“K’seirim alei deshe v’chirvivim alei esev – like soft raindrops upon
vegetation and like [larger] raindrops upon the blades of grass”
(Devarim 32:2, according to the translation of the Kli Yakar, see Rashi
for another interpretation of the word ‘seirim’)
Moshe Rabbeinu opens the stirring, poetic verses of Parshas Ha’azinu by
comparing the Torah’s eternal wisdom to life-giving, refreshing raindrops.
He asks that the words of the Torah should nourish our neshamos (souls)
just like dew and rain, which bring life and sustenance to the crops of
Different Types of Rain
The Ohr HaChaim quotes a Midrash (Mishlei 10) to explain why Moshe
Rabbeinu used more than one type of rainfall to describe the words of the
Torah. The Midrash mentions the words of Rebbi Yishmael describing what
will transpire when a person faces the Beis Din Shel Ma’aleh (Heavenly
Tribunal) after his years on this world.
Rebbi Yishmael says that a person who is fluent in Chumash will be asked
why he did not master Mishnah. One who mastered Mishnah will be asked why
he did not learn Gemorah, while one who devoted his time to understanding
Gemorah will be asked why he did not delve deeply into the most difficult
portions of the Gemorah. To sum up, each person will be asked why he or
she did not stretch him or herself to reach their fullest potential.
The Ohr HaChaim quotes this Midrash to point out that Hashem judges each
person according to his or her ability – no more, and no less. He comments
that Hashem will not ask the one who is fluent in Chumash why he did not
master the most difficult Gemorah in all of Shas! The Ohr HaChaim points
out that this Midrash liberates people by informing them that they will
not be judged by standards that are far beyond their ability. At the same
time, however, it holds us all to a demanding standard – the very highest
spiritual point that we are able to reach with our innate abilities.
Din and Cheshbon
My great rebbi, Rabbi Avrohom Pam z’tl connected this thought of the Ohr
HaChayim with the words of the Vilna Gaon on a Mishna in Pirkei Avos
(3:1). The Mishna quotes Akavya ben M’halalel that a person should always
keep in mind, “Before Whom he will have to give a ‘Din V’cheshbon’
(judgment and reckoning).”
The Vilna Gaon explained that the two terms reflect diverse approaches to
an accounting of one’s actions: Din reflects a judgment of what a person
did with his time – mitzvos and avaros (fulfillment of positive
commandments and transgression of misdeeds). Cheshbon is a reckoning of a
higher standard; what a person could have accomplished with his or her
time on this world as opposed to what he or she has actually done.
My Rebbi pointed out that in this week’s parsha, Hashem illustrated the
concept of din v’cheshbon when He informed Moshe that he would not be able
to enter into Eretz Yisroel. A careful reading of the pasuk (Devarim
32:51) shows that Hashem told Moshe, 1) “You trespassed against Me,” (this
was the element of din), and 2) “You did not sanctify Me,” (this was the
element of cheshbon – passing up the opportunity for a Kiddush Hashem).
Words of Chizuk – and Tochacha – Before Yom Kippur
This theme is congruent with Moshe’s opening words in this week’s parsha.
Moshe informs the Bnei Yisroel that the Torah provides nourishment to each
person according to his or her level. Soft, gentle raindrops for budding
plants (easier learning topics for those who find difficult limudim above
them at this time) and drenching rain for fields of grass (intricate
sugyos for advanced learners).
As we approach Yom Kippur and give reckoning for our actions – din and
cheshbon – Moshe Rabbeinu reminds us that the Torah is accessible to each
and every one of us. We are each obligated to drink from its refreshing
waters, nourish our neshamos (souls) and learn its eternal lessons.
Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, as well as the founder and Program Director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services), which helps at-risk teens and their parents. He is a popular lecturer on teaching and parenting topics in communities around the world, and is the author of several best-selling parenting tape and CD sets. For more information on Rabbi Horowitz's parenting tapes, visit http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/ or call 845-352-7100 X 133.