hosts are performing the great Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (the Mitzvah of having guests in their homes for either meals and/or for lodging), hard-wired into Jews’ DNA since Avraham Avinu, these two expressions — the special Bracha insert[ed] into Birkat Hamazon and compliments accompanied by “thank you” — convey sincere appreciation for all of the hosts’ efforts. Perhaps, these sincere expressions of appreciation to hosts equate, to some extent, in the same way as the Brachot of HaGefen, HaMotzi and Birkat Hamazon express blessing and appreciation to Hashem before and after eating a meal.

A Perek further on in our Parshat Eikev, Torah reminds us:

“Take care lest you forget Hashem, Keilokechah, by not observing His commandments, His Ordinances and His statutes, which I command you today: lest you ear and be satisfied, and you build your houses and settle; and your cattle and flocks increase, and you increase silver and gold for yourself and everything that you have will increase — and your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem, Who took you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slaves.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 8, posukim 11-15 as rendered to English in the Sapirstein Edition, Torah With Rashi Commentary, page 69)

Rabbi Goldin concludes (“Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim, page 104):

[Before an action]…Stop and ask yourself, “Is this really what Hashem wants? [Will this] increase Hashem’ presence in this world? [Will it] enhance the appreciation of Hashem’ will and the love for His Word? If the answer is no, then don’t do it. Don’t say it. Period!

We will succeed in bringing out the innate goodness that lies in each of our hearts. We will fill the world with a bit more love and respect for the Divine.

We will truly do “what Hashem wants” and we will show our love for Him by bringing Him nachas.

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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!

Good Shabbos!
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.