Saturday, August 1, 2015

Eikev 5775

The Torah Portion of Eikev 

Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

"And it will be that because of your listening to these ordinances, and your observing and performing them; then Hashem, your G-d, will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. " (Devorim 7:12)

"And it will be" is a language of happiness. "Because of'" (in Hebrew: Eikev) hints to the end of days [since the word Eikev in Hebrew is related to the Hebrew word for "footstep" ;, and the end of days is also referred to as the footsteps of Mashiach]. There will be great happiness before the coming of the Mashiach, because there will an awakening of Teshuva (repentance) .

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)

The Tzala"ch asks, there is a law regarding the Sheva Minim (the seven kinds of fruits for which Israel is praised) which are written in this verse, that what comes earlier in the verse takes precedence when deciding which fruit to say a blessing on first. This presents a difficulty, since the Torah needs to tell us the list of the fruits, and perhaps all of them are equal in value; and if so, what is the proof that any of them take precedence? And he explains, that there was no reason for the Torah to write the word "land" a second time in this verse, except to hint to us here the law of precedence (when making a blessing).

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)

The Rav of Brisk said that if the Torah tells us a list, then that in and of itself is a law of precedence. And if the Torah wanted that things wouldn't be in a particular order, in another place it would have stated a list in a different order. For example, "These are Moshe and Aharon" (Shemot 6:27) and "These are Aharon and Moshe" (Shemot 6:26), to show us that they are equal in importance. And so we have found regarding the daughters of Tzelophad, that the Torah wrote two lists to show us that they are equal in their righteousness.

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)

The Rebbe told to his Students that the seeds of the fruit are a Siman (a sign to remember the order of precedence when saying a blessing on the fruits):
1. "Olive" - It has only one seed.
2. "Date" (which is referred to as honey in the verse) - It has a seed with a crack, so it is like two.
3. "Grape" - When grapes have seeds, they have three seeds, so that is the third. (And also the word for Grape in Hebrew is "Gefen" , which starts with the letter Gimel, the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet.)
4. "Fig" - It has many tiny seeds, so that is the fourth.
5. "Pomegranate" - It has many large seeds, so that is the fifth.

"...A land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper." (Devorim 8:9)

The Targum Yonatan says (in the translation of this verse to Aramaic): "A land in which its Sages declare decrees which are clear like iron, and its Students ask questions which are marked like copper." And it has been asked, why does this belong in the middle of verses that are speaking about the praises of the fruit of the Land of Israel? The explanation is thus: by means of increasing his eating, a man comes to forget the Torah and its Mitzvot, as it is written: "Yeshurun became fat and kicked - you grew fat, you became thick, you became covered -- and he forsook G-d his Maker..." (Devorim 32:15) But when eating of the fruit of the Land of Israel, on the contrary, there is an increase of Holiness, as it is written by the Ba"ch in Orach Chaim, Siman 208, that the Holiness of the Land emanates from the Holiness of the Upper Land (in the Heavenly Realms), and this emanates also into the Land's fruits which draw their Holiness from the Holiness of the Shechina (Divine Presence) which dwells within the midst of the Land. And therefore we say "and we will eat from its fruits and be satisfied from its goodness" , because by eating from its fruits we are nourished from the Holiness of the Shechina and from its Purity and we are satisfied from its Goodness. And there are those that add, that the Sages say that the Land of Israel is higher than all the other lands, and this is a hint that the earthiness, that is to say the materialism, of Israel is higher in its level than that of the other lands because it adds Holiness to the person.

"You will eat and you will be satisfied and you will bless Hashem, your G-d, for the good land that He gave you." (Devorim 8:10)

The Rishonim (Early Ones) ask, why didn't they establish a blessing about Birkat HaMazon, "Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to bless Birkat HaMazon" ? And the explanation is, that they didn't establish a blessing on another blessing, because if they did so there would be no end to the matter, for similarly one would also need to say another blessing on the blessing that was made. And the "Sfat Emet" explains, that Birkat HaMazon is a blessing about gratitude, and everyone understands that on eating it is necessary to give thanks, and this is not just a matter of sanctity which would require one to say "Who has sancitified us...", and therefore they didn't establish the saying of the blessing "Who has sanctified us...".

"And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you..." (Devorim 10:12)

From this verse, the Rabbis said (in Menachot 43:2) that a man is required to say 100 blessings every day. For they said, don't read "Mah" (in English: "what" ) but "Meah" (in English: "100" ). That is to say, "a hundred Hashem your G-d asks of you".

"And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you..." (Devorim 10:12)

The word "what" is a language of humility, as in the verse "and what are we" (Shemot 16:7). One needs to behave with humility.

"And now.." (Devorim 10:12)

Also, the fact that it is written "and now", means that one always needs to say "and now"-- from now it is necessary to serve Hashem. For the Evil Inclination always causes a person to despair, and it is necessary to tell oneself, from now I am beginning, just like we say at the end of the Ashrei prayer "from now until forever" , immediately "from now" I will begin again.

"You shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart and no longer stiffen your neck"  (Devorim 10:16)

In the Torah Portion of Netzavim it is written: "And Hashem will circumcise your heart" (Devorim 30:6).  Someone who comes to purify himself is given assistance.  First, "you shall circumcise", you need to fight against the Evil Inclination by yourself, and afterwards, I will help.  And that is why the first time it says "you shall circumcise" and afterwards it says "Hashem will circumcise".  

"You shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart and no longer stiffen your neck"  (Devorim 10:16)

From this verse we see that it is necessary to learn Mussar (Ethics) and that will remove the foreskin of the heart.

The Torah Portion of Eikev has 111 verses. 6 commandments. 2 negative commandments.Haftora: "Vatomer Tzion" (Yishayahu 49). 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5.

This is Shabbat Mervorchim for the month of Elul.  The Molad is on Shabbat Kodesh Lifnot Boker (A.M.) at the hour 4:23 with 8 Chalakim. Rosh Chodesh will be on Shabbat Kodesh and Yom Rishon.  

May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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