Illuminations #84, Av 5776, Parshat Va’etchanan

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Illuminations #84, Av 5776, Parshat Va’etchanan

Torah Gems

The very first time Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe, He commanded him to tell Bnei Yisrael that he has been sent by Hashem to redeem them. “What should I tell them when they ask me Your name?” Moshe asked. Hashem responded, “I shall be as I shall be” (Shemos 3:14).

Ramban’s explanation sheds some light on this puzzling exchange. Moshe was asking for the Name of Hashem that would unequivocally convey to Bnie Yisrael Hashem’s existence and providence. Hashem responded that there is absolutely no reason why Bnei Yisrael should inquire as to His name. The clearest proof of His existence is the fact that “I shall be” with them in their times of suffering; they simply have to call out and I will answer them. There is no need for any other evidence.

The most obvious proof of the existence of our Creator is the fact that whenever Klal Yisrael daven to Hashem, He answers them. This idea is found in this week’s parsha: “For which is a great nation that has God close to it as Hashem, our God, whenever we call out to Him?”

Parsha Pearls

The Sifri states that one should bring all creatures to love Hashem. Just as a person who loves his friend praises him effusively and wants others to love him, so, too, a person who loves Hashem will want all other creatures, including the yetzer hara, to love Hashem as well. When Chazal say, “You are to love Hashem your God, with all your heart,” your whole heart means that even the yetzer hara should join you in the love of Hashem. It should become your partner in serving Him.

Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch takes a unique and very interesting approach to the whole matter of the yetzer hara. He explains that the yetzer hara is at the door to each person’s heart, resting peacefully. It does not threaten to strike unless he is aroused. The yetzer hara actually desires a peaceful relationship with man. This is similar to the relationship between Hashem and Klal Yisrael described in Shir Hashirim: “I am my Beloved’s and I desire Him.” In fact, the yetzer hara yearns to be mastered by man and reined in by man’s discretion. However, if a person arouses the yetzer hara from its peaceful slumber, provoking it, then it becomes the greatest tyrant, who lies in ambush and attempts to destroy him.

Glimpses of Greatness

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman recalled that as a young student he was once in the midst of a conversation with Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel, the Rosh Yeshiva of Slobodka, when his son Rabbi Lazer Yudel Finkel entered. Although Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel had not seen his son for several years, he barely looked at him and continued his discussion with his student until it was complete. He then turned to his son and greeted him with a warm embrace. Later, his wife asked, “Why did you ignore Yudel?” He answered, “Because I was talking to Yaakov Yitchok!” “But Lazer is your son!” she protested. “So is Yaakov Yitzchok my son,” he replied.


Halacha Weekly

Q. What Are The Obligations Involved In Comforting Mourners?

A. “Nachamu, Nachamu … ( Comfort, Comfort My people says your G-d.”(Isaiah 40:1) It is a very great mitzvah to fulfill the commandment of Nichum Avelim (comforting Mourners). There are those of the opinion that it is a mitzvah from the Torah, and there are those who say it is a mitzvah D’Rabanan (from the Rabbis).

If one did not have  a chance to do Nichum Avelim during the seven days of the person’s mourning, he/she can still say the verse, “G-d should comfort you among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim” even after the period of seven days, or even after the period of 30 days, and even up to 12 months, if the individual is mourning for their parents.

According to Ashkenazic custom, one should try not to do Nichum Avelim on Shabbat. However Sephardic custom permits one to comfort even on Shabbat as on the rest of the weekdays.

One should not start speaking to the mourner until they first speak to them. However, if it is clear that the mourner does not know this halalcha, or if they are shy to commence speaking, then one is permitted to speak to them first.

If one could not personally visit the mourner to comfort them, then one may do so by telephone, email, or fax in order to fulfill the mitzvah.

It is better not to bring food and packages of food to the mourner’s house.  Also, one is not permitted to say Shalom to a mourner, but can shake their hand, since it is a form of giving a bracha or nechama (comforting).