"A LAND IN WHICH WITHOUT POVERTY YOU SHALL EAT BREAD; YOU WILL NOT LACK
ANYTHING IN IT; A LAND WHOSE ROCKS ARE LIKE IRON .... AND YOU SHALL EAT AND
BE SATIATED" DEBARIM [8: 9,10]
As Moshe Rabenu continues his 36-day farewell speech to the Jewish people,
he reveals to them the nature of the land wherein they will dwell after his
passing. It will be a land where the Israelites will want for naught and
where they will eat and be satisfied. The verse cited above poses a
difficulty. Why did Moshe Rabenu insert a phrase describing the iron-like
hardness of the stones? What do the rocks of the Holy Land have to do with
nourishment and satisfaction?
The Kli Yakar zt'l says that the "rocks" mentioned in the verse are not
meant to be stones, rather they are meant to be understood as the unique
building blocks of the Holy land -- our Torah leaders -- our talmidei
hakhamim. They are as hard as iron in the sense that, although the land
lacks nothing, they choose to live an ascetic life, sustaining themselves
on a diet that is basically bread and salt. As the verse states, "Not in
poverty", rather in abundance, you shall eat bread. The land is known for
the 7 varieties of produce with which it is blessed, but because the Torah
learners are tough and strong they do not yield to physical temptation to
live a life of luxury, rather they choose the simple life. Their constant
involvement in Torah study does not leave room for indulgence in the finer
things -- albeit they may be available in abundance.
The verse continues by warning --"Don't think that because the Torah
learners don't eat the bountiful produce that they grow to be sickly and
weak. On the contrary, they grow to be hard like steel --BECAUSE they don't
indulge in the fat of the land."
In an age where the abundance of wealth and prosperity has become
commonplace -- we too can learn a valuable lesson from this verse. When
the populace of a prosperous state indulges in excess, rather than conserve
and preserve for bad times, the people become soft and incapable of
maintaining economical growth. Eventually, the palaces and monuments that
they build will crumble. In America today we see that the years of
prosperity have left our population fat, overweight and lazy. Institutions
that were thought to be invincible are revealing cracks in their
foundations and an inability to withstand the pressure of bad financial
news. Those that heeded the warning of the Torah --"If you maintain a
simple lifestyle even when times are good, you will survive the long-term
cycles of inevitable ups and downs." If "lo B'Miskenoot Tokhal Lehem" -- if
when times are not those of poverty --rather prosperity -- you choose to
live on lehem -- i.e. bread [simply] --then you will become like rocks of
iron able to withstand financial depression.
Availability does not mean necessity. Just because one has the financial
ability to indulge does not make necessary to do so. Even with the recent
drops in the value of everyone's portfolios, the times are still laden with
the finer things. Simplicity and frugality are the saving factors. One who
lives by what one needs rather than what one has will become tough and
strong to survive the winds of change.
DID YOU KNOW THAT
Many Sephardic communities around the world have the custom to perform the
hatarat nedarim -- nullification of vows procedure -- 40 days before Rosh
Hashanah. The Holy Zohar teaches that one who is not faithful to his or her
word cheapens the value of their speech in the eyes of Heaven. If one makes
statements and then fails to do what he or she said -- Hashem (so to speak)
-- does not take one's prayers seriously. The person is in a state of
spiritual excommunication for 40 days. Knowing that our judgment on Rosh
Hashanah is a life and death situation, as well as a quality of life issue,
-- our rabbis suggested that one nullify his or her vows at least 40 days
prior to the advent of the High Holy Days -- in order to open the Gates of
Heaven to our prayers.
This Mosa-ay Shabbat -- (Saturday night -- the nineteenth of Ab) -- is 41
days before Rosh Hashanah. The first of 3 Hatarah ceremonies will take
place at that time. All men and women should do their best to participate.
May the procedure re-open the gates of heaven to our prayers and may we
watch our words in the future to increase the value of our personal stock
in the eyes of G-d. Amen.