Parashat Eikev 5781 – When Trivial Means Huge

The Parasha begins by stating; “And when you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, Hashem your God will maintain faithfully for you the covenant and the kindness He made on oath with your fathers” [Devarim 12:7]. It is interesting to note, that when ordering certain Mitzvos, at times the Torah uses the language “Hashem your God” like here, and other times it states just “Hashem”. Since the Torah is the Godly intelligence that even surpasses the angels, everything was methodically calculated, why is the purpose of this change in language? The Baal Haturim explains that the Pasuk refers to the laws mentioned in the previous Parasha, which are the 10 commandments. Our Parasha is a continuation of last week’s which ended with the words “to accomplish them today”, meaning in this world we must perform the Mitzvos and in the world to come reap the reward. Rashi points that the previous Parasha mentioned only the important Mitzvos, but the trivial ones that people trample over as they seem unimportant, are ordered in our Parasha. They are the ones that will ultimately bring the promised salvation. This seems totally illogical, if a small Mitzva can bring the salvation even more so a big one! At least this is the logic in our world, and therefore the mindset of a person is to pick and chose which Mitzva to perform. Besides, due to time constraint it is impossible to chase all the Mitzvos coming our way, otherwise it will be impossible to find time to work and have a peaceful moment. This seems a rational explanation and one can feel good about his decision. But, if it’s so, why are the very large majority of the people feeling they are in a dark tunnel where they suffocate? Why is there no true moments of calm and joy in their life? The Talmud [Sanhedrin 98a] recounts; That Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi found Eliyah the prophet standing at the entrance of the cave of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai … He asked Eliyah: When will the Messiah come? Eliyah replied: Go ask him yourself. Rabbi Yehoshua then asked: And where is he? “At the entrance of the city of Rome” said Eliyah. “And how will I recognize him?” asked the Rabbi, “He sits among the poor and sick. All untie all their bandages and retie them all at once, but the Messiah unties only one bandage at a time, as he may be called upon to bring the redemption at any moment. With these instructions Rabbi Yehoshua went to the Messiah and said; “Greetings to you, my rabbi and my teacher”. The Messiah replied: Greetings to you, Son of Levite. Rabbi Yehoshua asked him: When will the Master come? The Messiah replied: “Today”. Sometime later, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi met Eliyah who asked him “What did the Messiah say to you?” He replied: He greeted me “Shalom Son of Levite”. Eliyah explained that since he greeted you using your father’s name, it is to assure you that your father and you will deserve the World-to-Come. Rabbi Yehoshua complained the Messiah lied to him, as he told me he would come that day but failed to keep his word. Eliyah when the Messiah replied “Today” it was only a reference to the Verse “Today, if you will listen to His voice” [Psalms 95:7]. This story seems ludicrous; Here we have a Rabbi worthy to see and to talk to the Prophet Eliyah, worthy of meeting the Messiah and talking to him, who needs assurance that he deserves the world to come? Indeed, holiness and the practice of “important” Mitzvos are not a guarantee to deserve the Olam Haba. Only, through Mitzvos that seem inconsequential will one deserve to open the gates of the Olam Haba. They are the proof of true-love one has for Hashem. The Olam Haba is only reserved for those who love Hashem, not for those who practice Mitzvos for self-serving purposes. The Zohar teaches us that one’s intellect is formed by two antagonizing forces, Moshe the Holy Shepherd and Bilam the wicked sorcerer. Moshe constantly advise the person to follow Hashem’s Torah, while Bilam continually drags the person “to enjoy life”. Both voices provide very rational logic to their point, so how are we supposed to decide to which to listen to? Our Parasha provides the answer, the one that entice us to perform the seemingly inconsequential Mitzvos is the voice of Moshe, and one should blindly follow its advice. The other one that tells you in the morning that it is ok to miss going to Shul is the one of Bilam. Moshe leads to calm and serenity while Bilam leads to the dark tunnel where the daily lot is fear and anxiety. The Prophet Malachi says: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, and let there be food in My House, and thus put Me to the test—said the LORD of Hosts. I will surely open the floodgates of the sky for you and pour down unlimited blessings on you” [3:10]. The Hebrew translation for “Unlimited blessing” is “י ד לי ב עד ברכה “the acronym upon which depends the blessing is “ עבד “being a servant, just like our master Moshe, that Hashem testifies “Moshe the servant of Hashem died there” [Devarim 34:5]. One state of mind is critical to define his destination. Now we can address the reason of the different languages used: When a Mitzva is ordered stating “Hashem your LORD”, it is a warning that this is a critical Mitzva that would either send the person to calm and serenity with all his needs will be cared for or send the person to the worrisome tunnel where he will struggle to meet his basic needs. The proof being “ ך”אלהי ה”יהו “amounts to “92”, the exact same numerical value as “ד ח פ] “fear], as well as “ה יע ז] “sweat], a reminiscence of Adam’s curse after the sin. Now, it becomes clear that with the performance of “trivial” Mitzvos one is not included in Adam’s curse! Here’s our weekly story to illustrate our point: Two simple tailors worked as partners in Vilna. They weren’t making much money in the large city, as there were already many established and well-known tailors around. They decided to visit the surrounding villages to offer their services. Indeed, it turned to be a wise decision and started to ake a decent income. In one town they visited, they saw that the Jewish village manager was distraught. He explained that the the local landowner, would soon be holding a wedding, and had asked the manager to bring the best Jewish tailors to design a dress for his daughter. However, nothing seemed to satisfy the nobleman, and he threatened to expel the Jews from his properties. The tailors said, “Why don’t we offer our services to the nobleman?” “Well,” the manager warily replied, “you aren’t acquainted with high fashion clothing.” “True,” they replied, “but the nobleman has been so far dismissing the high fashion, so maybe he’ll appreciate our simpler style.” The manager agreed to give it a shot. The nobleman asked for a sample dress, and after seeing what they had created, he was thrilled. He contracted them to tailor the wedding clothing for his entire family. Once, the job was completed, they walked away with a hefty sum of money. They also felt good that they had saved the livelihood of the the Jewish people of the village. When they were about to leave town, the nobleman’s wife spoke to her husband. “Look,” she said. “We see how these Jews care so much about their co-religionists. Perhaps we should tell them about our Jewish prisoner who could not pay the rent for his inn and is still languishing in prison. Maybe these tailors would care enough to pay off his debt and free him.” The Nobleman agreed with his wife suggestion. She informed the Jewish tailors who asked the amount owed. “300 hundred rubbles” she replied. One tailor said that this was too steep a price to pay. The other, however, said, “How can I just walk away from another Jew’s plight?” He told his partner: “Let us split up our and give me my share.” It turned out that each was left with precisely the amount needed—300 rubles. The generous tailor immediately gave the money to the nobleman’s wife, and said, “Let the prisoner go free.” Both tailors returned to Vilna. The one who kept his money was able to establish a business and to feed honorably his family. The other was empty-handed, with no solution to earn money to feed his family. He fell into a deep depression, and had to resort to collect donations. He became a beggar, and it seemed to the local population that he had lost his mind. Very desperate one day, he directly approached a wealthy man, asking him to spare a few coins. The wealthy man asked what he would receive in return, and the beggar answered, “I will pray for you.” The wealthy man chuckled, and said: “What will your prayer do for me? But here’s a few coins either way.” The wealthy man went on with his business meetings that day and was unusually successful. He thought that perhaps it had something to do with the beggar’s blessing. So, the next time he had an important business meeting, he made a point to pass by the beggar again. After giving him a few coins, he asked for a blessing. Again, he was fabulously successful with his business affairs. This went on for quite some time, until one day, while gathered with family, they asked what the secret to his newfound success was. He told them about the beggar’s blessings he got before every venture, and how they were always fulfilled. Before long, the erstwhile tailor had a large following of people who would seek his blessings, which consistently came true. A group of the Baal Shem Tov’s disciples were passing through town and heard the peculiar story of the beggar whose blessings were always fulfilled. They told their master about it, and he said that this must be a special man, with an especially lofty soul. “Bring him to me,” he said. “I’d like to speak with him.” The Baal Shem Tov questioned him, asking what special deeds he had done. The beggar said that he really did not know of any exceptional heroics he could claim. “I’m just a simple and unlearned man,” he said. The Baal Shem Tov had the man tell his entire life story. When he reached the part where he parted with 300 rubles to save a man from prison, the Baal Shem Tov exclaimed, “Aha! This is it! This eminent and selfless action of yours is what causes your blessings to come true.” Hearing about his selfless act, and realizing the uniqueness of such a Mitzva performed full heartedly, the Baal Shem Tov, healed the tailor and taught him Torah. Eventually, he became an accomplished scholar and a great tzaddik.

By Rabbi Shimon Fridmann – Din Torah Of North Miami Beach

305.399.0393 * [email protected]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email