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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Re'eh

Parshat Re'eh

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Re'eh                                                                       Print Version
29nd of Av, 5781 | August 7, 2021 

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Joey Haber
Your Main Road

What’s going to be your main road in life? You can choose the road of financial success, and that’s what you talk to your kids about all the time, such as, “When are you going to school?” “Do you realize that that is a business for you?” “You have to work hard and you must bring in an income!” “How can you date him if he doesn't have an income?”

If that becomes all you talk about, then that's going to become the main lane in your family's home and that's going to be the main area of focus of your children. And those things like character and virtue won't be the real lane.

Or you can choose the other lane, where you talk about character, values, virtues, and Jewish faith and action and that's your main focus. And with all of these attributes, you show your family that you are willing to sacrifice for them and you're willing to work for them.

Of course, you have to talk about income and of course you need an income. You need to provide for your family. But if the areas of money, income and financial success become your main focus, that is what your children will come to focus on too.
Think about what example you want to set, and realize that your children are always, always watching. They will become you.

Rabbi Uri Lati

A student of Rav Shach once told him that he won’t be able to make it to class one day. “I’m going to a pidyon ha’ben (redemption of the first born),” he said. “Attending such a festive gathering,” emphasized the boy, “is a great merit and is considered as if someone has fasted 84 days!” The letters pei and daled (reflecting the word pidyon, or redemption) refer to this very concept.

Rav Shach replied, “There is also something which equals 84 – Daf (page, of Gemara). A page of Gemara is also the numerical value of 84. If you learn Torah, it is k’neged kulam, equivalent to everything. Going to a pidyon ha’ben is equivalent to 84 fasts; Torah is everything!” You cannot put a price tag on Torah. Hashem looks at you when you study and is wondering what reward can He give you? It is that valuable.

Rabbi Shlomo Farhi
Nothing But the Truth

The Torah tells us in Parshat Mishpatim, “M’dvar sheker tirchak – From something that is not true, stay far away.” The commentaries point out that of the many mitzvot, this is the only one where the fence itself is part of the commandment.

The Mishnah (Avot 1:1) tells us that we should make a fence around the Torah. In example, the Torah commands us to keep Shabbat, or give tzedakah, or avoid from marrying certain people. In these cases, it’s not enough to not just commit the sin, but we must create a fence, a sort of DMZ (Demilitarized zone) so as not to violate the mitzvah. In example, one is not allowed to ride a horse on Shabbat lest he pull off a branch from a tree and encourage the horse to run faster. This falls under the banner of making a fence for the Torah.

When it comes to telling a lie, it is noteworthy that the fence itself is built into the very commandment. If the Torah decided to do this, to build into the body of the commandment the fence itself, it is emphasizing something. Truth must be pursued at all costs, and falsehood, stayed far, far away from.

Rav Zusha from Anipoli, the brother of Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, once remarked on this above Pasuk that the words “M’dvar sheker tirchak” can be understood to mean that when a person engages in something that is not true, he will be distant from G-d. This is because the signature of G-d is truth (Shabbat 55a), and one who engages in speaking or acting in ways that are not true is distancing himself from this very way which G-d stands for at His very core, at His very essence. Hashem embodies truth to such a point that any lack of it does not allow that person to be close.

When the angels came to visit Avraham and Sarah and report the upcoming birth of Yitzchak, the Torah relates that Sarah laughed upon hearing this news. When asked, “Why did you, Sarah, laugh?” Sarah replied that she did not laugh. What immediately does the Torah say after that? The angel stood up and left. When we read this, we would assume that they just had to go. Rav Zusha explains, though, that when Sarah laughed, there was an element that was untrue, and the angels could not stand being where an untruth was said, and they therefore got up and left. Now consider for a moment. If for the angels they repulsed such an infraction of truth, to a minor degree, then we can just imagine what a full untruth is like.

If this is the power of speaking something that is not true, then we can extrapolate that one of the ways of having Hashem close to us is to be an ish emet, a man of truth. The Gemara (Sanhedrin) states that the first question a person will be asked after they pass away is if they set aside times to learn Torah. Tosafos questions this premise, because the Gemara (Kiddushin) says that the first question is if you dealt honestly in your business dealings. How can the two passages be reconciled?

Rav Yitzchok Levi of Berditchev says that the desire to be untruthful in business is very great, given the benefits that can be gained by being subversive and focusing on how you can gain, even at the expense of the other party. While this person may be a generous and righteous man in other areas, such as donating money to important organizations, when it comes to one’s source of livelihood, it’s different. Whatever is needed to bring in money is done, even if the efforts towards that goal are less than one hundred percent honest. The comment given in return is often, “Rabbi, tzedakah is tzedakah. Business is business.” Whenever I hear this, I jokingly add, “And Gehinnom is Gehinnom.” There are no games here.

When a person is guided by Torah and sets aside a time to study every single day, with a strong sense of commitment and discipline, it affects the person. If a person, in example, attends a class or reads an article about the truth, and then an opportunity arises for a person to do chesed, you will be in a frame of mind that, “The way I want to live my life is in the way Hashem wants me to,” and that will lead the person to act in a way according to Torah values and ideals. The studying of Torah and the integration of its values, regardless of the topic at hand affects a person, which in turn will yield the result of one being honest and holding himself with integrity in business. The two are thus interrelated.

The son of the Ponovezher Rav once approached his father and asked for an explanation for a minhag that he had of eating alone on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Is there some place this is stated in halacha? I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find it.” The Ponovezher Rav replied that this halacha is in fact not stated anywhere. The reason he did so, he explained, is that when he was a young boy, he was studying in a town and was invited out by someone for a meal on Rosh Hashanah. “I wasn’t sure of his level of religious observance and Kashrus stringency, and so I felt uncomfortable accepting the invitation and eating at his home, especially on Rosh Hashanah,” explained the Ponovezher Rav. “On the other hand, I didn’t want to embarrass him, as he didn’t come across as someone who didn’t present himself as being any less careful or scrupulous in the laws of Kashrut.”

Thinking of what to say, I replied, “Thank you very much for the invitation. I have a minhag that the first night of Rosh Hashanah, I eat alone.” The man was not aware that there is no such minhag and accepted the Ponovezher Rav’s response, and left him alone.

“Since that day,” said the Ponovezher Rav to his son, “in order that the words which came out of my life should not be a lie, for the past 50 years, I have eaten the first meal of Rosh Hashanah alone.”

That is how far being honest goes.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky too was very careful about telling the truth. He was a paragon of integrity and honesty. He had a close student who was considered to be like a son to himself. Rav Yaakov once came to visit this student and his son and began playing with the toddler. Observing this, and noting that his son had just started walking, the father held up a lollipop, encouraging his son to take a few steps in his direction. “Come to Abba,” he said. The boy began to take a few steps across the room, as Rav Yaakov could be seen smiling and clapping for the boy.

As the boy continued approaching and nearly reached his father, the father glanced in the direction of Rav Yaakov, and seeing the joy and cheering on his face, took a few more steps back so as to prolong the father-son engagement and have his son take a few more steps in his direction. But Rav Yaakov was no longer smiling and his brow furrowed. The student didn’t know what had happened.

“Rebbe, did I do anything to upset you?” asked the student. “I don’t understand,” said Rav Yaakov. “You held out the lollipop to your son indicating that if he would walk to you, you would give it to him. And then when he did walk to you, you moved! That’s not emet (the truth)!”

There’s no contract, there’s no agreement, so you would say, what truth is there to be here? But it is intimated. The Torah says, “M’dvar sheker tirchak,” from something which is not true, stay away. Something implied which is not true is not true. If you imply that an employee will receive benefits or a bonus, that is enough. If it’s implied and it’s untrue, it’s simply not true. There’s no way to bend out of it. In years gone by, giving a handshake was a man’s word. Your honor was on the line. Your word was your bond. It should be no different today, because frankly, nothing has changed. Truth and integrity are not affected by any changes in society. It is a timeless quality.

Years ago, people would give up their job if it demanded that they compromise on their values of integrity and honesty, and today, those virtues have not changed one bit.

From Rav Yaakov, the takeaway is that if you promised to do something, you must follow through. Keep your word. Your honor and integrity are on the line. Be a man of honor, a woman of truth and don’t veer at all. From the Ponovezher Rav, the takeaway is that if you said something or even intimate something and you can stop it from being untrue by changing your plans going forward, do it. In the Ponovezher’s case, before the man approached him for that Rosh Hashanah meal, he had not eaten alone. But once he was invited and he declined, giving the reason that he eats alone as a matter of minhag, he strove to make that a truth and, for the next 50 years, kept to his word. He made it come true in the future, moving forward.

If you promise something to someone, including and especially your children, you are setting an example of the truth. If you want your children to tell the truth, it starts with you.

If you are driving home, don’t say you’ll be home in 2 minutes if you will not be home in 2 minutes, but 5 minutes. Be exact and be direct. It may sound as if it’s a social colloquialism to say two minutes and mean five, but the truth is exact and it doesn’t consider 2 minutes to be 5 minutes. If you say you’re going to do something, such as call someone at a certain time, calling them one minute late is not keeping your word. It’s that simple.
Being a man of truth requires discipline and unwavering commitment to nothing but the truth. But it’s the sign of a real man of honor. And we all want that. So be it.

Rabbi Yehoshua Zitron
Your Thoughts

There are people who are downers. They are cautious in life, realists, they may call themselves, and see the word in ways that project that chances are something will go wrong. It is true that this may be the case, but to live this way will not translate into a positive life. In fact, it will often bring negative experiences upon you.

How can you be in control of your thoughts? There are two types of thoughts. In Hebrew, one type is termed machshavot, which are fleeting thoughts. In fact, the Gemara (Kiddushin 48b) states that a fleeting thought (machshavah) you have towards doing a mitzvah¸ even if it is not completed for a certain reason, is considered as if you have done it. But if you have a fleeting thought towards committing a sin, you are not punished as if you have done it, unless you actually do it.

Hirhurim are another type of thoughts. These are not fleeting thoughts, but thoughts which you dwell upon. Pondering a thought is different from having a thought which comes and goes.

So, if you’re wondering how you can control your thought, be mindful of the type of thought you are facing. Is it fleeting or a type which you are thinking and thinking and thinking about? If it’s the former, it will pass. If it’s the latter, consider what other intervening thoughts you can wedge between those thoughts to dispel the thought which repeatedly you dwell upon.

The Rabbeinu Yonah writes that giving up hope is never to be done, because “Hashem’s salvation can come about in the blink of an eye,” and thus losing hope is not a Jewish trait. If you’re thus bombarded by thoughts, and they are unwanted, stay in the fight. Do your utmost to think and act in the ways you can, and that will be your commitment to doing what you can do best. Hashem will see that and will take care of the rest.

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