By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
As we mentioned before, these parshios form the basis of Moshe's
parting words to the nation he sacrificed his life for. Though it seems
from the parshios that Moshe was saying all of this over a period of
months, the truth is, it was more a matter of weeks.
In the midst of all these words of advice, and the review of many
of the mitzvos, is the section reiterating the blessings for following the
Torah, and the curses for straying from it. Though the actual blessings and
curses are not spelled out until Parashas Ki Savo, they are referred to
already at the beginning of this parsha, which begins:
"See, I place before you today blessing and curse ... The blessing
for listening to the mitzvos of
G-d which I command you this day, and the curses for when you don't
listen to the mitzvos of
G-d and stray from the way which I commanded you this day to walk
to walk after other gods
which you never knew ..." (Devarim 11:26)
One question that can be asked is, why did Moshe start off with the
word "see"? In everyday vernacular, we often use the word "see" to mean,
"pay attention," or, "understand this well." Here also, Moshe means to
focus the Jewish people on the seriousness of what is coming up. However,
the same thing can be accomplished with the word "hear," which is what
Moshe used in last week's parsha.
Vision is a unique sense. You can be in a room with many people,
and hear someone enter the room from ten feet away, and barely notice his
entrance. Yet, if you look up and catch the person's eye, even
accidentally, not only do you notice the person, and the person you, but
you even feel "exposed" somewhat, as if the person "stole" a peek into your
Eyes have often been called "windows" to the soul. Even though they
are merely balls made of tissue and blood, and are hollow, somehow they
project personality, and allow the outside world to have direct access to
our consciousness. This is why seeing is associated with one's own personal
philosophy, which, in English is called "outlook," and in Hebrew is called
"Hashkofa," from the word "to look."
This is why in a previous parsha it was so important for Moshe to
climb the mountain and SEE all of Eretz Yisroel. After all, where Moshe was
going after he died his view of the land was bound to be better. So then,
why did he have to see the land before he left this world?
The Pri Tzaddik explains that the point of Moshe's seeing the land
was more a matter of what he was going to give to it, as opposed to what he
was taking from it. Moshe represented a special strength and energy which
was vital for the Jewish people to survive on the land. However, for
reasons previously discussed, Moshe was not able to lead them into the
land. Now what?
However, by Moshe climbing the mountain and looking at the land, he
sent out from himself his inherent spiritual ability which made a spiritual
mark on all parts of the land. Moshe's body didn't cross the border into
the Land of Israel, but Moshe's soul did, so-to-speak, a process made
possible through the eyes.
This is what Moshe was alluding to by beginning his words with
"see." He was trying to reach the collective national soul, to create an
eternal bond between the Jewish psyche and the Torah, a connection that can
last throughout all the generations, especially after he was gone. And even
though only an element of the Jewish people has adhered to the Torah
throughout the long and bitter exiles, even that small element was made
possible because of the soul-connection made in this week's parsha.
This is why Amalek is called Amalek, whose name is spelled: ayin,
mem, lamed, kuf, the first letter spelling the word "ayin," which means
eye. The other three letters spelled the word: mem-lamed-kuf, or, the word
"sever." In other words, Amalek is the nation that "severs" the eye, by
creating intellectual doubt (ayin, mem, lamed, kuf, in gematria equals the
world "sufek," which means doubt), and by disgracing Torah in the eyes of
those who follow her, all for the sake of severing the Jewish soul from the
Torah, and ultimately, G-d Himself.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Today, if a person wants to eat meat, he or she merely needs to
visit the local butcher shop, and feast his or her eyes on a large
selection of delicious meats. And this is the case in Jerusalem, and it is
the case thousands of miles away in Johannesburg as well. But that's not
the way it always was.
Until G-d said so, the only meat that was permitted to the Jewish
people after leaving Egypt was the meat from a sacrifice brought and
offered in the Tabernacle. However, as the Torah says:
When G-d, your G-d, will enlarge your boundary, as He has promised
you, you may eat flesh
whenever your soul longs to. If the place (the Temple) which G-d,
your G-d, has chosen to place
His Name is too far from you, then you may sacrifice from the herd
of your flock, which G-d has
given to you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat in your
gates whenever your soul longs
to. (Devarim 12:20)
In other word, this possuk put a lot of local butchers throughout
the ages in business, and has kept them in business to this very day. And
it has made the eating and enjoying of meat possible, especially for people
who live far thousands of miles away from the Temple. How much more is this
so when we don't even have a Temple to go to today!
This story is not over yet; there is still more to learn.
When G-d, your G-d, will enlarge your boundary ... The Torah
teaches you proper conduct, that
one should not desire meat except when he lives amidst abundance
and wealth. (Rashi)
Is meat only for the wealthy? And who controls his desire for meat
like this? Usually our drive for food is quite spontaneous, demanding
The main sacrifice that used to provide meat for the person was the
Korban Shlamim, or Peace-Offering. It was a sacrifice that a person brought
to show G-d appreciation for all he had, and for good that he had
experienced. It was a very holy and elevated way of saying thank you to G-d
for all the good in life, and consuming its meat was a way of integrating
into the very being of a person this sense of appreciation.
As the Torah says elsewhere in this parsha, the blood is the place
of the Nefesh, a part of the soul that keeps our body living. Sacrificing
an animal was a way of consciously realizing how tenuous life is, and how
much of a gift everything we have is. In other words, nothing is coming to
a person, and the sooner a person realizes this, the happier he or she will
feel, and the wealthier her or she will be.
This is what Rashi means. Rashi is telling us that to simply long
for meat to satiate an animalistic drive is to deny the whole purpose of
being permitted to eat meat in the first place. Jews don't simply eat meat,
they partake of an offering to G-d in appreciation for the gift of life,
and all that it brings. How much more so is this the case when the meat is
eaten sparingly, and at special holy occasions, like at the meal of wedding
or after a Bris Milah.
This is why the rabbis have written: There is no joy but through
meat and wine. Both were part of the sacrificial procedure in the Temple,
and both played a major role in elevating the consciousness of the entire
nation to realize that the gift of life is exactly that: a gift.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In this week's parsha, among many other very important lessons for
the generations, is the one about the false prophet:
If there arise among you a prophet, or dreamer of dreams, and he
gives you a sign or a wonder,
and the sign or the wonder comes to pass that he spoke of ... Do
not listen to the words of that
prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, for the G-d, your G-d is
testing you, to know if you really
love G-d your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul ...
False prophets are not a rare breed among the Jewish people. They
are as common to our existence as multiple opinions. Jewish history is
replete with corrupt leaders bearing false messages, some of which have
been able to even perform miracles before the eyes of masses. However,
though many have been fazed by such intelligent, eloquent, and charismatic
leaders, mighty people who have come in the name of the people only "to
serve" the people, the Torah is not.
It is frightening to think that false leaders can be so successful,
and even possess the potential to do miracles. Miracles are usually taken
by the masses to be a sign from heaven that G-d supports the
miracle-worker. However, the Torah is saying, WRONG-G-G-G. Miracles count
for very little when it comes to picking your leader, and especially your
Moshiach. Then how is anyone supposed to know who to follow? How is one
supposed to know if a person is a "Man-of-G-d," or a "Man-of-Guilt"?
The Torah answers this question, by adding the words:
... G-d, your G-d is testing you, to know if you really love G-d
your G-d with all your heart and
with all your soul ... (Devarim 13:2)
False leaders are a litmus test of sorts, to see whether we love
G-d more, or ourselves more. Anyone who loves G-d loves truth, and will
relentlessly strip away the layers of falsehood and confusion to get to the
bottom line. G-d-lovers are people who aren't interested in mere opinion
and champions of the masses; they are interested in "Vos Zohgt Got," which,
in English, "What does G-d say about all of this?"
Well, what does G-d say about all of THIS?
In the history of mankind, there is only one people, and one
segment of that people who have claimed, for good reason, that they KNOW
what G-d says about everything, because G-d told it to their ancestors, and
those very ancestors meticulously passed that information on down through
the generations. It is a claim only mainstream Torah-Judaism has proudly
maintained and upheld, even at the cost of great personal sacrifice and
However, anything other than this perspective admits to be only an
opinion. No other way of life has ever reported that three million of its
ancestors heard G-d speak at Mt. Sinai, or anything mountain for that
matter, and that the message its main prophet brought down was dictated
letter-by-letter by G-d Himself. Many have disputed that claim, but no one
has duplicated it.
That's phenomenal. In a world of opinions more vast than the seas
and oceans, one small body of people claim to be living by a way of life
above the world of opinion, and its leaders, in humility and with all their
life's energy have subjugated themselves to that way of life, again, at
great personal cost, and often without reaping any physical rewards. The
G-d-lover is the truth-seeker, and the truth-seeker possesses the strength
of character to put personal opinion aside to get to the "bottom-line," and
pass the test of G-d.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In this week's parsha, the mitzvah to "not boil a kid in its
mother's milk" appears again (Devarim 14:21). This same mitzvah appears
three times throughout the Torah, and the Oral Law tells us that each time
a different part of the prohibition is being mentioned: do not cook meat
and milk together; do not eat a cooked milk and meat mixture, and do not
derive any benefit from such a mixture.
This is different from other forbidden foods, like improperly
slaughtered meat, which can be sold to non-Jews for money. Furthermore, the
Torah-prohibition of milk and meat applies only to kosher milk and kosher
meat, which, on their own, are permissible to eat.
One of the reasons given for this prohibition (which, for the most
part is treated like a statute, that is, as a mitzvah whose Divine
reasoning is incomprehensible to us), is that borders exist in this world
that cannot be defied. G-d, as the Creator, has established limits and
boundaries that cannot be transgressed by man, no matter how logical such a
transgression seems to be. Even the combination of permissible substances
can lead to a "poisonness" and dangerous mixture, spiritually unhealthy for
the person and the future of mankind. The right thing at the wrong time
leads to damaging results.
I remember years ago when a fellow student experimented on his own
during one of our science lab sessions. "Pssssssppp," he called to us, and
we innocently joined him at the back of the class. We should have know from
the twinkle in his eye (not to mention his past history of such antics),
that something unusual and potentially dangerous was coming up.
There, in the sink, was an innocuously looking test-tube with a
little harmless water in it. What he dropped into that tube I don't know to
this very day (but I think it is the basis of many antacid stomach
tablets). What followed makes me wince everytime I recall it, remembering
what would have happened to us and to him had we been standing inches
closer at the time of the explosion. The test-tube blew up, and across the
room, and my friend ended up in the principle's office.
We learned that day about limits and boundaries, and about how the
mixture of "good" things at the "wrong" time (and without the permission of
a "higher authority) can lead to very detrimental results for all of
Have a great Shabbos,
P.S. On behalf of my wife and family, I wish to thank all the people who
wrote words of support after reading last week's parsha sheet. When we
shared our experience, we did so to breathe "life" into the situation, and
to show sympathy and empathy for others who have suffered. However, the
unexpected show of support has provided us with added strength, and a
greater sense of unity with the rest of our people. Thank you.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston
and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston is a teacher and author of many books on Jewish philosophy
(hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston's Perceptions on the
Parsha, you may enjoy many of his books.
Copyright © 1995-1998
Project Genesis, Inc.
6810 Park Heights Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21215
YISRO AND TU BESHVAT:
Always Go to Court Before Starting a Fight
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5758
Ten Commandments: Ten of the Best!
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768
Taken For Granted
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760
Talmud Torah: Learning for Life
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5767
The Naming Sequence of Moshe's Sons Seems Out of Order
Rav Frand - 5768
Make Kugel Not War
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756
A Divine Presence of Mind
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766
Echoes of Sinai
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761
Seeing the Sounds
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5761
How Many Torahs are There Anyway?
Shlomo Katz - 5760
Accepting Torah as a Command, not as a Choice
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759
Last But Not Least
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768
The Misplaced Letter
Shlomo Katz - 5773
Opiate Of The Elite
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5772
A Fair Hearing
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762
With a Single Heart
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5769