Our parashah begins: "This shall be the reward when you hearken
to these ordinances . . . Hashem, your G-d, will safeguard for
you the covenant and the kindness that he swore to your
forefathers." The Torah continues with a list of rewards: He
will love you, He will bless the fruit of your womb, the fruit of
your land, your grain, wine, oil, sheep, etc.
We then read: "Perhaps you will say in your heart, 'These
nations are more numerous than I; how will I be able to drive
them out?' Do not fear them! You shall remember what Hashem,
your G-d, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt." R' Baruch Yashar
(a contemporary Israeli rabbi) offers the following insight and
interpretation of these verses:
Chazal teach that, contrary to our intuitions, one who lives
his life without experiencing open or obvious miracles is
preferable to one who does experience such events. Why? When
Hashem performs an open miracle for someone, it is as if He gave
the person access to a locked room by breaking down the door. On
the other hand, when He gives someone else the same benefit
through natural means, without performing an open miracle, it is
as if He gave that person the key to the room. Which is a
greater sign of closeness? Obviously, being given the key!
Our verses teach that if we develop a close relationship with G-
d by keeping His ordinances, He will bless us with all of the
gifts of nature. We will lack nothing, and we will require no
open miracles. On the other hand, if our faith weakens and we
become scared of the inhabitants of the Land, then we will fall
to a lower level where He will be required to perform open
miracles, just as He did for us in Egypt against Pharaoh. (Bein
Ha'shittin Shel Torah p.252)
"Then you shall remember Hashem, your G-d; that it was He
Who gave you strength to be successful." (8:18)
R' Yosef Chaim of Baghdad z"l (died 1909) writes: This verse
teaches us a fundamental concept, i.e., that all that a person
receives from this world comes to him from Hashem Himself. It
does not come to man through his own strength or handiwork.
However, man's nature is to attribute his success to his own
hard work. Therefore, Hashem has given us three mitzvot that
remind us that we are not in control of our own physical
well-being. Fulfilling these mitzvot helps us recognize that
Hashem is the One Who gives us the tools to succeed in life, that
everything is His, and that we are always receiving from Him.
One of these is the mitzvah of shemittah, letting the land lie
fallow every seventh year. One who fulfills this mitzvah
acknowledges that the Land is not his and that everything belongs
to Hashem. Another such mitzvah is berachot, reciting blessings
before eating. By doing so, one acknowledges that everything
belongs to Hashem. A third such mitzvah is the prohibition on
ribit/interest and the commandment to give free loans to one's
brethren. One who observes this acknowledges that all the money
that he has belongs to Him as well.
The initials of these mitzvot spell "bassar"/"flesh." This
reminds us that (in the words of Tehilim 136:25), "He gives
nourishment to all flesh."
(Ben Ish Hai: Eikev, Second Year)
"And now Israel, what does Hashem, your God, ask of you?
Only to fear Hashem your God, to go in all His ways and
to love Him, and to serve Hashem, your God, with all your
heart and all your soul, to observe the commandments of
Hashem and His decrees." (10:12-13)
R' Moshe Chaim Luzzato z"l (the "Ramchal") cites this verse as
containing all the virtues necessary for fulfilling the will of
Hashem with perfection. These attributes are: "Fear of Hashem,"
"going in His ways," "love of Hashem," "a perfect heart," and
"observance of all His mitzvot." The following is Ramchal's
description of each of these attributes and how they relate to
"Fear of Hashem": Fear his greatness and majesty as you would a
great and powerful King.
"Going in His ways": A person should perfect all his character
traits so as to emulate those of Hashem, as our sages said
(Shabbat 133b), "As He is merciful, so, too, you should be
merciful. As He is giving, so, too, you should be giving."
"Love of Hashem": A person should have such love for Hashem in
his heart that he strives to please Him just as he would strive
to please his own parents.
"A perfect heart": One's service to Hashem should be with pure
intentions, i.e., one should serve Hashem for the sake of serving
Hashem and for no other reason.
"Observance of all His mitzvot": This means exactly what it
says, i.e., that one should observe all the mitzvot and each
detail of each mitzvah.
Through the study of mussar, Ramchal writes, you can perfect
each of these attributes and do what Hashem, your G-d, asks of
(Mesillat Yesharim: Introduction)
"It will be that if you hearken to My commandments that I
command you today, to love Hashem, your G-d, and to serve
Him with all your heart and with all your soul . . . that
you may gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil."
The gemara (Berachot 35b) cites a disagreement between Rabbi
Yishmael and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai over whether a person should
work for a living or whether he should learn Torah full-time
while depending solely on Hashem for sustenance. Rabbi
Yishmael's opinion is that a person should work as well as learn
Torah. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, on the other hand, is of the
opinion that to engage in work is to neglect the Torah.
A Rabbi Yishmael quotes our verse, "[T]hat you may gather your
grain," as support for his view. But, the gemara asks, is it not
written (Yehoshua 1:8), "Do not remove this Torah from your
mouth," which seems to suggest that a person should never stop
learning Torah? Necessarily, says Rabbi Yishmael, our verse
teaches that the verse in Yehoshua should not be taken literally.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, on the other hand, supports his
opinion with a verse from Yishayah (61:5): "Foreigners will stand
and tend your flocks." You need not do this yourself. As for
our verse, this refers to a time when we do not do the will of
Hashem. That is when we will gather our own grain. If we do
Hashem's will, however, we will not need to work.
Many commentaries (including Tosfot) ask: How can Rabbi Shimon
bar Yochai say that the verse, "[T]hat you may gather in your
grain," will be fulfilled when we do not do the will of Hashem?
After all, the section in which the verse appears begins with the
words: "It will be that if you hearken to My commandments . . ."
It would seem from this juxtaposition that gathering in the grain
is a reward for those who listen to Hashem!
R' Shmuel Eliezer Eidels ("Maharsha"; died 1631) answers as
follows: Our verses do indeed tell us what will happen when we do
the will of Hashem. However, they refer to a time when we are
not perfect tzaddikim. Our verse states: "[I]f you hearken to My
commandments . . . to love Hashem, your God, to serve Him with
all your heart and with all your soul." However, unlike Devarim
6:5 (part of the first paragraph of Shema), our verse (which is
part of the second paragraph of Shema) does not say, "[W]ith all
you possessions." This suggests that the second paragraph is
referring to those who are not perfect tzaddikim, i.e., who would
not sacrifice their belongings for Hashem.
There are other differences between the first and second
paragraphs of Shema that suggest that the first paragraph is
addressed to perfect tzaddikim while the second refers to
"ordinary" doers of G-d's will:
1) The first paragraph does not speak of a reward, while the
second paragraph does. This suggests that the second paragraph
is addressed to those who need more reminders and incentives,
while the first paragraph is not.
2) The first paragraph does not mention those who do not
observe His mitzvot, while the second paragraph warns of the
consequences of not following His commandments.
3) The first paragraph is written in the singular, because
perfect tzaddikim are few, while the second paragraph is written
in the plural.
Letters from Our Sages
In this week's letter, R' Yehuda Leib Graubart z"l (1862-
1937; noted rabbi and posek in Poland, St. Louis, and later,
Toronto) analyzes a famous Greek legend in light of
halachah. The story of Damon and Pythias relates that in
the 4th century B.C.E., Pythias was condemned to death
because he opposed Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse, in
Sicily. He begged to be allowed to return home to say good-
bye to his wife and child. Damon came forward and offered to
die in place of Pythias if the latter did not return in
As the legend goes, Pythias had not returned when Damon
was brought to be executed. Suddenly Pythias rushed through
the crowd; his horse had been killed, and it was only
through great effort that he was able to arrive on time.
Then each of the friends pleaded to be allowed to die for
the other. Dionysius was so moved that he pardoned them
In this letter, which appears in R' Graubart's responsa,
Chavalim Ba'neimim, Vol. III, No. 108, the author explains
that the above story does not represent an ideal that is
consistent with the Torah. (As always, practical halachic
questions should be referred to a competent rabbi.)
Regarding your honor's question why we do not find in Jewish
history an example of love between friends such as in the story
of Pythias . . . I quote to you from the work Halachot Ketanot of
R' Yaakov Chagiz, regarding two people whose love was as strong
as life itself and one of them was sentenced to death. The other
one then came in his place - who has the "right" to be killed in
such as case? [R' Chagiz wrote:] "This question does not deserve
an answer; however, since we find in the gemara (Niddah 69b) that
even foolish questions are answered, I will answer you. . .
Hillel, too, answered foolish questions even late on Friday
afternoon [when he was busy preparing for Shabbat] (see Shabbat
31a). Can it really be said that one of these men loves the
other more than life itself if he allowed his friend to suffer in
jail for him? Clearly he loves himself more!" Thus ends R'
Chagiz's answer. As you can see, that author scolded the
questioner and did not really answer him.
Indeed, this is a simple matter. One is not to be praised for
this, and suicide is prohibited . . . Short of this, we do find
examples of great valor by the unique people among us. For
example, Avraham chased the Four Kings to save Lot, . . . Tamar
preferred to be put to death rather than to shame Yehuda in
public - indeed, from here we learn that one should prefer being
burnt at the stake rather than to embarrass another person, . . .
[and] the Talmudic sage, Mar Ukva, hid inside a furnace rather
than shame a beggar . . .
Marion Krakow and family
on the yahrzeit of her brother
Louis Frankel a"h
The Mailman family
on the yahrzeit of grandfather
Shalom ben Dov Ber a"h