Vaeschanan 5773 – the Power of Torah

I WOULD LIKE TO BEGIN THIS WEEK’S DIVREI SIMCHA BY THANKING REB SAMMY (SIMCHA) TAMIR. Seven years ago, Reb Sammy asked me to write a D’var Torah for his website, and with Parshas Vaeschanan (this week’s parsha) I began. Now, seven years later, I still have the honor of writing a D’var Torah for his excellent website. May Reb Sammy always be successful in all he does and may his life be full of SIMCHA!

He told you His covenant which He commanded you to fulfill – the Ten Statements – and He wrote them on two tablets of stone (Devarim 4:13)

In this week’s parsha, we have the repetition of the giving of the Aseres HaDibros, which is commonly translated as the Ten Commandments. This is a bad translation though. First of all, HaDibros means ‘the words’ or ‘the statements’. Second, the Aseres HaDibros has more than ten commandments. There are actually fourteen mitzvos within the Aseres HaDibros. Not only that, but some of the Sages point out that all of the 613 mitzvos can be found in the Aseres HaDibros – which is the total number of mitzvos in the Torah. Therefore, this week, I would like to discuss the power of Torah.

In Ethics From Sinai, Rabbi Bunim makes an interesting observation on the second mishna in Pirkei Avos. The mishna states that the world stands on three things: Torah, prayer, and doing deeds of chesed. The three items are in this order for a specific reason: Torah is the primary one.

Our Sages teach us that each of our three Forefathers excelled in one of these three traits. Avraham excelled in doing deeds of chesed, Yitzchak excelled in prayer, and Yaakov excelled in Torah. Rabbi Bunim points out that the archenemy of the Jews, Esav, attacked Yaakov, but he did not bother Avraham or Yitzchak… why? Esav was scared of the Jewish nation being formed, so why didn’t he attack it immediately? The reason is because Esav was not bothered with the deeds of chesed or prayer by themselves. Without Torah, these two traits were not anything for Esav or the non-Jews to feel threatened by.

Let’s explain. Of course deeds of chesed are a primary part of Judaism, but without Torah, they can be easily done in the wrong way. A person can give millions of dollars to colleges or zoos. These might be nice places (personally, I love visiting the zoo), but a person does not normally grow spiritually in these places. Although Avraham’s chesed was done with the right intentions, if the only thing he passed along was this trait, the Jewish religion would not be born.

The same with prayer. Prayer is a pillar but it can go in the wrong direction without Torah. Ever watch the end of a really close football game? The players on the sidelines are praying. People say that Las Vegas is a very spiritual place because thousands of people are praying as they step up to the gambling tables. These prayers are for the wrong things though. I hate to tell you this but there are many, many more important things than winning a football game or making millions of dollars. So even though Yitzchak’s prayers were pure, the future generations might not have the same intention when they pray. Judaism could not really be born yet.

With Torah, though, came spirituality. Torah gave focus. Torah made this religion. Without Torah, the Jewish nation wouldn’t be born. Even though Avraham and Yitzchak were very holy men, their future generations would not have kept up the same spirituality. When Yaakov excelled in Torah and passed this to his children then Esav was scared because he saw the Jewish nation could be born.

And Esav was correct… the Jewish nation was born. Avraham had Yishmael. Yitzchak had Esav. But Yaakov had 12 wonderful gems which passed the Torah to the next generation. Yaakov began the Jewish nation and is the reason we are still here. It is only because of the Torah that the Jews have survived through all of the generations.

Good Shabbos!
please send any comments or questions to: [email protected]
to see previous Divrei Simcha on the Parsha, please go to OR > Torah Study

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