Category Archives: Parshas Devarim

Parshas Devarim: It’s In Our Hands! It Really Is!

Parshas Devarim

It’s In Our Hands! It Really Is!

“Who is a G-d like You, who pardons iniquity, and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not maintain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)

A secular Israeli University Professor was waiting to board a flight in the airport in Rome. He looked around and saw many non-Jews from around the world, who were also waiting for their flights. Then the professor spotted another Jew. The Jew that he had seen was a very religious Jew. That did not matter to the professor for it was reassuring to see a fellow Jew. The religious Jew looked familiar. The professor realized that it was the Ponevezher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman. The professor went over to the Rav, extended his hand, and greeted him in Hebrew. The Rav shook his hand in return. Looking at the bare head of the professor, Rav Kahaneman asked him if he was Jewish.  When the professor nodded that he was, Rav Kahaneman wrapped his hands around him and hugged him warmly. The professor, who was not religious, felt uncomfortable that such a holy man embraced him. He told the Rav,”If the Rav would only know what kind of sinner I am, he wouldn’t hug me.” Rav Kahaneman responded to these words by giving the professor another hug. Then he told the professor, “If you would only know how much Hashem loves you, despite the fact that you are a sinner, then you would not sin so much.” (Sparks of Majesty by Genendel Krohn)

Hopefully, we will be privileged to greet Mashiach, this year, before Tisha B’Av. If Hashem decides that it’s not the right time yet, is there anything that we can do to hasten the time?

We know that the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed due to unwarranted hatred. To rectify that, we must transform hatred into love. The question is, “How do we do that?”

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero zt”l (The Kabbala teacher of the Ari zt”l) says (in sefer Tomer Devorah) that when we embody Hashem’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, then Hashem acts accordingly and showers His mercy upon us. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero zt”l says that when we sin, Hashem bears our insult, and still sustains us and showers us with goodness. Similarly, we should emulate Hashem, and act accordingly. We should tolerate insults, and still grant goodness to the one who has harmed us. We should keep doing favors even for those who use those favors against us. That is the first of the Thirteen Attributes.  The second attribute is that Hashem sustains the destructive angel that we create when we sin. If Hashem would not, then the destructive angel would have to immediately punish or kill us. Following in Hashem’s ways, even if the damage which was done to us still exists in front of us, we should be patient with the sinner until he repairs the damage or until the damage disappears. The third attribute is that Hashem forgives the sinner and personally cleanses him of his sin. Similarly, we should forgive the sinner and repair the damage ourselves. We should do so, even if the offender harms us with the foreknowledge that we will repair the damage ourselves.

Even after one has considered the first three attributes of Hashem, one may still feel so offended or hurt to the extent that he finds it hard to restrain his anger because of the injustice that was done to him. What can he do? Perhaps he will be able to restrain his anger if he copies Hashem’s fourth attribute. The fourth attribute is that Hashem considers us to be His “family”. Similarly, all Jews are considered one family. But, even more than that. All Jews are part of one neshama, one soul. Every Jew has within him a portion of every other Jew’s soul.

When a person sins, he harms not only himself, but also the portion of a fellow Jew’s soul which is included within him. When one honors a fellow Jew, he also honors himself, as all Jews are one soul. In the Talmud, Rabbi Meir talks about one who uses a knife in his right hand to cut something and, inadvertently, cuts his left hand by mistake. Would he then take the knife in his left hand and cut his right hand to avenge himself? Obviously not. That would be so ridiculous. Yet, if you harm a fellow Jew, that is what you are doing. If someone harms you, you should be forgiving just as if you had caused harm to yourself. Be concerned for the other person’s welfare as you would be concerned for your own, since his welfare is your own. He is part of you, and you are part of him. So, why be jealous or why be angry? If you take revenge on others, you are really taking revenge on yourself. On the other hand, if you forgive others, you are forgiving yourself. We should love one another and be happy with the successes of another.

Imagine the following scenario: Your company was about to go bankrupt. The Chief Executive Officer of the company asked for your help. You worked very hard, day and night, for five years. As a result of your leadership and creativity, the company’s situation finally improved. You were about to sign a multi-million-dollar contract to benefit the company. Just before you signed the contract, the CEO of your company demoted you and hired an outsider to take your place. The outsider was your younger brother! How would you feel? A normal reaction would probably be anger and jealousy.

A similar scenario happened! For sixty years, Aharon HaKohen led the Jewish People in the darkness of the servitude in Egypt. He gave the Jews encouragement and hope. You would suppose that when the time came for the Jews to be redeemed with great miracles, Aharon would lead them. Yet, that was not what happened. Hashem chose Moshe, Aharon’s younger brother, to redeem the Jews. All those years, Moshe had been gone from Egypt and was not helping the Jews. As soon as Moshe returned to Egypt, he became the leader. It would not have been surprising if Aharon would have felt jealous and even angry. Yet, that was not the case. The Torah tells us (Shmos 4:14) that not only was Aharon not jealous, but he was even happy for Moshe!

This is the extent to which we should feel good about another person’s success. We should view it as our own, personal success because, in actuality, it is our success as well. When we act this way, we bring Hashem’s mercy upon us.

There is a second aspect of this fourth attribute. Since Hashem feels so close to us, as family, Hashem also shares our pain and suffering.

There were two aspects which led Hashem to redeem us from Egypt. The compassion that we had for each other, and our suffering and pain which Hashem felt for us. Both of those awakened Hashem’s love and compassion for us.

What act of compassion does this refer to? There were Jewish supervisors who were responsible to ensure that the Jewish slaves filled their quota of making bricks. They were told to beat any Jews who did not meet their own, individual quotas. Despite that, the Jewish supervisors could not bear to act cruelly towards their Jewish brethren. When the quotas were not filled, the Jewish supervisors were brutally beaten. They had such compassion for their fellow Jews that they willingly suffered in their place. They did so because they felt the suffering of Jewish slaves as their own suffering. Their act of compassion rose to Heaven, awakening Hashem’s compassion. Hashem also felt and shared the pain of the Jewish People.  These two things awakened Hashem’s mercy and the Jews were redeemed.

Our ultimate redemption will follow the same pattern as our redemption from Egypt.

Hashem’s mercy will be awakened by the compassion that we show to one another.

That, combined with the pain that Hashem feels for His “family”, will lead to our ultimate redemption.

That will bring an end to our sorrows and suffering.



(based on The Elucidated Tomer Devorah, adapted by Rabbi Shmuel Meir Riachi)


Parshas Devarim – Special Tisha B’Av Issue: One Person Can Change the World! You Can Be That One Person!

Parshas Devarim – Special Tisha B’Av Issue

One Person Can Change the World! You Can Be That One Person!


“Jerusalem was destroyed only because its inhabitants decided matters exactly according to Torah law” (Bava Metzia 30B)

During the Six Day War, the basement in the Mirrer Yeshiva served as a bomb-shelter for the neighborhood. Bombs would often land nearby. Once, there was a direct hit. It caused an explosion. Many of those in the basement thought that they would imminently die. Many cried out, “Shema Yisroel….”. There was a woman in the basement whose husband had abandoned her twenty years earlier, without giving her a “get”, a Jewish divorce. As a result, she was forbidden to remarry. Her life, during that time, had been very difficult. Now, her voice was louder than the others. She called out to Hashem that although she had suffered terribly because of her husband, she, now, forgave him! Then, she implored Hashem to, accordingly, forgive the Jewish People. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the Mirrer Rosh HaYeshivah was also in the bomb shelter. He had heard the woman’s cries. He later said that he was certain that her prayer had saved all of them! She had overlooked the terrible wrong that had been done to her. That saved all of them.  (Artscroll Tishah B’Av, compiled by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer & Rabbi Shimon Finkelman)

Rabbi Chaim Volozhin zt”l in his sefer, Nefesh Hachaim (1:4), says that no Jew should ever say, “What am I and what power do my deeds have to accomplish anything in this world?”  Rather, every deed, word, and even thought, impacts the “Upper Worlds”.

Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal zt”l learns from the Midrash Rabbah (Bereishis 60:2) that the world receives kindness in the merit of our forefather Avraham. Our forefather, Avraham, opened a flow of Divine kindness that continues thousands of years later, in our time!  The Chofetz Chaim zt”l (Sha’ar Hazechirah, Chapter 2) says that the way one conducts himself in this world, awakens a corresponding conduct from Hashem. Thus, Avraham’s kindness awakened a flow of kindness to this world. If one overlooks the hurt that others cause him, he awakens a similar compassion Above. Hashem will then overlook sins that are done against Him!  The Talmud (Bava Metzia 30B) says, “Jerusalem was destroyed only because its inhabitants decided matters exactly according to Torah law”. What was wrong with what they had done? Technically they acted properly in desiring justice. The problem was that they were unforgiving and did not look to compromise. They followed the exactness of the law. Hashem treated them in a similar way. Hashem also judged them according to the exactness of the law, without compromise and without overlooking their sins. This illustrates why it is so important for us to forgive wrongs done to us. According to the Talmud (Yoma 23A) if we overlook wrongs that are done to us then Hashem will treat us in kind and will “overlook” and forgive our personal sins. It will also cause a flow of extra kindness from Hashem to all Jews, potentially causing Hashem to overlook their sins as well. Even if we were clearly and hurtfully wronged, it is very meritorious and exceedingly beneficial to us not react to those wrongs. (Inspiration & Insight translated by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman)  

There was a woman who needed a specific salvation in her personal life. She went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, the late Gadol Hador, for a blessing. He told her to find someone who was publicly embarrassed and did not respond in kind. Such a person would have the power to give her the blessing that she needed. It took her 4 years to find such a person. When she saw a woman being publicly humiliated at a wedding, she quickly begged her not to respond. The woman listened to her. She then explained the whole story and asked for a blessing for her specific need. Thereupon, she received the blessing, which indeed came true. (As told over by Rabbi Fischel Schachter)

Tisha B’Av is a very sad day for us. It was decreed that the Jews remain in the desert for 40 years before entering the Land of Israel. Men aged 20-60 years old, perished during those years. Both the First and Second Temples were destroyed on Tisha B’Av. Many other tragic events throughout history, also occurred on Tisha B’Av.

On the other hand, Tisha B’Av is a day of hope and new beginning, as the Moshiach was/will be born on Tisha B’Av.

Moshiach will herald a new era of peace, tranquility, good health, and an end to suffering. It is clearly a day for us to reflect on our deeds and try to improve. It is especially a time to work on our relationships. It is a time to do acts of kindness, to end strife and discord, and to forgive. Our actions can be the ones that bring the Moshiach!