VOLUME 72 NUMBER 1
August 1, 2014
5 Av, 5774
This week’s Sparks of Torah is dedicated to the diligent students of Rabbi Leban’s daily Talmud class on the occasion of their 2nd anniversary.
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
The parsha begins with Moshe’s rebuke to the nation for the numerous times that they angered Hashem. However, he reprimands them in such a way that they didn’t become despondent. Thus, only the places where the events occurred are mentioned and not the incidents. Upon mentioning these areas, the people’s memory is jogged and they recall their misdeeds. In this way, Moshe was able to scold them while maintaining their dignity.
Nachmonides understands this criticism of the nation in a slightly different way. He explains that although Moshe was certainly lecturing the people for their misconduct, nonetheless, his intent was to impress upon them Hashem’s merciful stance. Even though they may not have deserved to be treated kindly and with such compassion due to their errant behavior, still Hashem dealt with them as though they had fulfilled their role perfectly without any deviation. Furthermore, it was important for them to realize that it was only due to Hashem’s infinite patience that they merited all the good that was done for them. Therefore, on the one hand they recognized that there was room for improvement and also they understood that Hashem would always appreciate their frailties and allow them to err provided that they would also seek to consistently enhance their lives.
It is noteworthy that Nachmonides comments that this prefaces the ensuing introduction of the mitzvos that are discussed in this part of the Torah. Apparently, before these mitzvos were transmitted to the people, it was necessary to initially set the record straight and emphasize to them the necessity to resolve the issues that had confronted them in the past and they were unsuccessful in tackling. Evidently, the two are connected and it is important to understand their association.
The upshot is that mitzvos cannot be performed in a vacuum. It isn’t as though the mitzvos are hollow actions that do not advance interaction between us and Hashem. On the contrary, every mitzvah that we perform serves as a liaison to strengthen the bond that we have with Hashem. However, that bond can also not exist in a vacuum but rather it must function within the context of one who is prepared to fulfill the obligations of the Torah. Therefore, it was a prerequisite that Moshe identify those deficiencies which would hinder our ability to come close to Hashem. Every time the nation misbehaved and corrupted their relationship with Hashem it distanced them from Hashem and created a barrier which would obstruct the mitzvos from accomplishing their goal.
This Shabbos precedes the fast of Tisha B’av which reminds us of the loss of the Beis Hamikdash two millennia ago. Although we will sit on the floor and lament that tragedy, it is incumbent upon us to grasp the enormity of the situation and decide that we must take the appropriate steps to repair the damage which is self-inflicted. Our initial resolve must be to eliminate those barriers that separate us from Hashem. Certainly there are many. However, the Chofetz Chaim wrote that specifically it is the sin of slander, loshon hora, which blocks our efforts to bring about Moshiach’s arrival. As we recall how our enemies dismantled the Beis Hamikdash, we must also consider that we can rebuild that Holy Sanctuary one stone at a time. We are faced with the enemy literally at our front door as we are informed that they are tunneling at the very entrances of our communities in Israel. However, we should not despair and we must realize with renewed vigor that it is only with Divine assistance that we will defeat all those who rise up against us. If we will bond with Hashem, then He will come to our aid.
A Byte for Shabbos
After the sin of the spies when the Children of Israel were punished to remain in the desert for 40 years, the nation never traveled in a straight path. Rather they always went in a circuitous way. This served as a constant reminder that it was their own poor choices that led them in a convoluted manner due to their corrupt path through life.