Tomorrow night about the Jewish perspective on capital punishment. Would anybody interested if I record it and upload it to tumblr?
Start off by learning parshat hashavua. Usually, one thing will really stand out to me and I’ll research that as much as I can. I skim all the mefarshim in the mikraot hagdolot on that particular phrase and see if anything connects to me.
Once you find out what you want to write about, try and find references to that topic in other places. Look at all the sources the mefarshim mention and go back to the original source: Gemara, Midrash etc.
Once you’ve written out your Dvar Torah have a friend read it. I know when my chavruta reads my DT she often pushes me to research further and make more connections between ideas. This always results in a more nuanced and layered DT which is awesome :)
Final step - publish it and know that you’ve done your job in making Torah more accessible to people in the word.
Of course it’s nerve wracking to publish your work in an environment where the whole world can see it but what have you got to lose? In my experience everyone’s been really supportive :)
This week’s Parsha begins with G-d telling Moses that He has heard the cries of His people and He will redeem them. In addition to this, at this point, G-d tells Moses that He will give the Land of Israel to the Israelites as their “inheritance” (also translated as “heritage”).
Sorry this is last week’s Dvar Torah. My internet wasn’t working last week so I couldn’t put it up then and I didn’t have the time to work on one this week. I’m sorry.
After years of hiding from the wrath of his twin brother, Jacob finally feels safe to begin his journey home. Interestingly enough, this idea is juxtaposed with the birth of his first son from his favourite wife Rachel, Joseph.
ויהי כאשר ילדה רחל את יוסף ויאמר יעקב אל לבן שלחני ואלכה אל מקומי ולארצי
After Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Give me leave to go back to my own homeland”
Rashi comments on this verse and explains
משנולד שטנו של עשו שנאמר והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש אש בלא להבה אינו שולט למרחוק משנולד יוסף בטח יעקב בהקב’ה ורצה לשוב
Quoting the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 73:7) Rashi explains that Joseph is the inherent rival of Esau and it was only after his birth, that Jacob felt secure enough to return to his homeland. Furthermore, the House of Jacob is compared to a fire, the House of Joseph to a flame and the House of Esau to straw.
והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש ודלקו בהם ואכלום ולא יהיה שריד לבית עשו כי ה’ דבר
The House of Jacob shall be fire, and the House of Joseph flame, and the House of Esau shall be straw; they shall burn it and devour it and so survivor shall be left of the House of Esau – for the Lord has spoken
Malbim discusses the difference between a flame and a fire.
ואז יהיה בית יעקב לאש הבוער מקרוב ובית יוסף יהיה כלהבה הבוער מרחוק יותר מן האש
The House of Jacob will be like a fire that burns close and the House of Joseph will be like a flame that burns from afar even more than fire
(Malbim on Obadiah 1:18)
Fire without a flame has no effect when it’s far away; implying fire needs a flame in order to destroy. The flame is the concentrated essence of the fire. The flame can focus on specific targets while the fire cannot. Radak expands on this idea and contends the House of Jacob is dependent on the House of Joseph to destroy the House of Esau.
ורז’ל דרשו כל זכר יוסף לפי שאין זרעו של עשו נופל אלא ביד יוסף או ביד זרעו של יוסף
The Rabbis (OB’M) teach that Joseph is mentioned because Esau will only fall through Joseph or through Joseph’s descendants
(Radak on Obadiah 1:18)
The Da’at Mikra on Obadiah defines the House of Jacob as Judah and the House of Joseph as Joseph. Judah and Joseph are emblematic of two opposing worldviews; Judah represents a path of insulation and isolation in order to protect his own way of life, while Joseph symbolizes integration into surrounding society in order to influence society for the better.
Judah’s isolation is illustrated in the aftermath of Joseph’s Sale, when he removes himself from his brothers’ community and decides to live by himself.
ויהי בעת ההיא וירד יהודה מאת אחיו ויט עד איש עדלמי ושמו חירה
About that time Judah left his brothers and camped near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah
This is also seen when Judah breaks his promise and refuses to give his youngest son to Tamar as a husband. He follows his worldview of isolation, rather than keeping his word.
ותסר בגדי אלמנותה מעליה ותכס בצעיף ותתעלף ותשב פתח עינים אשר על דרך תמנתה כי ראתה כי גדל שלה והוא לו נתנה לו לאשה
So she took off her widow’s garb, covered her face with a veil, and, wrapping herself up, sat down at the entrance to Einaim which on the road to Timnah for she saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him as wife
In contrast to this Joseph integrates into Egyptian society and even becomes the ruler of the entire country under Pharaoh’s supervision. Despite his success in a foreign society amongst pagan ideals completely opposed to Judaism, Joseph maintains his relationship with God. Joseph’s worldview is demonstrated in a number of sources in Genesis.
ויהי ה’ את יוסף ויהי איש מצליח ויהי בבית אדוניו המצרי
The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he stayed in the house of his Egyptian master
ויאמר פרעה אל יוסף ראה נתתי אתך על כל ארץ מצרים
Pharaoh further said to Joseph, “See, I put you in charge of all the land of Egypt”
It is this difference between Judah and Joseph that explains why only a descendant of Joseph could destroy the House of Esau. In my opinion, when Obadiah refers to completely obliterating the House of Esau it can be understood metaphorically; destroying all ideologies and beliefs that contradict God and His Torah. Judah cannot destroy Esau alone as he does not interact with him at all, he lives in his own isolated Torah bubble. However, Joseph who does not cut himself off completely from Esau’s society can be a ‘light unto the nations’ and destroy Esau’s heretical beliefs by being a positive influence.
The contrast between fire and a flame is also seen in the Book of Isaiah.
והיה אור ישראל לאש וקדושו ללהבה
The Light of Israel will be a fire and its Holy One a flame
Midrashei Chazal explain
דבר אחר והיה אור ישראל לאש זה מרדכי וקדושו ללהבה זו אסתר
Alternatively, the Light of Israel will be a fire refers to Mordechai and its Holy One a flame refers to Esther
(Midrashei Chazal on Isaiah 10:17)
Mordechai and Esther follow the same pattern in the comparison between fire and flame. Morderchai , like the fire and Judah, remained outside the palace for the most of Purim narrative, fasting and focusing on the Jewish community. In contrast to this, Esther was married to Ahasuereus and tried to change the decree against the Jews from the inside. She was part of the upper echelons of Persian society, Morderchai was outside of it.
These sources demonstrate the need for the flame to exist. Without the flame, the fire is useless. Esau will not be defeated by fire alone. Ahasuereus’ and Haman’s decree weren’t nullified by Mordechai, Esther is the heroine of the Purim story. Joseph’s weapon, the flame – God and His Torah will eradicate all theological falsehoods in this world. Joseph, unlike Judah has the ability to spread the word of God, the flame of Torah throughout the world. Joseph will be a light unto the nations and destroy the House of Esau.
We like Joseph and Esther should have the strength to withstand the values that our superficial society bombards us with on a daily basis. We should strive to emulate Joseph and be a light unto the nations, a positive influence, and through the flame of Torah influence society for the better. We should reveal more Godliness into the world, help people discover the Ultimate Truth and hasten the arrival of Mashiach.
In this week’s Parsha as Eliezer describes his master’s instructions to Rebecca’s family he quotes Abraham as saying
ויאמר אלי ה’ אשר התהלכתי לפניו ישלח מלאכו אתך והצליח דרכך ולקחת אשה לבני משפחתי ומבית אבי
And he said to me, 'The Lord, before Whom I walked, will send His angel with you and make your way prosper, and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father’s house
This is not the first time in Genesis that the word התהלך has been used to describe the relationship between Abraham and God. In addition to this, the same term has been used to describe other people’s relationship to God.
I’ll be honest, as I’m writing this I have no idea what meaning I expect to find in the similarities and differences of the sources and what lessons can be extrapolated from this. Nevertheless,here’s a comparison!
Musaf Rashi refers us to Rashi’s commentary on Parshat Noah which discusses the difference between Abraham and Noah.
Noah’s relationship is described as as
את האלוקים התהלך נח
Noah walked with God
Here, Rashi comments and says
נח היה צריך סעד לתמכו אבל אברהם היה מתחזק ומהלך בצדקו מאליו
Noah needed God’s help to support him in his righteousness but Abraham strengthened himself and walked in his righteousness by himself.
The Bereishit Rabbah (30:10) explains the difference between Abraham and Noah through the analogy of a young child and an older child. Just like a father tells the smaller child to walk with him, so too Noah walked alongside God as he needed His support. In contrast to this, Abraham as the older child can be more independent and can follow his Father’s instructions without having to walk next to him.
While we understand that Abraham was stronger in his religious convictions than Noah, what does התהלך לפניו really mean?
In Parshat Lech Lecha the same term is used when God speaks to Abraham but in this case, it’s a command.
ויהי אברםבן תשעים שנה ותשע שנים וירא ה’ אל אברם ויאמר אליו אני אל שדי התהלך לפני והיה תמים
And Abram was ninety nine years old and God appeared to Abram. And God said to him, I am the Almighty God, walk before Me and be perfect
Rashi comments on the word התהלך and explains it to mean to cling to the service of God.
This term is used in reference to two more people in Genesis, Enoch and Joseph. Within the short space of two verses, Enoch is described as
ויתהלך חנוך את האלהים
And Enoch walked with God
Rashi explains that Enoch was a righteous man but had a weak mind and could have easily been persuaded to return to evil. In order to prevent this, God shortened his days so that he would remain a righteous person. In the Midrash Enoch is described as פעמים צדיק פעמים רשע sometimes righteous, sometimes evil (Bereishit Rabbah 25:1).
In contrast to this, in Jacob’s final blessing to his sons, he blessed Joseph saying
האלהים אשר התהלכו אבתי לפניו אברהם ויצחק האלהים הרעה אתי מעודי עד היום הזה
God, before Whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, God Who sustained me as long as I am alive, until this day
Sforno comments on the words האלהים אשר התהלכו אבתי and explains it to mean that God should do good for Joseph and fulfil his blessing in the merit of Abraham and Isaac, who walked before God.
The different times this phrase is used demonstrates different levels of commitments to God. Enoch, is at the lowest level as he sometimes does evil and would be very easily persuaded to return to his former ways, Noah is a level higher but needs God’s direct support to ensure he remains on the correct path and Abraham is on the highest level. Abraham not only fulfils God’s command and cleaves to his service of God, but he has strong religious convictions and is not influenced by the pagan forces surrounding him.
In this comparison, Joseph’s blessing appears to be irrelevant. It is not. Joseph’s blessing affirms Abraham’s high level as it is Abraham’s merit that will be invoked for Joseph. Furthermore, in modern times we as a nation can identify with Joseph. We are surrounded by foreign forces who worship different ideas to us; we are different yet we are expected to stand strong and remain Jewish. We are not supposed to be like Enoch who is easily influenced or Noah who is compared to a young child. As descendants of Abraham who have internalized his ‘spiritual DNA’ we aim to resist temptation and cling to God in spite of opposing external influences. In this sense, we are also like Joseph who remained firm in his religious convictions despite the depravity of Egypt.
While we may struggle to battle ideas that are foreign to ours and face a fight externally on a global scale and internally with our evil inclination, we remember Joseph’s blessing which invokes the merit of Abraham and the example of Abraham himself.
May we merit to replicate Abraham and Joseph’s examples and bring משיח במהרב בימינו אמן
בן ישראל שדר בחוצה לארץ דומה כמי שאין לו אלוה
A Jew that lives outside of Israel is like a person that doesn’t have a God
Abraham and Noah: A contrast
This week’s Parsha famously begins
אלה תולדות נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדורותיו את האלוקים התהלך בנוח
These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God.
Rashi comments on the words “he was perfect in his generations” that
לפי דורו היה צדיק, ואלו היה בדורו של אברהם לא היה נחשב לכלום
Others interpret it derogatorily: In comparison with his generation he was righteous, but if he had been in Abraham’s generation, he would not have been considered of any importance. — [Sanh. 108a, Gen. Rabbah 30:9, Tan. Noach 5]:
The Baal Haturim explains the same idea through gematria. The words תמים היה have a gematria of 20. He contends that for the 20 generations between Adam and Abraham he was considered righteous but within Abraham’s generation, he would not be considered righteous.
Furthermore the Midrash explains
אמר ר’ אבא בר כהנא כי נחמתי כי עשיתים ונח מצא חן אתהמא אלא אפי’ נח שנשתייר מהם לא שהיה כדאי אלא שמצא חן
(בראשית רבה פכ”ח)
Noah really was not worthy of being saved from the flood. The only reason he was saved was because he found some sort of favour in God’s eyes. Essentially, this Midrash places a limit on Noah’s position as a righteous man in his generation.
Moreover, Rashi on the last word of the Parsha discusses the existence of a Nun Hafucha (a upside down nun) on the word חרן. (This nun is no longer seen in our versions of the text).
הנו”ן הפוכה, לומר לך עד אברם היה חרון אף של מקום בעולם:
The “nun” of חָרָן is inverted, to tell you that until Abram [appeared], the wrath of the Omnipresent was kindled (חֲרוֹן). [The inverted “nun” symbolizes the change from Divine anger to Divine mercy.] — [based on Sifrei, Ha’azinu 311]
This Rashi also invalidates Noah’s position as a righteous person as he was not able to help abate God’s anger. Furthermore, as only Abraham was able to do this it once again provides a contrast between the two of them. This one again demonstrates that Noah was not saved because of his value as a “righteous man”, rather just because of his חן.
The fundamental difference between Abraham and Noah is that Abraham was concerned for the welfare of the people in his generation and Noah was not. Throughout the entire story of the Ark, not once does Noah protest and pray for God to save the world. The text simply reads
ויעש נח בבל אשר צוה אתו אלוקים כן עשה
And Noah did everything God commanded him to do, so he did
ויעש נח כל אשר צוהו ה’
And Noah did everything God commaned him
In contrast to this, Abraham continued to pray to God to try and save the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
ויגש אברהם ויאמר האף תספה צדיק עם רשע
Abraham came forward and said will You sweep away the innocent with the guilty?
This theme continues until the end of the chapter with Abraham bargaining with God to save the people of Sodom.
The Alshich and the Zohar quoted by Nechama Leibovitz explain that it is this difference in response that creates the chasm between Abraham and Noah, where Abraham is a righteous man and Noah is not. The response of Noah continues to be viewed as a negative thing throughout Tanakh. This is exemplified by a verse in this week’s Haftorah.
כי מי נח זאת לי אשר נשבעתי מעבור מי נח עוד על הארץ כן נשבעתי מקצף עליך ומגער בך
For this to Me is like the waters of Noah as I swore that the waters of Noah nevermore would flood the earth, so I swear that I will not be angry with you or rebuke you.
Rabbi Nebenzahl questions why the flood waters are called the waters of Noah. God is the one who decided to flood the world, why is Noah being blamed? The flood is called the waters of Noah because Noah did not even try to save the world and the people in his generation. As a result of this, it is as if the flood is his fault.
However, how can a human, even a righteous man like Abraham argue with God? Humans are finite, God is infinite, God has a master plan that humans cannot even begin to comprehend. What right does mere man have to debate God?
Rav Soloveitchik explains,
“The individual who frees himself from the rational principle and who casts off the yoke of objective thought will in the end turn destructive…’out of the depths I have called unto Thee O Lord’ (Psalms 130:1). Out of the straits of inner oppositions and incongruities, spiritual doubts and uncertainties, our of the depths of a psyche rent with antimonies and contradictions, out of the bottomless pit of a soul that struggles with its own torments I have called, I have called unto Thee O Lord”.
(Rav Soloveitchik Notes to P. 4 Halakhic Man)
Everyone has problems, doubts and conflicts within their religious experience. As humans, we cannot understand God’s plan, decisions and actions. However, there is no reason why we cannot discuss this with this God, call out to him and try to search for answer.
Ultimately, like Abraham we should protest respectfully when we think we see injustices in the world. It is this quality that makes Abraham the epitome of a Tzaddik and Noah’s silence that delegitimizes him. May we all have the courage to speak up when we see immorality and injustice and in our prayers receive clear answers from God.
Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem
A famous Gemara in Masechet Rosh Hashannah describes the process of Yom Hadin and how complete Tzaddikim and Reshaim will be judged and how people will either be signed into the Book of Life or the scarier alternative. The theme concludes
בינונים תלויין מראש השנה עד יום הכיפורים זכו נכתבין לחיים לא זכו נכתבין למיתה
Beinonim, [those in between] are hanging between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. If they are meritorious they are written for life, if they are not meritorious they are written for death.
(Rosh Hashannah 16b)
This theme is echoed in Maimonides Halachic work on Teshuva.
מי שנמצא לצדיק נחתם לחיים ומי שנמצא רשע נחתם למיתה. והבינוני תולין לו עד יום הכיפורים. אם עשה תשובה נחתם לחיים ואם לא נחתם למיתה.
A person who is found to be a Tzaddik is signed for life, and one who is found to be a Rasha is signed for death. The Beinoni is hanging until Yom Kippur. If he does Teshuva, he is signed for life, if he does not, he is signed for death.
(Maimonides Hilchot Teshuva 3:3)
Through these sources we can see the importance of Yom Kippur. It is the day of our final sentencing, they day when God decides whether we will live or die and the details of our year to come. Furthermore, the days between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur are the appropriate days to do Teshuva and Teshuva completed then, is especially appreciated by God.
אף על פי שהתשובה והצעקה יפה לעולם בעשרת הימים שבין ראש השנה ויםהכיפורים היא יפה ביותר
Even though Teshuva and crying out to Hashem is always nice, during the ten days between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, it is even nicer
(Maimonides Hilchot Teshuva 2:6)
The theme of Teshuva is related to Sefer Hosea and the final verse poses interesting questions about Tzaddkim and Reshaim.
מי חכם ויבין אלה נבון וידעם כי ישרים דרכי ה’ וצדיקים ילכו בם ופושעים יכשלו בם
He who is wise will consider these words; He who is prudent will take not of them. For the paths of the Lord are smooth; the righteous can walk on them, while sinners stumble on them.
It seems strange that Reshaim aren’t able to follow the path of God. Isn’t the path of God for everybody? Isn’t that the way to repent?
Radak explains in the name of his father that the sinners stumble on the path of God because they are not used to it. They are like people who trip on unfamiliar roads. Furthermore, this verse is specifically talking about sinners who on the outside appear to have done Teshuva, but their hearts are still on the path of sin. These people will fail in their repentance, but God will help those who are sincere and they will succeed.
This explanation is not only relevant for this final verse of the Sefer but is related to the theme of the entire book. There is constant repetition of Israel’s false repentance and how they are not sincere in their Avodat Hashem. This is exemplified by
כי חסד חפצתי ולא זבח ודעת אלוקים מעלות
For I desire goodness, not sacrifice; obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings
This verse alludes to an inadequate fulfillment of Temple services. The people may have been bringing sacrifices, but they were not feeling the correct emotions or having the correct Kavannah behind them. In this case, sacrifices are useless. Furthermore, sacrifices are only intended for bedieved situations, one cannot sin and then make up for it just by bringing a sacrifice and then sinning again. This is not true Teshuva. This is confirmed by Maimonides
וכן בעלי חטאות ואשמות בעת שמביאין קרבנותיהם…אין מתכפר להן בקרבנם עד שיעשו תשובה
And so it is with sinners when they bring their sacrifices…their sacrifices do not atone for them until they do Teshuva
(Maimonides Hilchot Teshuva 1:1)
ומה היא תשובה? הוא שיעזוב החוטא חטאו
And what is Teshuva? The sinner who completely removes himself from his sin…
(Maimonides Hilchot Teshuva 2:1)
Maimonides gives us the guidelines for as to what is considered genuine Teshuva. He describes how even thought of the sin is completely removed from his mind with the ultimate Teshuva being, if he is placed in the exact situation again, he would not sin.
These two quotes from Maimonides provide a direct contrast to what we see in Hosea. Maimonides describes the need for intention behind sacrifices while Israel offered meaningless sacrifices and Teshuva as completely even removing thought of sin from our mind; while the last verse of Hosea describes an insincere Teshuva that is purely external.
During the Ten days of Repentance we aim to do Teshuva for sins Bein Adam L’Makom (between man and God) and for sins Bein Adam L’chaveiro (between man and man). Verse 6:6 in Hosea “for I desire goodness not sacrifice” demonstrates the importance of Bein Adam L’cheveiro to God. It appears that He priorities a positive relationship between man and his peers over an individual’s relationship with Him. However, Yom Kippur does not atone for sings Bein Adam L’chaveiro.
אין תשובה ולא יום הכיפורים מכפרין אלא עבירות שבן אדם למקום
Yom Kippur only atones for sins that are between man and God
(Maimonides Hilchot Teshuva 2:9)
God cannot absolve or forgive man for sins committed against another person. It is up to that individual to forgive the sinner. A sin against another human needs a human response, not a Divine one.
This leads to a discussion about the Divine response, what is the best way to complete Teshuva for sins that are Bein Adam L’Makom?
גדולה תשובה שזדונות נעשות לו כשגגות…איני? והאמר ריש לקיש:גדולה תשובה שזדונות נעשות לו כזכויות! לא קשיא כאן מאהבה כאן מיראה
Teshuva is so great that intentional sins can be converted into unintentional sins. How is this? Doesn’t Reish Lakish say that Teshuva is so great that intentional sins can be converted into merits! This is not a difficult. The latter is talking about Teshuva from love and the former, Teshuva from fear
(Masechet Yoma 86b)
The most effective way to do Teshuva is through loving God! But is focusing on this aspect of our relationship with God really appropriate for Yom Kippur? Isn’t it more of a Malkeinu, serious and severe sort of a day? The Mishnah in Ta’anit thinks differently.
אמר ר’ שמעון בן גמליאל לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמשה עשר באב וכיום הכפורים
R’ Simeon the son of Gamliel said that there were no greater days for Israel than the 15th Av and Yom Kippur
(Mishnah Ta’anit 4:7)
Yom Kippur is often misrepresented as a sad, somber day. While it is serious, we must not forget that it ought to be one of the happiest days on the Jewish calendar. It is a day that we strip ourselves of our physicality and focus solely on our relationship with God. Ideally, this should bring us the most joy in our loves – coming closer to God. In fact, this is the truest meaning of the word Teshuva.
Arguably, best way to become close to God is to love God through understanding His Hashgacha. When we can see and understand the impact God has on every minute detail of our life, we become closer to Him, understand His love for us which hopefully reflects into our love for Him. Understanding God’s Hashgacha is even considered a Mitzvah.
וענין המצוה שנחשוב ונתבונן בפקודיו ופעולותיו עד נשיגהו כפי יכלתנו ונתענג בהשגחתו
And the main point of the Mitzvah is to think and understand His actions to the best of our capabilities and to rejoice in His supervision.
(Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 418)
Once again, this connects back to the final verse in Hosea. Radak’s commentary on the words “for the paths of the Lord are smooth, the righteous can walk on them” explains that the reason the righteous can prosper on the path of God is because even when they see bad things happening to good people they realize that everything comes from God. They see that all of God’s actions are just, even if it cannot be seen through our finite eyes.
Similarly, Malbim explains that the righteous will prosper in contrast to those who complain and claim that God abandoned us in exile. The Tzaddikim recognize that we are all under Hashem’s Hashgacha, even in Galut and that His ways are just.
May this Yom Kippur result in deepening our relationship with God, learning from the actions of Israel in the times of Hosea and doing the exact opposite, and seeing revealed Hashgacha in all situations, especially the Geulah Shleimah.
Long time no type on tumblr but I’m back:)
We are approaching the time where Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) is right around the corner. At this time many people take the opportunity to reflect. According to one custom by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, from 12 days before…
My little bro!
The first Aliyah of this week’s Parsha discusses the consequences of not following the laws of God. The culmination of these numerous consequences is the exile of our people from the Land of Israel. One of the most interesting verses in the Sedra demonstrates the difference between sins committed privately, and those committed publicly.
הנסתרות לה אלוקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת
The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever; that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah
In the Torah, the word ולבנינו is written strangely, with many dots appearing above the word. Rashi explains that if there are sins committed publicly and the community does not discipline the offenders, the entire community will be punished by God.
אבל הנגלות, לנו ולבנינו לבער הרע מקרבנו, ואם לא נעשה דין יענשו את הרבים. נקוד על לנו ולבנינו, לדרוש, שאף על הנגלות לא ענש את הרבים עד שעברו את הירדן משקבלו עליהם את השבועה בהר גרזים ובהר עיבל ונעשו ערבים זה לזה:בהם
However, “the revealed things apply to us and to our children” [that is, we are responsible for detecting the sins committed openly in our community, and] to eradicate any evil among us. And if we do not execute judgment upon these [open transgressions, over which we do have control,], then the whole community will be punished [because they would be remiss in their responsibility]. There is a dot placed over [each letter of] the words לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ here, to teach us homiletically that even for open sins [which were not brought to judgment, God] did not punish the whole community-until Israel crossed the Jordan. For then, they accepted upon themselves the oath at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, and thereby [formally] became responsible for one another (Sanh. 43b). [When dots are placed over letters of the Torah, this denotes an exclusion of some sort. In our context, our Rabbis teach us that the exclusion refers to the period prior to the crossing of the Jordan.]
(Rashi on Deuteronomy 29:28)
Further, he explains that the dots placed above each letter of the word indicate that God did not punish the entire people for open sins until they crossed the Jordan river. It was only at Mt. Grizim and Mt. Abel that the people agreed to all formally be responsible for each other.
Unfortunately, throughout history, these consequences became a reality. We sinned, we were warned to repent, we did not repent, our Temple was destroyed and we were exiled from our land. This did not happen only once, but twice! This also excludes the number of times we lost our independence in our own land and were forced to live under the rule of foreign nations.
However, in the past one hundred years we have been privileged to see the other side of the coin. Prophecies of the future when the Jewish people will return to Israel are also written in this week’s Parsha.
וְשָׁב יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת שְׁבוּתְךָ וְרִחֲמֶךָ וְשָׁב וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר הֱפִיצְךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה :
. אִם יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ
וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְהֵיטִבְךָ וְהִרְבְּךָ מֵאֲבֹתֶיךָ:
then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you. Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you from there. And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you [too] will take possession of it, and He will do good to you, and He will make you more numerous than your forefathers.
In the past generation, we figuratively crossed the Jordan and became responsible for one another. While this may be difficult, we may not agree and our society may seem fractured beyond repair, it is a better alternative than exile. This sentiment is eloquently expressed by A.B Yehoshua.
עלינו לחיות את האינטראקציה בין דתיים לחילוניים במלואה, היות ובמדינת ישראל, איננו משוחררים זה מזה כמו בגולה, בה יכול כל יהודי לבשל את תבשיל היהדות המתאים לו, בלי להתחשב בשני. פה בבית, אנחנו יושבים כולנו, כמו כל עם במין אולפן של פופוליטיקה, קשורים זה בזה, תובעים זה מזה, אחראים זה לזה ומכריעים זה עבור זה. זוהי ריבונות וגם אם יש לה טעם קשה, מסובך ומלא אכזבות, האמינו לי עבור מי שחי אלפיים שנה בגלות, יש לה טעם נפלא ומתוק”. (א.ב. יהושע, מתוך ראיון לכתב עת תואר, האוניברסיטה העברית, נובמבר 1998).
"We should fully live the interaction between religious people and seculars, since in the state of Israel, we’re not separated from each other, as we were in exile, where every Jew could live Judaism the way he sees it, without taking into account what the other thinks. Here, at home, we sit all together, like a whole nation in a talk-show studio, who are tied to each other, demanding from each other, responsible to each other, and making choices one for the other. This is our independence, and even if sometimes it tastes hard, complicated, and full of disappointments, believe me, for a person who lived 2000 years in exile, its taste is sweet and wonderful." (A. B. Yehoshua)
It appears that for better or for worse, for good or for bad we are all responsible for each other.
כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה
All of Israel are responsible for each other
Unfortunately, things that are supposed to unite us as a nation are unfortunately used as an excuse to divide us. Some people eat this Hechsher but not that Hechsher, some people won’t listen to this Rav and anybody who wears this type of Kippah or hat must be an apikoires. While this may all be said and done in the name of the Torah, the discord it brings to the Jewish people is in no way valid.
While Yair Lapid may be a secular Jew a few weeks ago in Knesset he correctly asserted that the Torah is intended to unite us, not divide us. This is especially relevant just before Rosh Hashannah.
All our Rosh Hashannah prayers are written in the plural and we daven as entire community, all together. This is because we have greater power as a united force to create positive decrees in heaven. May this year result in an everlasting unity of Am Yisrael and when we daven on the Yamim Noraim we are all inscribed in the Book of Life.
כתיבה וחתימה טובה