Illuminations #170, Tammuz, 5778, Parshat Devorim

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Illuminations #170, Tammuz, 5778, Parshat Devorim

Torah Gems

In this week’s Parshah, we find Moshe Rabbeinu rebuking Klal Yisroel for the sins they committed in the desert, one of which was not listening to Hashem’s command  against entering a war with the Amorites. Because they did not follow this commandment, they were punished in Seir.  When they cried, Hashem did not heed their tears and they remained in Kedarah for 19 years.

The Netziv has an interesting twist to this seemingly negative event. Although it was decreed that the Jewish people would wander in the dessert for 40 years, Hashem let them remain in one place for an extended period of time. When the Jewish people cried after being punished in Seir, their prayers did not go unanswered. Hashem made the wandering easier by not having to wander from place to place for 19 years.

When a person prays and does not feel answered, he may wonder why his prayers were not answered. Although we do not know Hashem’s ways, we do know that every prayer does have great effect and will get answered. This can be illustrated with a story regarding  Rabbi Aryeh Levine. A heartbroken woman once visited his home to hear words of encouragement from the esteemed rabbi. She asked him what happened to the buckets of tears she had wept – were they for nothing? Rav Aryeh explained that after 120 years she would see the effect her prayers had. She would see how special and valuable each one was. He went on to tell her that she will see that when a harsh decree hovered over the Jewish People, Hashem took one of her tears and annulled the decree. Upon reflection of this story, Rav Pincus adds that sometimes in our own lives we are in serious danger but we do not know about it to be able to pray in advance. It is then that Hashem goes into our storehouse of tears and prayers and pull them out to save us from the bad situation. It is our hope that all our prayers and tears over the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash and the long exile will be enough to bring about the Redemption and the third Beit HaMikdash.

Parsha Pearls

In this week’s Haftarah it says, “My Nation did not contemplate.” One of the major problems in society today is that we do not think. With all the technological advances, who ponders about life, Torah or Hashem? We see however from the prophecy of Yeshaya just how important it is to use the brain, our most powerful weapon in the service of Hashem. The Ramchal tells us the Torah is like a fire and its word are like a coal. A coal, if not fanned, at best will glimmer. If a coal is fanned, it can burst into a strong fire. This is true of Torah. We have the ability to ignore it and we have the ability to work hard to learn it. With much toil a person can ignite the flame inside him. All we need to do is think and get in touch with ourselves. The Yetzer Hara  tries  very hard to keep us busy so that we shouldn’t think about the true values in life. Hashem put us in a world  where we have the free will to do as we wish. However, our mission is to overcome the temptations of the heart using our mind to lead us correctly.

Glimpses of Greatness

A man came to the Chafetz Chaim seeking a blessing that his lottery ticket should be the winning ticket. He explained that if he would win, he would be able to learn Torah without any worries. The Chafetz Chaim blessed him that he should be able to learn Torah without worries. The man thought the Chafetz Chaim had not heard him as he was not blessed that his ticket should win, so he repeated his question louder. The Chafetz Chaim calmly repeated the same blessing, that he should be able to learn Torah without any worries!

Halacha Weekly

Q. If one hires another to perform a mitzvah on his behalf, who receives merit for it? [I-YD 14-316]

A. Can one appoint an agent to perform a mitzvah on one’s behalf? If so how does he receive reward for the mitzvah? Where do we learn that this concept works? Yaskil Avdi (7-38, R. Ovadia Hedaya, Z”L) writes that just like it is possible to appoint an agent and pay him to say kaddish, in a similar way when one prays for a friend, his own prayer is answered first. Also, one is able to hire an agent in his stead to perform fasts for rectification of Shovevim (the fasts which are customary during the winter months for men  to rectifying hirhurim-improper thoughts). His agent is a man like himself. It is as if he (the one who appoints him to fast) has done the action like the one who is acting as his agent. (Both receive reward for the mitzvah action.)

We also find this in regard to a partnership like Yissachar U’Zevulun where a person can hire an agent to study Torah on his behalf and he receives reward for the Torah study which he has supported.  Both individuals receive a reward, though.  The one that hires receives reward, and the one who studies Torah receive reward for his own efforts.  When one says a berachah to discharge the obligation of another this principle also operates.  In the case of rectification for another (through fasting) there also his action is as effective for the agent as it is for the one that sends the agent to fast on his behalf.