Vayelech 5776

Friday, September 18, 2015

The parsha discusses the mitzvah of "hakhel." During Succos of the year after Shemittah, Bnei Yisroel is required to gather at the Mikdash for a public reading of Sefer Devarim. This mitzvah includes bringing small children and babies. Why? They lack the capacity to understand and comprehend mitzvos. What is the purpose of bringing them? Rashi quotes the Gemara from Chagigah (3a) saying that it is in order to give s'char (reward) to those who brought them. But what does that really mean? Why does the Gemara seemingly go out of its way to mention an extra amount of s'char for the parents?
My rebbe, R' Yehuda Shmulewitz, explains that the Gemara is teaching the importance of one's environment. A person's surroundings have such an effect on a person, even from an early age. Bringing children to the Mikdash to hear the Torah will expose them to a healthy and wonderful environment, one that they will hopefully continue to live in as they grow. They will want to continue living in a Torah-filled life.
The Gemara in Chagigah also expresses R' Yehoshua's reaction to hearing such a statement. He calls the vort a "precious gem." Why did he find it so moving? When R' Yehoshua was a baby, his mother would bring him to the beis midrash to be among talmidei chachamim. He eventually became one of the main disciples of R' Yochanan ben Zakkai. R' Yehoshua was pleased when he heard how much s'char his mother got from putting him in the right environment.

Nitzavim 5775

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The posuk (29:18) says that when a person hears the words of the rebuke, he'll say to himself that he'll be alright; "peace will be with me," he says. Why would a person do this? Wouldn't the right reaction be fear? The Yonasan ben Uziel translates this posuk along the lines of "yeiush", giving up. A person will hear the rebuke and will lose hope in himself. After he hears about all the horrible things that would happen to him, he'd think that there's nothing he can do about it and continue living life sinfully; he'll keep on doing aveiros without regret
That's where teshuvah comes in. The opportunity to do teshuvah removes all sense of giving up. It can give a person a fresh start in life despite all that he has done.

Ki Tavo 5775

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The parsha opens up with the mitzvah of Bikkurim, to bring your first fruits as a gift to the Mikdash. When a person brings the basket of fruit, he recites a paragraph about being freed from Egypt by Hashem and his gratitude towards Him. The Abarbanel explains that there are four purposes for this mitzvah:
1) In order to make a person's heart humble. A person cherishes his first produce of the year and cannot wait to eat them. The Torah then commands him to control his urges and to separate them as Bikkurim.
2) In order that a person will not be ungrateful towards Hashem Who gave him this produce. It "forces" a person to recognize the source and be thankful.
3) Reciting the paragraph reminds a person of his past hardships in his time of success. Many people forget the hard times when everything is going well for him.
4) It strengthens a person's humility and lowliness when he puts the basket on his shoulders and when he speaks about how tough it was for his ancestors back in Egypt

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