SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 62 NUMBER 3
August 10, 2012
22 Av, 5772
Candle-lighting Time: 7:45 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in memory of Pesach ben Yehudah Leib, ob”m, and Batya bas Baruch, ob”m, by their children.
Mazel Tov Rachel Rubin, recipient of the Kindle Fire. Thank you to everyone who participated and helped us to refresh our database!
Guys, go to Israel with TJE this fall, departing after Thanksgiving. Join us Thursday August 30th at 11:30 at the JCC for more information
Register now for The Sunday Experience, The Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Experience, and The Jewish University, starting this fall.
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
I am amazed how many catalogs there are. These days you can practically do all your shopping at home with the phone and the catalogs. We get so many different catalogs in the mail, we notice that the same items can be found in more than one catalog. I think there are probably more catalogs than there are things to buy.
And the biggest problem is when the kids get hold of them. They can sit and look at those things for hours, and they pick out something on every page. After all, that’s what a catalog is for. “Can I just get this?” They only want that one thing, until, of course, they turn to the next page.
In Parshas Eikev, Moshe tells us that G-d also asks for something. And He uses pretty much the same language as the kids. “And now,Israel, what does Hashem want from you? Just…” Just one little thing. Maybe two.
“…just to fear Hashem your G-d…” The Sages ask, is that some small, trivial thing? To inculcate in ourselves real awe and fear of G-d is a lifetime’s work! How could G-d ask for “just” that?
But wait, there’s more. “…to walk in all His ways, to love Him and to serve Hashem your G-d with all your heart and all your soul.” At this point, if it’s your child asking for this much, you would lose your patience already. And still there’s more.
“To keep Hashem’s commandments and statutes that I have commanded you today…” It’s a pretty long list. Covers just about everything.
And this is the request that G-d prefaces by saying, I “just” want to ask you for one little thing?
Yes. But you have to keep reading to understand it. The last two words of the verse put it all into perspective: “…for your benefit.” This litany of requests is not actually for G-d. It’s for you. He is only asking you to look out for your own best interests, and to take advantage of the Divine beneficence that He is waiting to shower you with.
It’s just one little request, it’s for you!
The Wonderful Desert We Live In
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
If you have ever been to Israel you know that it is one of the driest places on the planet Earth. Think about it. If you were going to give the chosen people some really good real estate, wouldn’t you have given them some lush area with rainfall in abundance? Like Egypt, for example, which has the Nile and its tributaries that are gushing with water. Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to switch with them? The Brotherhood could have all the dry land and we would have the entire Nile Delta and all of its verdure.
Before we explain this apparent anomaly, let us digress to another episode at the very beginning of the world. We are familiar with the story of how the serpent deceived Adam and Eve into eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Of course, they were severely punished and banished from the paradise of the Garden of Eden. The snake was also punished. Originally, he had legs, and as punishment they were severed. Furthermore, he was told that he would have to eat the dirt of the earth his entire life. Although the taste of dirt is not enviable, however, it is certainly a constantly available food source. Snakes never go hungry because wherever they are their source of nourishment is right there. Why was that such a penalty?
The answer is that they never have to pray to Hashem to feed them. He cast them off and never again will Hashem have to attend to their welfare. When a creature is cut off from its Creator, it is an indication that it has found such disfavor with Hashem that He wants nothing to do with him. That was ultimately the greatest castigation that the snake could suffer. Hashem conveyed to him how great his sin was. He was never again to connect with Hashem and forever more to be banished from Hashem’s court.
The commentators understand the land question in the same vein. True, Egypt has a lush environment that allowed vegetation to grow in abundance. Israel suffers from drought and an arid landscape. However, due to our difficulties, we have to daven to Hashem and beg that He afford us of His bounty. He needs to give us what we need and in order for that to occur, we need to conduct ourselves accordingly to deserve His kindness. Even though some may view this as a hindrance, everyone knows that a child seeks to be close to his parents. A child vies for the opportunity for his father or mother to bestow their hugs and kisses upon him. A parent’s smile has irreplaceable warmth that only a child can feel.
Hashem affords us the opportunity to daven to Him as children and feel His hugs and sense His smile. And as with any family, we have to follow the rules in order to receive our allowance of His compassion and generosity. And as we well know, they are the mitzvos of the Torah.
Since Israel requires that we observe the mitzvos constantly and faithfully, any deviance from that protocol can trigger Hashem to rescind His support. The Midrash cites an incident where a certain area was blessed with a wonderful yield of crops yet failed to tithe their bounty appropriately. Hashem sent a crew of rats to consume their harvest until they began to tithe their produce properly.
We conclude with the words of the saintly Chofetz Chaim. In this world we have endless potential to connect with Hashem and become close to Him. However, once we depart from this life, whatever we have secured and realized during our time here is complete. We can no longer aggrandize our record of success. We should regard our options here and exploit our time prudently and cautiously.
Byte For Shabbos
King David recognized the tremendous value of fulfilling the mitzvos. Therefore he was careful to observe even the minutest details, because of their great significance.
Question for the Rabbis
“Guard your souls very carefully…” (Deuteronomy 4:15) is understood as an obligation to care for our health and to avoid danger (Berachot 32b, Mesilat Yesharim Ch. 9). Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (known as the Chafetz Chaim, Likutei Amarim Ch. 13) forbade smoking cigarettes. He felt that one who smoked was in transgression of this verse, even though medical science at his time (early 20th century) was not fully aware of the dangers and effects of smoking, and only recommended that “weak people” should not smoke. Indeed, halachic authorities have noted that although we rely on leniencies based on majority rules, probability, and doubts in areas of kashrut and other areas of Jewish law, we generally don’t rely on these leniencies regarding danger to health. A possible source for this is the phrasing of the verse, which uses the term “very” (me’od), indicating a greater degree of severity than in other areas (Pitchei Teshuva 3, Yoreh Deah 117, Yabia Omer 2, Even Ha’ezer 7).
Joke of the Week
A Jewish telegram: “Start worrying. Details to follow.”