Home Subscribe Services Support Us
Print Version

Email this article to a friend


by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

The Talmud (Shabbos 147b) recommends that people avoid two places (Progaisa and Dyomeses by name), because they surround the visitor with opportunities for physical pleasures (fine wine, luxurious baths) which the locals use at every opportunity. Thus one can sit back and have a good time - such a good time that he loses himself in the physical world.

We are further told that this actually happened to one of the great Talmudic sages, Rabbi Elazar ben Arach. He went to these places and "was drawn after them," and as a result, he forgot the Torah he had learned! So complete was his downfall that when they called him up to the Torah to read from our parsha, he attempted to read "HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem" - this month is for you (the first of months) [12:2], and instead read "HaCheresh Hayah Libam" - their heart had become deaf and mute. This was a self-descripition - he had lost himself in enjoying this world, and forgotten his priorities. His heart had "tuned in" on worldly pleasures, and thus had tuned out (become deaf to) the spiritual realms. As a result, he found himself bereft of the Torah he had learned in better times. Only when the Rabbis prayed for him did his Torah learning return.

It's a scary thought, given that our lives are so comfortable today. Are we using the time our modern comforts provide to seek something more than another vacation, or are we simply aiming for the "good life?" Are we tuning in, or tuning out?

Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk has a cryptic comment about this Talmudic passage. He says, "even though 'their heart had become deaf and mute,' even so 'this month is for you (the first of months).'"

A possible explanation of this statement occurred to me as I read it. We know that this is a commandment - the Jewish courts had a process by which they declared the appearance of the new moon, for Nissan and all the months that follow. We also know that this commandment is the first given to the Jewish people, given to them before the Torah itself. They received it while they were still slaves to the Egyptians, and while they were in their worst spiritual state.

The ability to declare the months, to specify by ruling of the Jewish courts when the months begin, testifies to the ability of the Jewish people to have an impact in the spiritual realms. We declare when Nissan begins, and thus we declare when Passover (the fifteenth of Nissan) will come to the world.

"Even though 'their heart had become deaf and mute,' even so 'this month is for you (the first of months).'" Even if we are in the worst spiritual state, this does not mean that we are worthless or ignored by G-d. We may have tuned out, but nonetheless we have an impact. G-d still sees us and cares for us, and waits for us to tune back in.

Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.



View Complete List

Interpreting Dreams
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

Our Brother, Eisav
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

Lessons in Devotion
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Performances and Customs
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Battle and Survival
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

Messenger Mitzvos
Shlomo Katz - 5760


God Watches Over Yisroel
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5770

The Ultimate Antidote for Eisav
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5758

Emotionally Engaging: Yaakov vs. Eisav
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

> The Significance of the Name Succos
Rabbi Frand - 5768

Behind the Gray Blur
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

Smelling The Fragrance Of Hope
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5768

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

All For The Children
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5762

The Lost Jewel
Shlomo Katz - 5765

No News is Jews News
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5764

The Kiss of Dot
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information