Parshas Vayechi 5779
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YAAKOV CALLS THE SHEVATIM WILD ANIMALS
When Yaakov Avinu sat up on his deathbed in order to praise his sons and to bless them for the last time we note something very queer. Because what we find is that he compared the shevatim to some of the most dangerous animals; animals that make a man’s hair stand on end. Everyone knows that a snake is one of the most abhorred creatures; some people even feel like vomiting when they see a serpent. And the wolf and the lion are certainly not beloved creatures. And yet, when Yaakov Avinu was giving this blessing to his children, we find it quite remarkable that it is these animals that Yaakov chose to identify with his children.
He said גור אריה יהודה, Yehudah is a young lion. Now to compare a tzadik to a lion is something we wouldn’t do. We are afraid of a lion. It is certainly not kind-hearted, and not humble either. A lion is not a kosher animal. And it is tamei! You can’t offer up a lion as a korban on the mizbeach. Why didn’t Yaakov say Yehuda is a sheep, or a calf? Or at least an ox he could have said. And still, Yaakov Avinu preferred to see Yehuda as a lion. Gur aryeh, he should be like a lion.
WOLF ON THE SHIDDUCH RESUME?!
Then there’s Binyomin, the beloved shevet of Binyomin. What did Yaakov wish upon the shevet of Binyomin? Yaakov compared him to a wolf: בנימין זאב יטרף – Binyomin is called a wolf, a hungry wolf that rips at its prey. “I see Binyomin as a wolf tearing at its prey.” A wolf is not a complimentary title, you know. If you would inquire about a shidduch for your daughter, and you’re told that the boy is like a wolf, that means no shidduch! It’s off! If we would say that this tzadik is like a wolf, it would seem to be a paradox. We would never say such a thing.
And Don is a sh’fifon, he’s compared to a poisonous serpent lying on the road. A snake?! A snake you could say on a traitor, maybe a sinister fellow with hateful attributes. If a man would describe his neighbor to you and say, “You know my neighbor Dan? He’s a poisonous serpent!” so you’d get a certain picture of him in your head.
And yet here we find the tzadikim being praised with these models. You’ll note that never does Yaakov compare them to lambs, to sheep. No, they’re compared to wild, fierce animals. And these are remarkable comparisons that are intended for us to study and to understand.
WHAT’S THE TZAD HASHAVEH OF THE SHEVATIM?
Now when we study these descriptions we should ask ourselves, what is the common denominator, the tzad hashaveh sh’bahen? What is there that is equal in the lion and the wolf and the snake? Now you could say שכן דרכן להזיק, all of them are injurious, they’re dangerous. That’s true, but the question is why are they dangerous? What is it that makes them darkan l’hazik? And the answer is because they have in them the quality of vigor, the middah of energy. It’s the energy by which they do certain things. And so it seems that it is the quality of energy, of verve and vigor that Yaakov wanted to see in the future of his children.
And so we begin to see that when Hakodosh Boruch Hu looks over the sea of Mankind and says “Who is the one who will serve Me best? Who is the one who will find the most favor in my eyes?” so it’s the energetic ones that find most favor in His eyes. Now that’s not what we might have thought. We might have pointed at that quiet tzadik in the corner, “Maybe that man, the nice quiet fellow. He’s mild and easygoing; people don’t suffer much from him. That’s Hashem’s man!” But Hashem passes him over, “No, that’s not the man I’m looking for! I have a place for him in the World to Come, certainly. I will reward him for being no’ach labriyos, for getting along with everybody, of course. A kind hearted man, a fine quiet fellow. That’s wonderful. But he won’t become great however. He’s not the most successful one.
What does Hakodosh Boruch Hu say? “I’m looking for people who will do something in this world, who will be energetic to accomplish! People who will stand strong for the dvar Hashem. When I send you down to this world, says Hashem, you’re an emissary for a certain purpose.
HASHEM DOESN’T WANT WEAKLINGS
So we must pay closer attention now to those models that Yaakov Avinu wanted for the Bnei Yisroel because it will give us a clue to what Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants from us. Yaakov wasn’t talking only to his sons; he was revealing to us some of the secrets of what Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants from the Bnei Yisroel, from all of us. What we’re learning now is that Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants people to be strong and not weak. If you know anything about the lion, you’ll remember that he’s the king of the jungle. He likes tzaddikim to be like lions, not afraid of anybody.
And it’s not only the lion that Yaakov Avinu wanted to see in his descendants. בנימין זאב יטרף. Ovdei Hashem should be angry, vicious, like wolves. When the time comes to tear their prey, they do it. ובערת הרע מקרבך – And you should destroy the wicked from your midst. A servant of Hashem is not a weakling, a pushover; he’s a fighter. He’ll tear his prey when he has to. And don’t forget the שפיפון עלי דרך, the sneaky snake on the path. Hakodosh Boruch Hu also wants tzaddikim to be poisonous like a snake. An eved Hashem should have a poison in him – it means a poison of energy.
BE ENERGETIC AND POISONOUS
Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants tzaddikim, not lemechlach. He wants you to be active, strong, confident, energetic, resolute and even poisonous. You should have it in yourself, a certain eres, a poison. When there’s something that has to be done, you should carry it out!
The man who is a servant of Hashem is a zariz, a mover, a doer. It doesn’t say הוי גיבור כשה, be strong like a lamb, or כעגל, be like a calf – no, it doesn’t say that. הוי גיבור כארי לעשות רצון אביך שבשמים – “Be strong like a lion”, it says, “to fulfill the will of Hashem.” And that’s what Yaakov was telling his children, that this is what Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants from the Bnei Yisroel; that they should be strong, courageous and energetic in the service of Hashem.
RISE TO THE OCCASION
It’s a very important lesson we’re learning here. Of course, the Am Yisroel is compared to tzon, to sheep. ואתן צאני צאן מרעיתי – “You are My flock” (Yechezkel 34:31). We are compared to kosher sheep, oh yes. All the good qualities of a sheep we have to have – quiet, humble, submissive. Absolutely. The Klal Yisroel has all the good middos. But they have to have within them a certain ability to rise to the occasion and personify the qualities that Hashem saw in these three creatures, the qualities of energy, vibrance, power and action.
Now, it’s important to make note of the following: You’ll notice something interesting when you study these three animals. Yes, you might be impressed by their energy and how dangerous they may be; however the truth is that when a lion sees a man, he prefers to hide. Unless he needs food to survive, unless he needs to protect his turf or himself, he goes on the side; he doesn’t show himself. He doesn’t look for trouble just for trouble’s sake. Snakes also, they don’t want people to be in their path. They run away. If you step on a snake, that’s something else. But otherwise, he tries to avoid people. And the wolf certainly hides from people.
So once again, the tzad hashaveh, the common denominator in these three is that as much as they are energetic, full of life, actually they only use their energy when needed. Only when you instigate them, or when you try to subdue them; if you come too close to them and they feel threatened, then their nature asserts itself.
THE TELZER RAV IS MASPID AN APIKORIS!
I’ll tell you a little story. Once there was the Telzer Rov, Rav Yosef Leib zichrono li’vracha. Now the Telzer Rav was a sweet hearted fellow. Those who knew him well said he was honey; he would do anything for you – he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. Now in Telz not all the Jews were tzaddikim. And the powerful Jews, some of them, were Zionists, Hebraists. So when Achad Ha’am passed away – Achad Ha’am was a writer; he wasn’t a tzaddik, not at all. But he was a hero for the low people, the ignorant and the resha’im. So the leaders of the kehillah came to Rav Yosef Leib, and they asked him to make a hesped. He should make a hesped on the Achad Ha’am. So the Telzer Rav said, “I’ll make a hesped, yes, I’ll do it.” So he went out onto the balcony – on top of his house there was a porch, a balcony – he went out on the balcony with a Rambam in his hand and looked out at the people who had gathered to hear the Rav be maspid the Achad Ha’am. And he said from the Rambam like this: “When a Beis Din is dan the resha’im and they put the resha’im to death, so the relatives do not practice any kind of aveilus at all. They don’t mourn for them. Elah oichlim v’shosim u’smeichim – instead they have to eat and drink and celebrate; sh’ne’emar ba’avod resha’im rinah – like it says in the possuk, ‘When resha’im go lost it’s a time for singing.’” And the Telzer Rav shut the Rambam and went back inside. That was the hesped. Because he was a gibor! He was like the שפיפון, like the poisonous serpent, because sometimes that’s what is needed! He wasn’t a little shepseleh, a little quiet sheep. He had power in him to stand up for Hakodosh Boruch Hu in this world.
THE SATMER REBBE GAINS ENEMIES
Rav Aron Kotler and the old Satmerer Rebbe zichronom li’vracha were people of great kindliness. They were both the place that people in need turned to. And nobody was ever turned down by these tzadikim. And yet they both gained a number of enemies because they were outspoken. They were sweet like honey, but they weren’t sheep. Actually they were sheep, but they knew how to be lions as well. And many people who didn’t understand that tzadikim also have to be lions and wolves and serpents, looked at these great men askance. There was a writer, a frum shomer shabbos writer who once characterized the Satmerer Rebbe in a story; it was titled “The Rebbe and the Satan.” About how the Rebbe made a bris with the Satan to attack Jews. A frum shomer Shabbos, with an empty head, a goyisheh head.
Frum Jews speak up – if it’s popular or not, it doesn’t matter. They speak up. That’s what Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants from us. We are expected to fight back and be strong against all the enemies of Hashem. It takes energy, it takes courage to stand up in a world that’s drowning in sheker, and say the truth. When the gays are marching, they come from all over America, a few hundred thousand mushchasim, to march together, so we know that they’re going to die out soon. Most of them in a few years will be in the grave. So we keep quiet, we keep quiet. Should we keep quiet? No! We should say, “The gays?! Zullen zei gayn!” They are all going into the adamah soon! At least among ourselves we have to say the truth.
CURSE THEM AND DEGRADE THEM!
When the world around us is drowning in filth, in immorality, in apikorsus, evolution and materialism, what does Hakodosh Boruch Hu want from us? That we should just sit back and observe?! That we should slink away like little quiet sheep?! No! He wants us to be lions. We should curse them! Not to their faces, because they fight back. But shelo bifneihem, we should curse them, we should degrade them, and make leitzanus of them. And when we say three times a day, velemalshinim al tehi sikvah vechol harishah kerega toivedu, say it bekavanah! Put poison into it! Be like Dan, the שפיפון עלי דרך. Say it with eress, with poison, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu will listen to your poison! Because you mean it; you’re standing up for k’vod shamayim. You’re energetic to stand up for the d’var Hashem. That’s what He wants you to do.
Don’t be a gentle, compassionate, liberal. You know liberals aren’t liberal to frum Jews. They’re not liberal to frum Jews, so why should we be liberal to resha’im? And Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants that kind of reaction of us. אוהבי השם שנאו רע – “If you love Hashem then you hate the wicked” (Tehillim 97:10). “Ooh,”the New York Times says. “Hatred?! Hatred is treif!” The only people you’re allowed to hate are those Orthodox Jews, the chareidim. Those are the only ones you can hate; otherwise there is no hatred.
DOVID HAMELECH GOES UP AGAINST THE NY TIMES
But we’ll listen to Dovid Hamelech instead of the New York Times. And he said that hating evil is what those who love Hashem do! Not that they dislike evil – they hate evil! You know, when Dovid Hamelech wrote the tehillim, he was waiting; because he had a certain expression he wanted to say. He wanted to say hallelukah. Now, hallelukah was a very powerful expression. Do you know what it means? Hallelu means: go wild, from the word hoilel. Hoilel means to be wild. Omarti lehoilelim al tahoilu – I said to the wild one don’t be wild. That’s what it means, wild. Hoilel means “Go wild!” Over what should we go wild? Says Dovid: Hallelu-kah – “Go wild over Hashem. Don’t merely say, “I love you, Hashem” – go wild over Hashem! That’s what He wants from us.
But Dovid waited and waited to use that word. Why did he wait? It was only when he came to a certain possuk, then he said, “Now I can finally use that expression.” Yitamu chato’im min Ha’aretz – when the sinnersare finished in this world, u’reshaim oid einam – and all the reshaim are out of this world, they’re in their grave already, borchi nafshi es Hashem. And now he says, Hallelukah! Go wild over Hashem! He didn’t say it until he saw the mapalah of the reshaim. When he saw that the reshaim are all going to have a mapalah that’s when he went wild over Hashem.
All the reshaim will have a mapalah! All you have to do – you don’t have to buy a newspaper – all you have to do is walk by a garbage can on the street and you see a Times sticking out of the garbage can. Pick up the Times and turn to the obituary page and you see they’re dying like flies. Every day they are dying, boruch Hashem, kein yirbu! Reshaim are dying. And the reform rabbis who are gays, they’re all going to die soon. The announcement says he retired because of health reasons; the next year he’s in the grave already. Boruch Hashem!
THE WOLF SAYS V’LAMALSHINIM!
Now it’s important to note that being courageous doesn’t have to mean fighting against resha’im. That’s important too, but there are many other, and even more important forms of the courage of the lion and the energy of the wolf that a person must learn how to apply in his life. Because you’re not going to be called upon so often to say a hesped on the Achad Ha’am. If you’re a wise man you’ll find the opportunities; you’ll say v’lamalshinim like a wolf, you’ll fight the resha’im like a courageous lion and you’ll speak out with the poisonous venom like a snake against the atheists and apikorisim. But that’s not enough – there’s an entirely separate career of strength that we’re going to speak about now. Because what’s the purpose of energy and vigor? Just to smash your enemy? No, it’s so that the word of Hashem should be upheld. It’s for the purpose so that you be successful in everything in this world!
When we look in the language of Tanach we see that many times a man is called a ben chayil. A ben chayil means “a man of strength.” Now as far as a male is concerned we might think we understand, because in general all the men were eligible for military service. Men fought in battle; they were the warriors. So we could say it’s apt to describe a man as a ben chayil, a man of valor. Chayil to us means an army, so a ben chayil is a man who is fit for the army, he’s fit for military service.
A WOMAN WARRIOR?!
But that’s an error. We’ll see immediately that this is not the real meaning because when Shlomo Hamelech wants to describe a virtuous woman so the expression used is אשת חיל, a woman of valor. Certainly he describes other good qualities as well; there’s no question that there are many ingredients that go into making up the perfect character. You have to have various attributes – you can’t just have one middah. But the title that Mishlei gives her is eishes chayil, a woman of war.
Now, women didn’t go to war. You’ll never find in the Tanach that women were mobilized. This abomination of unmasked harlotry was left for the Israeli government to introduce. But otherwise there never was such a concept – a woman in the army?! And yet here we see in Mishlei that Shlomo is praising a woman with the appellation of אשת חיל, a woman of strength. So we see that he’s not talking about military service; he’s not praising this woman for her muscles, that she can heft a big basket of laundry up the stairs. That’s not what he’s talking about at all.
REISH LAKISH GOES DIVING
So we know now that the אשת חיל is something else. Maybe it means “a woman of character,” maybe that’s the pshat in chayil, character and virtue. But actually chayil does not mean character; chayil means strength. We can prove that from many places in Tanach and in the words of chazal. You remember when Reish Lakish dived into the river – Reish Lakish was an athlete boy, a husky strong fellow – and Rabbi Yochanan saw him and told him, חילך לאורייתא – “Your strength should be dedicated to Torah studies.” “Your energy is better off being used in the Beis Medrash for Torah studies,” Rabbi Yochanan said. He dived off a mountain into a river! “A man who could do such things! Why are you wasting such strength?!” Rabbi Yochanan, when he said “chailach,” “your strength” he wasn’t talking about Reish Lakish’s virtue, his character. Be was talking about his brute power.
And in Tanach as well, the word koach, strength, is translated in Aramis as chayil. So we have to understand then: We’re praising this eishes chayil as a woman of virtue, so why do we mention chayil which really means strength? And that is the answer! Because it means strength of character. The אשת חיל is not a warrior, but a person of energy and initiative and diligence in good works. Anybody who wants to be anything in this world has to have a certain courage of heart, an energy to overcome obstacles. A person of weakness of mind and listlessness of soul can never be a person of truth who will accomplish in this world.
AND YOU THOUGHT MEASLES WAS CONTAGIOUS!
Now, one of the most important elements in maintaining the gevurah to be a gibor, to be an איש חיל or an אשת חיל is associating with the right people. I’ll explain that to you. Weakness of character is a contagious sickness. All the resha’im have no character, they’re weakings. They may act like they are strong but they are yielding all the time. What the newspapers say, they swallow. What they are told, they believe. And therefore, on all sides, mankind is becoming worse and worse because of the wickedness of the atheists, the materialists, the wicked evolutionists, the wickedness of the false religions – all of mankind is being lost in a mabul of sheker.
Only one little group is standing on an island of truth. And therefore the most important thing in this battle is the necessity to associate with good people. Strength of character is contagious too. הרבה חברים עושה, just being around good people is already a balm on the wounds of weak character. Let’s say you find yourself in a crowd of Satmerer chassidim; you made a wrong turn on the highway, or you had to go somewhere to get a minyan, whatever it is, and now you’re in this big crowd of Satmerers, so you feel full of courage. Everybody is carrying the banner; everyone has a big bushy beard,nobody is hiding anything. And as you’re marching among these staunch Jews, you can’t help but be encouraged.
THE HIGH SCHOOL BUMS BECOME POPULAR
But the problem is that it’s not always like that. Here is a place, let’s say a waiting room, and everybody is dressed in denim. They have no backbone; so since the high school bums wear blue overalls, so the adults also, they have no backbone so they yield to the environment. An elderly man is sitting in the waiting room wearing blue denim! And the women also wear blue denim. Ragged, artificial patches, artificial splotches on it as if somebody poured ink on it or something. And of course there’s nakedness as well.
And here is one woman, she’s covered up; her hair is covered up. It’s hot, she has sleeves down to her knuckles, she has a long dress, and she is proud, she’s not self-conscious. That woman is the eishes chayil! That’s the strength that Hashem cares about. She’s a lion, standing tall and proud in the jungle of naked pygmies! The people like this woman are the ones carrying aloft the banner of our pride!
ALL THE PEOPLE ARE JUST GRASS
So here is a frum Jew with a beard and peyos and a black hat and he’s walking in the street, and on all sides are chofshim, people without hats, clean shaven – nothing on top of their heads and nothing inside their heads either. All empty people. What does strength of character mean? What does it mean to be a gibor k’ari? When he’s walking among them he should know that he’s walking in the country among trees. There is grass all around him. Not people; it’s grass.” כל הבשר חציר – “All the people are just grass all around me (Yeshayah 40:6). It’s just scenery, not people. Of course, if they bump into you, act nice, say “I’m sorry.” But it’s a nobody; he’s a nobody. You say, “I’m sorry”; You have to be a polite man. But you have to know, all around you they are nobodies.
It’s important what I’m telling you now. It’s what Yaakov Avinu was telling his children. If you are not a ba’al ga’avah, then you cannot be a frum Jew. Because you say asher bochar bonu, he chose us, v’hivdilonu min hato’im, he set us apart, he separated us from all those people who are lost. They are lost!
IF YOU ONLY KNEW WHO WRITES FOR THE NEWSPAPERS!
And so, we have to be strong because we are faced with the phenomenon of a big world full of resha’im – and newspapers; almost all of the newspapers are full of resha’im, bums and tramps. Who are they already? You know, people think that in the editorial offices of the newspapers, chachomim comes together, wise men, and they weigh every word and they sit down and think things over b’koived rosh. Phewey! A rosh yeshiva once told me when I was in Europe: “Who writes the editorial? A yingel,” he said. A yingel writes the editorial! If you saw him, you would despise him. That nincompoop, that nothing, he writes the editorial. But once it’s printed, oh, if it’s printed, so people have derech eretz for print. Oy, it’s printed, oy oy oy, the printed word! So we should say out loud, “The printed word of a nincompoop is nothing!” Just like a nincompoop is nothing, his words are nothing too! People think, OK, the newspapers are a waste of time. No, it’s much worse that. Newspapers are nothing but sheker v’kazav. There’s nothing to them.
THREE HUNDRED PEOPLE LAUGHING AT RAV MILLER
I’ll give you a marshal, a true story. I once went into an insane asylum to visit a yeshiva bochur who was sick. I went in after hours, it was past visiting hours, so they gave me a big black guard as high as the ceiling to protect me. So I came into the room and three-hundred meshuga’im are sitting and looking at me. And they started laughing at me because I had a beard. In those days nobody had beards. Today, meshuga’im also wear beards, but in those days it was different. For a moment, I was taken aback. Three hundred people laughing at me! But then I thought, “But they’re all meshuga’im.” That’s what I was thinking. “They’re all lunatics. I can walk out soon; they can’t walk out.”
And that’s how you have to think when the newspaper says this, or the magazine says that. It’s nothing at all, just meshuga’im. And when you walk on Broadway, in Manhattan, at five o’clock when the office buildings pour out hundreds of thousands of people into the street, it’s also nothing. Because what is Manhattan if not an insane asylum! That’s what you’re thinking, it’s just a mass of water carrying you along. You should know, it’s nothing but water and waves. אין בהם ממש, it’s nothing, nothing at all. You are the only one that exists. Unless you see another frum Jew, oh, a frum Jew. So you say, “Boruch Hashem, another sane person. And you say a brachah on him from a distance. You should know that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is thinking about you; He’s thinking about you and that other frum Jew, and not about them; not about the people around you. That’s a very important lesson, and it takes g’vurah to get that lesson into your head, and to think about it always until it becomes part of your personality.
PUT ON YOUR ARMOR BEFORE GOING INTO THE OFFICE
Now you’ll tell me that you have to have parnasa, and it brings you into an adverse environment. OK, so you need g’vurah, you need strength like a lion – even like a wolf and a snake – to protect yourself from the influences that seep into your mind. I’m not saying you should bite anyone, or tear anyone to pieces, but in your mind you have to be full of energy, full of strength of character, to know the truth, that you are what’s important in the eyes of Hashem. You have to be among these people? So you should put on your armor, and walk in. You know beforehand that they are nobodies, there is nothing to learn from them and you are going to ignore them, and whenever you have a chance to escape from them, go home and go to your beis hamedrash. Go to the place where you will find people who are going to fortify your opinions and give you the gevurah, the strength of character you need.
To be a gibor k’ari to follow what Hashem wants from you, not what you want! And to not yield to the environment is one of the most important things that He wants from you. To give in just because all around you are people who don’t think, people who live by taavos, people who have strayed after foolish ideas and attitudes, to pop culture?! A Jew has to be strong-minded to fight back against the yetzer of taking the path of least resistance, the path of yielding to the environment.
FIGHT AGAINST YOURSELF!
Now the truth is that this energy that we’re talking about, this strength of the lion and the eress of the snake doesn’t have to be used only against the wicked. Because what’s the purpose of this vigor that Yaakov Avinu wanted from us? To smash heads, to bash the enemy? No, it’s like we said before- it’s to uphold the dvar Hashem. And therefore it doesn’t have have to be used only against others, because often there’s a wickedness is right here (the Rav pointed at himself). You have to save your energy for overcoming the bad middos, the wrong reactions in yourself. So let’s say you have an urge to fight with your neighbor or your boss or your husband, so be a lion and fight against yourself. You think if your husband says something to you that’s when you should be a lion?! No, that’s when you slink away quietly like a sheep. If you answer back to your wife when she says something mean to you, you’re not being a lion; you’re just a fool with a big mouth.
Someone asked me last week: Is it better to fight against the Zionists and our other enemies or should we just ignore them? Now, whether you should fight against anybody or just ignore them – that really depends on the circumstances. But this is a question that a young lady in the women’s section asked me. And I cannot tell you whether you should fight or ignore – it’s too general of a question. And who exactly you should fight against and who exactly you should ignore I also wouldn’t tell you al regel achas.
THE EVIL MAN YOU BETTER GET ALONG WITH!
But one thing I can tell you is – young lady, you’d better learn not to fight with your husband. That’s what you need strength for! To know when not to fight! And if you think that what I’m saying is superfluous – let me tell you, that’s the first thing you have to learn! And that’s more important than all the fighting you will ever do against the apikorsim. While you worry about fighting against other people – against evil men – there’s one evil man that you have to get along with! And that means being a lion, a gibor, to overcome your natural inclinations.
If it was up to me, I would institute in all the girl’s schools – in all the seminaries – courses for success in marriage. Because right now there aren’t any good courses. You know, I used to speak to the Bais Yakov girls frequently and when I brought up this topic of studying for success in marriage they thought of it as a waste of time. They wanted to hear – the good girls wanted to hear about the mefarshim – what the Malbim says and what the Kli Yakir says. Now that’s wonderful. But the peirush that is most necessary is what does Hakodosh Boruch Hu say on the subject of living with another person in the same house. Because you aren’t trained for it. All your life, up to the age of eighteen or whatever it is, you were trained by your parents that whatever you said, they said “Yes, yes.” If you stamped your foot they became frightened. And if they didn’t do what you wanted, you ran to your room and slammed the door. And your mother brought supper to you on her hands and knees and you still said “No, no. Go away.” And then when your mother went to sleep you would sneak out of your room and eat up the whole plate of food.
And now you marry a young man who did the same thing in his house. Now, two such people have to learn to live together! And that’s why I say – of all the questions – who should you learn to fight against? You should learn how to not fight against your husband.
RAV MILLER TEACHING PSYCHOLOGY!
By the way, before we go on with this subject, I’m going to tell you something in elementary psychology. Those who know more about the subject, I think will agree, but even if they don’t I’ll say it because it’s true. You know, your muscles must be exercised in order to develop them. This everybody agrees. People who play tennis have one arm that is very much developed; or a blacksmith or a man who works with his right arm you see that his hands are very uneven. This one is big and muscular, and the other one is smaller. It’s well-know. Muscles atrophy because of disuse, and they develop exceedingly because of practice.
Now the same is true of the muscles of the character. If a person always gets his way, if he never hears no, so the muscles of the mind, that’s the muscles of self-control – I use the word muscles as a form of speech – they begin to become flabby. The American fathers and mothers, especially the Jewish fathers and mothers who always say “yes” to their children – the word “no” is an unheard of word in their homes – so their children became so flabby, so weak in self-control that when the time comes for them to be tested, they fail. And when they get married, this girl always must have her way because all her life she never heard no. And her husband is exactly her counterpart! And all of a sudden two selfish creatures come together and each one is saying “no” to the other. They never heard it before. It’s a foreign language. And that’s why their marriages don’t last.
THE POOR BOY IS READY FOR MARRIAGE
Now children who come from a poor home, so more frequently the parents have to say no because the exigencies of their finances force them to say no. Therefore children of poor homes have a much better chance of remaining married. The girl wants a new dress, the mother says no. The boy wants a bike, so the father said no. A bike is a big expense. The boy wanted an expensive camera, no! So all his life he heard no and no and then when he is married and his wife said no, it has a familiar ring to it! He has learned to exercise a little self-control, to overcome his inclinations, and that’s healthy for the soul. That’s preparation for a successful life.
Everybody knows what it states in Pirkei Avos, איזהו גיבור – Who is called a mighty man? הכובש את יצרו – A person who can overcome his inclination. So we see that that’s called mightiness. You need strength to overcome the inclination. There are many yetzers that must be fought against: men and women, there’s a tremendous yetzer harah there. Tne desire for wealth, the desire for kavod, the desire for jealousy, the desire for revenge. And of course there’s anger and gaavah. There are many forms of yetzer and all of them are given to us for one purpose – so that we should fight back against them. Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants of us strength of character. Strength of Character! That’s what Hashem expects of a Jew! And if that’s what Hakadosh Boruch Hu wants then we must learn the art, how to acquire this strength.
TALKING IS A WEAKNESS
Now one very vital method of gaining strength of character is practice. And one form of practice is easy, but very effective. And that’s practice in not talking – keeping your mouth closed. If a person learns how to keep his mouth quiet, he becomes a gibor in character after a while. It’s not difficult. Men and women; whatever you have to say, say it briefly. Don’t sit down and talk and talk and talk and talk. Talking is a weakness. When people talk at length, they are showing their weakness. They have to talk out what’s inside of them. A strong person does not say what is inside – he keeps it to himself. And it’s better for your health too because the more you talk, the more you will become nervous and excited.
Also when you are home, somebody says something to you, a husband or wife, if you’re a gibor you keep quiet! Don’t answer back. That is a gevurah, and you’re building your house by keeping quiet. Don’t make any fights over nothing. It’s all nothing. It will pass by. Hashem loves a man who keeps quiet, and He loves a woman who keeps quiet. To be quiet, you have to be strong. It takes the character of a lion to keep quiet. And therefore, if both the husband and wife can be lions and keep quiet, that’s the very best thing. Therefore, gevurah is what Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants in this world.
A “WEAK” MAN GOES TO EVERY SIMCHAH
Another step is: Avoid going to places where you don’t have to go! Don’t waste money, and don’t waste time going where you don’t have to go. People run around to every kind of simchah. Some people never miss an invitation. Every chasuna and every kiddush and every bris, every pidyon haben, they are always there. Of course, there is a mitzvah to go, no question about it. But if a person is always running around, always going to places where he can eat something, a place where he can enjoy company, so he is a weak man. He can’t live by himself. He can’t control himself. Don’t run around always to everything. Be strong and say no. Just because everybody is going, so you have to go too?! That’s not a lion; that’s a little shepseleh being pulled along with the flock.
Another form of weakness is if a person is always ready to spend money on unnecessary things. Frugality, saving your money, is a strength of character. Men and women, instead of buying what you don’t need, put your money in the bank. Yes, you can give tzedakah too, but saving money is a very good thing. It is a strength of character to save money. You shouldn’t always buy whatever your eyes see. It’s a weakness. If you see a neighbor has certain expensive things, you also have to buy expensive things? Boys who see that there is a bar mitzvah where parents waste so much money – it’s a bar mitzvah like a chasunah. Poor people have to suffer from that, because their sons say, “I want a bar mitzvah like the other boys have.” But if the boy would have a little chochmah, he would build up his strength of character muscles, he would say, “No, I’ll get along with a little bar mitzvah. I don’t need this expensive bar mitzvah.” That little boy is becoming the lion that Yaakov wanted to see in his children.
YOU HAVE TO BE A SNAKE SOMETIMES
And who needs a wedding in the biggest fancy hall with everything there, all kinds of expensive things? You can make weddings cheaper too. People should learn self-control. Be a gibor and not waste money. Sometimes you have to be a snake, and tell your daughter or your son, “Nothing doing! We’re not spending that money! You’re not spending that money!” There are good places to put your money. You don’t have to give it to caterers and to other people who are wasting your money. And so saving money is also a form of strength of character.
Another form of strength of character is not eating unnecessary things. Eat what is good for your health. Eating – absolutely you should eat – but it should be l’sheim shamayim. You eat what Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants you to eat for your health. But the things that spoil your health, you have to practice being a gibor and you say, “No, I’m not touching it.” Nosherai! Who needs it? And some people indulge in liquor and in smoking, chas v’shalom. Smoking is a weakness of character! Here is a man smoking – he is a weakling! He is a chalash! A strong man doesn’t smoke.
FLEX YOUR CHARACTER MUSCLES
And therefore all the luxuries that people have today are all unnecessary things. Many things people can avoid spending money on if they would be willing to flex their muscles of character. Because all of these things are signs of weakness, yielding to the environment. Here’s a boy, he’s walking with a Walkman radio in his ears in the street. Who needs that?! You have to listen to the radio in the street?! You can’t walk without it in the street? And when you’re driving the car, you have to be such a weakling and put on the radio to have something playing in your ears. The weather, the news, music; who needs it?
Hakadosh Baruch Hu likes giborim, He likes people of character, people who can say “No, I’m not going to follow what the crowd does. I’m not going to waste money. I won’t waste time, I won’t waste words. I will keep on thinking about my duty in this world, mah chovoso b’olomo, and that is what I am going to do.”
SAYING “NO” TO YOUR FRIENDS IS A STRENGTH
That is what Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants. He wants a gibor, like a lion, like a wolf, like a serpent. People who have a poison or energy in them to do things. A person wants to become a lamdan, he has to learn with a bren, with a fire; it takes effort to learn, to accomplish anything for Hashem in this world. You have to put in work into learning in your spare time, absolutely! Hakadosh Baruch Hu loves people who toil and labor in learning. They don’t care about the fact that they could go someplace else and have a “good time.” His friends are going to the pizza shop, to the amusement park. No, he won’t be a weakling. He’s a lion to spend time doing chazara, reviewing the shiur, making sure he understands what he learns. And that’s the person who will succeed because he has a gevura, a strength of character.
Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants people of strength, people of character, people who are able to withstand all the temptations, the foolishness of the pitui hayetzer. And these giborim are the ones who Hakadosh Baruch Hu will finally give the greatest success to them, because בדרך שאדם רוצה ללכת מוליכין אותו, it’s the people who want to be strong and labor to become lions, those are the ones whom Hashem will help succeed.
MAKE YOURSELF STRONG BY SAYING “NO”
So we’re learning now that when a person chooses to be strong and is willing to fight back, so Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives him a reward and he becomes stronger and stronger. And when a person becomes weak and he yields to the yetzer hara, he becomes weaker and weaker. The gemara tells us that: Avar veshanah, if a person does an aveirah a few times, if he yields more than once, so huttrah lo, it becomes permissible to him. So the gemara says: Huttra lo?! How can you say it becomes permissible?! And the answer given is that naaseh lo keheter, he has no power anymore to resist. Once a person yields once or twice then he has broken his backbone.
So how do you strengthen your backbone? By saying no the first time. And if you already said yes too many times, so you strengthen yourself and say, “No! No! No!” By being like a serpent, a poisonous snake; full of energy. “I won’t yield. Like a lion and like a wolf, I won’t yield.” “There,” Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, “if you are strong, I am going to strengthen you even more.”
ASK HASHEM TO MAKE YOU STRONG
Now, in this whole subject of gevurah, we see that Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants us to be strong. And the possuk says, Hashem oz le’amo yitein, Hashem gives strength to His people. What does that mean? It means that a person is able to gain more fortitude, more strength of character, if he has a connection to Hashem. If he thinks about Hakadosh Baruch Hu, if he prays to Hashem, “Hashem please help me; please help me be strong to overcome all the obstacles.” Once you realize the importance of gevurah, your tefillos have to be full of asking Hashem to help you with strength of character, for energy and vigor to stand up to everything.
If you are always thinking about Hashem, so He says, “I’m going to help you.” Hashem oz l’amo yitein. And therefore, one of the great forces in gaining strength of character is a person’s emunah and bitachon in Hashem. When a person doesn’t think about Hashem – he’s just a frum Jew, but his mind is empty of the emunah, that person is able to yield many times, chas v’sholom. If Hashem is not on your mind, if you’re not constantly thinking about the strength that Hashem wants from you, then you can’t you be a fountain of energy. If you haven’t developed Torah attitudes for how to deal with all the tests of life, and you’re not turning to Hashem constantly for His help in being strong, then you’re fighting a losing battle. But chazak ve’ematz, we say. Chizku imtzu levavchem, strengthen your hearts by emunah in Hakadosh Baruch Hu. He is with you.
PUTTING ON YOUR BELT IS A REMINDER
And that’s why we mention it every morning as soon as we get out of bed. אוזר ישראל בגבורה – Hashem, thank You for girding me with strength, with the belt of gevurah. What does that mean אוזר ישראל בגבורה? Isn’t that a pity, that you say these words and you don’t utilize the tremendous opportunity which it affords us? Any belt you put on is a symbol of gevurah, of girding yourself for battle. Right away in the morning, you put on a belt, you put on a gartel, whatever it is, it’s a sign of gevurah. It’s a reminder that you’re heading out in the world to be a gibor. And what’s the symbol of this strength? It’s the belt, the gartel. אוזר ישראל בגבורה – Hashem, You have girded us with the strength of the lion, of the wolf and the snake, to overcome it all! When you make this brachah, you have to think about that. The belt is only a symbol – if you forgot your belt at home you still have to know that at that moment you’re putting on the koach of gevurah that is going to help you live successfully despite everything that you face in this world.
Hakodosh Boruch Hu has given us, the Jewish nation, a special strength, an energy and power, for us to overcome everything – all the sheker of the outside world, all the foolishness that has seeped into our people, and all of the middos ra’os and inclinations that are inside of us. Our nation can overcome it all. Like Bilam said הן עם כלביא יקום – They rise up like a lion. Bilam was saying that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is girding the Am Yisroel forever with that special strength that Yaakov wished to see his children. Because of all the things that the yetzer harah would like to accomplish – and he wants to accomplish a lot of things with us – the most important is that we should be weak of courage , that we should capitulate easily. That we should become weak-kneed and crumble before the rabim, before nisyonos, before our emotions, before our taavos. Strength is the yetzer harah’s enemy! When he sees strength, that’s his enemy. When strength comes in, the yetzer harah has to go out.
FIGHT WITH ENERGY
And so when we look at the characterization that Yaakov Avinu characterized his sons, the lion and snake and the wolf, we find the clue to what Hakodosh Boruch Hu is looking for in His people; He wants people with strength of character, not weaklings. He wants people who have verve, who have life in them, people who will accomplish and get things done.
Hashem looks most of all for the quality of energy. And it’s those who fight with energy, with gevurah in the service of Hashem, they are the ones who are singled out to stand before Hashem forever in this world and the next.
HAVE A WONDERFUL SHABBOS