Sunday, July 29, 2007

Eikev, Devorim 10:13. What Does Hashem Ask? Only That You Fear Him. Mah Hashem Elokechoa shoeil mei’imach ki im le’yir’ah Osso.

The Gemora in Brochos 33b asks, what does the passuk mean to say “All Hashem asks....” Is the attainment of the fear of God a little thing? The Gemora answers that from Moshe Rabbeinu’s perspective, this was, indeed, a minor request. This answer is difficult to understand; Moshe was our leader, and he should have understood that his people were not like him. But the truth is, the Gemora's question is even harder to understand than the Gemora's answer, as Reb Eliahu Lopian points out.

Rav Lopian, in Lev Eliahu, asks, why does the Gemora only ask about Yiras Shomayim? Yiras Shamayim is only the first of a long list of requirements in this passuk! “Laleches bichal derachav”, to walk in all His ways, which means to be behave in a manner that reflects the traits of God, to be domeh to Hashem in His mercy, etc, mah hu rachum, about which the whole sefer Tomer Dvorah was written, “uleahava oso”, which means to develop a love for Hashem through limud haTorah, “vela’avod...bechal levavcha” which means to convert the evil inclination into a tool that serves God, so that we serve Him with both the yeitzer tov and the yeitzer ra, “uvechol nafshecha”, which includes the mitzva of martyrdom, mesiras nefesh for kiddush Hashem. So, the end of the passuk is a list of requirements which demand every ounce of our strength and every moment of our time. So why does the Gemora ignore them all and simply ask about the fact that the Torah seems to minimize the difficulty of developing Yiras Shomayim?

Reb Eliah answers that once a person is a true Yorei Shomayim, all these other things follow naturally. So the real point of the passuk is that Hashem asks us to learn to be yerei’ei shomayim, which will lead to our developing all these other important qualities. In fact, the words of the passuk show this pshat to be correct. So the possuk is saying, all Hashem asks is that you strive toward yir’ah. If you do that, all these other things will follow. On that the Gemora asks, although all you have to do is strive towards yir’ah, that itself is an extremely difficult task.

When I made the second Siyum haShas for my shiur at my house in August ‘01, I gave an example of this. What baalabusteh would think that it makes sense to arrange a siyum for 60 people the night before the siyum? I had taken my boys on a Charter fishing trip, and we walked in at night with 50 pounds of half-cleaned just-caught fish. My wife said, Perfect. We are going to make a grand siyum tomorrow. Period! So at 9:30 that night, we got on the phone and start calling people. Then we had to move the furniture out of the living room and dining room. But that was that, and boruch Hashem it worked out beautifully— the fish was the best I ever tasted, moist and fresh and full of flavor (when guests began arriving at six, I was still out back scaling the last of the fish and rinsing them with the garden hose, and then cutting them into pieces, so it was served right out of the oven), to say nothing of the zucchini kugel and fruit salad that she made from scratch. This is because, as Rav Eliah Lopian says, the threshold issue is yiras shomayim, dedication. Once a person has yiras shomayim, once your mind is in the right place, all the difficulties become less important, the obstacles don’t appear insurmountable.

Yiras Shomayim is like the Annan in the Midbar— that it smoothed all the obstacles in front of the Bnei Yisroel. Ve’halach lefanecha tzidkecha means the same thing. Your own Tzedek is like the Annan, which travels before you and smooths the way.

I don’t like to be the bearer of gloom, but the fact is that Ellul is on the horizon. R’ Schwab here brings a Medrash Shocheir Tov that says that when Dovid Hamelech said in Ledovid Hashem Ori “Achas sho’alti...shivti..., lachzos..., ulevakeir..., ki yitzp’neini...etc., Hashem asked him, “are you asking ‘achas’ or for a whole bunch of things? (My mother likes to say that when she reads Le’dovid, she thinks that it is like someone saying “I’m not asking for much, I’m only asking for everything.”) The Medrash says that Dovid answered, Ribbono shel Olam, I learned how to ask from You-- You, too, said "Mah Hashem sho'eil...." R’ Schwab explains that just as in our parsha the other things flow from the first, Dovid was asking for ‘shivti,’ and that his shivti, his presence in the Beis Hashem, will result in all its natural concommitants. Everything looks different when your frame of reference, your point of view, is that of a person who is sitting in the Beis Hashem, just as everything is different when your frame of mind is Yiras Shamayim. Reb Meir Simcha said of the Rogotchover, he doesn’t have an unusual memory, it’s just that he’s always holding in middle of every sugya you talk to him about: the same can be said of certain askanim and gomlei chassadim– they’re not really so great. They just have this one little thing– their whole lives they feel that they are sitting in the Beis Hashem, so it’s just natural that they do what they do.


  1. A little gavah erev Elul always nice

  2. Anonymous said "A little Gavah erev Ellul is always nice."

    Thank you. I assume you are referring to the Gemora in Sottah 5a.

    But I don't know where in the post I revealed my rotten gavah.

    A. I am anonymous, so even if I were to refer to myself as the Rashkebahag of the internet ve'hagalil, it would be meaningless.

    B. I praised my wife, not me. If it were up to me, I would have frozen the fish and thrown it out erev Pesach. I do admit to being darn lucky in wife choosing.

    C. That I finished Shas twice? That's an undeniable fact, and there are thousands of others who are doing the same now through the Daf Yomi. But I often think the one mitzvah I fulfil in its entirety is "bechol yom yih'yu be'einecho ke'chadoshos," since it looks that way to me.

  3. I don't need to be admonished "Yhyu beinicha", they are "Hadashim"!

  4. From Blackleibel:

    Anonymous said "A little Gavah erev Ellul is always nice."

    These words cry out for an explanation. At first, they seem irrelevant and perhaps ignorant but if Barzilai will cut me some Chassidic license, I shall explain the relevance and correctness of Anonymous' comment.

    We understand that ענוה brings a person to the fear of sin. But there is a type of ענוה that can actually cause a person to sin, where a person feels so low and insignificant that he falls prey to temptation and commits עבירות. The cure for this behavior is the גאות to understand that a person is חלק א’ממעל. And on the other hand, if the גאות brings him to sin, he must remember that he is unworthy and he has no reason להתגאות. So against the יצה”ר both are necessary. A person must have the ability to effectively use either גאות or ענוה, depending upon the situation, in order to achieve יר”ש. The word מה is used in two ways: Sometimes, as here in our פסוק, it can mean something small and in other situations, it can mean something great, מה רבו מעשיך וכו’ but our intention should always be for יר”ש.

    Likewise, the word מאוד connotes expansiveness as in בכל מאדיך but it can also be used to express diminishing such as מאוד מאוד הוי שפל רוח. The idea of בכל מאדיך is to serve ה’ in both ways of מאדיך, whether inשפלות or גדלות to achieve יר”ש and
    אהבת ה’.

  5. Blackleibel, thank you very much. That is an excellent drash on "mah Hashem sho'eil," that 'mah' means both Mah ani, and also mah rabu maasecha. I used this idea from the Alter in the agudas eizov/eitz erez drash, and it fits in beautifully here also.

    In fact, I have to say a drasha in shul on Parshas Re'ei, and I'm going to try to use this, although most people really don't have to do teshuva for too much anivus. No, that's not true: many people do give up on growth at some point, and need to be reminded that they are capable of great achievement.

  6. From Blackleibel:

    A Vort from the Alter? Please. My Vort is based on quality Hungarian Chassidic thought from
    דוד"ז הרה"ג ר' אברהם אליעזר ציטרון זצ"ל,
    האדמו"ר מדאראג

  7. Blackleibel, please see

  8. Blackleibel: Excellent. Thank you.