Torah Portion of the Week – Shoftim – How to Be Here Now- Whole Hearted and Present – A Powerful Parable about Two Students – A Great Story about Rav Shlomo Eiger and Peace in Your Home – Rav Moshe Aaron Stern – Mashgeach of Kamenitz – Praying for a Spouse
The Torah Podcast Transcript
070 The Torah Podcast – How to be Here Now – Whole Hearted and Present
Torah Portion of the Week – Shoftim
In Devarim 18:13 the verse says like this, “You should be whole hearted with Hashem your God, for these nations that we are possessing, they listen to astrologers and diviners. But as for you, not so has Hashem your God given for you. It’s only for them, but it’s not for you.” Rashi says on the verse, “Walk with Him with whole heartedness. Look ahead to Him, and do not delve into the future. But rather, whatever comes upon you accept with whole heartedness. And then you will be with Hashem, and of His portion.” In other words, if you accept whatever happens with a whole heart, then you’re going to be with Hashem. That’s exactly what the Malbim says, “Since it says your God, you cling to Hashem with a pure heart. And you’re not trying to know the future. And if you shall be whole hearted, then Hashem will be your God.” What do you mean, “your God?” You will be close to Hashem, and He will be your God. And His providence will be evidence upon you.” This is exactly how to get close to God, to rely on God. When we rely on God by definition we’re close to God.
The Malbim adds on this that God gave it to the Jewish people, and this is how we’re going to succeed, by doing the mitzvos. He says, “How can a person go around wasting time to fortune tellers and astrologers to try to figure out the future? They should be learning Torah and doing mitzvos. It’s not the Jewish way.” Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that there’s two aspects to this. One aspect is, we have to overcome our natural curiosity to what’s going to be in the future. He says, “We’ve been commanded to not be involved with it, but just be here now and do what we have to do, and not be trying to figure out what’s going to be in the future.” The second aspect is that we should not worry about the future. And if we’re supposed to do something now, so we have to be somech, we have to rely that Hashem is going to help us. If it’s clear that we’re supposed to do it now, we don’t have to worry about the outcome. Hashem is going to take care of it.
Rav Wolbe says on this, that it’s human nature to think more about the future. We are more worried about the future and all of its possibilities than we are focused on the now. One of the reasons that it’s hard to focus on the now, is because we can’t see the totzaot, we don’t see the ramifications of what we’re doing now. So, even when we try to be in the now, it’s hard to stay there because we’re not sure of the outcome of our actions. We’re always looking to the future, what’s going to be from what we’re doing now.
Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains, “This is exactly the purpose of what it means to be tamim, pure, whole hearted.” He says, “Someone who’s whole hearted is so completely engrossed in God that he thinks only of his duties that he must perform at the present moment. And for success in the whole future, he puts his trust in God. By fulfilling his duty, he has already attained the supreme call of his doing and not doing.” In other words, he only has to do what’s now. That’s the way he looks a life. It doesn’t matter what’s going to come out in the future, that’s not his business. Someone who is whole heartedly serving God just looks in the moment. He has to look now, what do I need to do now? And if he does that, that means he’s fulfilled his duty which brings peace of mind. He’s not worried. On the other hand the verse says, “And as for those nations who you are to succeed,” the nations that are in Eretz Yisroel that we were going to push out, “They’re going after astrology.” Rav Hirsch explains, “They have lost their inner stability, and to them success is everything.” You hear this? A person who has inner stability is not worried about success. But a person who’s not stable doesn’t know what’s going to be and they’re not sure of himself, he always has to prove himself on the outside. They need to succeed to satisfy their passions or attain honor. And in chasing after success, they feel helpless. Why? They feel subject to the randomness of the external world, over which a person has no control. And this world doesn’t share in man’s sorrow or happiness. It has no understanding of what a person feels. The world is shrouded in mystery. It poses man a thousand unsolved riddles. It appears before man like a sealed book.” So, a person who’s not whole hearted, he’s lost himself. He’s lost his stability. He has to always prove himself on the outside. He’s always worried about all these things. He has to “succeed.” What do you mean, succeed? Just do what you need to do now, and this is the Jewish success. That’s what it means to be whole hearted.
Rav Hirsch continues, “He has already all that you require for the accomplishment of your life’s mission. Right now, you have everything you need to do. What a beautiful word, to study, to teach and to observe the Torah. That is your sum of your total task in life. We can do mitzvos right now. Each moment you can do the mitzvah. That’s what it means, to walk whole heartedly. You don’t have to worry what’s going to come out. You don’t have to get astrologers to figure out what’s going to happen in the future. You’re not worried about the future. Why are they getting astrologers? Because the world’s unstable. What’s going to be? We have to figure out what’s going to be. But a person who walks whole heartedly with God he has emuna, he has faith. He knows that everything that God is doing is for the good.”
Rav Hirsch also says in Shemos like this. “Real faith doesn’t just mean that there’s a God. And not only the fact that there’s only one God, but it’s more than that. It’s the fact that this one, unique true God is my God. He created and formed me, placed me where am, and goes on creating and forming me. He keeps me, watches over me, leads me and guides me. Every present breath that I draw and every coming moment of my existence is a direct gift of God. Therefore every moment I need to serve God, because He’s in charge of my fate. Emuna in God actually means fully trusting and therefore being submissive to God Himself, and to place one’s life fully in God’s hand. Therefore emuna in God means to submit one’s entire life, its development, education, actions and values to God.”
And the Maharal in Gemara Makkos says like this, on the verse tzaddik b’emunah yichyeh, a tzaddik, a righteous person, lives by his faith. He says, “Attachment to God is the essence of faith. This is not something that can be done partially or half-heartedly. Emuna itself is the attachment one has to God.” Our connection to God is to be here now, that’s our connection, and not being worried about the future, and knowing that we are totally dependent upon Him. One of the chiddushim, novel thoughts that I got out of all of this was that sometimes hope, hoping for this and hoping for that, can have the opposite effect. Everybody says you need hope for the future, of course. But if you think your dreams are going to come out exactly the way you want them to come out, that’s going to have the opposite effect. Why? Because you’re always worrying, “What’s happening with my dream?”
A person doesn’t really know how he’s supposed to make a kiddush Hashem, how Hashem wants to reveal Himself through him in the world. For example, a person’s worried about his kids. What’s going to be with my kids? This kids’ going that way, and that kid’s going this way. But who says? Who says all your kids have to go in the way you want them to go? Who says that’s the way you’re going to make a kiddush Hashem? That’s the way you’re going to bring God into the world? Maybe your kids have to do what they have to do, but the way you relate to them, that’s what’s bringing God into the world. You don’t have to be worrying about what’s in the future, that things are not going your way. You have to submit to his way. And this removes all the worry.
It’s an unbelievable chiddush really, because everybody’s dreaming about the perfect future. And everybody’s hoping everything is going to work out. What do you mean, work out? Work out their way, what they think is the way it should work out. That’s what it means, to work out, that you’re going to be rich and healthy, and your kids are all going to be on the derecho, path, and everything is going to be great. That has nothing to do with you, and that may not be Hashem’s plan. Lo aleynu, people’s relatives do get sick. Things happen, things happen to our kids and relatives, and wives, and families, many things are happening. It doesn’t mean it’s going to come out in the perfect world that you think is perfect. But it’s a perfect world according to Hashem. And by you living in the moment with emuna and not looking to the future, that’s what’s going to bring your peace of mind. And that’s what Hashem wants. That’s what the possuk is saying, “You shall be whole hearted with Hashem your God.” And you should not be doing what the astrologers are doing, and looking to the future. You should be doing what you have to do now.
But like I said, the chiddush that I heard is normally you think you need to dream. But sometimes your dreams are taking away from the now. The Torah wants you to be in reality. The reality of what’s happening now. When you finally accept what’s happening now, then you get peace of mind, and then you move forward. And then you’re an eved Hashem, you’re a servant of God. And this is exactly what the Ohr haChayim says on the verse. He says, “Other religions are terrified of the phenomena of nature, and they have to take precautions against any disasters that the stars foretell. But we who are convinced that Hashem always has our best interests at heart, we do not need to be terrified. We need to be tamim whole hearted with Hashem, and at ease with Hashem, relaxed.” He continues and he says, “All these signs in the heavens they don’t apply to us. The Jews are above, we’re lemala min hateva. Like Avraham Avinu wasn’t supposed to have children, but he had children, and we’re here.”
The Rambam brings down, “There’s only one thing you need to fear, and that’s Hashem Himself. We have to believe whole heartedly that Hashem does everything.” And he says, “Everything that happens to a man is dependent on how close he is to God.” That’s what we need to be worried about. And he’s medakdek, exacting, from the Onkelos because the Onkelos says in his second part of the possuk, “You shouldn’t fear the bad tidings of the fortune teller. But you should fear if you’re deficient in your avodas Hashem.” It’s just the opposite. If you want things to come out good, you have to focus on the now, and not worry about the future. Worrying about the future and trying to do cheshbonos according to the future, that’s going to come out to be bad. Ada raba, forget about the future. Don’t worry about the future. What do you need to worry about right now? Your connection to Hashem right now and every person has that in their control. They can grab that right now that moment, and come close to Hashem. Like the Malbim said, “If you shall be whole hearted then you will be with Hashem your God.” You will be close to Hashem, and He will be your God. It’s the moment, it’s the present. That’s the thing that brings us close to God, not something that’s going to happen in the future.
This is the beautiful mussar, the direction that we receive from God from this verse, “You shall be whole hearted with Hashem your God.” Such a powerful verse, such an important concept. It always falls in the first week of Elul, to prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana, to accept upon ourselves ol malchut shemayim, to do the will of God, because that’s our only hatzlacha, that’s our only success. That’s the Jewish way, is to be in the moment and to do the will of God, and accept upon ourselves everything that He asks from us, and to accept upon ourselves everything that’s going to happen in the future, because he’s the one in control, and He knows what’s good for us. And we have faith in Him. We’re not worried. We’re not worried about the end of the world. We’re not worried about global warming. We’re not worried about all the craziness that’s happening. We’re only worried about one thing, like the Rambam said, “Are we close to God or not close to Him?”
A Powerful Parable
The Maggid mi Dubno brings the verse from this week’s Parsha, “Do not learn to perpetuate the abominations of those nations.” He brings the moshul. He says, “One time a person came into a classroom where a Rebbe was teaching two students. The two students weren’t paying attention. The two students were distracted and they didn’t understand what the Rebbe was saying. After the class, the Rebbe started to scream at one of them, he’s going to give him a punishment, why is he not listening, what’s going on with him? The person asked him, ‘Why are you screaming at one of them. What about the other boy? Didn’t they both not learn? Didn’t they both not pay attention?’ He says, ‘It’s true. But one boy is much more talented, he has a much deeper grasp. The other boy barely understands. So, the one I expected more from, that’s the one that I punished.” What’s the nimshal, conclusion? So too, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Hashem is more strict with the Jewish people. He expects more from us. He expects us to rise above.
Great Stories – Rav Shlomo Eiger
The verse in Shoftim says, “For the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise.” This is a famous story about Rav Shlomo Eiger. He was the son of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. What happened, Rav Shlomo Eiger had a rich father-in-law, and his first name was Hersh. He promised the first grandchild that’s named after him after he passed away is going to receive the inheritance from his grandfather. What happened? After the grandfather passed away, after Hersh passed away, he had a child, Rav Shlomo Eiger, and he named him Hersh, so he’s supposed to get the inheritance. But what happened is, the baby died. After that, his sister-in-law also had a baby and they named him Hersh. So, now the inheritance is supposed to go to her son. So, who does it go to?
They went to the Chemdas Shlomo and he’s going to decide who it goes to. Rav Chemdas Shlomo said, “Listen, I need to think about this for a couple of weeks. Come back in two or three weeks.” Fine, they waited. In the meantime what happened? Rav Shlomo Eiger researched the whole thing and he’s sure that the din, judgement is going to go towards him. He was the first one to have the baby. He named the baby after his father-in-law, he’s supposed to get it. What’s the difference if the baby passed away? He’s sure he’s right. So, then they come to the Chemdas Shlomo and he decides that the sister-in-law is supposed to get the money. He doesn’t understand. He says, “Listen, I have this whole paper. I wrote this whole thing up. I researched everything. I’m 100 percent sure that I’m supposed to get the money.” He said, “You know what? If my father knew about this story, surely he would pasken like me. He would go according to me.” The Chemdas Shlomo said, “That’s exactly why I told you to wait. I wrote a letter to your father and your father paskened that the money should go to your sister-in-law, not to you.” What do we learn from this story? Like the possuk says, “For the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise.”
I saw in one of the meforshim that’s it’s built into the nature of man. If a person has nogea bedavriv, he’s going to gain something, even if he’s the greatest of sages he’s still going to lean his mind in the direction where he gains.
Peace in Your Home
I wanted to start teaching from the sefer of Rav Moshe Aaron Stern who was the mashgiach of Kamenitz. His first piece is on praying for a spouse. The verse says, “Al zos yispallel kol chassid.” The Gemara in Brochos explains that a chossid has to daven for his wife. He has a difficulty, wait a second. We know that the zivug, a soulmate is determined 40 days before a baby is born, so what’s this prayer about? He explains that nothing happens, even though it’s true, but nothing happens without prayer. Just like by Adam haRishon, the earth didn’t give forth any kind of vegetation until he prayed and it caused the rain. So, even if the potential is there. You still have to pray in order to bring out the potential. He explains that a person should never pray for a particular woman. “I want this woman to be my wife,” he shouldn’t be praying like that. He should be praying for his wife, whoever she is. But not a particular woman, because the Yerushalmi Kesubos says, “It is possible through prayer to preempt and get somebody else’s zivug. If you do pray for another woman you might wind up with that woman. But what’s going to happen? It’s not going to last.” That’s what the Gemara says.
What does the Pnai Moshe say on that? He says, “The husband will pass away. He’ll pass away and she’ll wind up with the other zivug. So, you shouldn’t pray for a particular woman.” He brings down the Moed Katan that why you shouldn’t daven in such a manner, because in the end you’re going to deny Hashem. Why are you going to deny Hashem? The Tashbatz answers, “Because you’re not going to be answered.” In other words, you’re praying for the wrong woman and it’s going to wind up that the woman is going to go to somebody else. You’re going to lose your faith. Why is it so difficult? We know the Chazal says that bringing zivugim together, bringing soul mates together, is more difficult than the splitting of the Red Sea. What does that mean? Because the person’s needs have to be nullified. People think, “I want this one, I want this woman, that lady, this guy.” Everybody’s thinking about these particular people, so Hashem has to nullify their desires in order for them to get the right zivug. Not only that, if you do pray for a particular man or a woman you could get punished. Why? Because it’s like a demand, and the Jews were punished when they demanded, when they said to Hashem, “Please give us water,” they were demanding the water. It’s forbidden to pray in a way that you’re demanding something.
He ends off by saying that even though it’s true that we do have to pray for our zivug but you should know, it could happen in a minute. Many times you have a guy or a woman who didn’t get married for years and years and in two or three days all of a sudden they’re engaged already. It happens chic-chock, just like the Chofetz Chaim explained. When Yosef was taken out of the pit, the verse says, “They rushed him out of the pit.” Why? His time was up. Also when we went out of Mitzrayim, Egypt, it was on the exact day after 430 years on that exact day we went out, because when the time comes, it comes and Hashem makes it happen.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Torah podcast, I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends and please leave comments. I just wanted to mention that I have a free course on Torah logic, it’s called Torah Logic Essentials, and you can find it at the Global Yeshiva. So, please go there and check it out. I think you would enjoy it.
Rabbi Eliyahu Mitterhoff