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Parshas Haazinu
Play It Again, Shmuel
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston

FRIDAY NIGHT:

G-d spoke to Moshe, saying, Send men and spy out the land of Canaan ... (Bamidbar 13:1)

When the Most High divided up the sons of man, and gave them each their inheritance, He made many distinct peoples, corresponding to the number of the Children of Israel. (Devarim 32:8)

In Parashas Ki Seitzei, we spoke about the concept mentioned by the Vilna Gaon that each parshah from the fifth book of the Torah, Sefer Devarim corresponds to one hundred years in the Sixth Millennium. Therefore, one could, theoretically, find allusions to events of a century in its corresponding parshah.

We also spoke about a different system of comparison, in which one verse from the Torah corresponds to a year of history from the time of creation onward (eg. Bereishis 1:1, year, etc.). This, too, allows one to look for spiritual "roots" for historical events in the corresponding verse for that time. At the very least, such correlations create wonderment for the observer, and is just more evidence of Ben Bag Bag's statement:

"Turn over in it [Torah], turn over in it, for everything is in it [Torah] ..." (Pirkei Avos 5:26)

So, based upon this, we spoke about the 5,750th verse in the Torah (Parashas Vayailech), and how it could easily be an allusion to the events that occurred in the Jewish year, 5750 (1990). This is especially so since, according to tradition, 5750 represented a turning of a spiritual corner. For, just as we divide up the Jewish day into four parts, so, too, do we divide up the millennium into four parts, because one millennium is equal to one day of creation (six days, six millennia).

Hence, just as the sixth day of the week is called "Erev Shabbos," so, too, is the Sixth Millennium called the "Erev Shabbos" of history. And, just as the last quarter of Friday has special halachic and philosophical status because of its close proximity to Shabbos, so, too, does the last quarter of the Sixth Millennium--from 5750 until 6,000--have special philosophical status, being in such close proximity to the year 6,000, and the "Shabbos" of history.

So, here we are in the new year of 5760, thank G-d. There are several sources that speak about this year, and what may be in store for the Jewish people and the world in general. The truth is, even without these sources, a spiritually-sensitive person can't help but wonder what is coming up, given the historical significance of the year 2000 to so many groups, the historical change of weather, and the unusual amount and scope of "natural" events and disasters that seem to keep occurring around the world.

And, being in the year 5760, I thought it would be interesting to look at the 5,760th verse in the Torah, to see what it said and how it might relate to this year, for interest's sake alone (or, so I told myelf). So I counted the verses from the 5,760th one:

Verse five thousand, seven hundred and fifty one ... verse 5000, 700 and 52 ...

... And what I "discovered" sent chills up and down my spine.

Now, at the risk of causing many to say, "Oh no, not again! Doesn't this guy know that Y2K is a thing of the past? Is he still harping on this issue? I think I'll change the channel ..." I have the following to say.

Just about everyone knows of the Tower of Bavel (Babel). In the year 1996 from creation, four years before the year 2000, humankind embarked upon a bold new project: the first sky-scraper in the history of the world, if you will.

... 5000 ... 700... and 53 ... 5000 ... 700 ... and 54 ...

According to the Midrash, there were three reasons why the people of that time invested their life's energy into this venture. The first reason was to do battle with G-d, and to "confine" him to Heaven, so that man could rule the earth. How naive, right?

The second reason for building the tower, says the Midrash, was to create a cosmopolitan center, a place around which mankind could rally and unite. They wanted to create a "New World Order," an era of international brotherhood. How noble, right?

The third reason for the tower, explains the Midrash, was to avoid future floods. You see, this group did not view the Flood as an act of Divine retribution, for living spiritually-destructive lives. Rather, this group of heretics wanted to believe that the Flood was just the result of a defect in creation, a leaky faucet, so-to-speak. According to this philosophy, every 1,656 years, Heaven leaks ... in a major way, and the tower, they hoped would "plug" that leak once-and-for-all, and save the world from future disasters.

At that time, all the earth spoke one language, and was united in speech ... (Bereishis 11:1)

--the Torah begins. Their strength? They all spoke one language. Their "achilles heel"? They all spoke one language.

... Verse 5000 ... 700 ... and 55 ...

... As they journeyed from the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar, and settled there. Then, each man said to his neighbor, "Let's make bricks and burn them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they used slime as mortar. Then they said, "Let's build a city, with a tower whose top will reach into Heaven. We'll make ourselves famous [to prevent ourselves] from being scattered over the face of the earth." (Bereishis 11:2-4)

Three intentions--three levels of destruction. According to the Midrash, upset with Mankind's ambitions once again, G-d completely destroyed one-third of the tower and He left one-third partially submerged and partially visible. The final third of the tower was allowed to remain entirely, for a reason. In fact, says the Midrash, the remaining third was so high that if one were to stand on the top and look down, even the tallest tree would appear like a butterfly from that point of view!

... 5000 ... 700 ... and 56 ... Verse 5000 ... 700 ... and 57 ...

Now that's high! In fact, it is so high that the American troops who fought against Iraq in 1990 should have stumbled over it on their way in and on their way out. At the very least, it should be a major tourist attraction to this very day! "So, why don't I know about this tower?" you may be asking yourself.

The answer is, the explanation of Rabbi Nissan Alpert. Rav Alpert explained the Midrash as follows: G-d dealt with the three different philosophies in three different ways.

The first philosophy, explains Rav Alpert, was the one about going to war against G-d, and it was completely eliminated. After all, when was the last time anyone was reckless enough to challenge G-d at anything? (True, the Titanic did fly a banner that read: A ship that even G-d can't sink! However, they didn't mean to actually challenge G-d ...)

No, today people don't go to war against G-d, they go to war (and murder innocent people) in the NAME of G-d. "Here," they say, "I'm going to murder these innocent people on your behalf G-d, so don't take it personally." You have to admit, it is a more sophisticated approach than the one the people of the tower used.

The second philosophy, of creating a new world order? Says Rav Alpert, that one comes-and-goes. There are times when man becomes inspired and ambitious enough to try to unify the world around one central point and philosophy, and then there are times when every nation just goes off on its own. That philosophy remains partly "submerged," partly "visible" throughout the history of the world.

However, said Rav Alpert, the philosophy of minimizing the hand of G-d in daily life to make life appear random? That, said Rav Alpert (and soceity concurs), is alive, well, and standing tall. In fact, if you "look" at the world and history through this philosophy's "eyes," then even the biggest miracle seems like a mere "butterfly" from that vantage point! Disasters? Divine Retribution? Nope--just a leaky "faucet" ... Here, we can fix that ...

But we don't want to fix ourselves ...

Verse ... 5000 ... 700 ... and 58 ...

Now, I am not a computer expert, and my opinion about Y2K, from a technical standpoint, is amateurish at best. Maybe the fear about a domino-effect computer-chip problem is a lot of hype (one Y2K-worried site also supports the right to own fire arms ... Hmmmmm). On the other hand, maybe the picture is not as rosy as the government makes it seem. (Can they really fix EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE in time? Besides, presidents and governments do lie, you know, when they deem it in the public's best interest to do so.)

However, from a Torah, philosophical outlook, I am impressed by the phenomenon, and somewhat equipped to ask, "I wonder what the message is in all of this?"

After all, the banks (read: depositors and investors) alone will have spent over three billion dollars to solve the problem of two zeroes--that's right, two zeroes. How humbling. And who knows how much the governments (read: taxpayers) will have spent in the end?! Whatever the truth about Y2K may be, it certainly has become a major focus in the eyes of twentieth century man as we put the wrapper on this Western millennium.

"It is from G-d, that which is wondrous in our eyes." (Tehillim 118:23)

Verse 5000 ... 700 ... and 59 ...

And, then, I reached the 5,760th verse ... in this week's parshah of all places ... in the first week of the new year. You know, the posuk (verse) that corresponds to the 5,760th year from creation, which, in turn, corresponds to the 2,000 year according to the Western calendar. The verse reads:

... When the Most High divided up the sons of man, and gave them each their inheritance, He made many distinct peoples, corresponding to the number of the Children of Israel. (Devarim 32:8)

Comments Rashi:

"When the Most High divided up the sons of man ... That is, when He dispersed the generation of the Dispersion ..." (Rashi)

That is, the generation of the Tower of Bavel--the 5,760th posuk is talking about the generation that built the Tower of Bavel, whose greatest technological asset was a single language, and whose drive was to control "nature" and to minimize Divine Providence, and whose technological asset turned out to be their spiritual disadvantage.

What a coincidence, no?

I guess it depends upon which of the three philosophies one uses to build his or her "tower." THAT, is a matter of free-choice. And THAT, is why G-d left the final third of the tower standing until this very day.

Oh, and, incidentally, the 5,761st verse?

However, G-d has His own people-Ya'akov is His inheritance.


SHABBOS DAY:

For, it [Torah] is not an empty thing for you, but it is your life, and it is this that will lengthen your days on the earth which you are passing over the Jordan to inherit. (Devarim 32:47)

"It is not an empty thing for you ... There is not one 'empty' word in the Torah that, if properly expounded, does not bring reward. For example, the rabbis have said [regarding the verses], 'The sister of Lotan was Timna ...' (Bereishis 36: 22), and, 'Timna was a concubine [to Eliphaz, Eisav's son] ...' (Bereishis 36:12) ... [Why is this stated?] Because she [Timna] said, 'I am not fitting to be his [Eliphaz's] wife, would it be that I could be his concubine! ..." (Rashi)

And why was Timna so impressed, asks Rashi? Because Eliphaz, as evil as he himself was, was the great-grandson of Avraham Avinu, and people in those days were driven to be part of that illustrious family!

And all of this was learned out from a few extra words that, on the surface, seemed mere historical fact.

What Rashi doesn't add, but the Talmud points out, is that this very union of Eliphaz and Timna produced a son, a very dangerous son, one that even G-d has sworn to be at war with throughout the generations (Shemos 17:14): Amalek. Perhaps Rashi's message has a deeper meaning, yet.

It has been asked of a great rabbi here in Jerusalem as to why Moshiach should come in our generation. After all, the questioner reasoned, we do not suffer physically as we have in the past. Quite the contrary! The life of the Jew today, thank G-d, is probably the easiest of all recent generations! So why, the student asked, would we warrant Moshiach when previous generations, who desperately needed Moshiach, did not merit to be saved by him?

The Rav's answer was unexpected: Because Torah's honor is at an all-time historical low.

What the rabbi meant was, that, in today's Jewish world, Torah is not held in as great esteem as it was in previous generations. Yes, people learn Torah and expound it. However, the inherent appreciation of every word, syllable, and letter of Torah has weakened with each passing generation. Without this appreciation, Torah becomes somewhat of a cerebral experience, and may miss the person's heart. And, as the Talmud states:

Whether a little or a lot--just as long as the heart is directed towards Heaven. (Menachos 110a)

Not only does the heart not have the chance to feel the impact of Torah, but Torah devoid of the heart results in a kind of double-standard, where one's actions are inconsistent with what the mind knows, or ought to know is true from Torah. This is the sowing of the seeds of doubt in the heart of the Jew.

The Talmud says that, the generation right before Moshiach comes will have the "face of a dog" (Sanhedrin 97a). A dog can have a positive connotation in Judaism, but, in most cases, and certainly within the context of this Talmudic discussion, it is a negative one.

At the end of Parashas Beshallach, Rashi indicates that the dog even symbolizes Amalek. If so, then maybe the Talmud means:

Before Moshiach, the generation will have the face of Amalek!

The "face of Amalek"? What kind of face is that?!

As we have discussed on so many occasions before, Amalek epitomizes doubt more than anything else in creation, specifically doubt in G-d and Torah ... a doubt that results in losing appreciation of Torah, and its depth. Whether Rashi was hinting at this point or not is hard to know. However, it remains to be true nonetheless, and an important idea to integrate at a time in history when so many, Rachmanah L'itzlan (Heaven help us), are prepared to "throw" Torah to the dogs.


SEUDAH SHLISHI:

For, it [Torah] is not an empty thing for you, but it is your life, and it is this that will lengthen your days on the earth which you are passing over the Jordan to inherit. (Devarim 32:47)

"It is not an empty thing for you ... There is not one 'empty' word in the Torah that, if properly expounded, does not bring reward. For example, the rabbis have said [regarding the verses], 'The sister of Lotan was Timna ...' (Bereishis 36: 22), and, 'Timna was a concubine [to Eliphaz, Eisav's son] ...' (Bereishis 36:12) ... [Why is this stated?] Because she [Timna] said, 'I am not fitting to be his [Eliphaz's] wife, would it be that I could be his concubine! ..." (Rashi)

And why was Timna so impressed, asks Rashi? Because Eliphaz, as evil as he himself was, was the great-grandson of Avraham Avinu, and people in those days were driven to be part of that illustrious family!

And all of this was learned out from a few extra words that, on the surface, seemed mere historical fact.

What Rashi doesn't add, but the Talmud points out, is that this very union of Eliphaz and Timna produced a son, a very dangerous son, one that even G-d has sworn to be at war with throughout the generations (Shemos 17:14): Amalek. Perhaps Rashi's message has a deeper meaning, yet.

It has been asked of a great rabbi here in Jerusalem as to why Moshiach should come in our generation. After all, the questioner reasoned, we do not suffer physically as we have in the past. Quite the contrary! The life of the Jew today, thank G-d, is probably the easiest of all recent generations! So why, the student asked, would we warrant Moshiach when previous generations, who desperately needed Moshiach, did not merit to be saved by him?

The Rav's answer was unexpected: Because Torah's honor is at an all-time historical low.

What the rabbi meant was, that, in today's Jewish world, Torah is not held in as great esteem as it was in previous generations. Yes, people learn Torah and expound it. However, the inherent appreciation of every word, syllable, and letter of Torah has weakened with each passing generation. Without this appreciation, Torah becomes somewhat of a cerebral experience, and may miss the person's heart. And, as the Talmud states:

Whether a little or a lot--just as long as the heart is directed towards Heaven. (Menachos 110a)

Not only does the heart not have the chance to feel the impact of Torah, but Torah devoid of the heart results in a kind of double-standard, where one's actions are inconsistent with what the mind knows, or ought to know is true from Torah. This is the sowing of the seeds of doubt in the heart of the Jew.

The Talmud says that, the generation right before Moshiach comes will have the "face of a dog" (Sanhedrin 97a). A dog can have a positive connotation in Judaism, but, in most cases, and certainly within the context of this Talmudic discussion, it is a negative one.

At the end of Parashas Beshallach, Rashi indicates that the dog even symbolizes Amalek. If so, then maybe the Talmud means:

Before Moshiach, the generation will have the face of Amalek!

The "face of Amalek"? What kind of face is that?!

As we have discussed on so many occasions before, Amalek epitomizes doubt more than anything else in creation, specifically doubt in G-d and Torah ... a doubt that results in losing appreciation of Torah, and its depth. Whether Rashi was hinting at this point or not is hard to know. However, it remains to be true nonetheless, and an important idea to integrate at a time in history when so many, Rachmanah L'itzlan (Heaven help us), are prepared to "throw" Torah to the dogs.


MELAVE MALKAH:

A song of David, as he fled from Avshalom his son. G-d, how many are my tormentors--many rise up against me. The great say regarding my soul, "There is no salvation for him from G-d." Selah! (Tehillim 3:1-3)

This tehillah, which comes at the beginning of Sefer Tehillim, actually describes an event that took place five years before the end of Dovid HaMelech's life. In Dovid HaMelech's sixty-fifth year, his son, Avshalom, staged a rebellion against and usurped the throne from his father.

As to why the reverse order, there are a few explanations. According to the Talmud (Brochos 10a), this tehillah comes to lend credibility to the previous one, which addressed the time of Gog and Magog--the final confrontation of history and precursor Moshiach's arrival. Says the Talmud:

Lest a person ask, "Is it possible that a slave should rise up against his master [in the time of Gog and Magog?" one will be able to answer, "Is it not harder to imagine a son rising up against a father?"

The Yalkut Shemoni's answer is even more fascinating. According to this Midrash, the changed order of Tehillim is something consistent with all of Torah--which also changes the order of parshios. Why? Well, on a pshat level, because, Torah is primarily a book about moral behavior, and historical accuracy will be pushed aside when it suits this higher purpose of Torah.

However, according to the Yalkut, there is another, deeper reason. We have had many discussions before regarding this idea, and I go into a lot more detail about this in "The Big Picture." The Torah is far more than a legal work with a lot of stories; according to the Midrash, Torah is the "blueprint" for creation, and the Midrash is not exaggerating.

In fact, says the Yalkut Shimoni, if the Torah were presented in its true order--and the same is true about Tehillim as well--then one could much more easily figure out Kabbalistic secrets, such as how to make a golem (a human-like being that lacks a soul). Kabbalistic creations, which are usually only possible through Kabbalah and by seasoned Kabbalists, would become possible to other, unworthy people as well. The Torah, in its proper order, reveals all of this.

Obviously, there is much more to say about this idea. However, this serves as a nice conclusion regarding Torah's holiness and importance, especially in advance of Simchas Torah.

Have a great Shabbos, and a holy Yom Kippur,
Pinchas Winston



 






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