In Parshas Ha’azinu, we read of Hashem telling Moshe Rabeinu that the sad moment of death had finally arrived for this great man and that it was now time for him to reap the rewards of all the perfection achieved during his stay in this world.
Moshe was commanded to climb the Mountain of Nevo to die there, and enter into the Afterlife. And even at this last dreadful moment of Moshe Rabeinu’s life, Hashem took the opportunity to reprimand him: על אשר מעלתם בי בתוך בני ישראל במי מריבת קדש מדבר צין על אשר לא קדשתם אותי בתוך בני ישראל. “[You will die upon the mountain] because you were unfaithful to Me in the midst of the Bnei Yisroel at the waters of strife, at Kadeish, in the wilderness of Tzin; because you did not sanctify Me in the midst of the Bnei Yisroel” (D’varim 32:51).
Like his brother Aharon a few months earlier, Moshe is given a severe reprimand at his weakest moment, as he is about to part from this world. Now, what the small cheit of Moshe was is not our discussion tonight. Whatever it was, it was very small. So small that the מפרשים have a difficult time pointing out exactly what it was.
Different Rishoninm came to different conclusions as to the nature of the cheit. And each Rishon who tries to determine what the cheit was, has questions on the conclusion of the other Rishonim. And from our perspective they are all good questions.
But whatever it was, it was a very small sin that Hashem criticized him for in those final moments of Moshe’s life. It was a bitter reprimand of the greatest man, for the smallest of all sins.
This is the clearest evidence that Hashem’s ways in dealing with man, are all based upon the principle that דרך חיים תוכחות מוסר –”The path of life is rebukes of instruction” (Mishlei 6:23).
You have been placed in this world, temporarily, in order to use every single moment – even your last moment – to perfect yourself in the ways of the Torah and prepare yourself for the Afterlife. That is your “path in life” and you will only make your way in this world successful, if you receive “rebukes of instruction.”
It is never comfortable to be told you are wrong. The human being loves to be always right. And deep in their hearts, most men think they are always right. I deal with people all the time, and everyone is always right. She says she is right. And he says he’s right. All the time. And they’re both wrong.
And therefore, “rebukes of instruction” are the most precious gift for the man who wants to be successful on his “path in life,” because that is the only path that leads towards improvement and perfection before Hashem.
Nothing could be more valuable for the righteous Moshe, who had strived all the days of his life to perfect himself in the eyes of Hashem, than to use his last moments in this world, to become even more perfect. And Hashem, who views the deeds of the righteous nation through an electron microscope in order to discover even the most minute faults, and make His nation even more righteous, consented to Moshe’s subconscious desire. Any sort of rebuke, even in the last moments of a person’s life, is another step towards more perfection in the eyes of Hashem. And therefore, every rebuke prepares one for even more happiness in the Afterlife.
And therefore, in order to deflate any arrogance or pride that could occur in such a perfect man as Moshe Rabeinu, a man whose life was crowned with virtue and achievement, Hashem injected a needle of bitter criticism even at the last moment. And this stinging rebuke told to Moshe as he prepared to ascend the Mountain of Nevo to breathe his final breath, brought this greatest of men to total humility, in order that he should pass out of this life without even the slightest blemish of pride and self-approval.
It is those whom Hashem loves most, who are privileged to receive His rebuke. כי את אשר יאהב השם יוכיח –”Hashem rebukes him who He loves” (ibid. 3:12), because it is those whom He loves that He wants to succeed.
And therefore, all the stinging rebuke and bitter reprimands uttered against our holy nation, are nothing but a sign of our perfection. It is our nation, the only nation capable of true excellence, that concerns Hashem. And therefore, He seeks our perfection. The severe chastisements that are repeated incessantly against the עם ישראל, but nowhere to be found about the nations of the world, are nothing but testimonies about how greatly Hashem loves His people.
And therefore, despite all the stern admonitions and the grave calamities which are foretold in Parshas Ha’azinu and the last few weeks, yet at the very end, Hashem still calls us His people and His servants. הרנינו גוים עמו כי דם עבדיו יקום –”The nations of the world will extol His people and He will avenge the spilled blood of His servants” (D’varim 32:43).
The Bnei Yisroel, despite all the criticism, actually because of all the criticism, will remain His people and His servants till the End of Days. And that is so important to understand. It is so important for us to ingrain into our minds that we are the best.
We live in a world that doesn’t accept the greatness of the עם ישראל. It’s a world of darkness and sheker. And it has an effect on us. Absolutely it does. And therefore, you will have to put effort into internalizing the truth of the greatness of our people. And no matter how much you speak about it, it won’t be enough.
Now, I know that you all think that it’s a waste of time for me to talk about this. You all believe it already. You all believe that the עם ישראל is Hashem’s beloved people. But it’s not enough to simply believe. That’s almost worthless. You have to know and understand the greatness of our nation more than you know anything else in the world.
There is a certain prevalent attitude of knocking the frumeh, the best that our nation has to offer. We have to be aware of this and realize that there is a certain form of anti-semitism in Jews themselves. When Jews knock the frum community it’s nothing but an echo of the anti-semitism in their own hearts.
You don’t realize how much the environment outside is affecting you. I know that you don’t want to hear this, but most of you in this room are goyim. Yes, you are covered with a thin layer of Orthodoxy, but under that, if you scratch a little bit of the paint off, you’ll find that you’re thinking like the goyim around you.
It’s affecting you all the time. The negative comments about frum Jews – whether individuals or different groups – that one hears from Orthodox Jews is simply the infiltration of gentile propaganda into our minds. Not only gentile influence, but even more insidious is the influence of the non-religious Jews. The Reformers, the Zionists, and all the Jewish resha’im have nothing but contempt for authentic Torah Judaism, and for those who practice it. We live among the resha’im, we see them, we speak with them, we read their writings, and we therefore think like them.
And therefore, the only way to counter that propaganda is by heaping praises on the Klal Yisroel as often and as much as you can. Everywhere you go, you can find opportunities to speak the praises of the עם ישראל. And if you can’t find opportunities, then you have to be wise enough and alert enough to make them.
Every day brings you many varied opportunities to propagandize on behalf of Hashem’s people. Why waste hours at a chasuna or a bar mitzvah speaking about nothing?! You’re waiting on line at the grocery speaking with someone? Find a way to speak the praises of the עם ישראל. The opportunities are endless. And they’re so valuable.
We have to spend as much time as we can, studying the virtues of the frum community and appreciating them. What nobility we see in our communities! How grand is the lifestyle of today’s frum community when you walk in the street and you see young women pushing baby carriages. Two children in the carriage, and a few more holding the sides of the carriage. It’s a beautiful sight. It’s the עם ישראל at its finest.
It’s hard work, raising a frum family. The mothers and fathers are sacrificing everything to bring up a generation of frummeh children. And the little boys all wear yarmulkehs, and tzitzis out. And the little girls are dressed properly. We have to love the frum community. We have to appreciate them.
It’s a most unusual phenomenon to see people who can ignore their environment and live according to the Torah ideals. And their ideals are the most noble that mankind ever witnessed, because they are the ideals and attitudes of Hashem. We live lives of nobility and perfection, but we don’t appreciate it because we are so used to it. So instead of falling in love with the עם ישראל, we spend our time, our minds, on criticizing the best, the very best.
Do you realize how many people are giving one tenth of their property for מעשר, to tzedaka? Can you equal that anywhere in the world? They’re keeping טהרת המשפחה. The houses are completely kosher. Kosher food costs money. It’s not cheap. Expensive mezuzos on every doorway. Expensive tuition for children in yeshivos and Beis Yaakov. A whole nation of people, all types of people, sacrificing and laboring for their ideals, for Torah ideals. And they are a people that are loyal to Hashem. There’s nothing better than the frum community, make no mistake about it.
You have to realize that there was a נס that ברוך הוא הקדוש made in these last fifty years. From nothing there emerged a strong frum Jewish community. Today we have frum professionals. Frum physicians, frum lawyers, frum teachers, frum computer men – a big population of professionals. And they’re loyal, they’re dedicated to serving Hashem. They’re learning. They go to shiurim and many are lamdanim. It’s a remarkable Torah explosion.
It’s an explosion of service of Hashem and you shouldn’t ignore it. Just walking in the street, and seeing your people, should make your heart swell with pride. And if it doesn’t, then you still have work ahead of you.
You don’t remember what it was like fifty, sixty years ago, when I was young. But I saw it. I saw it with my own eyes, and therefore I’m telling you that you have to appreciate the greatness of the עם ישראל today.
So therefore, don’t look for faults among the frummeh. Certainly, there are some faults. It could be that sometimes here or there there’s a frum Jew who is dishonest. Or a frum Jew who doesn’t have good manners. But by and large we are the very best people in the world. And the exceptions don’t prove any rules. And therefore we have to always look around and say אשרי העם שככה לו – “How fortunate is the nation that [being the nation of Hashem] is its lot.” אשרי העם שהשם אלוקיו –”How fortunate is the nation that has Hashem as its G-d.”
There’s no better time than now, as we begin the new year, to make a commitment to yourself. This year is going to be a year of raising the banner of the greatness of our people. This year I’m going to look only at the good of our people – because really there is so much good to see. But you have to want to do it. You have to speak up whenever you can, to your wife, to your children, your friends, your neighbors, to anyone willing to listen. And most important, speak to yourself!
Sometimes it might require some planning. Think, “Today I’m going to speak as much as I can about the chesed that is found among the עם ישראל.” No people in the world can even come close to the greatness of the עם ישראל when it comes to גמילות חסדים. The nations of the world can’t fathom even in their wildest dreams what we are doing.
Look for every opportunity to propagandize for the עם ישראל. It takes some wisdom and planning, but you can find ways to speak about these things all day long. Find ways of praising the chesed of the עם ישראל wherever you go.
And the next day, you’ll pick another form of excellence of the עם ישראל. “Today, I’m going to try to speak as much as I can about the modesty of the עם ישראל.” And make that your project for the day.Or the explosion of limud hatorah. Or the greatness of the Yeshiva and Beis Yaakovs. Or the perfection of character of our youth when compared to the unbridled wild and immoral behavior of the gentile youth. There’s so much to speak about, only that you have to put some thought into it. But once you get started on this path of praising the עם ישראל, you’ll find ways of growing greater and greater in this עבודה of loving those whom Hashem loves.
And the more you love frum Jews, the more Hashem loves you. אין הקדוש ברוך הוא אוהב אלא למי שאוהב את ישראל –”Hashem only loves only those who love the Jewish people” (Mesillas Yesharim Chapter 19). You have to know that loving the עם ישראל is Hashem’s favorite subject. וכל מה שאדם מגדיל אהבתו לישראל, הקדוש ברוך הוא מגדיל עליו –”And the more you intensify your love of the frum Jews – and the degrees of love of the עם ישראל are endless – the more Hashem intensifies His love for you” (ibid.).
And therefore, what better way to find favor in the eyes of Hashem, than to praise and love His people. Think of their praises all the time. Speak of their praises all the time. And love them all the time because of their greatness. And the more you do that, the more Hashem loves you. And there is nothing greater in the world than the love of Hashem.
Have a כתיבה וחתימה טובה and a wonderful Shabbos.