I. Serving idols.
1. ‘And you turn away and serve other gods.’ (Devorim* 11.16) The meaning of this verse is that as soon as a person turns away from his attachment to HaShem* (G-d forbid) he comes to ‘serve other gods.’ (p. 100 sefer Lekutei Amorim teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Ber, the Maggid* of Mezritch [In sefer Tzvuos HaRivash, a collection of teachings of the Baal Shem Tov it is taught, ‘As soon as a person separates himself from HaShem, immediately he is worshipping idols (G-d forbid.) There is nothing in the middle.’ * * * II. The true fear of HaSHem. 2. ‘And now, Israel, what does HaShem your G-d ask of you except that you fear HaShem your G-d.’ (Devorim 10.12) To ‘fear HaShem your G-d.’ The meaning is that your fear should be like the fear that HaShem your G-d has. The fear that is usual for men is the fear of punishment. This is not of much value. However the fear that HaShem has is the fear of sin. HaShem is always filled with fear that a man will sin. [This is] due to the great compassion that He has for him, like a father for a son. The father is always afraid that his son will go and do evil, or that he might become sick. The same is with HaShem’s fear with regards to men, which comes from his great compassion. This is the meaning of ‘What does HaShem your G-d ask of you except that you fear HaShem your G-d.’ Your fear should also be the fear of sin just like the fear that HaShem has. They should be the same. There is a parable: A father warned his son not to go barefoot since he could get a thorn in his foot. However his small son didn’t listen to him because of his small understanding. He went barefoot and a thorn stuck him in the foot. Even though he didn’t have much pain from this, his father was afraid that his foot would swell. What did the father do? He pulled off some of the skin around the thorn, and removed the thorn from his son’s foot. When he was removing the thorn his son had much pain, and cried bitterly. However the father understood that these pains were really what was needed to heal him. He ignored the cries and did what he had to. Another time the son wanted to go out without shoes. The father was upset at him and reminded him about the pain and suffering he had when the thorn was being removed from his foot. He warned him not to go out again barefoot since he could come to have suffering from removing a thorn. The father did not warn his son that he might step on a thorn. He didn’t feel any pain from that. The main source of his suffering was when the thorn was being removed. Therefore the father warned him with something which caused him suffering. However the truth is that the father was not afraid and worried about the removal of the thorn. He understood that this was the cure. We see that the fears of the father and the son are not the same. The meaning of this parable is as follows: The fear that HaShem has and men have are not the same. A man has fear of the suffering that the sin will bring, but not from the sin itself. But HaShem is afraid that the man might sin. However the punishment afterwards, He is not afraid of. The opposite is the case. This [punishment is a sign of] His compassion, and it is the cure. HaShem brings suffering to him in order to purify him from the sin. That is the meaning of the verse: ‘And now, Israel, what does HaShem your G-d ask of you except that you fear HaShem your G-d.’ It should be that your fear, is the same as His fear as I explained above. (p. 75b sefer Lekutim Yikorim teachings of the Rebbe Reb Ber, the maggid of Mezritch.) * * * III. Forgetting 3. ‘And it will be, if forgetting, you will forget HaShem your G-d.’ (Devorim 8.19) The word ‘And it will be’ [Heb v’haya] is a language [which Chazal* tells us] implies joy. The Torah is warning us, ‘And it will be, forgetting.’ If you will become gloomy and depressed, and forget the midah* of joy. You should know that it will bring you to ‘forget HaShem your G-d.’ This is because ‘strength and joy are in His place.’ The one who is depressed is not able to appear before Him. [By not being joyful he will come to forget G-d.] Or we can say: ‘And it will be, if forgetting.’ [The meaning is] if it will be that you will be joyful that you have forgotten HaShem. It is not enough that you have forgotten HaShem. But you are also (G-d forbid) happy [with that.] This will cause you to ‘forget from HaShem your G-d’ completely. (p. 153 sefer Ner Yisroel, teachings of Rebbe* Yisroel of Rizhin and his descendants. This is from the holy Rizhiner.) * * * IV. Haste and Laziness 4. ‘They will be quickly wiped out from the good land that HaShem gave to them.’ (Devorim 8.19) It is well known the great quality of the midah of haste which is the opposite of the midah of laziness. However sometimes ‘haste’ is not such a great quality. Also its opposite laziness is [at times] good. When a person has to occupy himself with physical affairs, he should not do them with haste. [He should not] grab at everything that comes into his hand, and consume all things. He should at that time act calmly, with tranquillity of mind. The reason being that if he should act with haste it is easy for him to forget that everything is under the control and observation of HaShem. Everything that belongs to him, will come to him, and no one can take it from him. Through tranquillity of mind he can reach that level [of understanding.] This is the meaning of the verse: ‘They will be quickly wiped out from the land.’ You should see to it that you wipe out ‘quickness’ in all activities involving this physical world. ‘Good.’ What good will come to you from doing this? ‘That HaShem gave to them.’ [From doing this] you will recognize and understand that it is HaShem who gives you the strength, and a man is not responsible for it at all. (p. 154 sefer Ner Yisroel, teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his descendants. This is from Rebbe Avraham Yakov of Sadigora.) * * * V. Final Results 5. ‘And it will be in the end when you shall listen to these ordinances, And you will observe and do them.’ (Devorim 7.12) The verse says, ‘The sum of the matter is that everything is heard, fear G-d…’ The meaning of this verse is that a person has to always look to see what the end result will be for everything of this world and their enjoyments. This is because everything [of this world] is like nothing and worthless. The same is with the end of man. When he will look at this his heart will be humbled and he will come to the fear of HaShem. As it says, ‘The end result of humility is the fear of HaShem.’ However it is possible that from this he will consider himself far from HaShem. He will consider himself so small in his own eyes that he will be fearful, and come to hold back from doing the mitzvos* of HaShem. Certainly that is not the true way. So what can he do? The answer is that he should have the true inner fear, the higher fear. This fear brings him to more and more mitzvos. As the verse says, ‘The beginning of wisdom is the fear of HaShem.’ Through the fear of HaShem he can reach the beginning of wisdom, which is the wisdom of the Torah and the fulfilling of the mitzvos. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘And it will be in the end when you shall listen.’ i.e. ‘The sum of the matter is that everything is heard.’ By looking at what will be at the end you will come to the midos of humility and fear. But this is only on the condition that ‘You will observe and do them.’ You should reach that level of fear that causes you to want to fulfill the mitzvos and learn Torah. This is through the higher level of fear that brings you to the beginning of wisdom, as I said above. (p. 62 sefer Ner Yisroel vol 3, teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin
and his descendants. This is from the holy Rizhiner.)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant sinner.
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud 2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.
sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
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