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.
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Parshas Va’es’chanan #1
More than Talk
“And you will inform your children and your grandchildren” (Devarim 4:9).
During the last days of Moshe’s life he implored the Jewish people to remain loyal to the Torah in the future, and teach its sacred laws to their descendants after them. The Alshich notes that Moshe used an unusual term concerning the children and grandchildren. Rather than the more common v’higadetem (“and you will tell”) or v’amartem (“and you will say”), Moshe said v’hodatem, “and you will inform.”
The Alshich explains that v’hodatem is related to hodaah, declaration. When a parent is absolutely certain of what he is telling his children, he will convey it to them more powerfully: he will not only say it, he will inform them that it is fact. When we speak from the heart, our words will enter their hearts. Words that are spoken but not sincerely felt and believed will not even make it through the ear. Deeply held beliefs are convincing and even inspiring, but talk with no conviction has little or no impact.
Setting an Example
Actions speak even louder than words; example is the best, most sincere teacher. Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky relates the story of a child who came home from day camp, minus his fluffy white beach towel. He had no idea of where it might be – it looked like someone had slipped it in his own bag at the swimming pool. His mother was annoyed, both by the loss of a good towel, and by the shocking behavior of an unknown fellow camper.
“You would never do a thing like that,” she told her son. “We raised you right!”
She called the camp director to complain, fuming about the loss of the towel and the young thief operating on camp grounds. The director soothingly told her that the towel would surely be found – he was certain that it had not been stolen. He asked her to describe it, so that they could identify it when it turned up.
“I can tell you exactly what it looks like,” she said. “You can’t miss it. It’s a white bath towel, marked ‘Holiday Inn’ in big letters!” (Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky, Parshas Va’es’chanan, “Don't Forget”)
Question for Discussion:
When did another person’s words or actions really have on impact on you?
Aliza Rosen, originally from San Diego, now in Jerusalem, recalls an incident which changed her perspective: I was seventeen years old, and I was walking with a friend. There was a cinderblock on the sidewalk, and I walked around it. My friend did more; she picked it up and moved it over to the side, out of the way. This was a very important lesson, which I still remember fifteen years later. She wasn’t looking only to help herself; she was thinking about everyone else who would walk down that street. I learned from her that we should always “move the cinderblock,” and not just walk around it.
Parshas Va’eschanan #2
“And you will know today and restore [this knowledge] to your hearts, that Hashem is G-d, in the Heavens above and on the earth below. There is no other” (Devarim 4:39).
In his final words to the Jewish people, Moshe Rabbbeinu predicted that future generations would stray from Hashem and His Torah, and ultimately return to Him. Hashem, Who wrought miracles for the Jewish people unknown to any nation, would accept them back. Moshe told the Jews to take all this to heart, reflecting on it and internalizing it – hayom,“today.”
Rav Moshe Sternbuch explains that the word hayom is there to encourage us to act promptly on the passuk’s instructions. The time for the introspection and reflection on Hashem’s ways that will strengthen our emunah is now – not on some day in the indeterminate future, when we will finally find the time (Taam V’Daas, Devarim 4:39).
If something is worth doing, it is worth doing now; otherwise, it may never happen. Dieters who are going to start their weight loss plans “next Monday,” or smokers who are going to quit “after the holidays” are more than likely never to start at all. The best time for any important new undertaking is today. “If not now, when?” (Avos 1:14).
Rav Avraham Yaakov HaKohen Pam, zt”l, rosh yeshivah of Torah Vodaas, was raising a family on a very modest salary during his early years with the yeshivah. One day he found a ten dollar bill in the street, a considerable sum at the time, and a very welcome addition to a meager budget. With no way to trace the owner, Rav Pam took the money home and immediately used the opportunity to teach his children an unforgettable lesson.
Rav Pam showed the children the money he had found. It was an exciting moment for them, and they wanted to go out and spend the money. Rav Pam told them that if he had found the money, it meant that someone else had lost it… and he could not bring himself to enjoy another person’s misfortune. He explained that it would be better to give the money to tzedakah, and that is what they did. Rav Pam was right; he had utilized the momentum to impart his message “today,” and his children never forgot it. Many years later, after their father’s passing, they told the story and what it had taught them as children.
Rabbi Noam Rosen related a story about friends who recognized an immediate need, resulting in an amazing chesed: My wife was sitting shivah for her father, never easy, and even more complicated for the mother of six young children, aged nine years to two weeks. Friends with six children of their own immediately offered to take three of our younger children for the entire week – three more little ones to look after, in a small apartment. Their tremendous mesirus nefesh allowed my wife to focus on grieving properly for her father, and we greatly appreciate this selfless act of kindness.