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Rabbi Elimelech Biderman shlit"a on Parashat Eikev 2019 - Part 1


It states in this week’s parashah (7:16), “Hashem will remove all illnesses from you …” The Yerushalmi explains that this means Hashem will free us from all our worries.

Rebbe Ben Tzion of Bobov zt’l hy’d writes in a letter, “I received your letter…and I understand you are very worried about your parnassah… I rebuke you lovingly that you shouldn’t let these matters ruin your peace of mind. Trust in Hashem who gives parnassah to all creations. One is obligated to work, as it states, ‘Hashem will bless you with everything you do,’ but…doesn’t mean one should worry and moan, for that won’t help anyway. If a person worries all day long, it won’t earn him a penny. It will only confuse him… Hashem decreed that the yoke of parnassah should be on people’s shoulders. Therefore they must fulfill His will, do business, and buy wisely, and all of this is the Holy Service. One should do it swiftly and with a whole heart to do Hashem’s will. But who gave you permission to worry?” One might ask, “But what shall I do? I have many worries: I worry about parnasssah, the children’s education, health issues, disputes among family or neighbors. How can I remove all these worries?” The solution is (8:18), “Remember Hashem, because He gives you strength to succeed…” All successes come from Hashem. When one has this awareness, he knows he is in “good hands” and he doesn’t have to worry.

The Maharit’z Dushinsky zt’l explains, that whatever happens to a person, it is Hashem’s decree. With this awareness, a person receives chiyus, vigor. Even if he goes through hard times, he knows it was destined and planned, and therefore he is o.k. with it. דאגה, worry, has the first few letters of the alef beis in it. There’s an alef, a gimel, a dalet, and a heh. The beis is missing, because when there’s bitachon (represented by the beis) there are worries.

Yiras Shamayim

The Mishnah (Avos 3:1) states, "Look at three things, and you won't come to sin…" The Rav of Biksad zt'l explained that this hints to the third parasha of the book of Devarim. Study the third parasha of the book of Devarim, which is parashas Ekev, and you won’t come to sin, because this parashah elaborates on the importance of having Fear of Heaven. Many say parashas haMan, parashas haYira and parashas haTeshuvah each day, because saying these parshiyos are mesugal for attaining parnassah, yiras shamayim, and doing teshuvah. Rebbe Mendel of Riminov zt’l taught that to say parashas haMan on the Tuesday of parashas Beshalach is mesugal for parnassah. I similarly heard that it is recommended to read parashas haYira on the Tuesday of Shabbos parashas Ekev. Parashas haYirah begins with the words, "Now Yisrael, what does Hashem request from you? Only to fear Hashem…" (10:12).

The Gemara learns from these words, "Now Yisrael, what does Hashem request from you? Only to fear Hashem…" (10:12), that "Everything is in Hashem's hand except for Fear of Heaven." Hashem does everything. All He asks from us to fear Him. The Chasam Sofer zt'l clarifies that actually, even fear of Hashem is in Hashem's hand. What is in our hand is to desire and to pray for Fear of Heaven. And then Hashem will give it to him.

The Chasam Sofer writes, "It is certain that Fear of Heaven is also in Hashem's hands, because without Hashem's help one wouldn’t attain a 1/1000th of the fear he has. (Except for the very great tzaddikim, like the Avos and Moshe Rabbeinu, who didn’t need support to attain their fear of heaven)… Man's free will is to yearn and to pray for Fear of Heaven. The desire isn't given from Above. One must attain that on his own...” Reb Yochanan blessed his students, “You should fear heaven as much as you fear people, made of flesh and blood.” His students asked, “That’s all? Shouldn’t we fear Hashem even more than we fear people?” Reb Yochanan replied, “Halevai you should reach that level of fear! The proof is, when one commits a sin, he says, ‘I hope no one sees me.’” The Ben Ish Chai zt’l says that hinted here is that one should fear Hashem as much as he fears for his flesh and blood, for his health. People are very concerned about their health. They wouldn’t go to a place where there is a slight chance they may catch a disease and become deathly ill. We should be as cautious with our Fear of Heaven. We shouldn’t go to places that can jeopardize our Fear of Heaven.

Being cautious with your Fear of Heaven also means to be careful who your friends are. A father complained to Rebbe Aharon of Belz zt'l that his son was having a spiritual decline. The Belzer Rav replied, "Check out who his friends are." The father called the rosh yeshiva, the mashgiach, and the magid shiur. They all told him that his son only has good friends. "There are no bad bachurim in the yeshiva" they assured him. The father returned to the Belzer Rav and told him what he heard. Once again, the Rav replied, "Check out who his friends are." The father obliged, and this time he dug deeper. There was one boy in yeshiva who seemed to have Fear of Heaven, but the father found out that he was rotten inside. The father told his son to keep away from that boy, which he did. Soon afterwards, his son's learning and Fear of Heaven returned to be as before. The father told the Belzer Rav about the improvement. The Rav replied, "This isn't surprising. A bad friend is trouble. Twice in the morning blessings we pray to be saved from a bad friend. This shows us just how hazardous a bad friend can be."

Someone had a job offer. There weren't any halachic problems with this job per se. There wouldn’t be yichud, theft, chilul Shabbos, and the like. The problem was that he'd be working among gentiles and non-religious Jews. He asked the Chazon Ish zt'l whether he should take the job, explaining that he feared he may be influenced by his co-workers, and that might result with coldness, disinterest, in his Fear of Heaven. The Chazon Ish said that it is preferable to die, than to weaken one’s Fear of Heaven.

The Shlah taught, if your friend, is a dangerous sword, run away from him. But if he is chosen/elite, for he has Fear of Heaven and does good deeds, then be his friend. The Shach al HaTorah teaches that tribe of Gad and the tribe of Reuven wanted to live on the other side of the Yarden River because they didn’t want to live near shevet Shimon. In the desert, shevet Shimon dwelled between Gad and Reuven (see Bamidbar 2:10-14). Shimon's tribe sinned with the daughters of Moav. They weren’t the best company to be around. The tribes of Gad and Reuven were concerned that when they enter Eretz Yisrael their properties may once again border with Shimon. They didn’t want a bad influence, so they chose to live in the territories of Sichon and Og, on the other side of the Yarden.

Rebbe Ben Tzion of Bobov zt'l asked a bachur of his yeshiva, "In Shemonah Esrei we say, ‘and the wicked should soon be uprooted, destroyed…humbled, subjugated, speedily in our days.' The Rebbe was hinting that one's friends indicate who you are and who you will become. Therefore one must be extremely cautious with his choice of friends.

On Succos it was very cold in Belz. The gabai brought in the soup, but by the time it reached the Rebbe’s table, it was cold. Rebbe Yissachar Dov of Belz zt’l asked his gabai why the soup was cold. The gabai answered that he brought it outdoors, and it cooled off. The Rebbe said, "If soup gets cold by going through the city streets, what happens to a Jew who goes through the city streets?" The bad influences he sees and hears might cool off his Fear of Heaven, chalilah. The Chofetz Chaim zt'l said to a Jew from Warsaw, "To be in Warsaw and to not be there, is an investment in Olam HaBa." He earns stocks in Olam HaBa by living in Warsaw and yet not becoming influenced by the negative cultures. Reb Shmuel Wosner zt'l writes, "I heard from someone who heard it directly from the Chofetz Chaim zt'l, “To hold back, even just once, from walking in the streets of a big city, is a keren (capital fund) for Olam HaBa."

Technology

Today, to be cautious with one’s Fear of Heaven means to be cautious indoors as well. Therefore, the gedolei Yisrael set guidelines and precautions to protect us. However, there are some who feel they are smarter than everyone else. They say they are able to use the internet and it won’t harm them. They claim: a. They are cautious. They don’t go to sites they shouldn’t. b. There are many good buys to be found on line, and it will be a shame to miss out on them. c. I learn with the Iphone. I say birchas hamazon with it. There is so much good there. Why should it be forbidden? d. I only buy an Iphone (Smartphone/Galaxy etc.) with a hechsher. I don’t care whether the hechsher is under the guidance and supervision of gedolei Yisrael or not. Let’s see where they err. They say they are cautious what they watch and what they don’t look at. Even if this is true, they won’t be as guarded and protected as those who have a strong filter in place. What they are really saying is, a slight slip here and there isn’t so bad. And that’s where they are mistaken. Compare it to someone who jumps off a hundred floors skyscraper and says, “I won’t die, because I'm jumping down one floor only.” The problem is, after he falls one floor, he won’t be able to stop his descent. Similarly, when one breaches the decrees, and he has occasionally glitches, what will stop him from falling all the way down to the bottom? It states (Koheles 10:8), “Whoever breaks the gates should be bitten by a snake.” The Chofetz Chaim zt’l asks, why specifically by a snake? Why doesn’t it state, “a lion should bite him”? When a lion bites, one immediately knows the damage that was done. However, when a snake bites, he doesn’t realize he was deathly wounded. The poison spreads slowly through his body, and then he discovers what happened to him. The verse says that when one transgresses the boundaries the chachamim established, he should be bitten by a snake. This is because the damage grows gradually. At first, one feels still very strong with his Judaism. However, this breach can lead to his spiritual descent.

As stated above, one of the reasons some refuse to follow the counsel of the rabbanim regarding the internet is because they want to take advantage of the good buys that are found on-line. We have to realize that we aren't the first generation that the yetzer hara uses this tactic to lure people to sin. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 106.) tells, “Bilaam advised the people of Moav, ‘The Jews desire linen clothing'… When the Jews were eating, drinking and happily strolling through the marketplace, an older woman called out to them, ‘Don’t you want to buy linen clothing?’ The older woman quoted the real price, and a younger woman quoted a lower price. They would do this two or three times. Then she would say, 'You are like a resident here. Sit and choose on your own.’ There was wine there [and non-Jewish wine, wasn’t yet forbidden]. She said, ‘Do you want to drink a cup of wine?’ After he drank, the yetzer hara burned in him…” Two things we learn from this story: 1) The good deals one can buy online, plus the availability of products, is not a new test. The daughters of Midyan offered them a rare product: linen clothing at a good price. And that led them to sin. 2) Keeping the rules of Chazal and likewise the decrees of the gedolei Yisrael of our generation safeguards us from sins. Some people feel the internet is important, so they can learn Torah, pray, and the like.

This brings to mind the following story: A widow came to the Divrei Chaim of Tzanz zt’l. Crying copiously, she said, “Lately, my daughter's husband is studying idol worship!” The Divrei Chaim explained to her that her son-in-law is learning masechta Avodah Zarah (Idol Worship). He isn’t learning avodah zarah. He is learning Gemara! In this story, someone was learning about avodah zarah from the Gemara. Today, people learn about Gemara from the avodah zara. The internet has idol worship (among other sins) on it, and yet people use these gadgets to learn Gemara! We mentioned the people who use a filter, but aren't particular to seek one that is supported and endorsed by the leaders of the generation. They should consider the following analogy: Someone in a foreign country was looking for a place to eat. He came across a store that had Hebrew letters on it. “Apparently, I can eat here,” he decides. He goes inside and sees they are selling pig. He asked the store owner, “You sell pig here?!” The store owner replied, “Not exactly. You see, it’s not exactly pig. It’s kind of pig, but not really… And you see we have a hechsher hanging on the wall…” There are technologies that have “hechshers” but who is giving the hechsher? Is it reliable? And is it meant for you, or is it meant specifically for people with special needs? Sometimes it can be compared to selling unkosher foods, and claiming that it is o. k. because there is a hechsher on it. Not every hechsher means it’s kosher, and not every hechsher is meant for you. Rabbinic guidance is therefore always recommended.

Good in this World

Those who follow the rabbi's guidelines gain in this world and in the next world What are the gains in this world? The parashah begins, “If you will heed these mitzvos… Hashem will love you and bless you and increase your numbers… He will remove all maladies…” Because one always gains by keeping the Torah. In particularly, when one is cautious with holiness it is mesugal for parnassah. A poor Jew from Jerusalem came to Monsey, New York, and collected money for his family. Before returning back to Jerusalem, he called up one of his friends from Boro Park, and told him that he would be soon returning to Jerusalem. The friend told him, “Prolong your ticket for four days and I will go with you to wealthy givers of charity in Boro Park.” The Jew from Jerusalem wasn’t sure he wanted to prolong his trip. His family wanted him back home. “How much money do you think we can make in four days?” “Five thousand dollars, at least.” “For five thousand dollars, it's worth to prolong the ticket.” They made up that to meet Sunday morning in Boro Park. Over Shabbos, this Jerusalem Jew read a booklet that discusses the importance of guarding the eyes. He read that for being cautious, one gets parnassah easily and abundantly. And if one isn’t cautious, he loses the bounty of parnassah that was destined for him. The Jerusalem Jew thought, “It wasn’t by chance that I read this. It is a sign that I must be cautious with my eyes. In this merit I will earn my parnassah easily…” On Sunday morning as he got ready to take the bus to Boro Park, he remembered that the bus passes through Manhattan He knew he would be tempted to look out the window to see the magnificent buildings and the busy streets. But he was resolved to guard his eyes. So he put his eyeglasses into his suitcase and put the suitcase in the baggage compartment under the bus. He arrived in Boro Park, hopeful that having passed the test, Hashem will grant him parnassah easily. His friend met him at the bus stop and said, “I was thinking about it. I decided you don’t have to come with me to collect money. Why should you belittle yourself? I will collect for you. I promise, I will send you $25,000.” The Divine Providence was evident. As he was guarding his eyes on the bus, his friend decided to help him earn his parnassah in an easier and more honorable way! Because when one is cautious with his holiness, he will earn his parnassah in an easier way, and with a greater abundance. We can certainly say, "Fortunate are those who follow the counsel of the Torah leaders and use technology wisely." Today, it is no secret how much one loses — socially, financially, emotionally, and certainly spiritually — by using the internet freely, without restraint. By obeying the guidelines set for us, we are fortunate in this world and in the next.

Earth is the Highest

It states in this week's parashah (10:14), "Behold to Hashem, your G-d, is the heaven and the upper heavens, the earth, and everything that's in it…" What is the order of the verse? It begins with the heaven, and then the upper heavens. And then back to the earth, which is apparently the lowest level. The Alshich addresses this question. He writes, "Let's take note how the verse is out of order, for it should have stated from lowest level to highest: the earth, the heavens, and the upper heavens; or from highest to lowest, upper heavens, heaven, and the earth. The explanation is, Chazal tell us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created the world because He desires a place to live in this world. And indeed, when the Beis HaMikdash stood, the primary place of the Shechinah was in this world… When we do Hashem's will, this world is the primary world… The angels and the Shechinah are primarily here, and the earth becomes higher than all the upper worlds… So the order is from the lowest to highest: First is heaven, where there are the planets. Above them is the upper worlds where the angels dwell. And above that is the earth and everything that's in it… Because when we serve Hashem…the earth is the highest place." The explanation is, the angels serve Hashem perfectly, but the purpose is specifically people who are tested, and yet serve Hashem. This is where Hashem desires to dwell.

The Beis Aharon (pg.47:) states, "Hakadosh Baruch Hu has millions of angels who are constantly praising Hashem… Nevertheless, Hashem's primary desire is that people serve Him from this world. This can be compared to a great king who has all pleasures of this world. He has several talented musicians at his service — the best in the world. And he also has a small talking bird that can say “sugar.” The king puts aside all his pleasures and musicians, and delights himself with his bird. People ask him, 'You have singers and musicians, why do you pay attention to the bird?' “He replies, 'There is nothing unique about the musicians. They are human beings and were trained to play well. But a bird that can talk, now that's unusual…' “What we learn from the parable is that the angels are near Hashem, and they see the brilliance of heaven. But Hashem's primary pleasure is from us, because we are in this lowly world, yet we attach to spirituality.”

The Or HaChaim (Bamidbar 16:22) writes, "The order of Hashem's desire [are as follows]: First are the praises the angels sing to Hashem. Above them are the praises sung by the souls of the righteous [in heaven]… Even higher are the praises from the souls of the people living in this world, because they are in a human body, which prevents them from recognizing Hashem, yet they make themselves strong to love Hashem and to praise Him. This is the highest and most desired by Hashem…"

The Tiferes Shlomo (Rosh Hashanah, writes, "It is written in parashas Ekev, '[Moshe said] I stayed on the mountain for forty days and for forty nights [to pray for the nation, after they made the golden calf]. I didn’t eat bread and I didn’t drink water, because of your sins.' Why did Moshe Rabbeinu complain that he didn’t eat bread and he didn’t drink water for forty days? During this time he spoke with the Shechinah, which is greater than all pleasures of the world! Why did he care that he didn’t have food and drink? The answer is, the purpose of Creation is man who lives in this world, with a body and soul together, and with an evil inclination that lures him, and he conquers the evil inclination and does Hashem's will… As we say [on Rosh Hashanah], 'You desire the praises from people scratched out from the earth.' One should therefore praise Hashem for each moment he is living in this world and is able to do Hashem's will and to bring honor to Hashem. "This was Moshe Rabbeinu’s complaint. For forty days he was in heaven like an angel, and he didn’t have to battle with the evil inclination. Those days were detracted from the days of his lifetime..."

When Reb Avraham Elimelech of Karlin zt’l was in Jerusalem, his chassid, Reb Yaakov Chananyah Bornstein zt’l, gave the Rebbe a gift — a handmade paper rose for a succah decoration. (In Jerusalem they typically created roses from many pieces of small papers, for a succah decoration.) The next time Rebbe Avraham Elimelech of Karlin came to Yerushalayim he told Reb Yaakov Chananyah that he had to pay a lot of tax on that rose when he passed through the border of his country. Reb Yaakov Chananyah was surprised, because it was made from paper and didn’t have any real value. The Rebbe explained, “In our country, we don’t pay according to its value. We pay according to the amount of effort and time that went in to making it.” The Rebbe was implying that similarly, the value of serving Hashem is measured in accordance to the hardships and struggles one goes through to do it.

During the Holocaust, the Akeidas Yitzchak of Alexander zt’l hy’d was deported to Treblinka. In the dreaded concentration camp, people asked the Akeidas Yitzchak to encourage them. He told them, it states (Psalms 92:3), “To speak about Your kindness in the morning, and Your faith at night.” It should have said our faith in Hashem, what is “Hashem’s faith at night”? Nighttime signifies difficult tests. Hashem has faith in us that we will pass those tests.

Notes

When one has Fear of Heaven, he is awarded an extra dose of protection. Hashem protects him from all harm.

The Beis Aharon teaches: "Fear Hashem because those who fear Hashem don't lack anything at all — not spiritual and not material.

Every Jew intrinsically has Fear of Heaven. All he has to do is to bring it forth.

The Rebbe of Kotzk explained: Whenever one praysin Hashem’s hands to decide whether to answer his prayers or whether not to. For example, when one prays for wealth, Heaven may decide that it isn't good for him and withhold from giving it to him. The exception is when one prays for Fear of Heaven. Fear of Heaven (and success in Torah and mitzvos) is certainly good for him, and therefore, Heaven will certainly answer his prayers and give it to him.

Reb Elimelech Ashkenazi zt'l said that once, on a weekday, he heard Rebbe Aharon of Belz zt'l say the morning blessings. When the Rav came to “... Don't bring me to sin," he cried and he pleaded to be saved from sin, like a child begs his father.

Reb Zalman Brizel zt'l once fell into a manhole. Since then whenever he walked on the street he would look ahead, to make sure there was no hole in the road. If there was, he crossed the street. That one time that he fell made him cautious for the rest of his life. Let us learn to be cautious from all different types of spiritual pitfalls.

The Chofetz Chaim answered, "The verse is teaching us that even if a person feels far from Hashem, due to his sins, he should continue going in Hashem's ways. His low level should not stop him from doing what he can. The Imrei Emes zt'l said, "I will answer your question with a chassidic approach: If a person humbly feels that he is far away, that’s when he is close to Hashem. If you feel far away, and distant from Hashem, then you should now that you are near Hashem." As the righteous say, "When one thinks he is near Hashem, he is far, and when one thinks that he's far, he’s near."


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