Torah thought forFriday 20 Elul 5782 September 16 2022

Parashat Ki Tavo - The Joy of Friendships that Enable a Person to Achieve their Best in Serving Hashem and Contributing to the Community

(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

We shall read in the weekly Parashah the event of the “Berachot and the curses,” which presented blessings and curses to Am Yisrael after their entrance to Eretz Yisrael. Included in the berachah it states, “Blessed will you be in the city, and blessed in the field” (Devarim 28:3).

It is well known that after the father of the household has passed away, he sometimes leaves a “will”. Some days after the passing, all the family sit together and whilst they are emotional and tense, they open the will. Some don’t write a will, so what will they do with the money that is left? Sometimes a person just writes a few words of general “intent” that will endure for his offspring for many years to come. Something that is essential when a precious spiritual person passes away.

The “father” in previous generations was the prophet. Whenever Am Yisrael were in distress they turned to the prophet. He would answer all their doubts and guide them on the correct path.

Our chachamim explain (Yoma 69b) that at the end of the period of the Second Bet HaMikdash our chachamim annulled the yetzer hara (evil inclination) that they had in their time, “the yetzer hara for idolatry”, the yetzer hara that incites the person to worship idols. However, it states in Kohelet (7:14), “Hashem has made the one as well as the other,” the strength of holiness stands relative to the power of impurity in the world. Therefore, after the chachamim annulled the yetzer for idol worship, prophecy also disappeared from Am Yisrael.

The last prophet that stood for our people, was the prophet Malachi. At the end of his prophecy he left a will for everlasting generations and especially for our generations. What did he say? “Your words have become harsh against Me, says Hashem; but you say, ‘How have we spoken against You?’ You have said, ‘It is useless to serve Hashem! What gain is there for us that we have kept His watch…’” (Malachi 3:13-14). Know Am Yisrael that days will come when voices will increase in Am Yisrael that will say, “What gain is there in serving Hashem” What will transpire from us serving Hashem? Is it not the case that “So now we praise the wicked” (ibid. 3:15), now we see the wicked, the sinners, are happy! It is good for them in this world!

The prophet provides a response to this dilemma saying, “Then those who fear Hashem spoke to one another, and Hashem listened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear Hashem and those who give thought to His Name…and I will have mercy on them as a man has mercy on his son who serves him. Then you will return and see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves Hashem and one who does not serve Him” (ibid.).

“Then those who fear Hashem spoke to one another,” this is the best advice! To unite, to find a good group of friends, a good kehillah. To speak good words of love of Hashem and fear of Heaven. Hashem sees everything that is done, and everything is written before Him as a remembrance. Until He has compassion upon us and then there will be a Revelation of Hashem’s Presence in the world, and then everyone will know what the difference is between a true tzaddik and wicked person and who is truly happy!

But in truth, we don’t always find good friends next to us, men who fear Heaven. Sometimes a person is alone in the world and then he must know how to behave. He must then find the strength to withstand all of the difficulties that life presents to him.

One of the greatest maggidim of our time, HaRav HaGaon Rav Yaakov Galinski zt”l (Vehigad’ta) says about this that one of the harshest and most bitter punishments that he experienced in Russian Siberia was “isolation”. Once they separated him from his all friends and placed him in a dungeon. They exhausted him with cruel interrogation. During the interrogation they told him that his friends had already told them what they needed, whilst others died from their torture and others were shipped to another camp. In this way, the wicked interrogators attempted to pressure him to reveal something from his mouth.

During those moments, he looked at himself and thought, aren’t I a yeshiva student, a pupil of the Novardok Yeshiva, therefore I am not alone! I am part of a unique group who embrace the burning truth! Even if my teachers and friends are scattered all over the world, I am still associated with them and part of them!

With this mindset he succeeded to withstand. He didn’t reveal a single word from his mouth. Afterwards, when he returned to meet his dear friends, they told him that they had a similar experience and that they too strengthened themselves with the same thoughts that united them all together!

In this vein the Gaon Rav Chaim Zeitchik zt”l (1906-1989, Rosh Yeshiva of Novardok, Buchach, Galicia and subsequently in Israel) explained the passuk when Boaz praised Ruth for her selflessness in accompanying her mother-in-law to serve Hashem. He said, “…told, it has been told to me, about all that you have done for your mother-in-law” (Ruth 2:11). Our chachamim explain the double expression “told, it has been told to me.” “Told” in the house and “it has been told to me” in the field! Ruth didn’t only behave nobly and piously when she was with her family and relatives, but also when she was alone, she behaved in the same way!

Rav Yaakov Galinski continues and says, this is the meaning of what is stated in our Parashah, “Blessed will you be in the city, and blessed in the field,” whether you are with your group or alone, you shall be blessed, you must be a source of blessing in serving the Creator!

In the same fashion the passuk continues, “Blessed are you when you arrive and blessed are you when you depart,” our chachamim explain, blessed are you when you arrive in the Synagogues and Study Halls and blessed are you when you depart from the Synagogues and Study Halls.

Blessed are you when you are with a good group, which support and strengthens to the extent that it provides strength also when you are away from them, knowing that you are part of  a holy alliance!

Shabbat Shalom!

Recent Parasha

"תנא דבי אליהו כל השונה הלכות בכל יום מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא"

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