Dvar Torah for Shoftim

Tomorrow, is Rav Kook’s ז’ל Yohr Tzeit, so it is fitting that the Dvar Torah includes his thoughts, The Dvar Torah is from one of the Roshei Yeshivah of Kerem B’Yavneh (my alma mater), Rav Motti Greenberg.

Ironically, last night at Ma’ariv, there were a few international Tzedoka collectors from Israel in Shule. I was in my usually “straight ahead” mood, and asked one of them (a Chossid, with peyos)

What are your thoughts on Nachal Charedi

His responded with a pained look and said

Anyone who supports Nachal Charedi should not be allowed to enter a Shule

The problem with people like that is that they think that when they go to the toilet, it doesn’t stink. They live in la la land.

He effectively stated that I had no place davening Ma’ariv in Shule if I thought Nachal Charedi was a valid approach.  I said,

well, I support them, and you don’t come up to the level of their shoe laces, with a hateful comment like that

I don’t expect he will visit me for a donation. His paid driver heard the interchange.

Anyway, the D’var Torah … 

As part of the laws of warfare, it is written, “What man is afraid and fainthearted? Let him go away and return home.” [Devarim 20:8]. According to Rabbi Yossi Hagelili, this refers to a man who is afraid because of the sins in his hands. However, this seems backwards – to be afraid because of sins is a good trait and not a bad one, why should the man be sent away?

In Chassidic texts it is written that one time there was a delay in the construction of the succah of the Rebbe, the author of Beit Aharon. In the end, one of the Rebbe’s followers made a great effort and finished building the succah the day before the holiday, thus giving the Rebbe great pleasure. As a reward, the Rebbe offered the man his choice – he could either sit next to the Rebbe in the world to come, or he could become very wealthy. The man chose wealth. He explained to the astonished Chassidim who asked about his decision that to want to spend the world to come close to the Rebbe is a matter of selfishness, but if he had great wealth he would be able to help many other people.

Rabbi Shimon Shkop wrote in the introduction to his book Shaarei Yosher, “The foundation and the root of the goal of our lives is that all of our labors should always be geared and dedicated to the good of the community.” Rav A.Y. Kook wrote, “A person must always extricate himself from the private frameworks which fill his entire being, such that all of his ideas are centered on his own fate. This brings a person down to the depths of being small, and there is no end to the physical and spiritual suffering that comes about as a result. Rather, his thoughts, desires, his will, and the foundation of his ideas must always take into account the general – the world, mankind, Yisrael as a whole, and the entire universe. And this will also establish his personal status in the proper way.” [Orot Hakodesh volume 3, page 147].

To be “afraid of the sins in his hands” means that the person is concerned with his own sins and not with the sins of others. This is a man who lives only for himself. This is similar to what the sages taught us: “Why is it [the stork] called a ‘chassidah’ (one who is kind)? It is because it is kind to its companions.” [Chulin 63a]. But a question is asked: The Rambam teaches us that the reason birds are considered impure is because they are cruel, why then is the stork an impure bird? Chidushei Harim explains that this bird is kind, but only to its own friends.

The soldiers in King David’s army would give their wives a divorce before going out to battle. Rav Kook explains that the reason was not only to avoid a woman being “chained” to h er husband if he would be lost in battle. The Gentiles would bring their wives and children to the battlefield in order to give the soldiers greater courage, as if to say, look for whom you are fighting. But in David’s army the men would divorce their wives in order to disassociate themselves from any personal interests and to fight for the good of Yisrael as a whole. This is as the Rambam wrote, that a soldier must stop thinking about his own family and be aware that he is fighting in a Divine war. Anyone who is afraid only because of his own individual sins and does not think of the general public during the war is not worthy of fighting in the Army of G-d.

When a dead body is found abandoned on the roads, the community elders declare, “Our hands did not spill this blood” [Devarim 21:7]. “Would anybody even consider that the elders of the Beit Din are murderers? Rather, they are declaring that they did not see him and send him away unaccompanied, witho ut any food.” [Sotta 45b].

As the month of Elul begins, we should remember the hint of the month’s name, an acronym of “I belong to my lover and my lover belongs to me” [Shir Hashirim 6:3]. This is a hint of the relationship between man and the Holy One, Blessed be He. But the letters of Elul are also an acronym for another verse, “Every man gave to his colleague, and also gifts to poor people” [Esther 9:22]. This refers to concern for other people.

In connection with the above, we note that all the prayers of the Days of Awe refer to the needs of the community as a whole and not to personal requests.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have nought to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

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