The Love Slap

July 30, 2021
Av 21, 5781
Candlelighting Time 7:56 PM

            Moshe reminds the nation that during their forty-year sojourn in the desert they were tested by Hashem to ‘see’ into their hearts. Were their hearts pure that they would not conduct themselves in a manner adverse to Hashem’s will and have misgivings toward Hashem. It is interesting to note that all the other commentators on the parsha explain that Moshe was referring directly to their allegiance to observe the mitzvos. In other words, would the difficulties that they encountered in the desert discourage them from performing the mitzvos as Hashem had commanded them. Why did Rashi choose to explain that their ordeal was specifically tailored to judge their capacity to withstand hardships and not reflect adversely toward Hashem.

            In order to understand Rashi better we need to examine the previous verse in the parsha. Hashem has commanded us to fulfill the mitzvos so that we will ‘live and prosper’ in the land. Does that simply put mean that we will die otherwise or that the nation will not be financially sound unless we observe the Torah? Malbim explains that our lives will be enriched because many of the mitzvos are designed to enhance our mode of communal homogeny. Additionally, since our mitzvos are on a spiritual level, they will augment our lives and we will reach a plateau of satisfaction and elevation far beyond the regularity of life.

            Netziv adds that we must also study the laws that pertain to the mitzvos so that we will perform them accurately and furthermore, even when some of them are temporarily neglected because we are in exile, still we must remain knowledgeable anticipating that day when we will once again reign in Israel. Hashem emphasizes that Torah study is not just for the sake of performance of the mitzvos but also it triggers a spiritual elevation that eventually climaxes when we will arrive permanently in Israel. Also the inspiration that the soul derives through Torah study is remarkably strong and powerful. And just to think that this entire succession of events can be realized with just the fulfillment of a mitzvah!

            Perhaps now we can understand Rashi much better. He is not disagreeing with the other commentators. On the contrary, his interpretation complements and supplements all the others. The fundamental theme that one must possess in order to be dedicated to Hashem’s Torah is a total attitude of devotion and perseverance no matter what the situation may be. When we recite the Shema twice daily we commit ourselves to love Hashem. Nachmonides cites a statement from the Jerusalem Talmud that requires that we both love and fear Hashem. We must fear Him because that will ensure that we will not reject the mitzvos. And we must love Hashem because where there is true love, hatred is not an option. When there is love between Hashem and His people, then whatever we must confront will never deter us from total and absolute servitude to Hashem.  And if we sometimes get a ‘potch’ from Hashem it is delivered with a note of love and affection with our best interest in mind.


We cannot relay upon our children learning to promote the importance of Torah study unless we, the parents and mentors, also participate as well and immerse ourselves in its study.          CHOFETZ CHAIM