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Welcome to our Shabbos Table!

We hope you enjoy this selection of short divrei Torah, presented to family and guests at our Shabbos table as a springboard for discussion. Each one is followed by a question. The responses shared at our table are enlightening, entertaining, and always thought-provoking.

Please share them at your own Shabbos table, and send us your most interesting responses. A selection of the best will be posted on the website, and eventually, included in a book. To respond, click on "Click here to respond" or email us at
responses@ourtable.org.

Parshas Eikev #1

Big and Small

“If (eikev) you will listen to these laws and keep and do them, Hashem your G-d will keep the covenant and the kindness which He swore to your fathers” (Devarim 7:12).

Moshe Rabbeinu told the Jewish people that if only they would obey Hashem’s commandments, He would keep His covenant with the Avos, and they would be abundantly blessed. This did not mean keeping only the “big” mitzvos, like Shabbos and kashrus. The Torah’s use of the unusual term eikev (literally ‘heel’), rather than a more common word like im, teaches a profound lesson. Rashi comments, “If you will obey the ‘minor’ mitzvos that a person tramples with his eikev.” We earn Hashem’s blessings specifically by being careful with the small things that we might otherwise brush aside asinsignificant.

No mitzvah is “too small” to be important, as we learn from two mishnayos in Pirkei Avos:

· “Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the reward for mitzvos” (Avos 2:1). The Torah does not include a pay scale for different mitzvos. This is because if we knew which are more worthwhile, so to speak, we would concentrate our efforts on the “big” mitzvos, and neglect the “small” ones – and Hashem wants us to fulfill all six hundred and thirteen.

· “Run to a minor mitzvah as to a major one… for one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah” (ibid. 4:2). Every mitzvah brings us closer to Hashem, and accustoms us to serving Him. If we do a smaller, easier mitzvah, it will be easier for us to go on to progressively bigger mitzvos, even if they are more difficult.

Honesty

Unfortunately, honesty is a mitzvah which many struggle with, whether large-scale or small. It begins even in “minor” areas, which most people would “trample with their heel:”

Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner of London related the following story about his father, Rav Yosef Tzvi Dunner, Rosh Beis Din of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (Kedassia). Rav Dunner would never drink a cup of coffee at the offices of the Beis Din. He maintained that the coffee had been purchased for the secretaries who worked there all day long – not for him, who was not there all day.

On one occasion, a secretary told him that she had bought coffee and sugar specifically for the rav, from her own funds. Rav Dunner still would not drink the coffee, because the electricity to boil the kettle was paid for by the Beis Din office!

(Adapted from “Making It Work: A Practical Guide to Halachah in the Workplace”)

Question for Discussion:

As Jews, we do need to “sweat the small stuff.” What is something which people ignore as unimportant, but really does deserve more of our attention?

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Response:

My eight-year-old son and I were in LAX airport in Los Angeles, on our way back to Israel. We were asked all the standard El Al security questions, including whether we had been given any gifts to take back. I referred the security staffer to my son on this one. He informed her that his friends had given him a book.

“Anything else?” she asked him in Hebrew.

He responded in Hebrew, “Ken, gam roveh!” (“Yes, also a gun!”)

Mah?” (“What?”) she said, suddenly alert.

Roveh,” he repeated.

Roveh? Who gave it to you?”

Clearly, it was time for me to reenter the conversation. I told her that the “roveh” was a Nerf gun. My son had worked hard over the summer on a challenging goal, and he had earned it as a well-deserved prize. She had never heard of a “Nerf gun,” and I explained that it was a toy that shot foam balls, not bullets. She wanted to see it for herself, but when I told her that I had no idea of where it was packed in our four big suitcases, she let it go.

Despite the uncomfortable moment, I had to admire my son’s honesty, even in a routine airport security check.

Parshas Eikev #2

“The” Year

“A land which Hashem your G-d watches constantly, always the eyes of Hashem your G-d are upon it, from the beginning of the year until year’s end” (Devarim 11:12).

Moshe continued his address to the Jewish people, extolling the richness of the Holy Land and comparing it favorably to the Land of Egypt which they had left behind. The uniqueness of the land lay not only in fertility and abundance, but in its special status in the eyes of the Al-mighty: Hashem’s “Eyes” are constantly on the Holy Land, “from the beginning of the year until year’s end.”

Beginning to End

Rav Shimon Schwab (1908-1995), rav of K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, New York, notes an inconsistency in the wording of the passuk.When referring to the beginning of the year, the Torah uses the term “the year.” However, when referring to the year’s end, it is only called “year.” Why does the Torah differentiate between the beginning of the year and its end?

Rav Schwab explains that as every new year begins, we are sure that this is going to be “the” year. We daven, we do teshuvah, we have many idealistic hopes and aspirations. We start out with big plans for change, but as the days, weeks, and months pass, our resolve ebbs away. By the time we get to the year’s end, it is no longer “the” year.

This is true not only of resolutions at Rosh Hashanah, but of any new project or commitment we undertake – from Daf Yomi to a diet. When we start off this is the program of a lifetime, but somehow, with time, far too many ambitious plans dwindle away to nothing, or near nothing.

Question for Discussion:

With Elul just around the corner, Rosh Hashanah is not far off. What do you plan to do to make the new year ahead “the year,” not just for a few days or weeks, but “from the beginning of the year until year’s end?”

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