Parshas Re’eh – The Purpose of Food

פרשת ראה


In Parshas Re’eh Hashem commands the Am Yisroel to bring korbanos to the Beis Hamikdash: ואכלתם שם לפני ה’ אלקיכם ושמחתם בכל משלח ידכם, ”You shall eat there before Hashem your G-d and you shall rejoice” (12:6-7). To eat and rejoice! Although this may imply singing and even dancing, yet these activities are never explicitly mentioned in the Torah. And therefore, we understand that the eating of the korbanos in itself is the rejoicing that Hashem speaks about here. And Hakodosh Baruch Hu wants you to rejoice not merely by eating meat, but by eating meat lifnei Hashem Elokecha, in the Presence of Hashem.

Now, although we have read these words many times, we should stop for a moment and appreciate the significance of this lesson. It is remarkable that Hashem considers eating as the fulfillment of a person’s desire for happiness before Hashem. And if the Torah is letting us know that our joy “before Hashem” should be in the so-called simple pleasure of eating, it is only right that we study this sugya, the topic of “eating before Hashem,” as it is more common and perhaps even more crucial for your service of Hashem than many other sugyos you might study.

The opportunity to gain awareness of Hashem’s kindliness by means of eating is important enough to earn repetition in the Torah frequently. “Before Hashem your G-d you shall eat it… and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d” (D’varim 12:18). “And you shall eat before Hashem your G-d and you shall rejoice” (ibid. 14:26). “And you shall eat and be satiated and you shall bless Hashem” (ibid. 8:10).


The nation of Hashem can gain happiness and perfection through eating in the right way. You know that when the nations of the world wish to bring offerings to Hashem, they may do so; we accept their korbanos. But they are limited to burnt-offerings, korbanos that involve no eating. Unlike the Am Yisroel, the goyim are not allowed to eat of offerings, for the physical act of eating bestirs their bestiality, their most base animal instincts, and they are incapable of joining thoughts of Hashem to their eating. When a goy eats and drinks, it is often a source of trouble. I always tell you this joke: What do you call it when you see three ambulances racing down the street one after the other, with their sirens blaring? It’s the end of a Puerto Rican wedding! When goyim get together for eating there is no eating in the Presence of Hashem, and therefore there is usually trouble afoot. And they are therefore unfit for the function of serving Hashem at the dinner table. But we, the Holy Nation, can learn to eat in holiness and become great through the function of eating.


In sefer Emunas V’deios, Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon makes a remark that enlightens us about the nature of Olam Hazeh. He says that this world is a world that’s made for food. He doesn’t say it’s a world made for Olam Habah, and not for the Am Yisroel; this world is created entirely for the purpose of supplying food. It’s a very important observation that nobody pays attention to. But Rav Saadiah Gaon made note of this phenomenon. The entire Olam Hazeh is geared for the function of מכלכל חיים בחסד.

The first thing that we take note of is that the entire earth, with all its phenomena, is devoted to the purpose of creating and supporting life, through a wonderful system that supplies the food needs of all the living. The entire soil that blankets this earth is only for the purpose of supplying food. The winds, the sun, the rain, the atmosphere, many factors have the sole function of cooperating in supplying food for the living. The vast phenomena of the sun, the force of gravity, the winds, the rains, the snow and the atmospheric gases all cooperate in the mighty function of supplying you with your breakfast, lunch and supper – as well as all that snacking in between. And of course these systems are all cooperating with each other to feed the world. And if you open your eyes, if you open your mind, you see it all day long.


Even if you are a city-boy, and you don’t live out in the boondocks where you can see the cornfields and the cows. Keep your eyes open just a bit and all day long you’ll see the trucks driving back and forth. Some are loaded with fruits and vegetables. Others with milk and cheese. And poultry and meats. And loaves of every type of bread. And from early in the morning, before you’re even thinking about getting up, these trucks are on the road and unloading the cases of food. Even a man in the city – he never saw a cow, or a wheatfield in his life – he can see what Rav Saadiah is speaking about, all around him. There’s something here! The whole briyah, the creation of the whole world, the whole maaseh bereishis, is for what? For food!


Now this explains what the gemara says in Mesichta B’rachos. The gemara states if you say תהילה לדוד, that’s ashrei, every day, you’re a ben Olam Habah. The gemara asks why? What’s so important? Of course, it’s certainly a marvelous composition of ruach hakodesh and very deep wisdom, but what makes it distinguished from all the other chapters of Tehillim? Dovid said a lot of beautiful things. And the gemara concludes that it’s because of the possuk פותח את ידך, You open Your hand, ומשביע לכל חי רצון, and You satiate all the living with all their needs. That’s what makes ashrei so important. And not just important, but so important that by saying it everyday properly you’re becoming a ben Olam Habah. You’re impressing onto your neshama that Hashem is feeding the whole world.

Now the question arises why did the gemara quote that passuk? There’s a possuk right before that that says the same thing, so it seems: עיני כל אליך ישברו, the eyes of all hope to You, ואתה נותן להם את אכלם בעתו, You give them the food in its time. What’s wrong with that possuk?

And the answer is that the first possuk merely tells us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives food. He supplies the needs of the living. That’s all it says. But the next passuk tells us something else. פותח את ידך, You open up Your hand.” Hakodosh Boruch Hu doesn’t have any hand; “Your Hand” means all Your Power. You have nothing else that interests You except כי חפץ חסד הוא; all of Your power is for chesed. That’s what Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants to show us in this world; His kindliness. He’s יושב וזן מביצי כינים ועד קרני ראמים – Hashem is sitting in heaven and feeding everyone, everything! הקב”ה יושב ברומו של עולם ומחלק מזונות לכל בריה, Hakodosh Baruch Hu sits on his throne and is distributing food to the entire world. That’s kaviyachol His main interest in the world, to feed every creature. And how great is the achievement of understanding this important principle that the entire briah is geared to supplying the needs of the living? So great that if you know it, if you really know it, you’re a ben Olam Habah.


We’ll give a mashal. Here’s a rich man. He has a big business. He has an office where he receives rabbanim, rosh yeshivos that come for their institutions. So he takes them into that room, and he sits with them, he talks to the them. And then he opens a drawer, pulls out a checkbook and he gives a fine donations. He’s running to his tzedaka office for meetings all day long. But that’s not his main business. He has a very big factory where he spends his day. That’s where his thoughts are. The tzedaka office is only a branch of his activities.

But suppose there’s a rich man who opens up in Manhattan an office only for giving tzedaka. It’s a big building, with many floors, and the whole building is only to give tzedakah. Different rooms and offices for tzedaka programs. This man is a specialist in tzedakah and chesed. That’s where he spends his days, running from room to room, giving tzedaka and supporting all the Torah institutions and all the nitzrachim, the needy.

That’s Hakodosh Baruch Hu! That’s what Rav Saadiah Gaon is saying. And that’s what פותח את ידיך ומשביע לכל חי רצון is telling us. Hakodosh Boruch Hu made this world only to feed. All of His powers are concentrated on kindliness. The whole world is one big tzedaka office, a food supply office for all of the briyos.


Hashem gives fish worms to eat, but you don’t like worms! So He gives you bread. Everybody gets what he likes. ומשביע לכל חי רצון, He satiates every creature with what he wants. Cows don’t like meat. They love grass. Lions don’t like grass so Hashem gives them meat. Everybody gets what he wants and you should know it’s a very special restaurant, this world. It’s customized. Each creature has its own menu and there are hundreds of thousands of different customers with hundreds of thousands of different menus. And Hakodosh Baruch Hu gives each customer exactly the menu that he likes. Little baby rhinoceroses like only rhinoceros milk from their mother. They don’t like milk from seals or from elephants. Rhinoceros milk has a specific prescription, much different from the milk that comes from cows. Little raccoons like only raccoon milk. Every animal gets their milk suited to each species, and Hakodosh Baruch Hu caters to everybody’s tastes.

In Birchas Hamazon, the first bracha we say, ברוך אתה השם הזן את היהודים. No, we don’t say that. We don’t say thank You Hashem for feeding me, for giving us food. We say הזן את הכל – You feed everybody, everything! Birds on the wing, earthworms in the interior of the soil, the cat in the backyard. Everybody is eating it’s not only once a year; every day new food. When you pass a bakery and see in the window all kinds of bread and rolls and cakes, they’re not the same ones that were there yesterday. Every day they bake new ones. You pass a fruit stand. It looks like the same apples that were there last week. No, those ones are gone. Everyday new piles of apples and new heaps of oranges and bananas. Every day Hakodosh Baruch Hu is supplying; הזן את הכל.


But you should be asking yourself: What is the purpose of all this? Such a wondrous and stupendous food system of interrelated subsystems, and for what?! Just to provide food? For what purpose did Hashem do this? Hashem, Who created the whole world and everything in it, didn’t have to create people with the need for food in order to live. But He did. And He created a most complicated system of feeding us. What do you think, that it was without a purpose?! Hashem had to create a food system only because He was stuck, because He made humans?! No, not at all. And even if Hashem wanted us to eat to live, did He have to create the marvels of the food supply? The nourishment could have been tasteless and colorless, and without aroma, and we would have been happy to ingest the life-giving materials which would supply us with energy.

So we’ll explain as follows: There are two kinds of knowledge that we have to gain in this world – and remember, we’re in this world to get knowledge. Whatever you’re doing in this world, it’s for da’as, for knowledge. Hakodosh Boruch Hu said that. וידעת היום והשבות אל לבבך – You should know today and you should keep on putting into your mind – leiv means mind (see Toras Avigdor Parshas Va’eschanan), כי השם הוא האלוקים – that Hashem is our G-d.” We are commanded to know. And to know and to know and to know. That’s what והשבות means, to keep putting it into your mind more and more.


One form of knowledge is called chochma – learning facts. There is so much to learn in this world, so much Torah information that we have to absorb. And that’s called yedias ha’seichel, knowledge of the mind. To know with your mind is an accomplishment; but that’s not the chief accomplishment of life. Oh no! Many people understand and know, and nevertheless, they never have absorbed, they never took into their inner consciousness, the real truths of these great principles.

And people are not aware of that. They think we just have to learn seforim. Seforim are very important, but there are so many things to learn that are outside of the seforim – things that the seforim are only m’ramez to. The seforim give you the roshei perakim, of what you have to do, but it’s you who has to do the work. You must begin the process avodah of internalizing he chochma and making it part of your personality. That’s when you can begin actually living with Torah attitudes. It becomes part of who you are, not merely a superficial piece of information. That’s the real yediah; it’s called da’as.


I always give the same example. A mother is standing in the kitchen and her little boy comes in and starts fooling around. So the mother says, “Watch out – the stove is hot. It’s fire, it burns. Don’t touch the stove!” Now, he knows that his mother is an Encyclopedia Britannica. He knows that his mother knows everything. And he believes her b’emunah sh’leimah. A little boy believes his mother knows everything. He believes her that the stove burns. So what does he do? He puts his fingers on the hot stove and burns his finger. Oooh, it hurts. Now he shouts, “Ow, the stove burns.”

You know what happened here? The little boy just learned another form of wisdom. Before, it was intellectual wisdom. But now he knows sensory wisdom. Sensory wisdom is a whole new type of wisdom. His mother told him it burns, yes, he believed that. That’s called yedias haseichel. But now that his finger was burned by the fire, he felt it with his senses, that’s a whole different story. Now it’s yedias hachush. Yedias hachush is a new kind of knowledge, a new kind of knowledge entirely. And there’s no comparison.


So the first level is called chochma. Let’s say he would never have put his finger on the stove. He knows, fire burns. His mother told him! But he’s lacking yedias hachush. But once he goes through the experience, so he tells people, “You know, fire really burns.” So they say “Mai kamashma lun, we always knew that.” No, they don’t know it! But he knows it now!

I always tell the same stories but it’s important to know these stories. Once a bachur came late to yeshiva in the morning. I said, “Why are you late today?” He said, “Today I saw something; I saw a man die on the street.” He was agitated, discomposed, trembling ! A man died in front of him. I said, “What’s the big deal? Don’t you know people die?” He said, “Yes, but I never saw it before.” The knowledge that people die shook him up because before it was only a superficial kind of yediah. Now he saw it with his own eyes and he learned that it was really so.


Now, one of the most important yedios that we have to strive to acquire is the knowledge of the chesed and chochma of Hashem. So you’re going to say “I know that already.”We all know that Hashem created the world for one purpose, for chesed. You might even quote the passuk in Tehillim, עולם חסד יבנה – “The world is created for kindliness.” But look at what Dovid said: אני אמרתי – “I am the one who said, עולם חסד יבנה – that this world is built for kindliness” (ibid.) Now what are those extra words, Ani amarti, “I said”? What’s the introduction for? Just tell us, “Olam chesed yi’baneh.”

And the answer is this. Yes, of course, everyone could say “This world is a world of chesed.” Why not? It’s easy to say. But to actually understand that it is so, to feel that this world is a world of chesed, and more chesed and more chesed; that’s a big accomplishment that only a few people achieve.


When Dovid sat down to eat, he didn’t waste any time. He ate supper like an eved Hashem eats supper. He was Dovid avdi because he knew how to eat; he ate with thought. Dovid was sitting and eating and thinking. As he ate, he saw the chesed Hashem; better yet, he tasted the chesed Hashem. He felt on his taste buds, he felt it in his stomach, how kind Hashem is to us. And because he made a program out of it, because he did it day after day, he actually began to feel the chesed Hashem in his bones.

And now Dovid was saying these words again, while he was eating and allowing the yediah chushis of olam chesed yi’baneh to saturate his body and his mind. And so now, it was a different kind of words, a different kind of words altogether. Because when he ate, he was taking the superficial wisdom that everyone knows, and he became saturated with it. He became identified with that wisdom. It became part of him. He actually felt it so.

Ani amarti, said Dovid, after his breakast, after his supper. “I’m the one who can really say it, because I actually make it my business to experience, to appreciate, Hashem’s kindliness.” Ani amarti – “Listen to me because I know what I’m talking about. I’ve come to the conclusion that olam chesed yi’baneh, that Hashem truly made this world for kindliness.”

And so we see that experience of eating is a very important part of our progress that we make in this world. Eating food is a great opportunity to appreciate the great chesed of ani amarti, the understanding of what bri’as haolam, the creation of the world, really means. When you sit down to the table and you eat food, you’re taking the yedias hasechel and you’re transforming it into yedias hachush. And the more you enjoy the eating, the more you’re going to be grateful to Hashem and understand His kindliness.


In Mesichta Chullin (4b) we find a very interesting observation that Chazal make: “There is no persuasion unless by food and drink.” When you want to make that big sale to an important customer, you make sure to take him out to a good restaurant. Of course, you’ll be talking about how your prices can’t be matched, and about the quality of your goods – but you need that good steak to induce him into closing that deal.

Now, pay attention to this: The wide variety of foods and drinks in this world is Hashem persuading us. He is doing His best to persuade us to perfect ourselves in Awareness of His kindliness and wisdom. That is the reason that the world is a food making machine. All day long Hashem is trying to seduce you with the endless variety of good foods. He’s trying His hardest to get our attention. But we’re sleeping. Even when we’re eating our minds are fast asleep. We’re not thinking about it at all. But when a person is wise enough to think when he eats, he’s allowing himself to to be persuaded by Hashem to fall in love with Him.


The measure of the kindliness of Hashem is apparent not only in the abundant food supply and the intricate systems that are in place to feed us, but even more in the tastes and qualities of the food itself. The Creator made the eating function into a considerable pleasure by bestowing on our food a wide variety of tastes, colors and aromas specifically to induce us into recognizing Him through the kindness He bestows. The large amount of fruits, with each fruit itself coming in various flavors and shades of color. A variety of poultry and fish and meat. Varieties of grains and vegetables and fruit. And various spices and condiments. All for the purpose of inducing us to “rejoice before Hashem.” So that we should rejoice in this endless variety and appreciate the infinite kindness and wisdom of Hashem.


And now we know why Hashem gives food. We thought He gives food so we should continue just to live. No that’s not the real purpose. The real purpose is what we say in bentching. הזן את העולם כלו. He feeds the whole world, and not only He feeds us, but it’s בטובו בחן בחסד וברחמים, in His goodness, kindliness, grace and mercy. He could have given us white pills without any taste. And באין ברירה, with no other option, we would eat the white pills. It would keep us going like vitamins. They don’t have any taste. Sometimes they’re bitter. But we’d eat them because we have to.

But instead He gives us “pills” that taste good. Everything that’s good to eat has a good taste. Everything you taste that’s good to eat smells good. Hakodosh Baruch Hu made it naturally that way. And why? It’s בעבור שמו הגדול, for the sake of His great name. In order that you should appreciate His wisdom and greatness and kindliness. All of the kindliness inherent in this world full of food, is for that purpose only. To appreciate the gift of food for the purpose of recognizing and appreciating the Giver. That’s why we’re eating and enjoying these things.

And now we see how important the function of eating is in this world, because it’s the eating of food that is the occasion for the great service of Hashem, the service of actually believing that He is a Chofetz Chesed.


And therefore when you eat it’s a glorious opportunity. Every time you sit down at the table, you sit down with the intention I’m going to gain more love of Hashem. So here’s a man sitting down to a meal. First thing is you should tell your wife how good the food is. You give her a compliment. “Chanaleh, this chicken is excellent. It couldn’t have been any better.” You should say that! But when she walks out to the other room and she doesn’t hear, you should say, “This food tastes so good, Hashem. Thank you, You did a remarkable job on this chicken. I love You, Hashem.” That’s how to love Hashem. You’re eating in order to love Hashem. Although there are many ways of loving Hashem, but eating is one of the most fundamental means because it hits the spot. It’s yedias hachush. The whole body is employed in the function of eating, and therefore when a person eats that way, it’s ואכלתם… ושמחתם לפני השם – You’re actually eating in the Presence of Hashem.

Everytime you eat, add the thought, “I’m eating because I want to appreciate the kindness of Hashem. Hashem, You’re the One who makes food taste good.” You know, food doesn’t taste like turpentine. Food doesn’t taste like dirt. Food doesn’t taste like paper. Food tastes good! And He created all types of flavors and tastes. And all things to flavor it with. Onions! And salt! And sometimes pepper! “It’s so much fun to be eating. It’s delicious and filling. And, not only is it fun, but it’s refreshing and invigorating for my body and soul. I’m a new man after a good meal.” These are important thoughts. Think about them while you’re eating.


Say with your mouth, “You Hashem are זן את העולם כולו – You are feeding the whole world. And right now You’re feeding me בחן ובחסד וברחמים – with favor and with kindness and with mercy.” And it’s all miracles. It’s עמוק עמוק, it’s miracles deep beyond comprehension. The gemara says: קשין מזונותיו של אדם כקריעת ים סוף – The food of a person is as difficult as the splitting of the Yam Suf.” Now, what does that mean? Making a living can be difficult, but almost everybody is doing it. You’re making a living, but you can’t split the Yam Suf. And therefore we must understand that what the gemara is telling us is something of a demonstration of the greatness of Hakodosh Baruch Hu. Food is no less a neis than the miracles that took place at Kriyas Yam Suf. At the Yam Suf there were 250 makkos, so that means that there were at least 250 open miracles. And when you’re eating food, you’re expected to realize that every bite is at least 250 miracles.


The truth is we’re not utilizing the opportunities of seeing the miracles of Hashem. Let’s say you’re eating an orange right now. It’s a glorious opportunity. The first thing you look at is the color of the orange. Don’t pass that over. Look at the color of the orange. Why is it so beautifully colored? It could have been the color like a potato. No, a potato Hashem doesn’t want you to be too attracted to it. He doesn’t want you to bite into it. It still needs work; it has to be cooked or baked. But an orange? Why is it colored orange; a beautiful shining orange? Color is not an accident. Try to make color yourself. Take raw materials, dirt and water and try to make colors. Go out and try it. You could try for a thousand years and you wouldn’t be able to do a thing. But Hakodosh Boruch Hu told the orange tree to make colors from the dirt and water. Kashin k’kriyas Yam Suf. Hashem doesn’t do miracles for nothing. What’s it for? The color is there for a purpose; and that’s why when the orange is on the tree, it’s not colored. It’s green. Oranges hide among the leaves. Why is it green there and not orange colored? Because it wants to hide from you. You shouldn’t look at me yet. I’m too young. Don’t take me yet. When it’s ready to eat then it turns a beautiful golden color and it calls out to you, “Now you can take me, mein kind. Enjoy me.”

So now you’re ready to begin eating. But we’re not done yet. Hakodosh Boruch Hu still has more to show you! You begin removing the peel. Take a look at the peel. Don’t just discard the peel and that’s all. You’re missing the true purpose of the orange. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is giving a shiur klali in Chesed Hashem, in Chochmas Hashem, so you have to pay attention. The color of the skin is only on the outside. Why isn’t it on the inside of the skin? Because it’s a waste of color on the inside of the skin. You don’t need it anymore. You throw away the skin. The outside is what you see. Once you’re attracted to take the orange, you bought it and you’re ready to eat; now you already have it in your hand. So you open it up, and who cares if the skin underneath has no color? So we see color is being used economically, frugally, with chochma, it’s not being wasted.


And the color of the flesh of the orange inside is also beautiful. When you take off the peel, the fruit itself is an attractive orange. Why do you need the color inside? To help you enjoy it while you eat. It makes it more pleasurable; it adds to the fun of eating. There’s more hana’ah when you eat something that’s colored.

And therefore when you eat an orange properly, you become a ma’amin. You become not only a ma’amin in Hashem the Borei, but you see that Hakodosh Boruch Hu intended the world for kindliness! Because why did He make the orange taste good? It could have tasted unpleasant and still would have all the vitamins and all the nourishment. It’s because He wanted to make it taste pleasant. And why did He color the flesh inside? To complement the taste, so that we should enjoy it even more!


You want another thought? Hakadosh Baruch Hu told Adam Harishon הנה נתתי לכם – “Behold I have given you food” (Bereishis 1:29). Hashem was introducing to Mankind now the concept of eating for the first time. And He says, I’m giving you עשב זורע זרע … ואת כל העץ אשר בו פרי עץ זורע זרע – I’m giving you herbage that produces seeds and fruit that have seeds in them” (ibid.) So there’s a superfluous word there. He says “I have given you food; vegetables, grasses, and fruit.” But why mention זורע זרע, that it has seeds in it. Why mention that? When Hashem at the beginning said תוצא הארץ… עץ פרי… אשר זרעו בו – “The earth should produce trees with seeds in it” (Bereishis 1:11), so we understand why it was necessary to say it then. That was the command of Creation. And He wanted fruits should have the ability to continue to reproduce forever. But when He told Adam to eat, why was it necessary to mention that there are seeds in the fruit?


The answer is this. When Adam eats, he has to think about the seeds. While you’re eating it you have to realize that not only the pulp and the juice is beneficial to you, but your eyes, your mind, is going to gain a great benefit from looking at the seeds. Look at the seed. First of all, how did the seed get inside there? It’s a good question. Do you think you understand that? It’s a miracle how seeds get inside. Suppose you open an orange and found a quarter inside the orange. A quarter? A quarter has on it a date. It says in G-d we trust. Even a picture of George Washington! How did it happen inside an orange?! A quarter in an orange?! But that’s nothing compared to a seed. A seed is a million times more complicated than a quarter. A quarter is something dead; it’s a piece of metal. There’s very little information on a quarter – a few pictures, a date, some words. It’s dead, it’s nothing. An orange seed however has millions and millions of plans inscribed on the helix of the DNA molecule in the orange seed.

Let’s say you’re eating a tomato. Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants to utilize the opportunity. Notice the seeds in the tomato. The seeds are there. Each seed is a miracle of miracles. The seed of the tomato has in it millions of instructions. These are the words of the scientists today. Every seed has millions of instructions how create a tomato plant, millions of instructions. If they’re excited so why shouldn’t we be more excited- we know they’re understating it. There are trillions of instructions. It’s not the truth what they’re saying. But even millions of instructions we should get excited about it. You eat a tomato or an apple and you spit out the seeds. Look at the seed. I’ll tell you a good idea. Put a seed in your pocket. Carry it around with you from time to time. I do it. I carry seeds with me. And I take it out sometimes in the middle of the street and look at it. Ahh! Look at the miracle. People write to me that I should send them some of my seeds. I send the seeds by mail. I go to the post office and I mail my seeds to people. They are miracle seeds. And Hakodosh Baruch Hu wants you to notice that, הנה נתתי לכם … עשב זורע זרע.


And not only that, taste the orange seed for a change. Try it once in a while. It’s bitter. You’ll spit it out. Why is it bitter? Now let’s listen what the goyim say. In the Department of Agriculture in Washington, I once read a bulletin, and it said the orange pip is bitter in order to discourage people from eating it. You hear that? There’s plan and purpose here! So shouldn’t we be at least as wise as that goy and see the yad Hashem. He didn’t say Hashem, by the way. We add that. He’s dumb. He’s a goy; he’s too dumb to come to right conclusions. But we have to be better than that. We look at the seed, we taste the seed, and we know that Hashem has made the orange seed bitter in order to make sure that it’s not eaten. Animals don’t eat it either. They also don’t appreciate the taste of orange seeds. So they leave it alone, and it grows into an orange tree.

That’s how you have to eat all fruit. Every fruit is full of chesed Hashem, bursting with chochmas Hashem. And not only fruit. Vegetables and nuts and beans and bread and meat. Meat! How did meat come into being? You know how meat came into being? There was once a cow, and the cow was eating grass. The cow never ate meat in her life. It ate grass and water. Then it produced a calf. Where did the calf come from? The calf is nothing but grass and water that the cow ate. Absolutely, no other source. From grass and water a calf will emerge?! And that calf turned into an ox, and it was slaughtered in a kosher slaughterhouse. Now the butcher has part of it now. So the butcher is selling you something that’s nisei nisim! This meat was only grass and water. You go to the butcher and you pay him ten, twenty dollars, and you come home with nisei nissim in your bag.


Now suppose you’re sitting and eating a piece of meat with this preparation that we said here and you’re thinking about the meat. Meat is a miracle. Meat is a miracle. Grass and water. And where do grass and water come from? Where does grass come from? You know where grass comes from? Grass comes from the air. Grass is nothing but air. The sun shines on the chlorophyll and some water, and it produces grass. Grass is nothing but air and water. Air and water. The carbon dioxide in the air and water and sunshine together. Go outside and collect a pot of carbon dioxide and a pot of sunshine and a pot of water and try to make a meal out of it! But Hakodosh Baruch Hu makes starch out of these three elements. It’s a miracle. Just the grass itself is a miracle.

So how can you be eligible to eat that piece of meat unless you’re ready to understand that nes? An Am Ha’aretz will take it in his mouth and just destroy that wonderful material. A complete waste of a neis. That’s why the gemara says: עם הארץ אסור לאכול בשר – “An Am Haaretz is forbidden from eating meat” (Pesachim 49b). If you want to go to a butcher shop to buy meat, he says, “What do you want sir?” “I want some meat. I want a pound of meat.” So the butcher takes out a gemara. He says to you, “Read, read some gemara.” You can’t say a gemara?!” So you say, “Well, I never learned a gemara.”. So he tell you, “I’m sorry, but there’s a vegetable man next door. For meat you have to be a lamdan.” It says it openly in the gemara.

Why is that? Because you have to appreciate meat. You have to think about it while you eat it. How can you put a good piece of steak into your mouth, if you don’t know what to do with it. If you don’t use it to achieve da’as Hashem, then you’re wasting good material. It’s ossur l’echol. Keep away! But if you take that material and transform it into da’as, ooooh, look what I’m eating now. It’s a neis. I’m eating the dvar Hashem, Hashem’s word. Ohhh, that’s already a different story. Now the meat is transformed into daas Hashem. Only Hashem could cause grass and water to become meat. Think about that. If you’ll do that, then you’re justified in eating it.


And so it’s a good thing you came here tonight. Because you’re learning now how to serve Hashem at supper time. When you sit down at your table and you see bread, get excited over it! So you think that what I’m saying is silly. Get excited over bread?! Yes, bread. It’s kashin k’kriyas Yam Suf. It’s just as miraculous as when Hashem split the sea. It’s such a big accomplishment to produce that bread. Now if you learned a little bit of the natural sciences, you would see how true that is. Bread comes out of the air. In the air there is a very minute proportion of carbon dioxide. Three parts of carbon dioxide in 10,000 parts of air, and the seed that’s planted in the earth needs that carbon dioxide to produce food. It takes that carbon dioxide and with the aid of the sun it changes it into starches and that’s food. Nobody has yet learned that trick. No human being can imitate this process. And the food which comes from the carbon dioxide is not only a combination of the sun and the seeds. The soil is also responsible; המוציא לחם מן הארץ. The soil is full of nutrients that are needed for food to grow. But in addition, there’s the wind. Because if the wind didn’t keep the air moving, the plant would draw out all the carbon dioxide that’s nearby and then the plant would die for lack of carbon dioxide. So along comes the wind and it keeps the air moving past the plant so as the air passes by, the plant continues to suck the carbon dioxide out of the air. Like the gemara says, אי אפשר לעולם בלא רוחות, the world cannot live without the wind. It’s a gemara in taanis. So it’s משיב הרוח, Hashem makes the wind blow, ומוריד הגשם, and He brings water. Water is needed for almost all chemical transformations. And as a result of all these miracles, מכלכל חיים בחסד, He supplies the living with their needs.


Now that’s only the beginning. That’s the more superficial overview of this process. How can the sun when it shines on the green chlorophyll make it into starch? How can you take something that’s inanimate, minerals, inorganic materials and change it into organic things of food? And how can it be when you eat food it turns into life, into physical life? Because we are the result of what we eat. All these are miracles upon miracles and to this day nobody can explain it. They say the sun’s energy goes into the starch, goes into the food. When you eat the food, the energy is released inside of your body and therefore you’re able to walk, you’re able to talk. Even the thinking of your mind is like a computer. A computer has to have an input of electricity. You have to plug it in. Otherwise, it wouldn’t compute. The mind cannot think unless it has an energy supply. That’s the food. How can it be that energy from the sun, which is light energy, could combine with the starches and then that energy is stored up in the starches?! Absolutely not to be understood! The energy is stored up in the starches. And then, when you eat the food, energy is released within you and it remains ready within you. When the time comes, you gradually use up the energy by doing whatever you do. And then finally you have to eat again to recharge your battery. You understand that? Absolutely not! And you never will.

When eating, if only we would train ourselves to understand that this is the biggest of all earthly gifts, this is life itself. From air, carbon and hydrogen and nitrogen and sunlight, there is created such a product which is able to sustain life is one of the biggest miracles that we can find in all of creation. The creation of food is unequal. And therefore, when we partake of this miracle of food, it’s up to us to utilize the opportunity to gain that kedushah.


Isn’t it a pity that people let these opportunities go by? Why should you waste the opportunity? You’re sitting down to eat anyway. Why don’t you think, why is it that food tastes good? Why should it taste good? Does mud taste good? Does paper taste good? Does tinfoil taste good? Does plastic taste good? Why should food taste good? There’s something there. It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle that food tastes good. Don’t think it just happens that we make it taste good. Everything that is not good for you doesn’t taste good. We find out right away that it’s not good for you. You taste it, it’s rotten. Your tongue warns you. Unless you maybe go to a restaurant where they disguise it with pepper and paprika and spices. They take rotten food and they make it taste good. That’s what they do in a restaurant sometimes. They make it taste good and at the moment you’re happy. But your stomach is not happy when you get home.


And that’s only the first bite. You know, the miracles only really begin when the food enters your mouth. That’s when the miracles begin. The entire eating process, the complicated system of digestion is miracles of miracles. You know, that when you begin to eat – actually before you even eat, merely from seeing the food, your entire body gets to work preparing itself for this great event, of food entering the body.

As soon as you start chewing, the bread tastes better. You know why bread when it’s baked more tastes better than bread that’s not baked well; or why the crust of a challah is always more delicious than the challah inside? You ever stopped to think about that? I’ll tell you. The challah is starch. When a starch comes in contact with heat it turns into sugars. The bland starches become sweet sugars. So, let’s say your wife takes the challah and bakes it once more a second time, the crust becomes harder, but it’s sweeter. Because when the sugars develop from the starches, it’s sweeter and sweeter.


Now when you put the bread into your mouth, in the saliva there’s a certain chemical called ptyalin. Ptyalin is an enzyme that acts on the starch and turns it into sugars. Now, I say “turns into” as if it’s a simple process. Just that itself, that while you’re chewing the bread the Ptyalin is changing the starch into sugar, is so complicated, so miraculous that books can be written just on that. And the scientists in the laboratories are only scratching the surface of the chochmas Hashem and the chesed Hashem. So while you’re chewing the starchy bread, it becomes sweeter and sweeter. So if you chew a piece of bread for a minute, it’ll taste sweeter than it was when you began. It’s a remarkable thing. If you chew a piece of bread for a minute, it’s sweeter than when you put it into your mouth. The longer you chew it, the sweeter it tastes. It’s a fact.

And not only does it taste sweeter, but the digestion of the food is beginning in your mouth. It’s being broken down into sugars in your mouth in preparation for it’s travels through the body. And another type of saliva helps digest the food in the mouth itself. And as the food is digested in your mouth, as it’s broken down, that’s the beginning of the great trip to your stomach.


Once you swallow, you forget about it; you’re only thinking about the next bite or about what’s going to be for dessert, pudding or ice-cream or chocolate cake. But that’s a big mistake. There’s still so much more thinking to do. The great miracles has just begun. As you swallow it, a wonderful system starts working. Peristalsis. Peristalsis means your gut starts compressing and relaxing, to squeeze the food ahead. It’s compressing the food downwards, downwards. It’s not gravity; it’s not rolling down your intestinal tract. It’s being maneuvered, pushed along by the muscles. Even if you would stand on your head, it will continue pressing, it will continue moving through your gut, only that now it’s being pushed upwards.

It presses and presses and when it presses, why shouldn’t it press backwards? Why does it press forward? Because all along the system of the intestinal tract there are certain little gates and these gates open only in one direction. They don’t open back. They open forwards only so when the food is pressed, it can only open ahead, not open backwards. That’s the system of peristalsis. It’s remarkable; it’s hard to even imagine. Any person who thinks even a little bit should think about this as he’s eating. Along the whole system of the intestinal tract, there are gates; and these gates are only opening in one direction and so when the food is squeezed by the muscles it make its way forward towards its goal.


Now as it moves ahead, changes are happening. People think the food is digested in the stomach. No. The stomach just breaks it up; it gets chewed up in the stomach. The stomach has an acid so strong if you put your finger in the stomach acid, it will burn your finger. It would burn your finger. Hydrochloric acid. It’s very strong. They’ve done it again and again. Put your finger in that acid and it will burn your finger, but it doesn’t burn your stomach! It’s a neis. That acid is in your stomach to burn up the food, but it doesn’t burn your stomach itself. So if you eat the stomach of an animal and put it inside of you, your hydrochloric acid will digest that stomach but it doesn’t digest your stomach. Isn’t that a neis? There’s a reason for it, it could be explained, but it’s a nes. And that’s the job of the stomach, to break up the food. But it only breaks it up; that’s only the beginning.

As it passes into the big intestines then something starts happening. The intestines are lined with villi, little hair-like projections all along. You can’t see it with the naked eye. It projects from the stomach lining, from the intestinal lining and these little villi start sucking out from the food all the nourishment, and it’s wonderful how they’re able to strain out only what’s necessary and useful for the body. There are nisei nissim there. Now, as it begins traveling to your stomach and through the intestines, the intestines begin extracting from the food all the necessary material. The unnecessary materials are not taken in. How could that happen that the interior of the intestinal tract has the ability and the knowledge to extract from the food only those materials that are necessary? Everything else remains outside and it’s waste, it’s finally expelled.


Now why is it expelled? Why doesn’t it remain there? What causes it to keep on moving? Peristalsis – it moves and moves and moves. Why is it moving? It moves and moves until it reaches the stomach and then it stops for a while and then it begins moving again and it goes slowly to give the intestines a chance to suck out all the nourishment and finally it keeps on moving again and pushing and pushing until it pushes out. And when it pushes out, it’s labeled, “Do not reuse.” That’s why it’s labeled that way. Not for reuse. It strains out all that the body needs, and it leaves over a waste which is expelled. It’s propelled to the exit.

So the nisim really begin once you start eating your food – there’s so much to think about while you’re eating, so much yediah chushis to gain, it’s a shame that we get full and have to stop.


And then when the stomach and the intestines have taken all the nourishment out of the food, the bloodstream flows along and picks it up. And the bloodstream carries thousands of different kinds of materials, all mixed together! And not only that, the bloodstream is carrying waste away from the cells, the broken down materials from the cells. All in the bloodstream. It carries it all together. Imagine a big pipe going from here to someplace in Manhattan. And it’s bringing to Manhattan milk. Let’s say we have cows and goats here in Brooklyn. So we put milk into the pipe. They also need gasoline in Manhattan, so we put gasoline into the pipe. And they need vinegar in Manhattan and turpentine. They need water to drink and water for bathing. So we’re pouring it all into the same pipe going into Manhattan. It’s all put together. And the pipe carries it and delivers to each address in Manhattan exactly what that address needs; and it arrives uncontaminated! Every separate element is delivered to the right place exactly. It delivers to the eyes what the eyes need. If it delivers the wrong thing, hair would grow in your eyes. Exactly what the eyes needs is dropped off at the eyes. It delivers to the scalp what the scalp needs. Hair grows on your scalp. It all comes from the bloodstream where it’s all mixed together. And it’s moving along together with the waste too. The waste is moving along together with the good material; and everything is functioning perfectly – miracles as great as kriyas yam suf are taking place inside your body, and don’t even feel it. And finally the waste moves to the kidney and the kidney gets rid of the waste separately.


Now everyone knows the Shulchan Aruch that says you have to eat in order to serve Hashem. Every time one eats, besides for brachos, there is a whole separate avodah, the function of eating for the sake of Hashem. When we eat it’s not a bad idea to fulfill what the Shulchan Aruch tells you. You sit down to eat and you’re thinking, “Why am I eating? Is it merely because I’m hungry? I’m eating the same reason a cow eats?! No, I’m eating to serve Hashem, in order to replenish my store of energy to be able to serve Hashem. Isn’t that a good thing to do? Does it cost money to think that way?

Now along comes the Rambam, and he says a different expression. He says you should eat למען דעת את השם, in order to know Hashem. Eating in order to know Hashem. Now that’s an avodah! We could have explained it as follows. You’re eating in order to have energy to learn a Rambam, to learn how to know Hashem by learning Torah. But the Rambam means something else besides that. You’re eating in order so that the eating itself should give you da’as Hashem. That’s how to eat.


You have to learn how to eat. You’ve been eating all your life and you still don’t know how to eat! It’s a pity. When you embark on the career of eating, you have to be prepared for it.

Now of course it needs practice. At first it’s hypocritical; you don’t really mean it. But after a while it begins to penetrate your consciousness and little by little you’ll be surprised. One day you’ll find yourself eating l’sheim shamayim. That’ll be a pleasant surprise. You’ll be a success.

Say it with your mouth; that’s the first step. When you sit down to eat tomorrow at breakfast, say aloud – nobody has to hear you, but say it with your mouth, “I’m eating in order to serve Hashem, in order to appreciate His chesed.” Now, you don’t mean it at all, but do it anyhow.

You never heard this before? It’s time you heard it; it’s pretty late. It’s been in the Shulchan Aruch and in the Rambam a long time. So the first thing tomorrow morning while you’re eating, “I’m eating l’sheim shamayim. I’m eating in order to recognize the great kindness of Hashem.” Keep on saying it, day after day, week after week, and I guarantee you that sooner or later, you’re going to mean it.


It’s a good idea to practice up thinking about Hashem while you eat watermelon this summer. It’s a wonderful idea. Whenever you eat watermelon, devote that time to thinking about Hakodosh Boruch Hu. The whole time; not merely when you make the bracha. And it’s a great preparation for Chodesh Elul as well. I always say that the best time to do teshuva is over a good piece of watermelon.

Instead of devouring your food with the same amount of thought as a cow grazing in the field, אל תהיו כסוס כפרד, don’t be like a horse; you must begin to practice eating with thought. If not, then forever you’ll remain in the same place as your Italian neighbor down the block. So many times we eat something and we finish it off before we even realize we were eating. If your mind is always in flux, and you don’t concentrate on the service of Hashem that you have before you, then you won’t succeed. Greatness in the service of Hashem is dependent to a great extent on your mind, on your thoughts. And therefore, whenever you eat something, it could be a delicious piece of steak, an apple or a simple hard-boiled egg, that’s your opportunity for greatness. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by what’s going on around you. Don’t lose the opportunity to grow great in this avodah. Don’t be the fool who is always telling others about the greatness he will achieve someday.When are you going to begin if not now?! אל תאמר לכשאפנה אשנה, שמא לא תפנה – “Don’t say, ‘When I have time I will study,’ for maybe you will never have that time” (Avos 2:4) One day I’ll do this and one day I’ll do that. A nechtiger tug! That one day is today. אם לא עכשיו אימתי. “If not now, then when?” And the opportunity is right there by your kitchen table.


As you’re preparing your food or eating your food, think about the kindness of Hashem. Put in all these thoughts that we spoke about tonight. And, if you do it, you’ll become a נחל נובע, a flowing fountain of your own ideas, your own chiddushim in this sugya of the chesed Hashem. When you drink that cup of water, you’ll imagine that it’s Hashem pouring that great elixir of life down your throat. And after a bit of practice, you’ll actually begin to believe it. You’ll actually feel a gratitude towards Hashem for the food that He provides you. And then you’ll be on your way to fulfilling the great lesson of ואכלתם שם לפני ד׳ אלוקיכם ושמחתם – the great lesson of being happy, being delirious with happiness, with the gift of food. And as you eat before Hashem, you’ll be growing in awareness of Hashem and gratitude to Him. And those who develop the genuine attitude of appreciating Hashem’s countless forms of kindness in food, will begin to enjoy themselves and find true happiness in their day-to-day life. And they will thereby gain excellence of mind and character. And that’s how you’ll become greater and greater in the eyes of Hashem, as you’re eating your meals at the dining room table.

Parshas Eikev -Becoming a Man of Prayer

פרשת עקב


In this week’s parsha, Moshe Rabeinu describes how he prayed to Hashem on behalf of Aharon his brother after the cheit ha’eigel:  ואתפלל גם בעד אהרן בעת ההיא – And I prayed for Aharon at that time” (Eikev 9:20).   And a few pesukim later we find the word ואתפלל again; this time Moshe is begging Hashem to remove His wrath from the Am Yisroel: ואתפלל אל השם ואמר השם אלוקים אל תשחת עמך – ‘And I prayed to Hashem, ” Hashem O’ G-d, don’t destroy Your nation…” (Eikev 9:26).  And what a prayer it was! Although we read only four pesukim here (26-29)  it was actually a tefillah that was unequalled in history. Moshe threw himself down on the ground and davened for forty days and nights before Hakodosh Boruch Hu, begging with all kinds of entreaties on behalf of his beloved people. You know what it means to stand in front of Hashem for forty days?! It’s impossible to even imagine. If we daven for something for five minutes straight, we’ve already exhausted all the possibilities of speech. And here we have Moshe Rabeinu being mispallel for forty days and forty nights! And there’s no doubt that the Am Yisroel followed suit and also spent days beseeching Hashem for forgiveness.

I’ll tell you a secret now. This whole episode of the Golden Calf was foreseen and intended by Hashem for the purpose of eliciting this great outpouring of prayer from Moshe and the Am Yisroel. And for what purpose? To make them great. So that they would become more and more excellent by means of tefillah. By means of the davening itself, Moshe u’vnei Yisroel achieved pinnacles of perfection heretofore unimaginable. You know, it’s not for naught that the first time we find Moshe Rabeinu speaking to Hakodosh Boruch Hu panim el panim, face to face, was after he spent this extraordinary amount of time in tefillah before Hashem. Only because of his tefillos, and the change in Moshe that it caused, was this additional degree of greatness, panim el panim, bestowed upon him.


And so, it is abundantly clear that tefillah has the capacity to make one great and to become perfect in the eyes of Hashem. And therefore, before we embark on our subject for tonight, the subject of tefillah, we are going to ask a kashya, a question. Why is it in the Torah, there is no explicit commandment for tefillah? Yes, it is included in “Le’avdo b’chol l’vavchem,” to serve Him with all your heart; good, very good. But that could mean more than one thing, and such an important subject as tefillah, why shouldn’t it be specified?  I think it’s a good question. Among the obligations of a Jew, a loyal servant of Hashem, tefillah takes up a big part of our day! So why couldn’t it have been included in the Aseres Hadibros we read last week, or at least in taryag mitzvos openly? It’s a good question, I think.

And one answer, the most important answer, is that tefillah is not something that you do as a mitzvah one time or ten times. Tefilla is a way of life! Tefillah means a state of existence, a frame of mind of being always in contact with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.  It means that as soon as you wake up in the morning you’re expected to be in contact with Hakadosh Baruch Hu; you thank Him: Modeh ani l’fanecho – “I thank you, Hashem.” And all day long until you drift off to sleep, you’re speaking with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That’s what you’re in this world for! To be a man of tefillah.


You know that our greatest men were always men of tefillah. Look at Dovid Hamelech. He was great in everything. He accomplished many great things. He did everything! He fought wars, he learned Torah and he was the King of the Am Yisroel. And yet, when we want to consider what was the central pillar of this man’s perfection, we turn to his own words: Ani Tefilla, said Dovid, “I am tefillah.” Now, we know that Dovid spent time on tefillah and that he was distinguished for that. He was well known for his communion with Hashem; that’s how we have our Tehillim. Dovid lay on the field and he spoke to Hakadosh Baruch Hu as long as he could, and even when he couldn’t speak to him he was thinking to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. So there’s no question that he davened well. But we’re saying much more than that here.

What is this declaration of Dovid, Va’ani Tefilla, “I am tefillah”? What does that mean, I am tefilla? Maybe you could say he davened well. Or he davened a lot. He had kavanah, maybe. But “I am tefillah”?!

And the answer is that Dovid Hamelech didn’t merely daven. He didn’t even merely daven a lot, and with kavanah. It was much more than that. His whole essence was tefillah. His entire life, he was thinking of Hashem and talking to Him.

L’hagid baboker chasdecha – He thanked Hashem in the morning and he kept it up all day along. That was what made Dovid great, and that’s why Hashem took to be the king. Because Dovid had spent all of his youth in constant contact with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that’s the reason he was chosen by Hakodosh Boruch Hu to lead the Am Yisroel.


And now we can answer our question about the missing mitzvah of tefillah. How can one say a “mitzvah of tefillah”? It’s not like a mitzvah, that you can say, I did it, I’m done. It’s your life!  It’s every second of your life. The life of a servant of Hashem is always to be talking to Hashem either in gratitude or in request.  Now, as you hear this, we are not blaming anybody; and certainly I cannot say it is a criterion for me; but at least let us learn a little bit from Dovid Hamelech and understand that this is the way to greatness. Va’ani Tefilla, I am a man of tefillah, is the way to perfection.

We all know what it means to daven. There is nothing that is more woven into the fabric of our lives than tefillah. We are a nation of מתפללים. In my first shul we had a gentile neighbor, an old man, right next door. And one afternoon, when we were gathering to daven Mincha, I heard him say to his daughter, “What is it with these Jews?! All day, back and forth, back and forth, to the synagogue. Don’t they ever finish praying?” And the answer is, no, we never finish praying. We are a people that are always davening. We learn from Moshe Rabeinu and Dovid, the Ish Tefillah, the Man of Prayer, and we are the Am Tefillah, the Nation of Prayer.

Now, if Moshe Rabeinu used the opportunity of ואתפלל so often, and Dovid Hamelech made himself into an ish tefillah, then we should surely try to better understand the function of davening to Hashem. That was the greatness of Dovid Hamelech. It was the perfection of Moshe Rabeinu. And it is most definitely an opportunity for us as well, to become great and perfect in the eyes of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.


And so, in order to begin our subject for tonight, let’s learn a gemara which is often misunderstood. In Mesichta Yevamos (64a) the Gemara asks a question: Avraham Avinu, the tzadik Avraham, had very great trouble having children. Years and years passed, and he begged and he begged, but no results. And he was anguished about this. השם אלוקים מה תתן לי – “Hashem, what are you giving me already. All the things you’ve given me mean nothing to me without a child.” It was an expression of deep pain. Avraham was in his seventies when he said that, and Hashem still wouldn’t bend His will. He continued to deny Avraham his dearest wish.

And he prayed day in and day out, and he shed copious tears for many, many bitter years. But Hakodosh Boruch Hu didn’t let up. He was doing this to the one whom He loved most. Avraham had to wait many years before one son was born to him. And it’s a question. Now this question would not bother modern people. They would say, that’s how he was. He wasn’t capable of having children. But our Sages were bothered by this. What’s the cause for such a surprising phenomenon? Who else in the world deserves to be made happy if not Avraham and Sarah?


And it’s actually a recurring phenomenon that the Torah persistently makes note of, the difficulty of having children. Avraham and Sarah: “Sarai was barren, without a child” (Bereishis 11:30). Also, Yitzchok and Rivkah: “Isaac entreated G-d for his wife, for she was barren” (ibid. 25:19). And Rachel as well: “Rachel was barren” (ibid. 29:31). It is surely a noteworthy “coincidence” that the Avos and Imahos were harassed by such an adversity as childlessness.

Now listen to this answer of the gemara because it must have been a very important purpose if it was going to postpone the fulfillment of this great function of אעשך לגוי גדול, “I will make you a great nation.” As important as the Am Yisroel was, there was something more important than that. The Am Yisroel could wait; that could be postponed. Something had to come first. And what was that? So get ready to hear the great purpose: מפני שהקדוש ברוך הוא מתאוה לתפילתן של צדיקים – “Hakodosh Boruch Hu craves the prayers of the tzadikim.” He wants to hear the tefillah of the tzadikim. That comes first.

To pray for a child! For Avraham to pray to Hashem that he should have children! That was to Hashem more important than the creation of a great nation. It’s remarkable! That means that when Avraham Avinu prayed for children it was a bigger accomplishment than having children. Having children, that can wait. But praying for children, that comes first; that’s the prime achievement.


And that’s what all troubles that come upon a person in this world are for. Rashi says in one place, why is there illness in the world? That’s Rashi’s kashya. And Rashi says, illness comes in order to make people turn to Hashem and ask for help. It’s a remarkable statement. Troubles come upon a man to force him to turn to Hashem; to make him ask Hashem for help. Hashem brings upon you aches and pains and all types of difficulties because He is mis’aveh, He craves, your tefillos.

Now, why does Hashem “desire” the prayers of the righteous? Does Hashem have any needs or desires? He doesn’t need anything at all from you! The tefillos of the biggest tzadik don’t do anything for Hashem. And so, if He doesn’t need you, and He doesn’t need your tefillos, so what’s going on here? Why would Hashem, the tov u’meitiv, inflict pain upon us because of “His desires”? Hakodosh Boruch Hu holds back children from Avraham Avinu, from Sarah Imeinu, from Yitzchok and Rivka and Rochel, because He desires their tefillos?! He besets a man with sickness and trouble because of His desires? It’s very difficult to understand.


And the answer is this. We must say that when Hakodosh Boruch Hu desires something from the righteous men, it is for their benefit. When people are brought to tefillah, when they are induced to daven to Hashem, it is a benefit for them. It’s a stroke of great fortune! Not like people think that it is necessary to pray because of some problem. The truth is exactly the opposite – the problem is a gift from Hashem because it offers the occasion, the incentive, to pray to Him.

What Hashem desires is the perfection of a tzadik. By the way, when I say tzadik, I mean you. That’s what we’re all aiming for; to make ourselves into tzadikim by becoming as perfect as possible while we’re still in this world. And although there are many different ways that lead towards Hashem, there is no question that perfection is most easily achieved through constant tefillah. And that’s why Hashem craves the tefillos of the tzadikim – because He craves their perfection.


When you think about it for a minute, the entire concept of davening to Hashem is strange. Why are we davening altogether? When we pray to Hakodosh Boruch Hu it seems like an interference in His business. Do we have to tell Him what to do? We have to tell Him what we need or what we want?! Let’s say you pray for your health – you have a cold and you daven that He should heal you. He knows just well what to do. He needs you to tell Him?! And He’s the chofetz chesed. He wants to help you more than you want to help yourself. And He knows better than you what you need. So why are you sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong?!  It’s something we have to understand- why are we davening?

A common misconception is that tefillah is for the purpose of making our entreaties and wishes heard by Hashem. We want something, we need something or we are distressed by something, so we cry out to Hashem. We ask Him to answer our prayers by providing us with our wants and needs, or by removing the cause of distress. And we hope that by approaching Him with our entreaties, He will find us worthy of having our prayers answered. And while that is to a certain extent true, it is a simple-minded and superficial understanding of tefillah. It is important to understand that to have our prayers answered by Hashem, is not the primary purpose of tefillah.


You know, the Chovos Halevovos tells us that bitachon is one of the foundations of our lives. And he explains that if a person never works on bitachon then he is an oived avodah zarah; he’s an idolator. Yes, he says that if you’re not a ba’al bitachon, then you’re an idol worshipper! Because you think that without Hashem everything goes on anyhow, by itself. You go to the bathroom – it happens by itself. You’re balancing as you walk, by itself. Your eyes are constantly taking pictures, by itself. Your heart is pumping, all by itself. It rains, the wind blows, the food comes to the supermarket; everything is happening by itself.

So what is that man worshipping? He’s worshiping the false god called nature. Because what is nature after all? The word “nature” is a Greek invention, a word they invented to conceal the great fact of Hashem Who is actually behind everything. That’s why in the gemara, when it describes something as being natural, it don’t say the word natural. It says בידי שמים, “In the Hands of Hashem.” But if we don’t make progress in bitachon, in Awareness of Hashem, then we are also bowing to the false god of cause and effect that we live with all our lives.


Of course we must exert ourselves on behalf of our health and parnasa. And that’s what we’re busy with a very large portion of our lives. We’re busy all day long fooling ourselves, putting the attitude of kochi v’otzem yadi into our heads. “It’s my own efforts that are getting me through life.” And because of that, there is constant tension between the bitachon that we’re supposed to live with in our minds, and the hishtadlus that we’re living with in our lives.

As long as we strive to take care of ourselves, to provide for our needs, to guard our safety and health, and everything else that we’re doing for ourselves and our families, it is almost impossible to continue to actually believe, to feel, that it is Hashem who is doing everything. The truth that He alone is the One Who protects us and provides us with everything is very far from our minds. We might be able to say words of bitachon, we are very capable of saying the right words, but because our deeds constantly contradict the bitachon, so to actually believe so is a difficult avodah. It is a faint belief that we live with only superficially.


Even the way we speak is like oivdei avodah zarah! I’ll give you an example. We say in English “It’s raining,” or in Yiddish “ess regent.” What does that mean “It’s raining”? It doesn’t rain by itself! In shemonah esrei we say משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם – “He brings down the rain.” Hashem is the one bringing down the rain. Here’s a man walking down the street and he says “a vind blost”. “A wind blows”?! No, a wind doesn’t blow. We say משיב הרוח “Hashem is blowing the wind.” It’s all Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

And therefore it’s necessary to work on bitachon. When will you work on it? If you learn Sha’ar Habitachon, very good. But how many people do that? The Chovos Halevovos is not such an easy sefer to learn. And even if you do learn Sha’ar Habitachon, that’s not enough; you have to practice it every day.

And so what is the solution to this difficulty? How do we address this tension between hishtadlus and bitachon that we live with all the time? And the answer is: by means of tefillah.Tefillah is not about getting what you need, what you want in your pocket. It’s about getting bitachon into your head. I’ll explain that.


To better understand what tefilla really is, we’ll first take the word תפילה and analyze it.  The word pilleil means “to think,” as in ראה פניך לא פללתי. When Yaakov finally met up with Yosef, he said “I never thought I’d see your face” (Bereishis 48:11). And the reflexive form (התפעל) of the word, התפלל, therefore means “I caused myself to think.” When Moshe Rabeinu said ואתפלל אל השם, he was saying “And I made myself think when I turned to Hashem.” ואתפלל גם בעד אהרן, “And I made myself think when I approached Hashem on behalf of Aharon.”

You didn’t realize that, did you? You thought it meant davenen. But really, when you go to the beis knesses to be mispallel, that means that you’re going there to think. That’s a surprise to most people. To think?! To daven, of course; maybe even to shake, yes. And that’s good, it’s all very good. But that’s not what tefillah means. Because the true purpose of tefillah is so that you should think.


We turn to Hashem, not in order to make our needs heard, but primarily to impress upon ourselves, להתפלל, “to make ourselves think,” that Hashem is the sole source of all of our well-being. Everything you ever had, everything you have now, and everything you will ever have, comes only from Hakodosh Boruch. And don’t tell me you know it already. Because whatever you know is only a tiny drop in the bucket of the infinite Awareness that you are capable of achieving in this world. Every single time that you turn to Hashem in tefillah causes you to become more and more perfect in the eyes of Hashem.

An ish tefillah gradually becomes an ish bitachon. You might not notice the gradual change in your personality, but every tefillah – if said with thought – makes you greater and greater. When you persist in turning to Hakodosh Boruch Hu before everything you do, and requesting His help so that you should succeed in whatever it is that you’re doing – there’s no difference if it’s a heart surgery, looking for a place to park your car, or just crossing the street – you’ll become a ba’al bitachon. And that is the most important achievement of tefillah – to gain this bitachon that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is in charge; hakol bidei shamayim. And we can gain that by thinking about what we’re saying as much as possible. And that will convince us more and more of this great principle of life, that these requests can be granted only by Him! Tefillah results in emunah and bitachon. And that’s the true purpose of tefillah.


And whether or not Hashem has answered your request according to what you hoped, you have gained a much more valuable gift – the gift of bitachon, the genuine belief, the attitude of the mind, that Hashem is the only thing you have. And that gift, that success, will accompany you much further than anything you might have asked for!

And that’s why when you go through the tefillos, you’ll see many such statements, so many words that declare that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is in charge of every detail of our lives. And the wise man will make sure to utilize every opportunity to daven, because to recognize that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is the One Who is doing things, the One who is doing everything, is the greatest achievement of life. And the more you turn to Hashem and ask Him for whatever you need, the more you “knock it into yourself” that only Hashem could help you.


By the way, if you’re interested in being a mispallel and causing yourself to think while you daven; I’ll give you a suggestion. It’s good advice – and it’s free too.  I won’t charge you anything for it. Choose one little area of davening, and decide that you’ll go slow in that one area. No matter how much those around you are rushing through davening, you make sure to spend three minutes on one little area. Let’s say, three minutes on one bracha. Let the people keep galloping, but you’re standing still, and you’re thinking in that one bracha. You’re thinking about the ideas in the bracha, or in the possuk. It sounds easy, but it won’t be in the beginning. But if you get busy working on this project, you’ll be a success.

You’re asking Hashem – Refa’ainu Hashem – Please Hashem, please give me good health. It makes you think – it makes you aware – that Hashem is the One who is giving you good health. The Gemara says לעולם יבקש אדם שלא יחלה –  “A person should always ask mercy – always, always he should ask Hashem that he shouldn’t become sick.” Always! You’re a healthy man. You’re not even thinking about getting sick. But keep on asking. “Please Hashem, please keep me healthy.” Keep on asking! L’olam! If you’re wise you’ll do it every day. Even on the street, stop for a minute and say, “I’m asking you Hashem, please keep me well.” If you’re married, “Keep my wife well. Keep my children well.”

Otherwise we will keep on thinking that כוחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה, that my own power – my own ability – gives me my good health. No! Your good health comes from Hashem. Three minutes on one subject and your mind will be changed forever. And if you get busy with this program, you’re on your way to being an ish tefillah, a man who thinks when he davens.


Here you have a person who is not feeling well; let’s say he woke up with a toothache. Of course, he’s a frum man, and so when he goes to davening he says in a formal way, “Refa’einu Hashem v’neirafei, heal me Hashem and I will be healed.” And he certainly means it; he certainly wants to get well. It’s impossible to live with a toothache. But the question is, does he really feel that he is speaking to the right address, that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is the One who can make him well? If he does it half-heartedly – if he is thinking that in reality, he has to go to the dentist, and that davening to Hashem is merely a formality – an important formality, but still it’s not the real thing – then that’s not the tefillah of a ba’al bitachon.

A person must believe with all his heart that it’s the going to the dentist that is the formality. You have to go! And by the way, you should go to the very best dentist you could find. But at the same time you have to know that it’s only a formality. Bitachon requires that you understand that Hashem is the One who heals. And every tefillah can be a shiur in bitachon. The more you ask Hashem, the more you turn to Him, the more you realize that He is the only One. Not the doctor, not the dentist, only Hashem.


And therefore, every time you take a medication – not only for a serious ailment, but even just an aspirin for a headache – Chazal tell us (Brachos 60a; Orach Chaim 130) that we should say a prayer to Hashem, asking Him to make the medication be effective. יהי רצון מלפניך השם אלוקי שיהא עסק זה לי לרפואה. It is of utmost importance to ask Hashem for His help. Don’t just mumble the words. You’re turning to Hashem in tefillah in order to strengthen your awareness that only He is the One Who heals. Think about that. Don’t waste the golden opportunity.

Many years ago I had to visit a talmid of mine in the hospital. He was a patient there. And in the room where he was staying there was another patient – an elderly man who had just undergone surgery. And I remember, when his grandson, or a great-grandson, walked into the room to visit, he said, “Zaidy, was the surgery a success?” And I thought to myself, “However much of a success the surgery actually was – and boruch Hashem it was a success for that man – the primary purpose, the true purpose of that man’s heart failure and his need for surgery wasn’t because of the need for a new valve in his heart. The true purpose of his heart condition was so that he should call out to Hashem. Sometimes, Hashem does you a favor and gives you a big opportunity for gaining Awareness and perfection. And therefore, the primary purpose of this man’s sickness and hospital stay was to encourage him to call out to Hashem. Its true purpose was to give him an opportunity for greatness.

And by constantly beseeching Hashem for His help and His mercy, this man would make great strides forward in accomplishing the purpose for which he came into this world – to become more and more aware of the reality of Hashem. And even if, chas v’shalom, that man hadn’t lived, but if he had spent his last days, his last hours, asking Hashem for mercy, then it was a success! His sickness was a success because he squeezed out from that opportunity the great success of life


And I want you to know, that even when Hashem does answer your prayers in the way you had hoped for, it is not simply Hashem acceding to your request. It is much more than that. A tefillah that is answered is a form of encouragement that Hashem is sending to you, encouraging you to continue seeking Him out, through tefillah, in all areas of your life. Hashem is encouraging you as an incentive for you to continue your striving for awareness of Him. Hashem sees that you are impressing upon yourself the Awareness that He is the All-Powerful One and that He is the sole source of the things you need, and He wants you to persist. So he shows you He’s listening to you.

Now, although we have said that misfortune is sometimes brought upon a person in order to stimulate him towards prayer and greater awareness of Hashem, it would be terribly wrong to believe that it is only those difficult situations where one finds this opportunity. On the contrary, if you listen to what I will explain now, you will understand that it is the normal day-to-day needs and difficulties that are the greatest opportunities for accomplishing the greatness inherent in the word אתפלל – “I cause myself to think.”


Once we understand this primary objective of tefillah we can answer a very big question that we have about creation. Have you ever noticed that cows don’t seem to have any trouble making a decent living to support their family? It’s a large family, with many calves, and yet the cow and her family find a patch of grass and can munch away happily for hours on end. No worries.

No shalom bayis problems for the bull and cow either. Have you ever heard about lions needing dental work that they can’t afford? Or trouble raising the children? Do cats have to spend years under the care of their parents learning how to navigate life? How to get along with friends and neighbors?

Mankind however, created by Hashem as the pinnacle of the Universe and to be more advanced than all life forms in the world, is for some strange reason beset by day to day difficulties and complications that we don’t find by any of the other creations. Hashem, the Perfect One, Who created this world with His Perfect Wisdom, could have surely created man without the many obstacles that he faces.


Why is it that every person, wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, young or old, is always facing adversity and struggles – either big or small, and usually both? In the typical day there are, without exaggeration, tens of events that can irk a person. Maybe your boss is upset with you. Or you’re having trouble with the car. Your wife is upset with you. Your son is not adjusting to learning gemara. You can’t find the key. A neighbor who is very difficult. Bills to pay. A toothache. Running late for the bus. The rent is overdue.

Not only the more serious events in your life; chas v’shalom you got the dreaded news from the doctor, the word that I don’t want to say. Or you lost your job, chalilah. Not only those tragedies, but even the small things that you face every day, and all day. Running to catch a bus.  A night with no sleep. Struggling with a bad middah for many years. A  headache. You got bit by a spider. I don’t have to explain to you – it’s the life of every one of us. No one is immune to it. Hashem, who created such a perfect world, with unfathomable Wisdom, chose Mankind for some reason, to be the one aspect of Creation that is faced with ever-present difficulties. We’re not satisfied with life like our good friend the cow. It’s something that I think is a good question.

I was learning upstairs one afternoon this week. I was learning pretty geshmak. And then I got up to take some pens that I have put away behind the seforim. They were on a shelf behind the seforim in a dark corner. And I soon saw that I had a sharp pain in my finger and it turned black. All of a sudden my finger become black. And numb.

I was frightened; very frightened. It looked chas v’shalom like tetanus, like blood poisoning. Maybe I touched a sharp rusty nail. And I said, “Ribono Shel Olam, have pity on me. Anah Hashem hoshee’ah nah! Racheim alai v’kabeil tachanunai!”

And then I realized what had happened. Hiding in that dark space was a wise spider. And he saw that I was learning all afternoon and that I didn’t think about Hashem even once. So he said, “Miller! You’ll spend all afternoon learning and you won’t think about Hashem even once?!” So he gave me a good bite; it was a poison, but not fatal. And it turned black right away and I cried out to Hashem! I made a great achievement because of that spider. If I see him, I won’t squirt Attack or Combat on him. I’ll be grateful to him. Because of his bite, I cried out to Hashem! What could be better?!

TAPE #889


And so we’ll answer like this. Cows have a certain purpose in this world. They were created to eat grass and to miraculously turn that inexpensive green substance into milk and and meat and leather. And they do that job perfectly. They fulfill their purpose here in this world exactly as planned by Hashem, without the need for them to experience any of the tribulations that we face. And the same with all of the other creatures that Hashem created. Hakodosh Boruch Hu gives them what they need to succeed.

But we weren’t created to turn grass into meat. We were created to turn our brains into Torah minds. And all of these struggles, all of the complications and obstacles of life, are sent to us as an opportunity for to spur us along towards this greatness of the creation of a mind. These small struggles are all intended as goads to prod us towards the realization that we must turn to Hashem. Every small challenge that you face is actually challenging you to recognize that Hashem is everything, and that He’s your address for anything you want.


Did you ever wonder why the mann fell down from the sky every day in the Wilderness? Why didn’t it fall once a week? Hakodosh Boruch Hu could have just as well made enough mann for the whole week fall down at the beginning of every week? Or even better; once a year. Why the need to go collect the Mann every day. It was a neis in any case, so why not just make this whole business of collecting the mann an annual event.

Now, that’s not my question. That’s the question that the talmidim of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai asked of their Rebbi (Yoma 76a). And Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai didn’t think it was a foolish question and he answered with the following mashal:


There was a king who gave his son an allowance, an allowance for all of his day-to-day expenses. And he gave him the allowance once a year. In the beginning of every year he wrote him a big check. And what happened? The prince got busy spending the money. And he made sure, of course, to come back and visit his father. But only once a year. He came back once a year to pick up his check. Once a year! So what did the King do? He changed the allowance system. He told his son that from now on, he would have to come pick up his allowance once a day. Every morning, he would have to come back to pick up the day’s money. And what do you know, the prince found the time to come by and visit his father every day.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said that it was the same way in the midbar. A man had a family, with four or five little children. And children get hungry. Growing children eat a lot. And they complain when they get hungry. And every day the father of the house would worry: Will there be mann tomorrow? Will I have what to feed my family? Don’t think that the people were sure mann was coming the next day! Hashem was watching to see if they deserved it. So the father of the house would call out to Hashem. Every day! He would get busy pleading with Hashem, please give me mann to feed my children! Ah yay yay! And the same thing was going on in all the tents in the Wilderness encampment. Everyone was turning to Hashem in prayer Everyone was thinking about Hashem. And what was the result, asks Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. נמצאו כולן מכוונים את לבם לאביהן שבשמים. The Am Yisroel was gaining a deeper and deeper bitachon; the awareness that Hashem is the only One who provides them with their needs. Every day, every tefillah, was another perfection of the mind.


What we are being taught here is that every situation we face, no matter how minor, no matter how small, is an opportunity for greatness. Every situation is an opportunity for using tefillah to achieve greatness by creating the awareness in your mind that Hashem is your only hope. And that greatness can only be achieved through constant and consistent words and thoughts. Every time you are looking for that elusive parking spot, you should be talking to Hashem. “Hashem, please help me find the parking spot that I want.” And then say it again. Over and over again. And each time you say it, you are impressing even deeper into your mind that it is only Hashem who provides parking spots. And don’t laugh, because that is the truth. If you don’t daven for it you could very well be the oived avodah zarah that the Chovos Halevovos was referring to.

And if you daven for it, you’ll begin, little by little, to realize this truth that besides for everything else, Hashem is also the Hashem of parking spots. He’s not just a word in the siddur! And that’s how you become great while looking for parking. And all day long you’re becoming more and more aware that Hashem is Hashem Echad – that He is the sole provider of anything that we have or want. While you’re waiting in the doctor’s office you’re turning to Hashem, and when you’re running late for an appointment you’re turning to Hashem. When your child rides his bicycle you’re asking, “Hashem, please protect my son.” You’re talking to Him all day long; you’re an ish tefillah.


The tefillah of Refa’einu in shemonah esrei is not intended to be put on the side to be brought out only when someone gets sick. No; when you say רפאינו השם ונרפא, Heal me Hashem, you’re supposed to realize how many hundreds of thousands of complicated situations are taking place in your body this second. And every one of them is mamash a miracle that you’re surviving. Don’t you know that you have in your brain very thin capillaries where the blood flows through. They’re so thin that the blood has to flow through corpuscle by corpuscle. It’s so thin that they have to make their way through in a single file, one corpuscle at a time. Now, blood is a sticky business you know. If you ever came into contact with blood you know that it’s plasma, and it’s sticky. So why doesn’t it happen that in these very thin tubes the blood should get stuck. If it gets stuck and clogged, chas v’shalom, what would be! In the brain, it would be a stroke right away.

The blood doesn’t flow on its own. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is making the blood flow. Even in those very fine capillaries, Hashem keeps the blood liquid and it flows through. So you’re davening refaeinu; it doesn’t mean you, you think. It’s your neighbor on the hospital, maybe. Or the man is shul who had a stroke. No, it’s you. It’s you! But as you’re davening, sometimes a corpuscle almost gets stuck, it slows down in one of the bends; Oh no! And then the next one comes and nudges it and pushes it ahead; Ahh! It cleared it and you were just saved. Boruch atah Hashem rofei cholei amo Yisroel!


Now, that’s why we say ברוך אתה השם, You Hashem are the One who is רופא חולי עמו ישראל. You’re healing us! Not merely that we are not sick. You are healing us constantly! But if you’re not thinking about it, then the whole thing is a waste; all the nissim are being wasted on you.

So when you daven refa’einu you’re working on bitachon. Hashem is the One! Of course, when it’s necessary to take a refuah, so you have a mitzvah to take the medicine. Do whatever has to be done. But you have a bigger mitzvah to work on the emunah that only Hashem is the rofei cholei amo Yisroel. It’s You Hashem Who’s the One who heals us. Over and over again, you say those words, and every time it’s another layer of bitachon being laid in your mind. And before you know it, it will hit you like a tin of bricks – He really is the rofei cholei amo Yisroel!


 When you daven אתה חונן לאדם דעת, why do you say the words אתה חונן? You don’t start all the tefillos with the word atah. You say Shema Koleinu, and Refa’einu and Bareich Aleinu. Only when i comes to da’as, you say Atah Chonein. Why? Because people think, “Da’as? I have da’as. I have my own daas.” A working mind is so “natural” to your existence so you think it’s a davar poshut, it’s simple, that’s who you are. And so da’as needs a hakdamah: No, you don’t have any daas. And the preface is Atah, You! You Hashem are chonein l’adam daas.

And so every time you say אתה חונן, with some thought, you’re teaching yourself again and again that you’re only sane because of Him. Don’t think you just have sanity: “I’m sane. I was born sane. I have to be sane.” You don’t have to be anything! Why aren’t you roaming the street, shouting? Like this, you should be a raving lunatic!  But you’re walking like a decent civilized person; you’re not talking to yourself. That’s da’as! Hashem is giving you daas right now.The reason that you’re not chalilah in an insane asylum, in a padded cell, raging and knocking your head against a wall is because of Atah, You! It’s a gift that He’s giving you – it’s a big gift to have daas. Sanity is a tremendous gift. And therefore you’re learning bitachon.


Boruch atah Hashem m’vareich hashanim. You’re the one who gives parnasa. And if you think that way, even for just that moment, every little bit is a big achievement. You’re living for a purpose now. You’re a hardworking man. You’re a professional. You have a good parnasa. You have everything you need. Don’t give yourself credit at all. Ask Hashem. You must say, “Hashem, please give me parnasa.”  Thank Hashem because He is the one giving it to you. Because there are plenty of professionals that lose their jobs and are out of luck. And therefore, in order to become aware of Who is giving us our paycheck, we have to always be turning to Hashem in tefillah.


Every small degree of awareness of Hashem as the only One who gives you anything is a perfection of character. Moshe Rabeinu believed in Hashem. He believed in Hashem more than any of our great men. Hashem spoke with him פנים אל פנים. Of course he believed. But he also knew that every added degree of the True Knowledge of the Awareness of Hashem would be his biggest success. And therefore at every opportunity that he found, he was mispalleil to Hashem. He caused himself to think about Hashem and His omnipotence again and again and again. His brother, Aharon had incurred the wrath of Hashem, and Moshe Rabeinu used the opportunity to become great. ואתפלל אל השם בעת ההיא. “And I caused myself to think about Hashem at that time.” Another added level of Awareness of Hashem.

And when the בני ישראל sinned, the same thing. ואתנפל לפני השם את ארבעים היום ואת ארבעים הלילה. “And I fell before Hashem in prayer for forty days and forty nights” (ibid. 9:25). Forty days and forty nights of thinking about Hashem and His greatness! And that’s how Moshe Rabeinu became so great. Because he understood that every situation he faced, every big and small need, was an opportunity to be mispalleil to Hashem, to think about Hashem, and to become greater and greater by adding a deeper and deeper awareness that it is Hashem who is the only One you can ever turn to for anything.

And that greatness is accessible to all of us. Hashem has purposefully created us as the neediest creatures in the world, as an impetus so that we should feel the need to turn to Him and become aware of Him. And our greatness is assured as long as we walk the path trodden by Moshe Rabeinu: ואתפלל גם בעד אהרן בעת ההיא. Every עת, every moment, is the עת ההיא for you. It’s your great opportunity to be מתפלל אל השם – to cause yourself to think about Hashem. But you must think; it’s not the words but the thoughts behind the words that make a davening into a tefillah. And every עת therefore, every instance of need, is your personal opportunity for growing greater and greater in reliance on Hashem alone, and fulfilling your purpose in this world.


Parshas Va’eschanan -Thinking His Thoughts


פרשת ואתחנן


Among all of the great miracles during our forty year sojourn in the Wilderness, the day of the giving of the Torah towers above all. The exhilarating experience of hearing the Voice of Hashem speaking to us, and experiencing an Awareness of Him is something that has never been surpassed in history. And it is that which we constantly yearn for: והוא ישמיעינו ברחמיו שנית, Oh, how we wish we could hear that Voice again, and impress that Awareness of Hashem into our bones like that again.

Now, when describing Matan Torah the Rambam says גדליהו על כל גדולה, “You should exalt this event, this picture, higher than all other great things in history. You hear that. ”Exalt it; make it greater than anything else!” But this won’t happen by itself; you have to think about Matan Torah all the time! And when is it done? Never! Even on Shavuos, the frum Jews are at best learning Hilchos Shavuos. And not at best they’re discussing how to make the blintzes and the cheesecake. Whatever it is, they’re busy with Shavuos. But the ideas of Shavuos?! A picture of Matan Torah?! Never! And how could you? You never think about it! You’ve never created pictures of it in your mind – a mental picture! גדליהו על כל גדולה, make it greater in your mind than anything else that you might think is great!


Now, you know that here we like to speak on a practical level. We like to speak words and ideas that we can immediately translate into service of Hashem. So, let us ask, what is the purpose of remembering that great day of מעמד הר סיני? It’s not a secret; the possuk tells us: אתה הראת לדעת כי השם הוא האלוקים…וידעת היום והשבת אל לבבך כי הוא האלוקים. “You have been made to see (the ma’amad Har Sinai) in order to know that Hashem is G-d…And you should know today, and you should continue to take into your heart [i.e. mind] that Hashem is G-d” (ibid. 4: 35-39)

Before we begin – I’ve told you this many times already – that the word לב in lashon kodesh actually refers not to the heart but to the mind, to a person’s thoughts. So why is that? Why do we say “heart” if we mean thoughts? And the answer is this. The language of the Torah is not a bluff language. When a person thinks with his mind, but he’s not really interested in it; when his heart, his emotions, are not participating, that’s not the machshava that Hashem desires. Hashem wants you to be excited about your thoughts. That’s when it turns into a machshava. It’s through the heartbeat, the emotions, that you can find out if someone is really interested in the subject. And that’s why a man is judged by what he’s excited about. Because if your heart is into it, if it excites you and gets your heart beating, then that’s who you really are. That’s where your mind really is.


So for example when a whole mob of people get together in a stadium. All dumbbells, sitting there in the grandstand. And they’re excited because here goes their star champion pitcher onto the field. And they want him to pitch out the batter right away; he should knock him out right away! And the pitcher throws; “Strike one,” says the umpire. Everybody goes wild with excitement! Whooo-aahh! Very important information from the umpire! And then this fancy pitcher twirls his hand and he throws it again, in a fancy way on order to trick the man. “Strike two,” says the umpire. They go wild. They’re excited. All the animals are jumping up and down. And now he throws it again, and surprise, Whack!, he hits the ball and it goes flying way out in the bleachers! And everybody is standing up shouting like mad! What are they excited about? They’re excited about nothing at all. That’s a madhouse; in a madhouse people are excited about nothing.

Now let’s change the scene. After all these are the lower elements of society, the poorer fellows. How much does a baseball ticket cost already, twenty dollars, thirty dollars? But what about the higher class people? They must be excited about higher things. So we go to the grand opera or the theater on Broadway where it costs five hundred dollars a seat. And everybody well dressed, or well undressed, whatever it is. They’re sitting there grinning, wearing their jewels. And the photographers are taking pictures. It will be in the papers tomorrow: Who was present at this event of high culture? Who’s sitting in which seat? Who’s sitting in the most expensive seat? That’s why they came after all. And some of them come with their lorinetts, special glasses, to look at the actors on the stage.


And so, we can turn back to our possuk of והשבות אל לבבך כי השם הוא האלוקים. Hashem is commanding us to impress deeply into our minds, אל לבבך, to actually live with the thoughts and emotions that there is no one else but Hashem. To be so attached to Him in our minds and our hearts, that He is the only One we are ever be thinking about. והשבות אל לבבך, you have to lay it onto your heart. And it has to be done not once, and not twice, and not three times, but continually, all the time, as implied by the word והשבות, which not only means you shall take but also you shall return. The fact that you heard it already, you know it already, doesn’t mean anything. You don’t know anything! The vague knowledge that you’ve already acquired, what your rebbi taught you in cheder, is not enough – it needs constant reminding and constant repetition.

And what that means is that you’re going to have to begin devoting time to the subject of Hashem Hu Ha’Elokim. You are going to have to think about Hakodosh Boruch Hu and devote your mind to this subject until it is the focus of all your thoughts. והשבות אל לבבך כי השם הוא האלוקים – your mind through and through must become a mind of Hashem; filled with knowledge that Hashem is One; that He is everything in our lives, and nothing else matters. Nothing except for Hakodosh Boruch Hu.


And so, while a person is still in this world, he is going to have to learn how to plant thoughts of Hashem in his mind. Not only when you’re davening; of course, even that is a very big achievement. Most people don’t even have Hashem in their minds then. I’m sorry to say that Hashem is not even thought about during davening. It’s impossible! At the rate of the davening, you can’t think about anything, not even the meaning of the words. But what we’re saying here now, is much more than davening. You have to have Hashem in your mind as much as possible! והשבות.

There are so many mental pictures that you have to formulate in your mind. And you have to develop them and cherish them. You have to live with thought. Of course you have to know what to think about Him. If you don’t have models; if you didn’t hear from a good rebbi, if you didn’t learn the right seforim, so you don’t even have the seeds in your mind with which to work with. Your mind is an empty field. Nothing there to plow, nothing to water and grow. You’ll need models along which lines to think.


What do you think it means to have in your mind that “Hashem is the Elokim up in the heavens and below on this earth”? Just to think about Hashem in a vague superficial way?! Just to think about “His name”?! One man told me that he had the name of Hashem in his mind all the time. He keeps in front of his eyes the letters of Hashem’s name. No, it doesn’t mean that! Thinking yud-kei-vuv-kei is nothing! You have to be thinking about Hakodosh Boruch Hu – all the time.

So you’ll ask me, “Is it possible for a person to always be thinking about Hashem? After all, we are normal; and any normal person has many thoughts in his mind. How could we be saying that a person must devote all of his thinking to just one thought?

And the answer is that once a person gets busy using his mind and fulfilling והשבות אל לבבך by spending as much time as possible thinking about Hashem, he accustoms himself to a new way of thinking about this world. He begins to view the world through the eyes of Hashem’s thoughts. And he automatically keeps these thoughts in his mind, even without conscious effort.


I’ll give you a mashal. Suppose a person knows how good it is to have financial security. Maybe in the past he didn’t understand; but now he matured, he read a few books on the subject, he learned about life. So now he understands. He values having money in the bank, having insurance, participating in a pension plan. And once he gets it in his mind that to be financially secure is a good thing, once he’s meishiv el l’vavo the importance of financial security, he will never lose sight of that truth. It’s always there in his mind. No matter what he may be doing; looking for a job, planning a vacation, buying a washing machine, even just walking down the street, the thoughts of security are always on his mind. Financial security will be a factor that motivates him in any action he takes.

And that’s our job in this world- to make Hashem, and all of the Torah attitudes, so impressed into our psyche, that it becomes who we are and every step we take, is with Hashem in mind.


I’ll give you an example. It’s the first thought that Hashem tells us about. בראשית ברא אלוקים – Hashem made the world – everything – in the beginning. Before that, there was nothing at all. No elements, no chemicals, no energy, no space. It was ayin – nothing at all! And then, ויאמר אלוקים יהי, from the word yehi, let it be, the world came into being.

And if you would accustom yourself to the very first teaching of the Torah – if you would devote your mind to that teaching – then your life will be transformed completely. Because wherever you look, you see nothing but Hashem. מלא כל הארץ כבודו – “The whole world is full of his glory.”It’s not some mysterious glory, a special aura that we don’t see. It’s Hashem wherever you look because בדבר השם שמים נעשו וברוח פיו כל צבאם – everything, the sky, the sun, the stars, the earth, and everything in it is nothing but the word of Hashem.

And when you plant these Torah ideas in your mind, and when you water them with constant repetition of thought, your mind begins to fill with a perspective of the world that echoes loudly in your head – even more than the financial security we spoke about in the mashal.


I’m not telling you a middas chassidus now. I’m talking to you now about the most basic principle of yahadus. It’s the first of the aseres hadibros. When you’re thinking Hashem’s thoughts, you’re fulfilling אנכי השם אלוקיך. You didn’t know that. What do you think it means “I am Hashem your G-d”? It’s the first of the Aseres Hadibros – it’s first on the list, and it’s a very important list, so what does it mean? הוי דומה לו, Be like Me. “Think like Me! Think like I think.”

What is He thinking about? It’s not hidden away somewhere in the sifrei kaballah. Of course, כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם – our thoughts are not like Hashem’s thoughts; no matter how much we think. And yet Hakodosh Boruch Hu has revealed to us what He does think as far as concerns us, and that’s the Torah. He told us exactly what He’s thinking. The whole torah is filled with Hashem’s thoughts. And every time we think Torah ideals that the Torah teaches us, we’re being m’kayeim the mitzvah in this week’s parsha of Anochi Hashem Elokecha – think like Me.


I’ll give you another example. The mann! The Torah wants us to remember forever, to never forget the mann. The mann is supposed to be an object lesson for all generations that it is Hakodosh Boruch Hu Who feeds Mankind. Hashem commanded the Am Yisroel to take a jar of the mann and set it aside למשמרת לדורותיכם, so that we should always see it (Shemos 16:32-33). It says it in the possuk, למען יראו את הלחם אשר האכלתי אתכם במדבר, so that we should always remember Who is the real food giver. Hashem wants us to never forget the mann. It’s a constant reminder that it’s not the bread that’s feeding us; it’s His word. It’s למען הודיעך כי לא על הלחם לבדו יחיה האדם, כי על כל מוצא פי השם יחיה האדם – To let us know that we live by the word of Hashem, and not on the bread alone (D’varim 8:3).

So you’re telling me that you sit down at the table to eat and you don’t think about how it is really Hashem who is feeding you?! You mean to tell me that day after day can go by and you don’t spend at least one minute thinking about this idea of the mann?! You’re missing the whole point of food! The whole business of eating is one big neis.


And once you make the mann a part of your mind, your entire life is transformed! After all, it’s not Tisha B’av everyday. You’re eating all the time! And even when you’re not eating, you see food all around you. And if you are השב אל הלב, if through constant repetition of thought you engrave on your mind the lessons of the mann, then the whole world becomes a world filled with Awareness of Hashem. You see a world, a big world, that is being fed only by Hashem.

It takes work, it takes practice, but there’s no option. If you want to be a success in this world, like many people do, then you’re going to have to make it your business to create a Torah mind. And the one who is thinking about Hashem always, he is the one who is truly attached to Hashem. ואתם הדביקים בהשם אלוקיכם חיים כולכם היום.


Even now, as I’m telling it to you, for a lot of people sitting here, it doesn’t register with them at all. They didn’t come to hear this foolishness. They want to hear something solid, something substantial. If I told them a segulah, let’s say, that if your wife is pregnant and you want her to have an easy childbirth, so you should go to the aron kodesh and open it up. That’s a segula that she should give birth easily. People run to do that! That they’ll run to do! It’s something  practical! But what did you accomplish by opening the aron kodesh if your mind is closed?! You opened the aron kodesh but your mind is closed.

But I’m telling you something maybe it doesn’t seem as practical, but it’s the most important thing you can do, a thousand times more important than opening the aron kodesh. You’ll start opening your mind! One permanent thought, one attitude that you impress on your mind is infinitely more valuable than opening the Aron Kodesh.


And that’s exactly what Hashem wants! It’s a statement everybody knows, but nobody understands. The Gemara says רחמנא ליבא בעי – “Hashem wants the heart” (Sanhedrin 106b). So people think He wants “a good heart.” Of course, He also wants you to have a good heart, but that’s not the secret of this ma’amar. I explained before that in lashon kodesh “heart” means “mind.” Hashem wants your mind more than anything else! Like it says, תנה בני לבך לי – “My son, give Me your mind” (Mishlei 23:26). Fill your head with My thoughts. He wants not only the technicalities of the Torah but the ideas and ideals of the Torah.

The Chovos Halevavos has a sha’ar called Cheshbon Hanefesh – a sha’ar just about thinking. And he gives us thirty exercises what to think about. Now pay attention to exercise number one. Pay attention because you’ll be surprised. Number one: To think, “How grateful I am to You Hashem that I am not a piece of metal or piece of wood; You have made me a living person. You brought me ex-nihilo, out of nothing, into existence.” That’s the first thing to think about. I’m looking at you now and you’re all looking at me with blank faces. Do I hear any echo back there? Is there anything at all echoing in your brain? No reaction! That’s because you never practiced thinking at all. Practice up on it; practice makes perfect.


Practice thinking: Once upon a time I was nothing but minerals. That’s what you were. You were water in the cloud; you were snow on the ground. You’re a little bit of soil – not much – a little bit of soil, mostly air and water – you’re about eighty percent water – and some sunshine too. So think: “I’m so grateful to You Hashem. There’s so much sunshine in the world, but most of it is not people. You took some of that sunshine and some water, air and some soil, and You made me out of it! I’m grateful to You Hashem for that.” Next time there’s snow on the ground, look at the snow and know that there are future generations that will come from that snow. No question about it. You can’t believe it?! That’s because you never think about these important subjects. It takes work to השב.

Now, put that idea into your head. Nobody else is thinking about it. You have a monopoly on that; you’re unique if you start thinking that way. That’s the first of the thirty mind exercises of the Chovos Halevavos. He was a great man, a great teacher. Try it. Of course you’re thinking it’s silly. “I should be grateful for that?! If Hashem would send me, let’s say, a big sum of money, maybe. But for this I should be grateful?” So Hashem says, “Would you want to be transformed back again into the air and water and sunshine? No, you would like to remain the way you are right now!


You’re hearing now that Hashem made you out of sunshine that came from 83 million miles away. It traveled at the rate of 186,000 miles a second. In eight minutes it came from the sun to this earth. And it was transformed. We are sunshine. The sunshine hits the green plant, the chlorophyll, and it manufactures starch. And that starch becomes bread. And it becomes meat if animals eat it. And that becomes you. That’s what you are.

You walk in the street and you’re thinking “I thank You Hashem that I’m not chlorophyll, that I’m not starch, I’m not sunshine. You made me out of nothing and I can’t forget it. I’m thinking constantly about it.” If you do that, you’re one out of ten thousand, one out of a hundred thousand. You’re a great man already!

Another thing: You must think about Olam Habah! How can a Jew have an existence, a thinking existence, in which the Next World doesn’t occupy a big place?! You must think about Moshiach. צפית לישועה. Were you waiting for Moshiach? That’s one of the big questions they’re going to ask you (Shabbos 31a).


You also need to spend time thinking about Gehenim. That’s one of the big influences on a person’s life. You have to picture Gehenim in your mind. As much as possible think about it. It should be in your mind always. Gehenim! How many times do people think about Gehenim? It’s a tragedy; you must think about it frequently because when you make your way through this world with Gehenim engraved in your mind, your entire life is a different life. The picture of Gehenim in your mind is an achievement. And the more you think about it here, the less you’ll experience it there.

Yetzias Mitzrayim! Every day you have to be reminding yourself that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim so that we should serve Him. אני השם אלוקיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים להיות לכם לאלוקים – I took you out in order to be your Elokim. We’re not talking now about what you say during kriyas shema. That’s not thinking! That’s not והשבות אל לבבך כי השם הוא האלוקים – And you should impress into your mind, and impress it again and again and again. That’s what והשבות means. Again and again, you keep laying down more and more layers of thought in your mind.


Now, everything we’re speaking about here takes time. And that’s always the great excuse, the great snare of this world. Here’s a man who works all day long. At night he goes out to the beis medrash and learns a little gemara. And he’s happy; he’s a good Jew. He has no time for anything more, for והשב אל לבבך. You have to know that עד כאן דברי יצר הרע.

What does he really mean? He means that he has no time for Hashem. For the radio he has time! For his garden he has all the time in the world. For the newspapers he has time. They’re frum papers, frum magazines, frum novels. “It’s glatt glatt.” But he has to know, it’s treif, because the more interests you have, the more you’re preoccupied with everything else, the less room you have in your mind for Hashem. When a man is so busy with all of his things; with his business, and with his every pleasures, and with his family. If he has to every motzaei Shabbos go out to visit his relatives. And every Sunday he has to get behind the wheel of his car, and take the family out. And then every evening he has something else to do, then this man is committing the worst kind of suicide, because his mind is always occupied. Because all of these things, besides for the waste of precious time, create interests and attitudes in the mind keep the mind fettered to the things in this world that matter least. It’s impossible to think about Hakodosh Boruch Hu unless you make time for Him. Man’s most precious possession, his mind, is tied in bonds and imprisoned, and unless he cuts loose, he will never be able to succeed in making something from his mind – and your mind is your only key to success.


That’s what the gemara (Nedarim 81a) says: שלחו מתם, they sent a message from Eretz Yisroel, הזהרו בבני עניים, be careful with the children of the poor. When poor boys come to the Yeshiva, welcome them. Their fathers might not contribute much, but welcome them with open arms,  שמהם תצא תורה, Torah comes from poor boys. Why from the poor boys? So the Ran says:  שאין להם עסק אחר, they have nothing else to do but learn. The wealthy boys are busy with their cars, their fancy bikes, their new watches, – but the poor boy has none of this “baggage” on his mind. He has nothing to waste time with. So he sits in the yeshiva all day long. When I was a boy, my friends had bikes. But I didn’t; I didn’t have a bike. And so while my friends rode the streets, I stayed in the beis knesses and learned. And I’m none the worse for it! The one who has nothing else on his head, that’s the only one who will succeed at filling his mind with the thoughts of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Now, as much as we can, we have to follow the model of the בני עניים, the poor boys. As much as possible, even if you’re a wealthy man, the בני עניים are to be our model. It doesn’t mean you must be poor. Hakodosh Boruch may bless you with a great amount of money in your life. But nevertheless, in your house, and more importantly, in your mind, you should attempt to live like a poor man, with with the least amount of superfluities. You should get along with the minimum amount of baggage of the mind as you can.


Let’s say you have a man, a frum man, who has a special room, or even a shelf or a drawer with a coin collection. And when a visitor comes in, he’ll take it down and show it to him. This is a coin from England and here’s one from Guatemala. That’s extra cargo. You don’t need an extra thing like that on your head. There are plenty of things to worry about, plenty of ideas that you should be collecting in your head, besides for coins from Guatemala.

Some people have stamp collections. Some people love nature. Now, there’s nothing wrong with nature – on the contrary, we speak in this place about how nature can be used as a great form of perfecting the mind. But nature for nature’s sake, as a hobby, it’s a certain superfluous addition to your thoughts that you can well do without.


And therefore, when Hashem tells us בכל לבבך, that you must love Him with all of your thoughts, you must be dedicated to Him with all of your mind, it means that you’re going to have to leave as much space as possible in your mind for the important ideas. You can’t fill your time and your mind with foolishness. Otherwise, you’re creating an unwelcome competition. When you want to fulfill והשבות אל לבבך, when you begin the great career of moving the great concepts of the Torah into your mind, so these Torah ideals come in and they see that the place is already full. No room here! The mind is cluttered up with all kinds of thoughts about small things; unimportant issues like the Yankees, and the stamp collection, and your garden, and the news – what’s happening in the shul, what’s happening in Eretz Yisroel, so a competition begins, what’s going to fill your mind. And you’ll never be able to השב as long as your mind is filled with useless ideas and ideals.

And therefore, my friends, I have to tell you that the way to success is והשבות אל לבבך, you have to impress onto your mind all of these great ideals that are included in כי השם הוא האלוקים – that Hashem is everything in our lives. When Rabeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuva 3:17) discusses this mitzvah of והשבות אל לבבך he refers to it as “the high merit of thinking about the greatness of Hashem,” and he quotes from Tehillim (14:2): “Hashem looks down from the heavens upon the sons of men to see if there is some wise one that inquires concerning G-d.” Hashem is looking down at us right now – right now! – to see if we are thinking thoughts of  השם הוא האלוקים.


Now, of course you must raise a family! And you must study Torah; you must study gemara; you must study halachah – there’s no question that all of those are from the biggest things in life and it takes up most of your time. But this field of greatness in the mind is open to everybody – to mothers and fathers, to girls and boys, to bnei Torah and to the bal habus. There’s no difference if you’re a mother working in the kitchen, a father in the office, or a kollel man.

You don’t even have to find a quiet and secluded place to meditate on these important thoughts. Although that would be wonderful – you can reach the heights of greatness by being in seclusion with nobody but Hashem. But you could fulfill והשבות אל לבבך without changing your daily routine at all. A person’s thoughts are wandering all day long. While we eat, while we walk down the avenue, while we work and while we speak with others, we often forget about Hashem completely. So when you’re sitting and eating you can think of one thought. When you’re traveling in the subway you’ll be thinking another thought. A person can begin training himself to think thoughts of Hashem all day long, if he would be willing to put in some effort. And there are an endless amount of things to think about. The opportunities are endless.

You can train yourself systematically to a program of thinking thoughts of Hashem. While walking down this block, I’m going to take deep breaths, and appreciate the cocktail of gases that is keeping me alive. And from this telephone pole until the next corner I’m thinking about Gehenim. And as I pass by the big supermarket, I’m thinking about how all this food came down from the sky in the rain, the same way the mann came down. And that would be a fulfillment of והשבות אל לבבך. Every block, a new thought. Every block a new level of perfection in והשבת אל לבבך.


And if you want to succeed at this, it will take some preparation. Those of you who listen to the tapes – if you have nothing better – so that’s my humble contribution. Listen to them again, and again and again. Let them permeate your mind. They’ll sink in little by little and they’ll become part of your way of thinking. And you’ll see that your own thoughts will begin to develop, they’ll grow on their own, in accordance with how much thought you put into the models that are given to you here.

If you have access to better sources; if you’re able to read seforim, if you hear from greater teachers than I am, even better. You’ll train yourself to think thoughts of Hashem even more and more. Whatever it is, that’s the business of life – והשבות אל לבבך, developing our minds. It’s a great tragedy that so many people are not utilizing their lives because they don’t have the understanding of what life is for.

And so Hashem says, ”Don’t miss out on your purpose in life. I want your head!” רחמנא ליבא בעי – Hashem wants your mind more than anything else. תנה בני לבך – My son give Me your mind. That’s the fundamental requirement of Hashem. Make something out of your mind. Fill your head with the treasures of the Torah ideals and then you’ll belong to Me forever and ever.



Parshas Devarim – Learning to Love

פרשת דברים


At the end of the forty years in the midbar, when the Am Yisroel was passing near Edom, the land of the Bnei Eisav, Hakodosh Boruch Hu spoke to Moshe Rabeinu: אתם עוברים בגבול אחיכם בני עשיו – “You are now approaching the border of your brothers, the sons of Eisav” (D’varim 2:3). And in case you missed it, a few pesukim later (2:8) we read again, ונעבור מאת אחינו בני עשיו – “And we passed by our brothers, the sons of Eisav.” Hashem is referring to the nation of Edom as our brothers!

Now, when our people were encamped on the border of Edom, it was hundreds of years after Eisav had parted ways from the Bnei Yisroel..Two hundred and seventy years of no contact between the families! They had nothing in common anymore, except for a distant ancestor. And still, Hashem reminds us again and again that the Bnei Eisav are our brothers.

And in case you would want to think that it’s merely a form of speech, a sort of reminiscing of old ancestral ties, in Parshas Ki Seitzei  Hakodosh Boruch Hu tells us that He means it l’maisah. Hashem tells us that it’s halacha l’maisah! He commands us: לא תתעב אדומי כי אחיך הוא – “You should not abominate the Edomite – that’s the Bnei Eisav – because he is your brother.”(23:8)  “Be careful with אחיכם; with your brothers. Don’t antagonize them, don’t fight with them.”  Hashem doesn’t say that about other nations. And why shouldn’t you look down at Bnei Eisav, says Hashem? כי אחיך הוא – because he is your brother. “Your brother”?! As you remember, Eisav wasn’t such a good brother even when he was alive. He had been a peril, a danger, and Yaakov didn’t want to continue fraternizing with Eisav. He was happy to shake him off. When Eisav departed from Eretz Canaan, Yaakov breathed a sigh of relief. And now, after hundreds of years, he was already long dead, and his descendants in Edom were completely idolatrous. They didn’t identify at all with the family of Yaakov, the Bnei Yisroel. And they themselves had no brotherly feelings for the Bnei Yisroel. And yet, the Torah says about Eisav’s descendants, אחיך and אחיכם; Remember that they are your blood brothers. And you have to treat them like brothers!!


Now, it’s not easy to feel brotherly emotions to even good brothers if you haven’t lived with them for two hundred and seventy years. He’s only a fourth cousin of yours, you’ll say. You wouldn’t even invite him to your daughter’s wedding. Even if both of you are shomrei torah u’mitzvos, still it’s so far removed that we don’t feel anything. Even today when we find somebody who comes from the same distant ancestor, it might be interesting, it might be a curiosity, but it doesn’t even enter our minds that we’re blood brothers who must feel affection for one another.

Now, we should learn from this what it means to be “a brother.” And we should therefore begin to reconsider our attitude toward our Jewish brothers, our blood brothers – no matter how far away they live, and no matter how much we feel disconnected from them. Because the Torah is our model for how to think. And if such a brother, a brother that we were happy to get rid of, is still considered a brother after all these generations, then how much more so, a kal v’chomer ben b’no shel kal v’chomer, should we consider as our brothers our fellow Jews descended from Yaakov Avinu. There’s no question that we should be feeling the emotions of brotherhood for all of our fellow Jews.


And it’s not enough to merely have a superficial feeling of brotherhood. You remember when the prospective ger came to Hillel, and he requested that the entire Torah should be taught to him while standing on one foot? So Hillel said yes, “Pick up your foot, and let’s get going”. And Hillel told him the following words. מאי דעלך סאני לחברך לא תעביד – “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.” Loving your fellow Jew, זו כל התורה כולה – that is the whole Torah, ואידך פירושא – and the rest is an explanation, זיל גמור – so go learn the rest of the Torah. Because the whole Torah is founded on this yesod of loving your fellow Jew.

So when people hear this story, they think it was some sort of salesmanship; Hillel wanted to win the ger over, so he gave him some easy type of solution, an easy mitzvah. But of course we know it’s not so. Hillel wasn’t the rabbi of Temple Ahavat Israel where all you have to do is love everybody and pay membership. And he didn’t tell the ger what we would have said. He didn’t quote the first and most fundamental commandment אנכי השם אלוקיך – “I am Hashem, your G-d.” (Shmos 20:2) which certainly is most obligatory. No, he didn’t tell the ger about that one. Rather, Hillel was telling him that the foundation for greatness, the most important opportunity for perfection, is in the mitzvah ואהבת לרעך כמוך. One of our prime functions in life is to achieve love of the Am Yisroel despite all the various interactions and frictions that occur. To love your fellow is a great principle of the Torah – the Yerushalmi says that – it’s a klal gadol batorah, a great, all inclusive principle of the Torah.

It’s not just a nice thing, a good middah. Loving your fellow Jew is the foundation of your avodas Hashem because there is nothing more important in this world than a Yisroel. There is nothing Hashem loves more in the world than the offspring of Avraham Yitzchok and Yaakov. And therefore, any feeling of affection that you generate in your mind for a fellow Jew, is an emulation of how Hashem Himself is thinking. The more you love a Jew, and the more Jews you love, the more you are walking in the ways of Hashem.


And the first thing that we must consider when talking about loving Jews is that we’re not merely talking about the same kind of affection that people in an African country would have for each other. The Hutus are also obligated to have feelings of affection towards their fellow natives; they’re not exonerated from this. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is going to demand from every Eskimo that he should love every other Eskimo.

When you hear this, it might seem far fetched, but that’s because we’re not yet thinking along with the attitudes of the Torah. But that’s a problem because really we are obligated to love those of a common ancestry. And that’s the most basic form of affection, expected even from the Zulus and the Irish. All those who are called McDougal should love each other because they come from the same man. They’ll say it’s so far away, maybe five hundred years; but it makes no difference. He’s your brother.

But suppose now that we are not talking to this gentleman in the Congo who must love his fellow Kafiers, his fellow Hottentots. We are talking now to Jews, and we’re saying that you have brothers too; you also have your own people who are to be appreciated as brothers.


And when we talk about the Bnei Yisroel, a completely new dimension is added; a very big and huge new attitude is included  in the concept of אחיך, much more than by any other nation. Because it’s not a brother like Eisav who is merely connected to us by blood, by DNA.  A fellow Jew is a brother who is עמיתך, he’s עמך בתורה ובמצוות. Chazal tell us that אחיך means אחיך במצוות, “your brother in mitzvos.” It’s not merely a brother of the same ancestor; it’s a brother of the same mind! With the same ideals and attitudes; he’s your brother in arms.

Ohhh, now we’re talking! Because even though we all have our differences and our own lives, there always remains this glue of service of Hashem that binds us together in this kinship of brotherhood. More than a blood line, it’s a real bond, something that actually ties us together. Among ourselves, we have to be the best of friends. Because no matter where you are; you could be Jew in Australia, a Satmerer in Williamsburg, or a Jew in Tel-Aviv, we’re all in this world for one purpose, to serve Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Now, I’m not talking about the Israeli in Tel-Aviv who wears an earring. You know, that to be an Israeli today, you have to wear an earring. But we’re not talking about him. No, we’re talking about the oivdei Hashem, those who know their purpose in this world. When we feel that we’re all fighting together for one cause, to serve Hashem, we’re all marching together in the same regiment, so it’s much easier to have a love for your fellow men. How much more of an affection are you supposed to feel for such brothers who are of one mind with you!


All the kehillos, even the Modern Orthodox who are far away from our great ideals of avodas Hashem, are our brothers. Absolutely! If a Jew is a שומר מצוות, he tries to keep the mitzvos, then even though he doesn’t exactly do everything the way we do it, he’s still a brother. If he doesn’t do aveiros, if he’s a שומר מצוות, I don’t care what kind of yarmulke he wears. If he wears a knitted yarmulkeh or if he wears something else, he’s still my brother. Even a small little yarmulkeh, so he’s a modeh b’miktzas, but he’s still one of ours. A person who keeps טהרת המשפחה, family purity, he eats kosher, he sends his children to Yeshiva and not public school, he’s a shomer Shabbos, he has mezuzahs on his doors – a person like that is our brother, and don’t make any mistake about it. And you need to love him.

Now, don’t misquote me; I’m not saying that the Modern Orthodox man has to be your brother in the sense that you’ll move into the same house as him. It doesn’t mean that you should associate with him. That’s something else altogether. Over here, in this place, we say that we want to associate only with the best ones because we want to be the best. But when you see another frum Jew on the street, any frum Jew, he’s your brother in the most literal sense of the word. And you have a mitzvah of ואהבת לרעך כמוך – you have a mitzvah to love him. That’s how to think about your fellow Jew. And even though he follows a different Rebbi, or a different set of political objectives, nevertheless, don’t lose sight of the fact that fundamentally he belongs to your people and that therefore you’re מחויב, you’re obligated, to think well of him, to recognize him as your brother, and to love him.


I’ll give you a משל. Imagine a family, with many brothers. I’m speaking of the family of old, when people were still loyal to the concept of family. All the brothers – whatever they may do, wherever they may live – are dedicated to the needs and ideals of the family. And the members of the עם ישראל are similarly the members of one family, dedicated to the ideal of serving Hashem. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Syrian Jew or a Polish Jew. A Jew from Morocco or from Germany. You could be a Chossid from Williamsburg or a Litvak. It doesn’t matter which kehillah you belong to. Whatever the differences may be, the glue of avodas Hashem is a stronger bond than any of the superficial differences. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Satmerer kehillah or the Bobover kehillah or any other kehillah of the Am Yisroel.  What matters is that we share a common purpose, the service of Hashem We’re all one kehillah serving under the glorious banner of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. We, the Bnei Yisroel, all live in this world, together, as a single unit, for one purpose only – to serve Hashem, our Father.

Think about it; Every Jew, wherever he may be, I don’t care if he’s Sefardi or Ashkenazi, he’s putting on Tefillin every day and preparing for Shabbos on Friday afternoon. On Sukkos we are all eating our meals in the Sukkah and we’re all eating matzah on Pesach night. Throughout the world, Menorahs are being lit on the nights of Chanukah. Three times a day, all over the world, we – men and boys – gather together in the Shuls to daven. And the examples are endless. How can one not feel the bond of the achvah knowing that around the world, his fellow Jews are all unified in serving Hashem? And that is what binds us together as אחים, brothers.


You can’t even imagine what an opportunity you’re missing by not making use of this feeling of achvah, of brotherly camaraderie, that is available to you. The next time you walk into shul and you see the Am Yisroel gathering to daven to Hashem, you should put your mind to work: “This is my nation! My brothers! And we all share the common purpose of serving Hashem.”  And when you’re shopping in the kosher supermarket and it’s crowded, and the lines are long – those are precious moments! You’re looking down the aisles and all you can see are your “brothers and sisters”. Women, men, children, all buying kosher food. That’s a nation dedicated with a singular heart to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. ישראל אין להם אלא לב אחד לאביהם שבשמים – “The whole Am Yisroel has but one heart devoted to their Father in Heaven” (Sukkah 45b). It’s not just poetry, it’s the greatness of the Am Yisroel that binds us  as brothers.

And in view of this lesson, the word אחיך, “your brother,” that is used everywhere in the Torah in reference to our fellow-Jews, acquires a much more powerful and realistic function. Because this bond of brotherhood that exists between us is infinitely stronger than the tenuous bond that existed between the בני ישראל and the בני עשיו.


The truest, the most profound understanding of the word אחיך, is a recognition of what it is that actually binds us together as brothers. And we are expected to feel this emotion of אחיך because we are all dedicated to the one, and only one, ideal of serving Hashem. We love all those who are shomrei mitzvos and maintain the ways of the Torah, and that is what binds us together with the bond of אחיך, a bond  than any other familial bond in the world. Because there is no stronger of a bond than the bond of a common purpose in life. And this is the reason why Hashem refers to our fellow-Jew as an אחיך repeatedly throughout the Torah. Because Hashem is teaching us how we should view another Jew – as a genuine brother, a thousand times, a million times more than the feelings of brotherhood that Hashem demanded from the Am Yisroel as they passed by their distant cousins, the Bnei Eisav. If towards an Edomite, the descendant of our ancestor’s brother, we must feel an emotion of brotherhood, then how much more, how many more thousands of degrees of brotherhood should we feel towards a fellow Jew, a fellow Jew who we are commanded to love!

When it says ואהבת לרעך כמוך, it doesn’t mean that you should tolerate him, or even that you should get along with him. It means that you should generate a ahavah, a love, a real love, for your fellow Jew. You have to understand how far away we really are from even beginning such an avodah. Of course, we’re willing to say that we agree with the idea. Maybe someday we’ll even come around to it. But we won’t. You won’t come around to it unless you start doing something about it.


Now some people are so ambitious that they feel it’s not important enough, it’s too small a task, to love only your fellow Orthodox Jews. So here’s a man who wants to go out and love the whole world. He loves the Hottentots and the Zulus too. And he even loves the whales. He loves everyone, everything!

But really, he doesn’t even begin to love his own brother. His blood brother he doesn’t love! He hates him and hasn’t spoken to him in ten years. Sometimes his mother and father too. He can’t get along with his neighbors. But the Zulus in Africa who would eat him for lunch if they were hungry, them he loves. Why not? It doesn’t cost any more money. And for the same price they can love the blacks and the browns and the whales and the trees. A nechtigeh tug! The truth is that he doesn’t love anyone.

If you start out by loving everybody, it means that you’ll end up loving no one at all. Because if you “love everybody” then it means you’re not serious about putting real effort into this avodah.

It’s like the liberals. They say they love everybody. Love, love, love. They put out stamps now, postage stamps, that say “LOVE”. What does ‘love’ mean? I don’t want to even say what the word love means according to them. I don’t want to say the teitch of love according to them. They love nobody at all except themselves. The liberals don’t love anybody – it’s sheker v’chazav.


But in this place, we mean business when we say love. When we say that we want to love our brothers, we mean it. We want to try at least. We’re going to actually try to love our fellow Jews!

And that little bit will be genuine, an ahavas Yisroel the way Hakodosh Boruch Hu expects from us. If we succeed in achieving even a little bit, that’s worth more than all the fakerei of the gentiles and the liberals.

And so it’s necessary to generate an attitude of love for your fellow Jews. It’s not easy, I know it’s not easy. Because there is always competition and rivalry and friction. It’s not a simple thing at all to really love your fellow Jews. Because people are interested only in themselves. And to train yourself to think about somebody else in terms of affection is a very difficult matter, something that is far away from people’s minds. That’s the plain truth. And therefore it’s a tremendous achievement if you would begin to actually concentrate on this function of learning how to love your fellow Jews, even those who are not relatives, and even those who are not our friends.


And so, we’re going to have to train ourselves; we’re going to have to work with a program for ahavas Yisroel. Because no matter how many Tish’ah B’Avs go by, and no matter how many times you’ve heard speakers extolling the virtue of loving your fellow Jew, nothing will help. It must be done with a step by step program that, if taken seriously, will lead to success. And so we have to study how to do that. So the question is, how do you start working on that? How do you start working on this klal gadol batorah of ואהבת?

Ahh! The difficult subject of learning to love your neighbors! But it’s the one subject on which it pays to concentrate. And the way to begin is by looking for things in people that will cause you to like them. It’s easy to say, “Get along with people, you should love people.” But there has to be some motivation to do it. And the motivation is that every person has something, some reason, that makes him deserving of being loved. You’re not going to be able to love somebody in a vacuum. You have to seek some motivation that will make it easier to like people. This is a very important subject – how to motivate yourself to like this man, and this man, and that man, and that man. You’re  going to have to think about some good thing that will motivate this love. And if you’ll be willing to donate a minute or two of your time to think about a person, you’ll discover good qualities that will make it easier to love him. Absolutely.


Now, of course, if he’s friendly to you, if he’s m’chabeid you, if you get hana’ah from him, so you already like him. At least a little bit, you like him. But even so, you don’t love him to the degree that Hashem wants you to love him. You’re just scratching the surface. And what are you going to do with the overwhelming majority of Jews that do not do anything for you? It could be there are even some who get on your nerves. Them also you have to love! ואהבת לרעך doesn’t mean you should love your best friend. רעך doesn’t mean this man right here who is a good friend of yours. לרעך means all of them. All the frum Jews are your brothers, and Hakodosh Boruch Hu expects you to have a certain attitude towards them, the attitude of ahavah, a genuine affection.

I was once speaking to one of my great teachers in Europe. And he said that the way to work on this is to pick one man. One man!. תפסת מרובה לא תפסת – “If you take hold of too much at once, you won’t be able to do it.”  You can’t do it to everybody. You have to start out with a system, one step at a time, because to love all people, all of a sudden, is not real love. And it’s impossible too. So what you’re going to do is pick one Jew. And make up your mind that you’ll specialize on him.

And it should be someone who is easier to love. It shouldn’t be the worst man in the whole beis hamedrash, in the yeshiva. Pick someone who’s easy to love. A nice looking frum Jew, someone who’s friendly to you and make him the object of your practice.  It’ll be less of a nisayon; and start working on him. He doesn’t have to know – Don’t tell him! Don’t tell him anything!


And therefore, we must get busy finding ways and means to make steps forward in this project of loving your fellow man. We have to look, to search, for opportunities to love our fellow man. Even if it’s merely chitzoniyus, exteriority, Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants you to use it as a ladder toward being m’kayeim the mitzvah of loving your fellow Jew. I’ll explain that. You remember when Yaakov met Rochel for the first time? The Torah says ויאהב יעקב את רחל – “Yaakov loved Rochel” (Bereishis 29:18). Now to us it may seem queer. How does that fit in? Yaakov Avinu was a man advanced in years already. He was in his seventies. And Rochel was a young girl. So Yaakov had other ideas in his mind, how to serve Hashem, how to be close to Hashem. He was thinking about loving a young girl?! He had to get married; all right, he can’t help it, so he’ll get married and have children. But he loved her?!

Yes, he was very much in love with her! He was madly in love with her. He worked seven years for her, and then another seven years. ויעבוד יעקב ברחל שבע שנים ויהיו בעיניו כימים אחדים באהבתו אתה – “And Yaakov worked seven years for Rochel, and they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her” (Bereishis 29:20).

Now if the Torah tells us about this love, we have to study it. Do you think it was hevel v’rik that he loved Rochel? You think it was the love of the low filthy characters who sing about love on the radio?! You have to know that Yaakov Avinu was a great thinker, a philosopher, I’d call him. He had his own chochma, he was a gushing spring of wisdom, and he knew that it was the will of Hashem that he should love his wife. And therefore when he saw this girl whom he knew would be his wife, he made use of the fact of her great beauty to fall in love with her.


And I’ll explain that more. When you have a friend whom you like, and you see that this friend has a nice clean face, or he has nice looking eyes, that causes you to like him even more. So you shouldn’t say, “No, I’m going to ignore his beauty; I’ll going to love him only because Hashem wants me to love a fellow Jew.” No; you should make use of any gashmiyus’dige love that you can have for him – “I love him. He looks so nice, my friend. He dresses so nicely, he always looks good. He even has a nice pair of glasses.” Even his glasses you can use as a ladder to climb up to a love of a fellow Jew. And by doing that you’re getting closer and closer to the feeling of achicha that Hashem wants from you.

And that’s what we are learning from Yaakov. Yaakov utilized the love of the choson for the kallah in order to come closer to perfection in ahavas Yisroel. Eventually, after they were married, he took all that love that he generated when he saw her the first time and he loved her intensely for the rest of his life more and more because he was only using that as ladder to come closer and closer to ואהבת לרעך כמוך, to come closer to how Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants him to think.of Rochel – because who is more of a rei’acha than a man’s wife! And in order to gain that, Yaakov used the gashmiyus love, and he thereby taught us how we should learn to love our fellow man.


And you don’t have to be any frummer than Yaakov Avinu. As much as you can, you should be using whatever you can to generate respect and affection and even love for a fellow Jew. Here’s a man who’s always dressed well, he looks good. He’s a good looking fellow, with a nice smile. Try to love him because of that. It’s not silly what I’m telling you now; you can even like a man because of the way he looks. Let’s say you look at a man and you like his necktie – he has a nice necktie. Now, a necktie is nothing. You can change neckties, you can buy a new necktie – it’s nothing. But you look at him and yes, you like him because of his necktie. Don’t tell that to somebody outside; they’ll think you banged your head. Who knows what they’ll think! But here we’re willing to say the things that others think is silly, as long as it brings us closer to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. His necktie looks good on him? Maybe you like the color of his hair? Maybe his eyes or his smile? It doesn’t matter what it is – anything that will stimulate your feelings of affection toward him, grab it and use it to love him more. It should cause you, it should stimulate you, to be more friendly to him.  And little by little it’ll enter into your heart and you’ll gain a certain warmth for that person. And that warmth, as little as it is, is a tremendous achievement. That’s why we came into this world.


Now, smiles and eye colors are valuable stimulants for this avodah, but the truth is that if you’ll try to think about a person’s middos tovos, you’ll be surprised that there isn’t a person who doesn’t have some good in him, some exceptional good in him. Among the shomrei Torah everyone has some good qualities. One of my rebbehs once spoke b’rabim and he said that a person is not one middah – a person is a bundle of middos. And you cannot form an opinion in general about a person, because in this middah he can be excellent, while somebody else might be excellent in a different middah. A person is a big bundle of character traits; he’s not just one thing.

So in case you can’t love the person entirely, you can learn to love at least one aspect of his personality. Let’s say he davens well. So love him for that. Love that man because he davens well. There’s a man who davens in our shul and I can tell you that I love that man for twenty years already. Just because of the way he stands shemonah esrei! Just because of that, I fell in love with him. Another person learns well. He comes to the shul to learn and he doesn’t waste any time talking. He opens his seforim and gets to work on the sugya. He doesn’t know, but I’m watching him every day, and I love him. Another person gives tzedaka. And another one is quiet and polite. Find what you can in each person. You’ll be surprised, you’ll be surprised! People are full of good things.

Here you have a neighbor, a quiet fellow. He doesn’t bother you, he doesn’t call the Buildings Department on you, so you don’t even think about him. That’s called ahavas Yisroel? You don’t hate him; that’s called loving your fellow Jew?! How could you live next door to a man for years – for years! – and not love him. You can love him just for that that he’s a quiet neighbor! He lent you his drill once?! Even better! You can love a man with an intense love for being an ish chesed if only you would put your mind to it.


The shomrei Torah, no question that they’re full of good things. They’re raising up families of children who will be oivdei Hashem. They’re upholding the batei knesses and the yeshivos with their money and their participation. They themselves are mikayeim mitzvos every day. There are so many reasons why you should love these people. Here’s a man who smiles at people! I love him for that! And another man knows how to speak to his wife. I see him on the street, always treating his wife with the utmost respect. It’s easy to love a man like that. And I do! I do!

Even the most simple Jew has many beautiful middos that should encourage your ahavas Yisroel. We come into contact with all kinds of people, and the way to love them all is by ignoring the bothersome things and instead finding the good that makes him easy to love. And the wise man concentrates on a person’s beautiful character traits and ignores the middos that are less appealing.


Here’s a man, in our shul, a very nervous fellow. And he argues with people in the beis haknesses. He’s arguing with the people who sit on both sides of him. “You’re taking up too much space.” “You’re moving too close to me.” “Keep in your seat.” He pushes your siddur away; a very nervous fellow. And he looks like a nuisance, like a very big nuisance.

But if you would take a few minutes to think about him you’ll discover that he’s an idealist. The man comes every day on time to the beis haknesses. Every day! And he tries his best to support his family – it’s not easy making a living. And what’s he working for? He’s not lining his pockets. He’s working hard to pay schar limud, to raise his children b’derech hatorah and to support the yeshivos.

And if you talk to him privately you’ll see that there’s so much to love. I spoke with him and I was amazed to find out that this man was a fighter for yiddishkeit. He came from a home where there was no yiddishkeit and he forsook the ways of his family. He kept Torah and mitzvos all his life, by himself, against the wishes of his father and mother. It’s not easy to do such a thing. He was moired against his family to serve Hashem! I came to respect him greatly. I saw what a mistake I had made about him at first and I began to love this man.

It’s true, this fellow was a nuisance. He couldn’t get along with anybody on all sides of him. But when you come to know him, you see that he’s a very important personality. It’s easy to love him when you study the good in him. Just because he has a certain nature, he’s a fussy fellow, he doesn’t deserve to be loved?! That’s his nature; Hakodosh Boruch Hu made him that way. And despite those quirks, you have to recognize his ma’alos, and come to respect him. And after a while, if you’re willing to spend time on it, you’ll admire him; and then a certain love develops toward him. That’s a very big achievement! And you should know now that you’re living for a purpose if you train yourself to think that way.


Now, if you’ll pick a nuisance, and concentrate on him, little by little you’ll discover that he has a lot of things that are easy to love. You’ll see that he’s a somebody after all; he has ma’alos, and you love him for that! And midah k’neged midah, Hakodosh Boruch Hu will love you too, despite the fact that you’re a nuisance. Hakodosh Boruch Hu will see that you also have good things in you.

It’s laboratory work. It takes time. But as you generate some love for him, little by little you’ll come to love him. You’ll actually begin to love one Jew! Mazel Tov! You did it. You’re forty years old and you finally love somebody besides for yourself.

And the girls too. The girls among themselves also. When you go to your girls’ school tomorrow, you pick one girl – don’t tell her anything – just think, “I want to be m’kayeim ואהבת לרעך and I’m going to work on loving this one girl.” Say it with your mouth, quietly, “Chanaleh, I love you.” You’re not going to school tomorrow; so בשעת הדחק you can think about your own mother, if you have nobody else to work on. Your father is also good. Somebody! You have to start somewhere!

Pick one man and dedicate to him two minutes a week. For two minutes a week, work on it, think about him. Think about all the ma’alos you could think of and you’ll be amazed at what it will accomplish for you. And in case you won’t go ahead and do it further, so at least once in your life you loved a fellow Jew – thirty years from now you’ll be able to look back and boast, “When I was younger I tried once to work on ואהבת לרעך כמוך. Yes, I worked on it once and I loved my fellow Jew.” And you’ll be exceptional because nobody else did it. Nobody else except for you did such a thing. They said the words but it never entered into their minds at all. They never thought about how to do it. But you at least tried.


That’s how you get started. And once you love one Jew a little bit, it’ll spread to others too. Once you get started, you’ll learn how to do it, and you’ll be able to move on to loving the next one, and the next one and so and so on. But first you have to start with one, you have to work on one person. And don’t tire out. Don’t lose your grip on this avodah. Two minutes every week you can dedicate to this person. . And soon you’ll begin to understand what ahavas Yisroel really feels like.

And if you keep it up, then little by little, it will begin to spread. It’s contagious. Once you learn to love one Jew intensely, then maybe the other Jew also, why not? Once you’ve trained your mind to think lovingly towards another person besides yourself, you’ll see that it’ll spread. You’ll realize that you’re starting to look at people differently. And בדרך שאדם רוצה ללכת מוליכין אותו, Hashem will provide you the opportunities to keep loving the Am Yisroel.


I did it once. Years ago when I used to work on mussar I did this. In Slabodka I was staying with a certain family, a simple Jew, a butcher. Plain ordinary people. I made it my business to fall in love with the family. Every day I would walk by myself in the woods thinking about how I could love the husband, how I could love the children, how I could love everybody in the family. I spent a lot of time thinking about them. And when I would walk into the home, I would say certain words to make them feel good, to make them happy. I would do whatever I could to help them. I davened for them every day! This was in the olden days, when I was in Slobodka and I still “had a shaychus” to mussar; so I worked diligently on the middah of loving them.

“He made a career out of Ahavas Yisroel He often related how he asked [his rebbi] Reb Isaac [Sher ztz”l] what one could do to develop a true love for all klal yisroel. His rebbi told him: Start with one ordinary Jew and dedicate yourself completely to his well being “until you develop a true love for him”. Then add a second person and a third, and so forth. Eventually, this will spread and create a true love for all Jews.

Rabbi Miller dedicated himself to a family in Slabodka – a butcher and his children. He said “in shamayim they will testify that I did everything possible to help them.” Forty years later, Rabbi Miller was still devoted to this family. He even donated a number of sets of Shas to the shul and other yeshivos in which he inscribed “L’iluy nishmas Yisrael ben Aryeh Eichenholz.” This was the butcher from Slabodka! He also dedicated his monumental work on Bereishis to [the butcher’s] memory.

From Rav Avigdor Miller: His Life and His Revolution [Rabbi Yaakov Hamburger, Judaica Press 2016]


And if you want to grow, to expand your program, you’ll also daven for the Jew that you’re working on. And as you’re saying shemonah esrei, when you say רפאינו השם, heal us Hashem, you’ll notice that it’s plural. Now some people think that “Heal us” means “Heal me.” Why do we say us? You think it’s the majestic plural; the royal “We”. Like the King of England would send out in his proclamations: “We, the King of England.”  No! It doesn’t mean that. רפאינו means heal all of the Jewish people. Now, to think of all the Jews, that’s too much to think about. We can’t think of all the Jews. But at least this Jew who you’re working on, that you can do. When you say רפאינו, think about him. He should be healthy; he shouldn’t catch any colds, his children should be healthy. And little by little you’re being machnis love for him into your heart. And you’re on your way to greatness!

And why stop by Refa’einu? Is that all you’re willing to give to the man you love? If you love him, or even if you want to love him, you should pray for him Bareich Aleinu. He should make a good parnasa! He should get along with his boss! He should get a raise and still not have to pay any more taxes! Think about that! Wouldn’t you want that for a person you love?!


And don’t ever stop loving that man! Smile at him when you can. Say a few kind words to him. I don’t mean just a good morning. Show him that you love him. Ask him about his day, or his family. And you could go out of your way to do some favor for him. Pick up a piece of trash from his garden. If you’re loving him, you’ll keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunity to help him. And whatever you can do, do. You’re becoming great! Because the more you think about what you love about him, and the more you daven for him and do things for him, the greater you’re growing in the yesod ha’yesodos of loving your fellow Jew.

It’s not a small thing you’re hearing tonight. It’s a career! But you have to be serious, of course. You have to not only hear it, you have to practice it. Even if you only do it a little bit, it’s a tremendous achievement. If you’ll think about it once a week, once a week for two minutes, on that one person – and don’t change, stick to the same person – until finally you develop a certain respect for him. And then, if you won’t give up, you develop a certain warmth for him, and then a certain love for that person! And now you know that you came into this world for a purpose, and you’re fulfilling the purpose of your life.


And tonight, because we’re getting close to the end of the year, I want to offer you a second program to encourage ourselves to make a beginning on this great career of loving the Am Yisroel. Now, anyone who wishes can adopt this program for the coming year. Say “Bli neder, I’m going to join in this program” and you’re in. It costs no money to join and it’s easy to do once you get into the habit. And if you keep it up, you’re already on the road to greatness.

Every day spend one whole minute loving a certain Jew. For your first day, pick one person, and spend a full minute trying to generate, to stimulate, a feeling of love for him. Start with somebody who is easier to love and think about him for a full minute. Squeeze as much as you can into that minute. He’s a ish chesed. He’s raising a frum family. His wife cooked for your family when your wife had a baby. And so on and so on. And after that minute you should say, “I love him; I love Chaim Yankel.” Now, actually, you don’t love him yet, but say it anyhow. Hakodosh Boruch Hu sees that you’re trying and that’s very important. And המחשבה נמשכת אחר הדיבור – the more you say it, the more you’ll actually feel it in your heart. You’ll actually begin feel a love for Chaim Yankel!


And once you begin to take these steps forward, your mind will open up to a new vista of opportunities. You won’t find enough time in the day to think about all of the fellow Jews that you love! When you walk into the shul and you see a Yeshiva man learning, you’ll love that man. He’s your fellow brother in arms being moser nefesh for the service of Hashem. A mother is pushing a carriage down the street with a whole brood running alongside her. Her whole life is one big service of Hashem! What isn’t she doing to raise a family of oivdei Hashem’?! How can you not feel a gush of appreciation and love for a woman giving her life for Hakodosh Boruch Hu?!

Women should think about other women. Men should choose men. Now who should you start with? Maybe your rebbeh, or the rav of your kehillah. Those are good examples of who to start with. Don’t forget your parents. You have to work on loving your father. And the next day your mother. Your children too. It’s not a waste of time to love each one of your children for a minute a day.


Now if you’ll think about a different Jew every day of the year for one minute, so by next Rosh Chodesh Elul, you’ll have 365 Jews who were loved by you. 365 Jews who you love! That’s an achievement! It’s not all of the Am Yisroel, but it’s a beginning. If you do it for only a month, that’s a perfection too, but the one who wants to be great in the eyes of Hashem will start and never stop.

And if you keep it up for two years, and then three – why not, it can’t hurt – you’ll actually begin to love, at least a little bit, the whole Am Yisroel.  One minute a day! Today my neighbor, Chaim Yankel. Tomorrow my wife, the next day my chavrusa in the Kollel. And on and on, day after day. If you keep to it you’ll become great, greater than you could ever imagine.


However, there is one more facet of this avodah that we should discuss before we finish. And that’s because there can be a very great error in this program of ahavas Yisroel. When you undertake this career of loving your fellow Jews – whether you’ll do it superficially or even more seriously – a very great error is lurking. Because what is a Jew after all? A Jew is nobody. He’s a human being; היום כאן ומחר בקבר, here today and gone tomorrow. He has to die someday; what’s so important about him? What are you loving after all?

And the answer is that there’s only one reason why a Jew is important. And that’s because Hashem loves him! You love him only because Hashem loves him! How much does Hashem love him? He loves him more than He loves the entire universe. The whole briyah is nothing compared to one Jew.


And therefore, when we say that you have to love your fellow Jew, it’s very different than the Zulus loving the Zulus and the Eskimos loving the Eskimos. It’s very different than the patriotic bond that Americans feel with their fellow countrymen. Loving a fellow Jew is a different story; a different love altogether! Because when we talk about loving your fellow Jew, we’re talking about loving somebody whom Hakodosh Boruch Hu loves. You’re emulating the אוהב עמו ישראל. Now, that’s already a different story, a different type of love.

How different?  To understand how different you have to recognize how much Hakodosh Boruch Hu love each individual of the Am Yisroel. If you would ever love anybody in your life, really love him, it would be nothing compared to how much Hakodosh Boruch Hu loves you. Let’s say you would have a beautiful son – I saw it the other day, a man came to shul with his son, a beautiful boy. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He was beautiful. And he was bright and brilliant. We were learning a hard piece of gemara and that young boy was explaining it to his father – it was a pleasure to look at him. He picked up everything. His mouth was moving on greased hinges, explaining it so well. Such a son, how could you not love him? So nice looking he was. And well groomed too, by the way.


So let’s say you have such a son who you love with all your heart; you love nothing more in the world.And that is nothing compared to Hashem’s love for you. And who is “you”? You could be the most foolish fellow; a fellow with all faults. Ugly, slow-witted, nothing to love. No matter! Hashem loves that person with an intense and fiery love. מים רבים לא יוכלו לכבות את האהבה ונהרות לא ישטפוה – “Torrents of water will never extinguish that love that Hashem feels for our nation. That’s what Shir Hashirim says. The love of Hashem for a Jew is so intense that we can not even think of measuring the heat of that love that He has for each individual.

Now I’m far away from this myself. I’m saying this not for you; I’m listening to it myself as I’m saying it. Maybe a little bit will stick to me. But I let you listen along with me. Because at least we have to learn it. At least that. Because of the greatness of a fellow Jew, because of the overwhelming love that Hashem has for him, we are expected to realize that if we love a fellow Jew – even if you only love him a little bit – then we have acquired a merit that will give us reward and happiness in Olam Habah forever and ever.


Now, all this might seem little queer for those who don’t know their purpose in the world. So when go outside later and they’ll ask you, “What did Rabbi Miller speak about tonight?” So you’ll say, “He told us to love our fellow Jew.” They’ll laugh at you: “What’s the chiddush? Who doesn’t know that?!” But the truth is who does it?! Who thinks about it? If he loves, he loves; if not, what could he do already? He’s patur, he thinks. But no, we’re learning tonight that you have to work on loving the Am Yisroel, with an intense love. You have a big career ahead of you.

But once you do embark on this career, you are embarking on the most important commandment of the Torah, because when you love the Bnei Yisroel, you’re loving Hashem! Because that’s what He loves more than anything else in the world! Hakodosh Boruch Hu loves him a million times more than you do. And therefore, once you are trying to love the Am Yisroel you should know that you’re an oived Hashem. You’re a real oived Hashem!


Ahavas Yisroel is the big success of life. And that success is the biggest favor you can do for yourself. That’s the greatness of a man. You’re doing yourself the biggest favor when you learn to be an oheiv Yisroel because by loving your fellow Jews you’re really loving yourself. The biggest success is not what you do for other people; it’s what you achieve in the perfection of your own character. And the more you become an oheiv Yisroel, you’re gaining such perfection, such greatness, that you become tied up to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. You’re a partner with Him. Just like He loves the Am Yisroel, you’re standing at His side and together with Him you’re loving the Am Yisroel. And אין הקדוש ברוך הוא אוהב אלא מי שאוהב ישראל – Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “I love you because I love only those who love My people” (Mesillas Yesharim Perek 19).



Parshas Mattos Massai – The End of the Evildoers


פרשת מטות-מסעי


In this week’s parsha Hakodosh Boruch informs Moshe Rabeinu of his impending death: וידבר השם אל משה לאמר… תאסף אל עמיך – “And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying…You will be gathered into your people” (Mattos 31:3). The successful life of Moshe is now drawing to a close and his last days on this earth were his final opportunity to achieve even more success and perfection.  And what is the last opportunity that we find Hashem presenting Moshe with? : נקום נקמת בני ישראל מאת המדינים – “Take vengeance for the Bnei Yisroel from the Midianim, אחר תאסף אל עמך – and only afterward shall you be gathered into your peoples” (ibid.) The function of taking revenge from Midian was so eminently necessary that Hashem declared Moshe’s career as still incomplete without it.

Now for us, this should be a big question. We have been brought up with the idea that revenge is a contemptible attribute; it’s an undesirable middah. The Torah tells us, don’t seek vengeance. לא תקום ולא תיטור – “Don’t try to get even; and don’t even bear a grudge against someone” (Vayikra 19:18). Children, from the youngest age, are trained to be repelled by the word nekama, to see it as a trait of those who lack self-control. And yet, we read here that Moshe was commanded to take revenge against his enemies, and that it would be his final achievement of perfection in this world! It’s a question! How are we to understand this anomaly, that the vengeance that is so belittled by the Torah could be the final act of perfection in Moshe’s life?


To better understand this, we’ll listen to a gemara in Mesichta Brachos (33a). The gemara there explains how great is dei’ah. Dei’ah means knowledge, clarity of understanding of the great truths of the world. And the gemara brings an illustration of how great dei’ah is. גדולה דעה, the gemara says. “How great is dei’ah!” How great is it when one makes clear to himself the presence of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the awareness of His imminence. And the gemara says that we know this because the word dei’ah is ניתנה בין שתי אותיות, it’s found between the two names of Hashem. כי א-ל דעות השם it says. So on one side you have the word א-ל, on the other side you have the word השם, and in the middle you have the word dei’os.

As was explained once – if you see three people walking down 13th Avenue in Boro Park; on one side is the Satmerer Rav and on the other side is, let’s say, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And in the middle is an unknown fellow. So we understand that he is somebody. If he’s in the middle of these two great people, then he must be a somebody. Probably he’s moshiach! And so, if we see a word positioned between א-ל and השם, so that word signifies something very important. If you want to be close to א-ל, if you want to be close to השם, then be sure to acquire dei’ah, a real feeling of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.


So the gemara asks a kasha. If that was a criteria of greatness then nekama must also be great, because there’s another possuk that says: א-ל נקמות השם. On this side you have א-ל, and on the other side is השם, and in the middle you have the word נקמה, revenge. Is that possible?! Isn’t revenge a contemptible attribute? How could we say גדולה נקמה, that revenge is great?

So the gemara says אין, Yes! במילתיה, in its place, in the right place, revenge is very great. How great is it? Revenge is as great as dei’ah! Because revenge is a very important form of seeing the Presence of Hashem. It’s right between the two names of Hashem because revenge is how you get close to Hashem!

And so we see that it’s not only that Moshe was commanded here to take revenger . It’s actually a yesod for our emunah in Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And so, it’s something we’re going to have to study.


So we’ll begin like this. The principle of vengeance is essential for man’s understanding of Hashem. If the wicked remain unpunished, if the criminal act is not avenged, so men see injustice in the world and are therefore prone to think that the world is a chaotic and accidental place. Subconsciously, the sight of the wicked criminal walking free, cements in your mind that this world is a world of injustice.

If an African American hoodlum can stab Yankel Rosenbaum to death for no reason at all, and then be found not guilty because of the color of his skin – and that’s exactly what happened – then men will see this world as one of chaos, accident, and lawlessness. No matter how much you say you believe in Hashem, it’s a bitter pill for the neshama to swallow when it sees wickedness prevail.


And every time we read of a crime that is committed and a liberal judge who doesn’t inflict proper penalties, it’s like a dagger in our hearts. We become ruined in our souls; our souls become depressed more and more. Like that dumb judge, that dumb Irish judge, I told you about once. A boy, a yeshiva man, took out a bunch of boys for a חמשה עשר בשבט outing. They were young yeshiva students walking on the sidewalk and a group of Irish Catholic boys were ridiculing them. So this yeshiva man made a very great error and he answered them back. So you know what they did? They attacked him. And one of them took out a hammer from his car and smashed the head of this Jewish boy. He killed him. So what did the Catholic Irish judge say?  “The courtroom is no place for revenge,” and he gave him five years probation. That means for five years he has to come to the police station once a month, stick his head in the door, and say, “Hi Officer Jerry.” And the officer checks off that he came in. That’s the punishment for this sheigitz?!

And when we hear that the wicked governor, y’mach sh’mo v’zichro, the previous one, and the present one as well, that they vetoed the death penalty, a cold clammy depression settles upon Mankind. Humanity demands justice! It’s not merely a question of deterrent; certainly it’s a deterrent! Don’t believe the false statistics of the New York Times and the other liberals. They’re all liars! There’s no question that when criminals know that the electric chair is waiting for them, they’re going to think, not twice, they’ll think fifty times, before they do the crime. No question about it.


But more important than the deterrent is that we’re depressed, we’re depressed by the injustice. How can we have emunah in Hashem who runs the world, when the wicked are running roughshod over everything we believe in? It sees like there’s no shofeit, no one who is imposing righteousness in the world. And we stand by and feel helpless. We can’t do anything about it.

Here you have Hitler, y’mach sh’mo. A rasha m’rusha if there ever was one. In history of the world there was no bigger rotzei’ach than him. And then at the end, when his plans began to fall apart, how did he leave this world? He left on his own terms. He took a perfumed poison and left this world b’shalom. Is that justice?! Is that yashrus?  And so our neshamos are confused and depressed. לית דין ולית דיין. There’s no judge and there’s no justice being meted out.


And that’s why Dovid Hamelech says: הנשא שופט הארץ – “Be exalted O’ Judge of the world” (Tehillim 94:2).  How is Hashem exalted? So we think we know how to exalt Him. I know what I would say. I would say that we exalt Hashem by viewing all of His mighty deeds, all of the miracles in nature, in our lives, and in our history. You’d have to be a moron to not see the greatness of Hakodosh Boruch Hu in nature. And the evolutionists and the academicians, those who reject the idea of a Borei, are morons! Look around and you see Hashem; and the more you look, the more Hashem is exalted.

That’s what we would say, הנשא שופט הארץ, how do we exalt the shofet ha’aretz, שאו מרום עיניכם וראו מי ברא אלה, lift your eyes up high, look around, and contemplate, Who made all of this?!’ But no, says Dovid. That’s not the way to uplift the glory of Hashem. Now, listen well to his words: הנשא שופט הארץ – When is Hashem exalted over the world? When does one acquire the most tangible feeling of the Presence of Hashem?  השב גמול על גאים – “When He brings recompense on the arrogant sinners.” When you witness with your own two eyes that the wicked are getting what they deserve, you are acquiring da’as Hashem. When the Hand of Hashem come down on the wicked, that makes the emunah enter into your bones. He’s reacting – yes, He’s reacting – to the ma’asim of man.


Because no matter how much you see of Hashem, if you don’t see Him as the shofet ha’aretz, then you don’t see Him as clearly as you should. You need to see the strong hand of Hashem, the punishment upon the wicked, in order be a real ma’amin. And you won’t see that in the trees, the apples, the squirrels, and in all the rest of the niflaos haborei. It’s only when a person sees the hasheiv g’mul al gei’im, the recompense upon the wicked that’s when he knows that Hashem is here.

We say every day in davening – more than once – that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is a א-ל חי וקיים, He’s a living G-d. Now what does that mean, “He’s a living G-d?” That He’s breathing like you and me?! No; alive means He’s a personal G-d; He’s watching, He’s reacting. And He’s rewarding and punishing Mankind. All of this sheker, all of this falsehood, of the hatzlachas ha’reshaim that appears so prevalent in the world, is really just that – sheker v’chazav. Because everything is under the direct control of the Keil Chai V’kayam. There are no accidents!


Anyone who knows a little bit about Tehillim, realizes that the dominant theme is praising the greatness of Hashem; the kindness, the power of Hashem, and so on. He is praising Hashem throughout the entire Tehillim. Take a look there, it’s all praises. But you’ll notice a remarkable phenomenon. As you turn page after page, you see that one word is missing. It’s a word that everybody knows and we think it belongs in many places, in most of the kepitilech. The word הללויה is missing. Nowhere to be found. It doesn’t appear until the end of kepitel 104. That’s the first time you will find the word הללויה.

And to sharpen this question even more, I’m going to show you how glaring this omission is. At the end of kepitel kuf-daled, 104, it says ברכי נפשי את השם הללויה – “My soul should bless Hashem, Halleluyah!” And at the end of the kepitel right before that we read ברכי נפשי את השם – “My soul should bless Hashem,” but the word הללויה is missing. It’s the same identical possuk, but without the word הללויה. And at the end of 104, ברכי נפשי את השם, it’s the same phrase again, but this time with the word הללויה at the end – and it’s the first time in Tehillim.

And the gemara noticed that. Listen to what the gemara says (Brachos 9b): ולא אמר דוד הללויה – “Dovid didn’t say halleluyah, עד שראה במפלתן של רשעים – until he foresaw the downfall of the wicked.” When Dovid viewed the downfall of the wicked; when he saw Hashem taking revenge, that’s when he said הללויה. He said יתמו חטאים מן הארץ – “The sinners will come to an end from the world, ורשעים עוד אינם – there will be no more evil men in the world, ברכי נפשי את השם – “My soul should praise Hashem.” And now , for the first time, he cried out with great excitement, הללויה!


You have to understand now, what the word hallel means. It says אמרתי להוללים אל תהולו – “I said to the wild ones, don’t be wild, don’t be too excited” (Tehillim 75:5). The word hallel doesn’t mean “praise”; it means to go wild with excitement! That’s what hallel means, wild. And hallelu-yah means to go wild with excitement about Hashem; to be excited about the true greatness of Hashem.

When you see a rasha getting what’s coming to him, that’s when you feel a rush of excitement. You see with your own eyes that there really is a א-ל חי וקיים. You see Hashem, you feel His Presence. He’s not just a distant G-d; He’s right here in front of you punishing the wicked. That’s when man can go wild with happiness. And that’s why when Dovid saw the downfall of the wicked he went wild and sang הללויה.

And that’s why Dovid gives us the following advice. He tells us רק בעיניך תביט – If you would only be sure to look with your eyes, ושלומת רשעים תראה – then you’ll see the retribution that comes upon the wicked. But you have to look for it, to look בעיניך, with your own eyes. If you’re looking for the shofeit ha’aretz, if you want to see the keil chai v’kayam, you’ll see the שלומת רשעים, the payback on the wicked, all around you.


I’ll give you one example. I like to tell the story of a man named Mike Todd. That wasn’t his real name. Goldbogen was his name. Avrom Hersh Goldbogen. He was a Jew from Chicago, or someplace like that. And he changed his name. Avrom Hersh became Mike Todd. Now he was a rich man, a big shot in the movie industry. He even married a famous actress, Elizabeth Taylor, a shiktzah. So Mike Todd  was married to one of the most beautiful women, and he was filled with money and glory and success – and he was young yet. He was on top of the world! And then suddenly we read in the newspapers that Mike Todd was flying his private plane – he had a private plane, so you understand how rich he was – so we read that Mike Todd  fell out of his plane. That’s all it said. He fell out of his plane!

Let me tell you something. He didn’t fall out of his plane – Hashem threw him out of his plane. If we had real Torah newspapers it would be big headlines. Front page headlines: “Hakodosh Boruch Hu Throws Mike Todd Out Of His Airplane.” You know, I never experienced it, but I don’t think it’s so geshmak falling out of an airplane! And when he smashed into the ground, it wasn’t a pleasant ending.  And  we’d read all the details again and again. Not one time; again and again we should be reading the story. רק בעיניך תביט. And you should never forget that story.


Of course, the newspapers won’t tell you that. They’ll tell you about engine trouble, maybe. Could be they won’t tell you anything at all. But whatever it is, they’re not looking at Mike Todd’s fall to the ground through the eyes of Dovid: רק בעיניך תביט ושלומת רשעים תראה.

You have to disregard the propaganda of the newspapers, and ignore the foolish ranting of people, and instead, pay attention to what you see and hear – with your own eyes and your own ears. Then you’re going to see the punishment that Hashem brings upon wicked. But you have to look! You won’t be able to take even the tiniest step forward if you’re looking through the eyes of the the New York Times or the New York Post. Even the frum newspapers aren’t going to help you when it comes to seeing the ways of Hashem in this world. You’re going to have to do the work with your own eyes, בעיניך תביט.

I do it myself. You know, I make it my business, year after year, to “keep the yartzeit” of Mike Todd. I tell everybody about the news. Maybe you don’t want to hear about Hashem showing His ways in the world, but I’m not going to forget. I’m going to look at the שלומת רשעים and grow in da’as Hashem.


Again and again we see things happening, only that most people are blind to what Hashem is doing. I’ll give you an example. Headlines!. I don’t buy the paper but just last week I saw it protruding from a garbage can on the corner. Headlines! “Hip Hop King Shot Dead!” It was a gang war, or maybe a competitor, something like that. The rest of the details were hidden in the garbage can, I couldn’t see.

Now, a “Hip Hop King” we understand, that’s what’s fitting for him, that he should be shot down! What else is Hakodosh Boruch Hu going to do with him? Of course, after he was shot down, so if you would stand in East Flatbush where the rappers live, so you’d see a big funeral hearse; it’s open in the back and it’s loaded with flowers. And many people are there, all of his relatives, including the fellow who shot him – it’s a cousin of his. Who else shoots him? It’s a cousin. They shoot each other, those cousins. And they all come to the funeral, and he has for himself a big ornate casket, carved oak wood, and they’re dropping flowers on it. A lot it’s going to help him now. There are no sweet smelling flowers in the place where he is now…


And John Lennon, another tzadik yesod olam. He made a pile of money. He was on top of the world; only good times he lived. A bum if there ever was one. Hundreds of thousands of children, boys and girls, were ruined because of him. He sang songs about LSD and seeing people in the sky with diamonds – that’s what LSD does by the way, it makes you see things in the sky. Only that this rasha made an art, a culture, out of it – and his “talmidim” followed in his ways. They took to dope, and very many of them walked out of windows and are six feet under; long before they reached even middle age. All because of him.

And then finally, the day of nekama came and he was shot down by a bullet. He was walking into his home and somebody came and chopped him down with a bullet. So what happened? In the city council they stood up for a moment of silence in honor of “his blessed memory.” Meshuga’im! It’s שלומת רשעים תראה, Hashem is taking His revenge, and they’re standing up for this rasha. And it affects us! A person has to learn how to look. רק בעיניך תביט.

Now, we have to think about this. Because how many roshei yeshivos have been cut down by bullets outside their home like this? It doesn’t happen. They should all live לאורך ימים טובים! And when was the last time you heard of a rosh yeshiva who fell out of an airplane?


And they don’t get shot in their cars either! Here you have an organizer of a union, a kashrus union, and he ridiculed the rabbonim who wanted to make a real hashgacha, a real kashrus. I remember when he ridiculed us and said, “I’ll never let the rabbonim do anything here. They should go back to the synagogues where they belong.” And he was rich and powerful. This was many years ago, when people didn’t have air conditioned cars – only gangsters had that. And they found him one day, sitting in his expense air conditioned car, in White Lake. And he was riddled with bullets.

So if you use your eyes, you’re going to see again and again what happens to the wicked in this world. I like to tell these stories because people forget them right away. I have clippings at home from the papers and I study them from time to time, so that I won’t forget them. You have to remember these stories, because the propaganda of this world is not going to let your eyes remain on them too long.


Today, if you look in the newspapers, nothing at all is mentioned about the very great retribution being visited upon the world. A tremendous plague, a makkah min hashamayim. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is “rewarding” the homosexuals by bringing upon them an incurable sickness. In New York City alone, eleven thousand deaths have been reported from AIDS. Eleven thousand deaths in New York City alone! And there are many thousands more that weren’t reported; they’re ashamed. At least six hundred thousand suffering from AIDS in this country. In a few years it will be a million, at least. The hospitals will be crowded – even today the hospitals are jammed with beds of AIDS patients. Billions of dollars – that’s our money, our hard earned money –  going just for that.

Here’s a man, a rabbi he calls himself, and he writes an article in the Jewish Week. That’s a newspaper for the people who are interested in a long stay in Gehenim. So he writes that Miller – he was speaking about me – Miller is an ignoramus for saying that AIDS is a punishment that G-d is bringing down upon the gays.  “But it’s well know to the medical community that AIDS is a certain virus that is spreading through certain forms of contact and that it has nothing to do with Miller’s G-d.” A lamdan this fellow is! Miller doesn’t know about viruses! And this lamdan, alav ha’shnubel, died a few months later – of AIDS!

Of course, nothing is said about this. Nobody wants to say the simple truth that it’s a retribution. They don’t believe in Hashem, so they “know” it has nothing to do with Him. They’re looking for ways and means of finding a cure, but they’re missing the whole point. No question about it, just like Pharoah when the makkos came, so he called the chartumim. “Come, get rid of the makkos,” he told them. “You know how to get rid of makkos. You’re smart men, you can find a cure.” So the government is looking for scientists and hospitals and laboratories, to do research, and to get rid of AIDS. Meanwhile they’re not getting rid of AIDS, but Hakodosh Boruch Hu is getting rid of the mishkav zacharniks. No question about it, they’re dying like flies. And it’s up to us to look. רק בעיניך תביט, we have to look with our eyes, ושלומת רשעים תראה , and we have to see the punishment of the wicked on all sides. It’s very important to see. It’s for our benefit and that’s His plan. He wants us to see it!


I could tell you stories, true stories, all night long. But the point is that you have to look. רק בעיניך תביט, You should look with your eyes and ignore the propaganda of the world, ושלומת רשעים תראה, and you should look and see what happens to the reshaim. We have to understand the principle that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is Chai. He is alive; He’s watching over everything and He’s reacting.

Sooner or later, the wicked get what’s coming their way. And that’s what Dovid Hamelech points out to us. Listen to his words (Tehillim 73:12). He’s talking about when he sees reshaim who seem to be successful. הנה אלה רשעים שלוי עולם השגו חיל – “Look at these reshaim,” Dovid says.” They seem to be forever in tranquility and they’ve acquired strength and wealth.” So I might think,” says Dovid, אך ריק זיכיתי לבבי – “Maybe I have purified my heart for nothing.” What’s it all worth? If I see that the reshaim are succeeding, then I feel like all my avodah was a waste. The success of the reshaim is a dagger in the heart of the ma’amin.

So Dovid continues: עד אבוא אל מקדשי א-ל – “Until I come to the sanctuaries of Hashem.” When I came to the mikdash of Hashem where the kohanim are teaching the truth of the Torah, and they told me, אבינה לאחריתם – “Take your time. Don’t rush to conclusions. Let us think into the end of these reshaim.” Right now they seem successful, but אבינה לאחריתם, let us ponder about what will be.


Here’s Abbie Hoffman, a waste of a Jewish soul. He was raising the sky with his tumult. Demonstrating against all the imaginary ills of society; he was getting a lot of publicity. Millions of dollars of publicity for his causes. He was demonstrating everywhere. All over the TV; he was everywhere! He was on top of the world! Ahh! That’s a successful rasha.

But now, the newspapers reported that at the age of fifty two he commited suicide. Ahh! אבינה לאחריתם. We had to bide our time.  Abbie Hoffman, a poor fellow, alone and depressed, killed himself in Chicago. It was probably the first mitzvah he did in his life! ובערת הרע בקרבך. That was the end of his שלוי עולם השגו חיל.

You could take a look at the New York Times obituary page. It’s the only page in that paper that is worth anything! Here’s a man, a big activist for the gays. And now I read in the obituaries that he died – at the young age of forty-two. Another one, his partner, at age forty-one; he was gone. So if you open your eyes, you’ll see on all sides that you have to be patient. While they’re marching, waving banners, winning in the courts, proud of who they are, we just bide the time. So what if they’re sitting on top of the world now?! אבינה לאחריתם – We’ll see what’s going to be the end of them.


That’s a very important question you have to think about always – what’s going to be the end of them? I want to read to you a little example that will elucidate the subject. In 1923 a very important meeting was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Attending this meeting were ten of the world’s most successful financiers. The president of the largest independent steel company, that’s one. The president of the National City Bank, that’s two. The president of the largest utility company in the United States, three. The president of the largest gas company, that’s four. The most successful wheat speculator, five. The president of the New York Stock Exchange, six. A member of the President’s cabinet. The greatest bear on Wall Street. The head of the world’s greatest monopoly. That’s seven, eight, nine. And the tenth, the president of The Bank of International Settlements. Now, these were ten successful people. At that time they were sitting on top of the world mamish. The wealthiest, most successful financiers.

But here we listen to the advice of Dovid Hamelech: אבינה לאחריתם. Let’s understand the end. Twenty five years later, let’s see where these men were. The president of the largest independent steel company, Charles M. Schwab, died bankrupt, and he lived on borrowed money for the last five years before his death. The president of the greatest utility company Samuel Insul, died a fugitive from justice and penniless in a foreign land. The president of the largest gas company, Howard Hopson, is now insane. The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cutton, died abroad, insolvent. That means he ran away because he couldn’t pay his debts and he died without any property at all. The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was recently released from Sing-Sing Penitentiary. The member of the President’s cabinet, Albert Hall, was pardoned from prison so that he could die at home. The greatest bear on Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, died of suicide, after his Thanksgiving dinner. The head of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivan Krueger, died of suicide. He shot himself in the head. The president of the Bank of International Settlements, Leon Fraser, died of suicide as well. That’s ten. Azah chaburah, it was!

Now at the time, when they were sitting on top of the world, everybody would have liked to be at that meeting with them. Ahh, that would be the best company in the world. But someone who comes to the מקדשי א-ל, he comes to a real talmid chochom who teaches him true Torah attitudes, he knows that what matters is the end, אבינה לאחריתם.


Now, in this world of darkness, the שילומת רשעים and their אחריתם is not something that you will always see so readily. The truth is that if you look, if you want to see the truth then you will see a lot. But even so, the true settling of accounts waits for the Next World.  The reshaim would be lucky if this world was the end for them. And so, our discussion of Hashem’s justice wouldn’t be complete without understanding the acharisom of the reshaim in the Next World.

Last year, the  Supreme Court in Israel, set free Ivan Demjanjuk, y’mach sh’mo. It was an avlah, a terrible injustice, a wickedness. That’s what the Supreme Court does, you know, it promotes wickedness in Eretz Yisroel. Here you have a Ukrainian rasha who was involved in the sadistic slaughter of thousands of the Am Yisroel. Not thousands – tens of thousands! And so, when we hear that such a person is a free man, walking the streets as if nothing ever happened, it’s a terrible blow to our neshamos. It depresses the soul; it makes a crack, a very big crack, in the yesod that is the foundation of our lives, the attitude that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is in full control.

And someone asked me about it. He asked why Hashem would do such a thing? Now, that’s a big order; he’s asking me to tell him what Hashem was thinking! But just like an ant that is looking up at a skyscraper and trying to guess what’s on top, so I’ll give my silly opinion.

You know, it’s the same question with Hitler. Even Hitler got away with it. What did he do at the end? He saw that he was going to lose the war, so he took a perfumed flavored poison and he painlessly left the world. Now, that’s not the way Hitler should be leaving this world. I have other ideas how to send him off. And if I do, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu has much better ideas than me. So what does it mean when Hitler and Demjanjuk, and other reshaim too, don’t get their just desserts?


It means, what it’s showing us, that it’s the beginning of a very big career in the Next World for them. The ”fun” for Hitler and Demjanjuk begins over there. And so, Hakodosh Boruch Hu lets the reshaim get away with it, in order that we should know there’s a Next World!

Look, do you think that there could have been any true nekama for these reshaim in this world, anyhow? Whatever the Supreme Court would have done to Demjanjuk, or whatever we would have done to Hitler; if they had hung him, if they had put him in the electric chair, even if they would have cut him up into little pieces, what would it mean anyway?! Is that a nekama for a man who spilled so much Jewish blood?! It’s nothing at all! And so Hashem says to us: “I’m going to let this rasha go free” – it was Hashem after all – “I’m going to set him free in order that you should train yourself to think about the real nekama, the nekama gedolah of Gehenim.” אבינה לאחריתם – You have to understand the end, the real end, of the reshaim. He’s not a free man at all.

And therefore, when we see a rasha like Hitler go out of this world painlessly, or a murderer like Demjanjuk be acquitted and go back to his normal life in Cleveland, we are reminded that there is waiting for them another world. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is reminding us that He’s waiting for these fellows in the Next World. They’ll get there, and they’ll get what’s coming to them!


It’s of utmost importance to know that there’s a Gehenim. And not in the superficial way that most people do. To actually feel in your bones that the reshaim are suffering in Gehenim right now. And in Gehenim, that’s where nobody gets away with anything! There’s Israeli Supreme Court in Gehenim to acquit the reshaim.

You have to imagine in your mind what Hitler is undergoing right now in Gehenim. He killed millions, millions of the Am Hashem. And so he’s in Gehenim right now and he’s putting on a performance every day. Every day they revive him. They make him alive again with his flesh. And his nerves. And every day they scrape the skin off him and they hang him up and they cut off pieces and pieces of him. And he screams and screams. He screams all the time!

And he’s not the only one. It’s very crowded there. Very crowded! And very hot. All the reshaim are in Gehenim right now! Pay attention. You hear that noise?! They’re getting it in Gehenim. There is a terrible outcry in Gehenim right now.


And the tzadikim are watching the show. One of the secret pleasures of Gan Eden is watching the suffering of these reshaim. The tzadikim are given “front row seats” in Gan Eden and they’re enjoying the sights. Now when we say the wicked in Gehenim, we’re not talking about Jews who made some errors, they made mistakes, they sinned a little bit, and they’re in Gehenim temporarily. We’re not happy about our fellow Jews’ suffering. We’re waiting for them to get out, we pray for them. They’re going to get out eventually and they’re going to sit together with all the tzadikim. We’re talking about the permanent residents of Gehenim, the real citizens of Gehenim who will be there forever and ever. And the fact that they are being terribly punished for what they did, and the sight of justice being served, that’s a great happiness in the World to Come. And the tzadikim are finally able to see the revenge, and they look on with happiness!

“The righteous man shall rejoice when he sees vengeance; He bathes his feet in the blood of the wicked” (Tehillim 58:11). Now, I know that for you Americans this sounds harsh. But this is Dovid Hamelech speaking! And he goes on and tells us why this sight brings rejoicing: ויאמר אדם אך פרי לצדיק – “And then men will say: ‘Truly, there is reward for the righteous’; אך יש אלוקים שופטים בארץ – “Truly, there is a G-d that judges the world” (Tehillim 58: 11-12). Because now, they see that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is righteous! Everything makes sense and all accounts are being settled.


And you must think about this nekama as much as possible because that knowledge, when engraved into your soul, will give you more da’as Hashem; more awareness of His perfect justice. And the more awareness you achieve in this avodah of emunah that there is a Just G-d and that no one gets away with anything, the more prepared you are for your reward in Olam Habah . And therefore, it’s a very important avodah to make yourself aware of Hashem’s justice, in this world and the next.

And it won’t come by itself. You have to think about it. Take a minute during the day to think about the great truth that right now, all accounts are being settled in the Next World. The reshaim are actually in Gehenim today. And they’re screaming. They’re screaming in pain.

And then, you too will have “front seats” and you’ll see Hitler being given all that he did to his victims, again and again. And it’s going to be an enjoyment without end! Not merely a sadistic joy, the immature and materialistic nekama of the fools. But it will be a great nechama, that nekama, because it will be the ultimate vision of seeing Hashem in full control, the true שופט הארץ.


We don’t commiserate with the wicked who are being punished. Not like some say, that at the Seder we sing to Hashem for his righteousness, but at the same time we commiserate with the Egyptians who were drowning, gargling, in the Yam Suf.  That’s not true. It may be all right to say that if, let’s say, you’re giving a speech about Pesach to the Sisterhood of Ahavas Chesed on Long Island just before the Bingo session. But when you’re saying da’as Torah you can’t hide the truth. Here we speak da’as Torah and the truth is that our job in life is to learn more about Hashem, and to realize His ways in this world. And His ways are ways of righteousness and justice, a process of calculated reward and punishment.

Hakodosh Boruch Hu is bringing revenge upon the wicked and there is no reason to commiserate with them. Seeing Hashem’s mishpat, to know in one’s bones that the wicked are getting their recompense is most vital for a person’s perfection of character. And therefore Moshe Rabeinu couldn’t leave this world without seeing the punishment upon the Midianim with his own eyes. And so too, whatever you achieve in the important avodah of רק בעיניך תביט ושלומת רשעים תראה is only a מעין עולם הבא, is your preparation for Olam Habah.  Enjoy that spectacle of Mike Todd falling out of his plane, of the resha’im dying of AIDS, of Abbie Hoffman killing himself, because you’re seeing the mishpat of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

Now I’m not talking just about the fun of it. I don’t begrudge them their fun – Jews are allowed to have enjoyment in this world from their enemies downfall, why not? But that’s nothing compared to achievement of da’as, the perfection of knowledge and attitudes that a person acquires when he sees the strong Hand of Hashem taking retribution. And the more he studies it, the more dei’ah he achieves. And that’s why we came to this world, to learn from the phenomena that we see and that we hear about, to add on more and more da’as Hashem. And one of the important lessons that we are suppose to learn while still in this world, is that the falsehood and the wickedness of the reshaim is always being avenged, and that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is in full control. And it is that dei’ah that will equip us to enjoy the splendor of the Sh’chinah in the World to Come forever and ever.