Parshas Shoftim 5757 - '97
Outline # 50
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Obstacles and Accusations
Judaism does not recognize dual powers in the universe. There is One Source
for everything. Nonetheless, right and wrong, good and evil surely exist,
and it is up to us to weed out the good from the bad. If everything stems
from the One Source, how does the evil exist?
Ultimately, everything comes from the One Source; at various periods,
the One Source intervenes, to direct or redirect. Most of the time, however,
the world is on its own; nature "runs its course." The "good" is that which
is most compatible with the Source; the "bad" -- the least compatible.
Let's strive to be more compatible...
Much of today's world, though, cannot accept that choices between "good
and bad" exist. Such individuals fail to choose; instead, they are content
to let nature "run its course." The problem is that people want a convenient,
easy life, and do not have the vision of "obstacles" that our forefathers
The forefathers did not bequeath land or material substance; rather, the
promise of land and spiritual substance. Until the promise would be fulfilled
-- they said -- there would be hardship, servitude and suffering.
Yachas Chasidim Umisnagdim
The Tzemach Tzedek wrote in his responsa something that seems forgotten
today, but is actually a basic Jewish doctrine. The fierce arguments between
the Chasidic movement and its opposition -- the Misnagdim -- are well known.
How many realize that the Tzemach Tzedek expressed gratitude for the opposition?
Similarly, we find that one of the early Chasidic leaders, the Shpole
Zeide, was antagonistic to Rav Nachman of Breslov. When some of the Zeide's
students heckled Rav Nachman, the Zeide censored them. Every movement needed
opposition, he explained. He had been providing a service.
We learn from opposition, from obstacles. I always remember a childhood
incident. I had been ill, and had missed a physical endurance test. When
I returned to school, I had to run the 600 yards -- alone. From nowhere,
a classmate started running alongside. He had been a mean child, always taunting.
Yet -- suddenly it was clear -- he was running under his capacity, trying
to encourage me to keep up with him... When the race was over I was certain
that I had improved because of the challenge.
This helps to put in perspective the comments quoted last week: The Bnei
Yisaschar explained that reciting praises during the davening "prevent
accusations." (The Shofar, as well, is said to confuse the adversary [Talmud,
Rosh Hashanah 16b]; the Zohar, cited in Sidur Hagra, explains that the
prosecution's claims are thwarted.) The inconsistencies of our character
and actions, arouse accusations. We must recognize the challenge, and not
rest nor indulge ourselves, until we have found the strength to overcome
the deficiencies which lie within us. Just as the athlete who slackens in
his training, cannot seriously expect promotion -- so too, we cannot reach
our goals unless we keep up our workouts at full capacity. The accuser is
not an independent force, but Hashem's agent. By repelling his accusations
by means of consistent character and action, we show the validity of his
Chodshei Hashanah Part Thirty Five
In Sefer Yechezkel (Ezekiel chapter 2), the prophet was told to record
the day that the siege of Jerusalem was to occur. This day was later incorporated
as a fast day -- the Tenth of Teves. The language of the verses, however,
"Write the name of the day, the essence of the day..." (Yechezkel, 24:2).
In Hebrew, there are no names of the days of the week. If so, what is the
meaning of "write the name of the day..." The excellent English Commentary
to Yechezkel by Rav Moshe Eisemann raises this difficulty, but does not resolve
See however, the Drashos of Chasom Sofer part 1, p. 93:
There is a difference between the date of the month and the day of the
week. The date of the month is arbitrary; there is no inherent reason as
why today is the third of the month instead of the forth. The fixing of the
months are determined by the court, and can vary. The court can alter the
days somewhat, or add on another month.
This does not apply to the day of the week, however. Shabbos is eternally
fixed, and the days of the week are simply counted from the Shabbos.
The phrase "the name of the day" indicates that the actual day of the
week, not only the date (tenth of Teves) is essential. Thus, we find an opinion
in Halacha that states that the Tenth of Teves would be observed even on
Shabbos, because the day of the week on which the fast occurs has special
This year, Yom Kippur occurs on a Shabbos (Oct. 10 -11, `97). Although
one is ordinarily not permitted to fast on Shabbos, Yom Kippur overrides
the ordinary laws of Shabbos. The phrase "the essence of the day" is found
in regard to Yom Kippur as well... Similar to the Tenth of Teves, the Tenth
of Tishre has some intrinsic relationship to the day of the week in which
it occurs, and cannot be exchanged for another day. (Yom Kippur is the only
major holiday that was never observed for two days [by the masses].)
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi
Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis,