Illuminations #85, Av 5776, Parshat Eikev

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Illuminations #85, Av 5776, Parshat Eikev

Torah Gems

When people are faced with difficult yissurim, sometimes they have questions about why they are suffering this way. They ask, “why me? I am trying to be good. Why am I enduring these yissurim? There are people who don’t behave properly and they seem to be prospering and having a good time!” Rav Yechezkel Levinstein, zt”l, expressed that this question actually, unfortunately, borders on kefirah, as this is the age-old question of tzaddik vera lo, rasha vetov lo. In our Parshah the Torah reveals to us the reason for yissurim (Devarim 8:5): “You should know in your heart that just as a father will chastise his son, so does Hashem, your God, chastise you!” When we have yissurim we can know that Hashem cares about us and wants more from us, just as a father wants his son to grow as much as possible. The passuk in Mishlei (3:12) says, “For Hashem chastises the ones He loves.” Dovid Hamelech proclaims, “Praiseworthy is the man whom Hashem disciplines” (Tehillim 94:12)!” It might not seem easy to feel this. We don’t ask for yissurim, but if we endure them, we can actually be thankful to Hashem Yisbarach for giving them to us, for yissurim atone for our aveirot and bring us closer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. There is a remarkable Midrash (Pesikta Rabbasi – Acharei Mos 3), which states that had Iyov not complained about his yissurim (and he had a lot to complain about), then, at the beginning of Shemoneh Esrei when we mention the avos, we would have included him as well: Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchak, Elokei Yaakov and Elokei Iyov! Mindboggling! Even though he was not one of our forefathers, he would still have been in all our tefillos every day had he not complained about his yissurim! We can try to accept our yissurim in the right way, by keeping in mind that Hashem Yisbarach, our Father, Who truly loves us, and wants what is best for us, sometimes gives us things that we don’t want just as any father may punish his child for the child’s own good. It is all for our genuine benefit! 

Parsha Pearls

The mefarshim point out that the first passuk in our parshah begins in the plural, vehaya eikev tishme’un, yet concludes with the singular, veshamar Hashem Elokechah lecha… The sefer Beit Shmuel explains why there is this difference, by quoting the teaching of the Arizal: We know that it is incumbent upon every Jew to fulfill all of the 613 mitzvot De’oraytah, and all of the mitzvot Derabbanan. However, it is impossible for any one person to fulfill all of these mitzvot, since some of them pertain to kohanim, some to leviim, and so on. So, there are two basic possibilities for each neshamah to fulfill all these mitzvot. One way is to come back to this world time and time again as a gilgul until they are all fulfilled. The other way, which has more potential for fulfillment, is simpler, more productive and much less time consuming… can be accomplished with achdut – unity between all Jews. The same way when a person puts tefillin on his arm and head it is considered as though his whole body performed the mitzvah, not just his head and arm, because his whole body is one unit, likewise, if we will try to be one unit, then when the kohen is doing his mitzvah, it is as if we – who am part of his unit – have also performed it. The same when the levi does his mitzvot pertaining to leviim, and so on. When we have achdus, in essence we are all considered one unit! Besides fulfilling the mitzvah of ve’ahavta lerai’acha kamocha, we will also be performing many, many mitzvos that would have been impossible for us to have fulfilled on our own! Therefore, the plural tishme’un ushmartem va’asisem osam refers to fulfilling and performing all the mitzvot together with unity. Then, by doing so, even though we have not personally fulfilled each of these mitzvot, nevertheless, veshamar Hashem Elokechah lecha – Hashem will guard and watch over each and every individual as if we had.

Glimpses of Greatness

When talmidim asked their rebbe what zechus he had that he received his longevity, we see in Chazal several examples of the answers they gave (Megillah 27b): Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai said it was due to his never calling a friend by a nickname, and he was always scrupulous to make kiddush on wine. Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua said that he never used a beis haknesset as a shortcut, never walked behind the talmidim when they were sitting on the ground, which would have seemed as if he was walking on top of them, and he always made a berachah when he, as a kohen, would bless the congregation with bircas kohanim. Rabbi Preida said that he was always the first one to enter the beis midrash, and he never made a berachah to begin eating if there was a kohen present [for the kohen is given this precedence]. Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakaneh said that he never in any way had any honor or benefit from his friends disgrace; every night before he went to sleep he would always ask Hashem to forgive anyone who caused him any tzar; and he would forego when it came to money matters. The common denominator of all these holy tana’im is that they all attributed their longevity to their mitzvah performance, each one with “his mitzvah” (or mitzvot).


Halacha Weekly

Q. When Does One Have To Wash One’s Hands After A Burial?
A. A person who touches a dead body or goes to the cemetery and comes within four amot (7 feet) of a grave is required to wash Netilat Yadaim. If one participates in the burial of a dead person, but was not within four amot of the dead person, or they were not in the same house as the dead person, then they do not have to do Netilat Yadaim.
It is sufficient to wash one’s hands only once, but some people are stringent regarding this and wash three times.  The custom is not to enter a house until one washes one’s hands.
It is brought down in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, that this halacha of not entering a place until one’s hands are washed only applies in a private home but not a public place. Entering a public place is permitted before washing one’s hands.
The custom is that one should not take the cup used for Netilat Yadaim from another person, rather they should put it down and the next person should pick it up from the floor.  The custom is that the Netilat Yadaim cup should be placed upside down and left there until the next person picks it up.
There is an Ashkenazic custom not to dry the hands after washing. Sephardim, however, dry their hands afterwards. Even according to those who hold not to dry their hands, if the weather is cold outside, then they, too, should dry their hands. Another custom is that the towel used to dry the hands should not be used for anything else until it is laundered. Therefore, it is better to use disposable paper towels.
The reason for Netilat Yadaim is that the Torah requires that one made impure by touching a corpse go to the mikveh. Today we do not do this, so at the very least we show that through Netilat Yadaim, we are commemorating what is written in the Torah.