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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5758) By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner | Series: | Level:

This week we read the parsha of Ha’azinu, quickly followed by the holiday of Sukkos which begins on Monday.

“Ha’azinu ha’shama’yim va’a’dabera {Listen heavens, and I will speak} v’sishma ha’aretz imrei fee… {and the land will hear the words of my mouth…}[32:1].” Ha’azinu is the ‘song of testimony’ that Moshe relates to Bnei Yisroel before his death. He calls upon the heavens and earth to bear testimony to the covenant established between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel — the acceptance of the Torah and the ensuing privileges and responsibilities.

Moshe speaks strongly about our deviating from this Divinely ordained path. “Ha’l’Hashem tigm’lu zos!? {Is this the way to pay back Hashem!?}.” The S’forno explains: Hashem’s intention was that you’d become a kingdom of priests. How can you act in an opposite manner and desecrate His name!? How can you withhold the intent of man’s creation… “Am novol v’lo chacham! {Foolish and unwise nation!} [32:6].” Foolish, in not appreciating the past. Unwise, in not heeding the future.

A mashal {parable} is given of an infant abandoned by his parents. A benevolent man comes along and takes in this naked, dirty, hungry young boy. He bathes him, clothes him, feeds him, and raises him as his own child. He is sent to the best schools and all of his needs are attended to. When the boy reached marriageable age, a match was arranged from a very illustrious family. The father informed the son that immediately before the wedding he plans to give him a large sum of money as a dowry. Months before the planned wedding, the father showered onto his adopted son a large bounty of gifts including a very valuable watch.

The groom took one look at the watch and began to complain bitterly to his father. “How dare you give me such a watch?! Someone of my stature deserves a far better quality than this! It’s downright insulting for me to have been given such a thing! How could you do this to me?”

The father tried to calm the son asking him to be understanding. He explained that in the future he certainly planned to give a far more valuable watch, just that at the present time that was all he could manage.

The ‘victimized’ and offended groom refused to be placated. The affront was far too unmanageable. He began to give his father what he deserved — berating and insulting him in front of the many people who were there at the time.

Those who were there turned on the groom in shock. “How can you be so foolish? Don’t you realize all that he has done for you throughout your life? Have you no sense of gratitude?! Furthermore,” they told him, “you are more than unwise — you are incredibly stupid! You were aware of the incredible gift that he was planning to give to you. Now you’ve ruined it for yourself.”

“Am novol v’lo chacham {Foolish and unwise nation}…”

Can we possibly compare any man-given gift to the ability to hear? To see? To walk? To live? Over and above all of those ‘mundane’ gifts, Hashem demonstrated His love for us by giving us the Torah — the instructions through which this fleeting existence can be transformed into eternity. Transformed into a ‘unity’ with none other than Hashem Himself. Yet, we not only disregard these instructions, but we complain bitterly over the hardships that we encounter in life. We’re unsatisfied with the watch that we’ve been handed… Are we so unlike the groom who’s behavior we found so appalling…

In the Yalkut Shimoni, Rabi Yanai and Raish Lakish teach that there is no gehinom {hell} in the world to come, rather the day itself burns the wrongdoers.

The Siftei Chaim offers a very penetrating understanding of this statement. The clarity of truth that will be revealed on that day will force everyone to clearly recognize and admit to their true standing. This clarity of truth will ‘burn’ all of the illusions that we so willingly entertain throughout our lives.

Rav Dessler writes that he heard from the Saba of Kelem’s son that a person brings to the World to Come ‘suitcases filled with money’. Only to find out upon arrival that it is counterfeit. We think we have what to show for ourselves in the World to Come. However, under this penetrating glare of the clarity of truth, we realize that we’ve come empty-handed. So many and so much of our actions were based on and mixed with impure and ulterior motives.

Rav Dessler’s father owned large tracts of forests during the time of the Communist Revolution. Seeing where things were heading he sold all of his properties. With cash-filled suitcases he hoped to cross the border and start his life anew. Only to find out that a new ruble had been declared and that his suitcases were filled with worthless paper.

This is the greatest punishment of the World to Come — the recognition of the truth in the clearest way imaginable while no longer having the ability to change things… The Mahara”l writes that the fire of gehinom is the regret felt deep, deep inside when one realizes where he could have been and sees where he actually is. That realization is the greatest pain imaginable — far greater than any ‘fires’ that we can conjure.

The Yalkut Shimoni continues and teaches that it is the mitzva of succah which provides the insight needed to maintain the proper clarity and focus while still alive. While still having the ability to change things. It is succah which can prevent us from becoming an “Am novol v’lo chacham”…

The Yalkut continues and states: At that time, Hashem makes a succah for the tzaddikim {righteous} and shelters them there.

On Sukkos, we are commanded to abandon our permanent dwellings and move into temporary ones. We live in the succah — there we eat, drink and sleep. All of the mundane actions of life are transformed into mitzvos.

The succah forces us to focus on the fact that our whole world is nothing more than a temporary dwelling. And if in that temporary dwelling all of our ‘mundane actions’ are directed toward serving Hashem, then we won’t have the burning regret over what could have been. The succah which protected a person from the tempting illusions of this world will protect the person in the World to Come. The cognizance of this world’s transience will foster our maintaining this proper perspective. It won’t allow us to become an “Am novol v’lo chacham”…

May you have a wonderful Shabbos and a meaningful and joyous Sukkos,

Yisroel Ciner

This week’s parsha-insights is dedicated in mazel tov to Howie Hershkovich and Martha Vays in honor of their upcoming wedding. May they be zocheh to much happiness together and to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel.

Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).