Illuminations #83, Av 5776, Parshat Devarim

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Illuminations #83, Av 5776, Parshat Devarim

Torah Gems

“And Hashem said to me, ‘Do not fear him (Og) because I have given him over in your hand.’”

Rashi explains that Moshe was scared that Og would merit divine assistance as a reward for informing Avraham that Lot was captured. Indeed Og had merited incredible longevity – a life of 500 years for this very action! For this reason, Hashem had to assure Moshe that there was nothing to fear and Moshe would defeat Og.

Rav Zaidel Epstein points out that Og hadn’t acted out of a sense of altruism. On the contrary, Rashi writes that Og was hoping Avraham would die in battle and he would marry Sarah. It therefore seems strange that this single act, motivated by the basest of human desires, would stand him in good stead that Og would merit to live over 500 years and cause Moshe to be apprehensive about fighting him.

We see from here, says R’ Epstein, the incredible reward in store for his actions in this world. Even if a person acted with ill intentions, if there is some good in his action he will receive tremendous reward. The gemara in Shabbos says that even if there are 999 destructive angels standing to prosecute a person and only one lone angel to his defense it’s likely he’ll be saved. R’ Elazar adds that this is true even if in this lone angel there are 999 points bad and only one part good!

If there is unimaginable reward awaiting a person whose good actions were performed with bad intentions, how much more so if he performed a mitzvah with the right state of mind! Even a slight improvement in our intentions when performing mitzvos can increase the reward exponentially!

Parsha Pearls

“You are today as numerous as the stars…”

The Medrash expounds on this pasuk saying that Moshe Rabeinu said to the Jewish nation, “Today you are compared to the stars, but in the future you will be like Hashem who is compared to fire.”

The Sha’arei Chaim explains that stars are only visible on a clear night. A small cloud or even a minimal of light pollution can obstruct their view completely. Fire, on the other hand, shines bright even through heavy smoke and remains clearly visible.

Moshe Rabeinu was saying to the nation that in their present state the beauty of the Jewish people was only apparent when they were left unmolested to live in tranquility. However, when they were persecuted by the gentiles their light would fade and their divine service would be weakened. Moshe assured them that in the future, however, they’d be likened to fire, whose radiant beauty shines forth in every situation, whose light can’t be diminished.

Glimpses of Greatness

For years the many visitors to R’ Chaim Kanievsky’s home knew they would receive his famous two-word blessing of ‘bracha v’hatzlacha.’ In recent years, due to the sheer volume of people awaiting R’ Chaim’s bracha, the already brief bracha was shortened to a laconic “buha,” an acronym for ‘bracha v’hatzlacha.’ Recently, a young man approached R’ Chaim’s gabai and said that he had come to R’ Chaim to get a blessing for children but did not want the standard blessing of “buha.” The gabai assured him that R’ Chaim’s “buha” was a powerful bracha. Sure enough, when the man met the rav, R’ Chaim Kanievsky pronounced three times: “buha buha buha.” A year later the man’s wife gave birth to triplets!


Halacha Weekly

Q. From what age should children fast on Tisha B’Av?
A. Normally we try to educate our children to get ready for mitzvot, and it is for that reason only that on Yom Kippur we get children to fast at an earlier age: from 12 years for boy, and 11 years old for girls. The reason is to get them ready for fasting all day on Yom Kippur. We also start children of an age less than that age (12 years/11 years) to fast for a few hours of the day to get them ready for fasting all day long.
However, the law is not the same for Tisha B’Av as it is for Yom Kippur. On Tisha b’Av we do not ask children to fast at an earlier age. Rather the age they start to fast is 13 for boys, and 12 for girls. And neither do they have to fast for a few hours during Tisha B’av starting from an earlier age. If the parents feel they are ready to fast then one might ask them not to eat at night only.
If someone was born on the 10th of Av on a year like this year where the fast of Tisha B’Av is pushed to the next day because it falls on Shabbat, the question arises whether  he is obligated to fast or not? Even if it is his birthday when the fast is observed it is the opinion of the majority of poskim he is nevertheless obligated to fast the entire day.