“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

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The third son and the question of redeeming the first-born (Ex. 13:11-16)

Here, too, the subject matter is clear – redeeming first-born sons (11-13). Performing this commandment might raise a question: “And when, in time to come, your son asks you, saying, ‘What does this mean?’” (v. 14). The answer focuses on a specific aspect – the Lord’s mighty hand, that finds expression in the hard blow He dealt to all the first-borns in Egypt: “You shall say to him, ‘It was with a mighty hand that the Lord brought us out from Egypt, ... When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, the first-born of both man and beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every first male issue of the womb, but redeem every first-born among my sons” (14-16).

The fourth son and the question of the obligation to perform the commandments (Deut. 6:20-25)

The fourth son (Deut. Ch. 6) asks a broad question concerning the obligation to perform the commandments in general: “When, in time to come, your children ask you, ‘What mean the decrees, laws, and rules that the Lord our G-d has enjoined upon you?’” (Deut. 6:20). The question pertains to all sorts of commandments that the Lord enjoined upon the Children of Israel – decrees, laws, and rules. Accordingly, the answer is broad as well and describes the entire picture of the descent to Egypt and the exodus. It begins by describing the period of bondage: “You shall say to your children, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt” (v. 21), and continues with an account of the plagues that preceded the exodus from Egypt: “The Lord wrought before our eyes marvelous and destructive signs and portents in Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household” (v. 22), and a description of the exodus itself: “and us He freed from there” (v. 23). The response does not end here, rather it continues and explains the object of the exodus from Egypt, which was entering the land: “that He might take us and give us the land that He had promised on oath to our fathers” (v. 23), as well as upholding the commandments: “Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these laws, to revere the Lord our G-d” (v. 24). The response concludes by describing all the good that awaits Israel in the wake of observing the commandments: “for our lasting good and for our survival, as is now the case. It will be therefore to our merit before the Lord our G-d to observe faithfully this whole instruction, as He has commanded us” (v. 24-25).

Between Three and Four

Now let us consider the differences between the fourth son and the three who preceded him. The three sons in Exodus ask sharply focused questions (concerning the Passover sacrifice, matzah, and redeeming first-born sons), and answers are given them accordingly, mentioning the relevant event taken from the overall story of the exodus from Egypt. In contrast, the fourth son, mentioned in this week’s reading, asks a broad question and is given a comprehensive answer, relating to all the components of the exodus from Egypt.

Another difference concerns the relationship between remembrance and the commandments. In the three passages in Exodus the function of the commandments (making the Passover sacrifice, eating matzah, and redeeming first-born sons) is to preserve the memory of the exodus from Egypt. Perhaps in this respect the commandments of the Passover sacrifice and redeeming first-born sons have a certain advantage, since they are exceptional and evoke questioning, unlike the commandment to eat matzah, which was a rather common practice. In contrast, in Deuteronomy the direction is reversed: the exodus from Egypt becomes a founding event shaping the relationship between G-d and Israel, and therefore remembering the event creates an obligation to perform all the commandments as a whole.[7] Hence the question is comprehensive, and so is the answer.

Different Perspectives

From a literary point of view, we suggest that the passages on the sons in Exodus are an immediate response to the exodus from Egypt, at the time it took place. The fourth son, in contrast, expresses the view taken from the distance of a generation away, a vantage point that makes it possible to take a broader view of all that happened in the exodus from Egypt and to perceive its objective, namely establishing a covenant with the Lord and entering the promised land. Once in the land, the obligation to perform all the Lord’s commandments is understandable. The vista of the sons’ questions is determined according to the world of their fathers. In Exodus, the questions asked by the sons of those who were taken out of Egypt (when, in time, they come to the promised land) are focused, whereas in Deuteronomy, the questions asked by the sons of the generation that enters the land (when, in time, they do so), are comprehensive.

According to a straightforward reading of Scripture, the Torah refers to three sons, and then a fourth. Thus we obtain a model of a natural and fitting way of viewing historical events. At first a person needs signs in order to preserve the memory itself. From a greater distance in time, one is able and even supposed to take in all aspects of the consequences of the event and draw the relevant conclusions.

[1] This model can also be found in Joshua 4, but further elaboration is not appropriate to the present context. [2] In Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Horowitz-Rabin ed., Bo 18; Jerusalem Talmud, Pesahim 10.4. [3] On biblical type-scenes, see R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, New York, 1981, pp. 47-62. [4] The model of three plus a fourth is common in Scripture and has been extensively treated by Y. Zakovitch, Al Shelosha … ve-al Arba’ah ba-Mikra, Jerusalem 1989. Zakovitch (p. 492, especially note 66) did not relate to four sons in Scripture, only in the homilies of the Sages, since he viewed the biblical second son (Ex. 13:5-6; this is the son who, in the Sages’ homilies, does not know to ask) as an exception that breaks the structure. In my opinion the structure of four sons stands, although there is still some explaining that needs to be done regarding the second one. [5] Thus also in R. D. Z. Hoffman, Re’ayot Makhriyot neged Wellhausen, Jerusalem 1928, p. 6. The Sages (Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 96a) made a distinction between the Passover of the exodus from Egypt and observance of the Passover festival for all time, applying the notion of “an institution for all time” (hukkat olam) only to the Passover sacrifice and not to painting the blood on the doorposts. They arrived at this interpretation because of the verses in Deuteronomy 16:1-8, which do not mention anointing the doorposts with blood. On the tension between the plain sense of the text and the rabbinic interpretation, see Ibn Ezra’s short commentary on Exodus 12:24. [6] Perhaps the unusual use of the word ba’avur (“for the sake of” – a phrase that does not occur in the questions of the other sons) is aimed at deliberately creating ambiguity. Avur in Akkadian means “grain.” This meaning can be seen in Josh. 5:11-12, thus Scripture here may be hinting at the practice of eating matzah. A similar use of the word avur may be found in Jeremiah 14:4, in his prophecy about the drought, which instead of the New JPS rendition, might be rendered as follows: “The grain of the land diminished (instead of: Because of the ground there is dismay), for there has been no rain on the earth. The plowmen are shamed, they cover their heads.” See Y. Hoffman, Jeremiah I (Mikra le-Yisrael), Tel Aviv 1988, p. 348. [7] This notion begins with the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:2, Deut. 5:6), and recurs numerous times throughout the book of Deuteronomy (for example, 5:15, 15:15, 26:1-11).



(C) 1999 Aish HaTorah International - All rights reserved. http://www.aish.com/

A) Mi-Oray-Ha-Aish (Rabbi Ari Kahn)


B) mayanot (by Rabbi Noson Weisz)

Working for a Living

"And I implored God at that time, saying: My Lord, God, You have begun to show Your servant your greatness and Your strong hand, for what power is there in the heavens or on the earth that can perform according to Your deeds and according to Your mighty acts? Let me now cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon." (Deut. 2:23-25)

Rashi tells us that the Hebrew word v'etchanan, "and I implored," taken from the root techina, is one of the ten terms meaning "prayer" in the Hebrew language. This particular word is employed to describe prayers that are offered to solicit undeserved favors. According to Rashi, Moses deliberately selected this mode of prayer as a matter of principle. 'Even though the righteous are in a position to ask God to grant their requests in return for their good deeds, that is not their way; thus Moses deliberately beseeched God to allow him into Israel as an undeserved favor instead of asking for it as a reward for his good deeds'.

As Rashi stresses that he refrained from demanding entry as a deserved reward only on principle, it would appear that Moses was in a position to couch his request in terms of a demand had he so desired. Apparently, the combined weight of his good deeds was more than sufficient to have his request honored as a matter of right. And yet, even after God turned down his prayer Moses still refrained from insisting on his rights. Why?

Isn't the whole point of living in this world to earn spiritual rewards through our Divine service? After all, as the Talmud says, why did Moses wish to enter Israel in the first place? Was it to eat from its fruit or to have his fill of its bounty? [Of course not!] This is what Moses said, "Israel was commanded to do many Mitzvot that can only be fulfilled on the soil of the land of Israel. Let me enter the land so that I have the chance to fulfill them all personally." (Talmud, Sotah 14a)

What is the point of all our efforts if in the end we do not obtain the spiritual rewards that we have earned by the sweat of our brow? Why didn't Moses cash in a part of his earnings in this world, as he was surely willing to do? Does it have something to do with the essential nature of prayer?

In fact, let us broaden the question a bit to embrace all prayer. Why do we pray to God at all?


If we believe as we do, that all people get what they deserve through a process of Divine Providence, which also places everyone in precisely the correct life-situation to be able to accomplish the tasks he or she was sent to this world to accomplish, what is the need for prayer? Moreover, how can prayer accomplish anything? If we deserve to have what we pray for, or if we need it to carry out our life-task, then presumably we will receive it without having to pray for it, and if we do not deserve it, or if we do not need to have it, how can our prayers possibly get it for us?

Let us begin at the beginning. One of the best-known Torah commandments originates in this week's Torah portion. Every one of us has a Mitzvah to accept the 'yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven' upon ourselves daily. We fulfill this mitzvah by reciting the Shema twice a day; the essence of the fulfillment is in the recital of the passage that begins with" "Hear, O Israel; the Lord is our God, the Lord is the One and Only" (Deut. 6:4), and this very first verse is the essence of the essence. Jewish tradition teaches that the six words of this single verse encapsulate the concept of the "yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven" perfectly. In fact it is the second sentence that a father is told to teach his child as soon as he learns to speak. (Talmud, Succah 42a)

This verse is clearly a declaration of the acceptance of God's essential unity. How/where is the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven encapsulated within a statement concerning God's essential unity?

It seems that Rashi was troubled by this question, and he seems to be focused on answering it in his translation of the verse: "The Lord who is our God [Israel] only at this era in history, and not the God of the nations, is destined to be the only God, accepted by all of humanity at the end of days." In other words, according to Rashi, when we state that God is One, we mean to say that despite the multiplicity of divinities in the world at the present time, there is only one God rather than two or three gods, and this truth will eventually be accepted by all. But even according to this interpretation the conceptual link between the two ideas, the idea of God's essential unity, and the exclusivity of His monarchy is far from clear.

Let us begin by analyzing the deeper implications of the concept that God is One.


The commentators explain (see Nefesh Hachaim, Gate 3) that the statement amounts to a declaration that there is no other existence besides God. To us it appears that we ourselves, and the universe we occupy, also exist side by side with God. God may have created us and our universe, but after the initial act of creation the things and creatures that God created also exist as part of reality. If we unravel the implications of this observation we will see that there is actually a duality of Divinity following creation. There is God, and there is the universe and everything in it, especially ourselves, and these are also God in a way.

This implication arises from the fact that everything God created was formed out of Divine energy. The created universe is actually nothing more than packaged Divine Energy. God is therefore no longer One, but has become two. There is still God Himself, and there is also His Divine energy in the universe and this is no longer God, for it has separated from His essence through His will and formed a separate reality, the universe and ourselves. [There are obviously some very deep philosophical issues behind the information in this short paragraph; this is not the forum to explore them.]

Moreover, this apparent duality has even deeper implications. Not only does it appear that post-creation God is two, but adding insult to injury, it even seems as though God has lost control of the Divine energy that He invested in creation. This creative energy He invested in the universe has slipped away from God by His own consent. According to His own Torah, He gave human beings free will and thus placed the created universe under our control; in effect, he invested us with the power to control the world as we see fit up to and including its destruction.

No doubt God has the power to reclaim the reins if He should so desire, but the way things are at present He does not control the Universe; we human beings do. God's Dominion is presently limited to Himself. His control over the created universe is dependent on our voluntary acceptance of His will.

When we recite the Shema we reject this point of view. We state our conviction that even following creation things have not altered. There is no duality. There is only God and nothing else besides. But how can such a statement be true? Aren't we here as well?


The answer is relativity. The apparent duality is a result of the point of view of the observer, in this case ourselves. If we were able to look at the universe through God's glasses, as it were, we would find that the view was totally unchanged by creation. Just as there was nothing out there before creation other than God, there is nothing there now. This may be incomprehensible to us, but that is the declaration we make when we state that God is One.

We learned: "Hear O Israel the Lord is our God, the Lord is the One and Only." A person reciting the Shema must clearly know what he is saying and focus his mind on the idea behind the words until he finishes this verse (i.e. if he fails to do so, he must repeat the whole Shema once again; without proper focus on the meaning of the first verse, he has not fulfilled his obligation of recital)....

Rabbi Yirmiyah was sitting before Rabbi Chiya bar Abba; he observed that he took a really long time over the reciting of the word echad, meaning the One and Only. He told him, "As long as you had in mind to establish God as the King over the four corners of the universe as well as up above and down below, that is sufficient."

Explains Rashi: as long as you focus long enough to hold the thought in your heart that God is One in the Heavens and on the earth and in any of the four directions. (Talmud, Brachot 13b)

It is quite true that we are real and we are here, but we are looking at reality from our end. If we look from the opposite end and see it the way God sees it, we are not real and not here. He needs to bring us into being constantly without cease. It is little wonder that it turns out that physical reality is governed by the principle of Relativity. What we have described may seem bizarre at first glance but it differs very little in essence from Einstein's theory of Relativity, which is universally accepted as the bedrock of all physical science.


At this point we are ready to refocus on understanding prayer. Our prayer book was arranged so that we recite the Shema as a prelude to the Amidah, which is our main prayer. As long as we perceive ourselves as living in a dual universe, in which God and we co-exist, the rationale of prayer is cloudy at best. God created the universe and us human beings in it according to certain rules and regulations, and it is not easy for anyone including God to alter these rules. From our side at least, the laws of nature appear to be fixed; they cannot be tinkered with or the entire structure of reality as we understand it would crumble.

Yet, when we pray that is exactly what we are requesting of God; 'please God, tinker with the laws of the universe for our benefit'. Before we submit any requests to God, we first recite the Shema and accept upon ourselves the yoke of the Kingdom of heaven, the essential unity of God. We remind ourselves that God is One and not two, because from His standpoint, which is the standpoint from which He responds to our prayers, only He exists, and we and the universe do not. In fact, the universe and we along with it are constantly in the process of becoming, and the manner in which we become is very much influenced by our prayers. The true power of prayer is contained in the following thought. God takes our prayers and employs them to shape the universe.

From the standpoint of prayer nothing in the world is fixed. The unity of God implies that He constantly recreates existence and that He can therefore do so in the way He sees fit. In a universe that is only now taking shape, all things are possible. It can be brought into existence in a way that it will now contain exactly what we pray for. Moreover, this will not interfere with the chain of continuity between what was and what is, because the connection between the past and the present is only a matter of human perception and is relative to the way that we comprehend reality on our end.


That is why it is wonderful to be alive. This flexibility of reality is there only as long as we are alive. When we pass out of this phase of our existence things do become fixed. At this point, the process of becoming ends, and the process of being begins.

All spiritual being is fundamentally based on some form of attachment to God's own being. In the post-death phase of our lives our continued existence no longer presents any apparent contradiction to God's unity. We are no longer separate bits of Divine energy wandering around loose, having slipped free of God's control. We have returned to the Source and finally become a portion of His own unity.

We have arrived at the correlation between Unity and Monarchy. The belief that God can do whatever He wants within His creation and therefore prayer can change the world and affect reality requires the prior acceptance of the idea of God's unity. Through the acceptance of the concept of unity, creation becomes a cooperative enterprise between ourselves and God, an enterprise in which our input is appreciated and desired.


A fascinating illustration of this concept is provided by the addition to the Shema that we recite in an undertone; "Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity." It is quite unusual to insert an extraneous sentence into a passage of the written Torah quoted verbatim; it is also quite striking that we recite this insert in an undertone except on Yom Kippur when we shout it at the top of our lungs.

Why do we say it? As Reish Lakish explained: It is written, Jacob called his sons and told them, "Gather together and I shall reveal to you..." (Genesis 49:1). Jacob wanted to reveal the End of Days to his children, but the Divine Presence left him before he could do so. He said, "Perhaps, God forbid, there is a rotten apple in my bed as was the case with my grandfather Abraham who had Ishmael, and my father Isaac who bore Esau!" His children reassured him. They said, "Hear O, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord the One and Only! Just as there is only One in your heart, there is only One in our hearts!" On the spot, Jacob started to say, "Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity!"

The rabbis deliberated, "What should we do? Shall we say it? Moses our teacher did not say it. Shall we not say it? Jacob did say it." They decided that it should be said, but quietly...

A metaphor that encapsulates the reasoning: Imagine a princess who grew fond of eating the residue at the bottom of the pot. If you say [bring it to her] she will be embarrassed. If you say [don't bring it to her], she will suffer. Her closest attendants started sneaking it to her quietly. (Talmud, Pesachim, 56a)

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin unravels the concept for us in the Nefesh Hachaim (Gate 3, Ch.6z] God's Kingdom can only be appreciated in a created universe that exists in actuality. As long as He is One, and there is no other existence besides, he cannot be described as having a kingdom. But on the other hand, the existence of the universe as a separate reality, although it allows Him to have a kingdom, implies a duality that detracts from His absolute unity.

Our recognition that this duality is only there for the purpose of allowing the expression of His monarchy restores the integrity of the absoluteness of His unity. Our declaration amounts to a statement of our belief that the universe can never slip out of God's control. Its entire raison d'etre is to serve as an expression of God's monarchy. If it ever wandered away from doing His will as though it existed independently for its own sake, it would instantly cease to be altogether. That is the meaning of the inserted phrase "Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity."

The reason for the metaphor of the dregs of the pot becomes obvious. The existence of God's Monarchy turns out to depend on lowly creatures such as ourselves who often do not even invest a great deal of their attention in its recognition. How embarrassing, but how necessary!


Now that we have begun explaining the Shema, it would be a pity to leave the topic before completing the thought. The remainder of the first paragraph is a set of instructions concerning how to demonstrate the principle of God's unity in our everyday lives.

"You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources."

"With all your heart" :  Every inclination you have, whether good or bad, has to be dedicated to God's service.

"With all your soul" :  In certain situations you have to sacrifice your life itself to sanctify God's Name.

"With all your resources" :  You have to surrender all your earthly goods rather than transgress against a negative Torah commandment.

"And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart" :  You should always be thinking about what God expects of you in any situation you find yourself in by consulting His Torah.

"You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise" :  Your conversation is always centered on the words of the Torah, and these are the words that are the basis of the communication between you and your children. Whoever spends time with you should be able to appreciate that God's commandments are the very focus of your existence.

"Bind them as a sign on your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes. And write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates" :  Whoever looks at a Jew on the street or whoever passes his house should be able to conclude instantly: here walks a servant of God, this is the home of a servant of God.


In all his interactions with the world, the Jew lives by the Shema; his very existence proudly proclaims that he is God's servant and God is his true monarch. Everything that he possesses, everything that he is, proclaims God's kingdom. He is a living testament of God's unity. Indeed the last letter of the first word of the Shema is written extra-large - Ayin - and the last letter of the last word is written extra-large as well - Daled. These two letters spell the Hebrew word ed, meaning "witness." A Jew's very being is a living testament to God's unity.

Moses was on such a high level of spirituality that there was no clear break between his soul and God's Presence. About Moses it is written, "the Shechina [Divine presence] spoke from his throat" (see Rashi, Numbers 12:2). He literally experienced God's unity through connecting the core of his being to God. To him there was no other existence that had to be nullified. He did not need to comment on God's kingdom. He lived within God's unity.

Jacob was not on such a lofty level. He lived in the world. But he dedicated his entire existence and that of his family to the mission of teaching the world about God's unity by establishing his exclusive monarchy over all existence. It is he who first to declared "Blessed be the glory of the Name of His kingdom forever."

Moses did not request entry into Israel as a reward for his good deeds. If such entry would serve the advancement of the cause of establishing God's unity, God Himself would have suggested it. If God refused him entry, he understood that the world as it was presently shaped could not accommodate his presence in Israel in a positive way. Moses beseeched God to reshape the world, to bring it into being in a fashion that could promote God's purpose even if he fulfilled the Mitzvot that could only be preformed in the Holy Land. He had no wish to serve God unless his service advanced the cause of the spread of the kingdom of heaven.

The Jewish people read Ve'etchanan on the Sabbath following the 9th of Av. The Haftorah, from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 40, begins:

"Be comforted, be comforted my people," says your God."

For this reason it is called the "Comfort Sabbath."

We can find comfort in the destruction of our Temple in the Mitzvah of reciting the Shema that was given to us in Parshat Ve'etchanan. The establishment of the kingdom of heaven is our task as a people. The lack of a Temple renders this job that much more difficult. We no longer have physical proof of our 'chosen-ness, and we have lost the embodiment of God's unity and the chief symbol of His Monarchy.

But we have not lost the Shema. We have not lost our ability to beseech God to reshape the world. We can still pray and our prayers are that much more necessary and meaningful. If we live the Shema we can accomplish all we need to accomplish without a Temple through the living testimony of our lives.

"Get yourself upon a high mountain, O herald unto Zion. Raise your voice in power, O herald unto Jerusalem. Raise it, fear not, say to the cities of Judah: Behold your God! Behold! My Lord God shall come with strength, and His arm will rule for Him. Behold, His recompense is with Him, and His wage is before Him." (Isaiah, 40:9-10)


This week's parsha as part of Deuteronomy, which is the Mishneh Torah (the Repetition of the Torah), has the Ten Commandments repeated as well as having the first paragraph of the Shema.

Let us examine an apparently simple Rashi and its deeper meaning.

Deuteronomy 4:5-6

"See that I have taught you laws and judgments as Hashem, my God, has commanded me, [for you] to do so in the midst of the Land into which you are coming there to possess it. And you shall guard and do them for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations who will hear about all these laws and they will say 'But this is surely a wise and understanding people, this great nation.' "


For it is your wisdom and your understanding, etc. - RASHI: With this you will be considered wise and understanding in the eyes of the nations.

As you look at this comment what would you ask?


A Question: What has Rashi added to what the verse says? He seems to say exactly the same thing as the verse itself.

Can you see his point?

Hint: What type of Rashi-comment is this?

You may remember that I have pointed out on other occasions that there are two basic types of Rashi-comments. Type I deals with difficulties in the text (and we ask "What's Bothering Rashi?"), but Type II is less known though not infrequent, and deals with correcting a possible misunderstanding (here we ask: "What misunderstanding is Rashi helping us avoid?"). This latter type has a distinctive style. Rashi's comment is always a short one and he inserts but a few words in between the Torah's words.

See the comment above: Which of the two types is it?


An Answer: See the words "in the eyes of the nations" in Rashi's comment? They are a quote from the Torah's words. Rashi has inserted his own few words between the Torah's words. It is a Type II comment. So we ask, "What possible misunderstanding is Rashi helping us avoid?

Can you see?

Hint: What does the word "it" refer to in the phrase "For it is your wisdom etc."?


An Answer: An ordinary reading of our verse would lead us to think that "it" refers to the Torah. The Torah is our wisdom and our understanding in the eyes of the nations.

This is an incorrect interpretation, Rashi implies. He wants us to avoid this interpretation; he offers us a different one. What is it?

Hint: Look at the first half of this verse. What is Rashi's understanding of the word "it"?


An Answer: Rashi says "it" refers to the words in the first half of the verse, "And you shall guard and do them." The wisdom, Rashi tells us, is doing the mitzvot, not just knowing or learning them. We will be considered wise by the nations when we do the mitzvot not just by the fact that we have the Torah. Having the Torah only means we possess it, but we are not yet wise until it is part of us, until we fulfill its words. That is the wisdom – doing, not knowing!

What evidence can you find that this is Rashi's intent here?

Hint: See the Rashi-comment on verse 4:9.


An Answer: Rashi on verse 4:9 on the words "But guard yourself etc. lest you forget the things" - RASHI: Then when you do not forget them and you do them in the correct way, you will be considered wise and understanding [people], but if you distort them due to forgetfulness, then you will be considered fools!

We see clearly that Rashi says if we do the mitzvot, then (and only then) will we be considered wise and understanding people.

We find evidence for Rashi's interpretation that doing God's will is wisdom from the inspiring and enlightening words of the Prophet Jeremiah.


In Jeremiah 9:22: "Thus said Hashem, 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the strong man glory in his strength; let not the rich man glory in his wealth. For with this shall one who would glory, be proud – Being wise and knowing Me, for I am Hashem who does kindness and judgment and righteousness in the Land for in these I delight,' says Hashem."

Wisdom is in imitating Hashem, He who does kindness etc. Note Rashi on our verse uses the same word this verse uses, "For with this" when he writes, "With this you will be considered wise ..."


Rashi's subtle comment teaches an important, perhaps the most important, message of the Torah. Knowing God's will is knowledge - Doing God's will is wisdom. And in this He delights.


When things get tough, there is always one place we can turn for whatever help and support we need - that place is God. In this week's Torah portion (4:29-31), God assures us that even in difficult times He is always with us and wants us to make our relationship with Him real. By turning to God, we come to feel close to Him, which is the most pleasurable and empowering feeling there is.


In our story, a kid going through tough times finds help from where he least expects it.


Steve tossed and turned in his bunk. He'd laughed when his sister, Liz, had teased him that he'd miss them all once he got to sleepover camp. He was sure he'd have nothing but good times away from home and surrounded by activities, sports and fun. But now almost a week had gone by and there hadn't been one night he hadn't practically cried himself to sleep with homesickness.

Suddenly in the midst of his tossing, he heard a kind of humming sound. At first he thought it was one of these monster-sized mosquitoes that seemed to be everywhere, but then he realized it was the whispering of Dave, the kid in the next bunk.

'Well, at least,' thought Steve, 'I'm not the only one still awake.' He looked again and noticed how strange it was that although Dave was whispering, no one else was there next to him.

"Hey, Dave, who are you talking to?" asked Steve quietly.

At first the boy looked surprised, but then he smiled. "I didn't realize anyone was still up," he said. "I was just feeling a little homesick so I decided to talk with someone who would help me feel better."

Steve was confused. "But who are you talking to? Do you have one of those new micro hands-free cell phones? I didn't see any wires."

Dave sat up on his bed. "No," he gently laughed "I meant I was talking to God."

"To God? Oh, you were praying?"

"Yeah, sort of. Whenever I'm having a hard time, I just talk it out with God. I tell Him about how I feel and ask Him to help me out."

Steve shook his head doubtingly. "Do you think God is really there and is really listening to you?"

"I don't just 'think', I know." said Dave confidently. "Ever since I was a little kid, whenever I feel sad or scared or lonely, I talk to God about it and He always helps me somehow and makes me feel better. Hey," he added, "I notice you're still awake too?"

"Yeah, I have to admit I'm also pretty homesick."

"So, why don't you try talking to God about it?" Steve shook his head.

"I don't think so. I'm not really the praying type, you know what I mean?"

"It's up to you," smiled Dave, "But remember what I said. God is always right there and ready to help."

With that the two boys said goodnight, turned on their pillows and went to sleep.

Well at least Dave went to sleep, that is. Steve heard him snoring after a few minutes. But no matter how hard he tried, Steve just couldn't sleep. His mind kept going back to how lonely he felt.

After what seemed like forever, Steve couldn't take it anymore. He jumped out of bed and decided to take a little walk outside. He had intended to stay right near the cabin but as he breathed the fresh outdoor air he got carried away and walked and walked until before he knew it he was lost and couldn't even see the bunk anymore.

Steve began to panic as realized he was out in the woods all alone in the middle of the night and absolutely lost!

WHOO, HOO, HOO. Steve shuddered at the scary sounds that surrounded him. He had heard there were even bears in these woods. Why had he ever done such a dumb thing? What could he do?

'...remember what I said. God is always right there and ready to help...' Suddenly Dave's words popped into his head. It would feel funny to talk to God. He hadn't really prayed since he was little. But it was worth a try. Steve took a deep breath.

"God, if you can hear me, I really need you now." As he spoke, it occurred to him that talking to God didn't feel as funny as he thought it would. In fact it felt like he was really talking to someone close by who cared. He went on, "God, I feel so lonely and lost. Please help me and show me which way to go..."

Suddenly Steve heard voices. At first he was scared, but as they drew closer, he recognized them as two of the camp counselors heading to the bunks for night patrol.

"Hey, it's way past curfew," one of them said when they saw him. "You've got to go to your bunk and go to sleep. Come with us right now."

Steve more than happily complied.

'Wow, God really heard me!' Steve thought. "Thank you," he whispered softly, as he followed the counselors right where he needed to go.

Steve lay down on his bed and thought about what happened and how God was really with him in the woods. 'That means,' he realized, 'God is also with me here in the bunk and everywhere else.' As he drifted off to sleep, Steve felt happier than he could remember feeling in a long time. It looked like it wasn't going to be a lonely summer after all.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Steve feel at first?

A. He was lonely and homesick.

Q. How did he feel in the end?

A. He felt much better after he realized God was with him everywhere

Ages 6-9

Q. What life lesson do you think Steve learned that night?

A. He hadn't realized that God was right with him and could be a real and meaningful part of his life until his talk with Dave and the frightening experience in the woods showed him the truth.

Q. Do you think God only wants us to talk to Him when we're in trouble?

A. God loves us more than we can imagine and wants us to come closer to Him by sharing and talking with Him about all parts of our lives, both the happy and the challenging.

Spiritual exercise: Right now and once each day, take thirty seconds to talk to God about how you're feeling

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8


“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu icon“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

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