This dvar Torah was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 252, Buying Seforim. Good Shabbos & Kesiva V’chasima Tova.
Rashi cites a well-known Medrash explaining the juxtaposition of the pasuk “You are all standing here today…” (Devorim 29:9) with the 98 curses in last week’s Parsha. The Medrash says that after hearing all of the curses, the Jewish people turned green and became despondent, asking, “who can withstand all of these curses”? They lost hope. “What is going to be with us?” they asked.
Therefore, in this week’s parsha, Moshe tries to appease them. “You are still here after forty years in the wilderness. You angered Hashem many times…including the incidents of the Egel, the Spies, and the complainers, yet He never destroyed you. You are still here…”
However, Moshe’s appeasement appears to be self-defeating. The whole purpose of the curses was to put the ‘Fear of G-d’ in the people. The curses were very effective. The people were scared stiff. Moshe successfully shook them up. But now he seems to be undoing the whole thing. “Don’t worry, you got away with so much in the past…” Does this not destroy the whole impact of the Tochacha?
Many commentaries direct us to a very simple truth. There is a vast difference between ‘The Fear of G-d’ and hopelessness. Being afraid, frightened and nervous about the future can be constructive. But feeling that a situation is hopeless (being meyayesh) is not.
That is what had happened. The Jews gave up hope. They threw in the towel.
The worst thing that anyone can do is to give up hope. This is a lesson that we should all bear in mind as we approach the Yom HaDin (Day of Judgment). The Yom HaDin is nothing to take lightly. It is serious business. If we really honestly understood the Yom HaDin, we would be scared and frightened.
But that is not the same as looking at the situation as hopeless. Hopelessness is not a Jewish characteristic. Never give up hope.
After the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, “all the gates (which prayers travel through) were closed, except for the Gates of Tears” (Bava Metzia 59a). After the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, it became much more difficult for our prayers to penetrate the Heavenly Court. But there is one gate that remains open — the Gates of the Tears.
It is said that the Kotzker Rebbe asked: if the Gates of Tears never close, then what is the purpose of the Gates? A gate implies that some get in and some do not. The Kotzker answered that tears of desperation do not get through. When a person cries because he feels that he needs the help of Hashem, when the tears represent the innermost and purest of a person’s thoughts (‘the sweat of the soul’) those tears have terrific power. But not if they are tears of helplessness and hopelessness – those tears do not get in and that is why the gates are necessary.
In halacha (Jewish law), when an object is stolen, there is a concept of ’yeiush’ – giving up hope. When an object is stolen and the former owner gives up hope of ever getting it back and then it is sold to an unsuspecting purchaser, the purchaser may keep it.
The reason for this is that once the victim gives up hope (of getting the object back), his last connection with the object is severed. As long as a person has not given up hope, there remains a thin thread that still connects him to his lost object. It is not totally lost from him.
The same concept exists hashkafically (in Jewish thought). For every plague, there is a cure. Hashem creates the remedy before he creates the plague (Megillah 13b). We somehow need to connect with that remedy.
How do we connect with the remedy when a plague seems to have no end? There is only one tenuous connection between that remedy and us. The connection is hope.
The same hope that connects a person to his lost object connects a person who is experiencing the dire straits of an illness to the potential cure that Hashem can provide. But once a person gives up hope and feels that the situation is futile, he has severed the connection between the cure and the plague.
That is why no matter how desperate and overwhelming a situation may seem, we must never give up hope. The Izbitzer Rebbe once commented that the reason why all Jews are called after the Tribe of Yehudah (Yehudim) is because when Yosef confronted his brothers and planted the incriminating evidence, the brothers gave up hope. Only Yehudah did not give up hope. “And Judah drew near to him…” (Bereishis 44:18). Yehudah never gave up hope. That is the attitude that must typify all Jews.
As frightening as the Yom HaDin should be for every Jew, there is a difference between fright and hopelessness. We need to enter the Yom HaDin sober, afraid, and nervous as if we are entering a court. But we cannot enter the Yom HaDin without the attribute of Yehudah – the attribute of hope.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Nitzavim/Vayeilech is provided below:
- # 022 – Reading Haftorah: Scrolls vs. Book
- # 112 – Shoteh: Mental Incompetence in Halacha
- # 158 – Schar Shabbos: How Do We Pay Rabbonim and Chazzanim?
- # 205 – Kiddush Before T’kiyas Shofar
- # 252 – Buying Seforim
- # 295 – Burying the Dead on Yom Tov Sheni
- # 341 – The Brachos on the T’kios
- # 342 – Is Building a Succah a Mitzvah?
- # 385 – Fasting on Rosh Hashana
- # 386 – Succah Gezulah
- # 429 – Treatment of an Invalid Sefer Torah
- # 473 – Seudas Siyum Mesechta
- # 517 – What Exactly Is Mitzva of Shofar
- # 561 – Lo Bashomayin He
- # 605 – Selling A Sefer Torah
- # 649 – Minhagim of the Yomim Noraim
- # 693 – My Father’s Chumros
- # 737 – Borrowing and Lending Seforim
- # 781 – I’m the Baal Tokeah and Not You!
- # 825 – The Shuls of Gaza – A Halachic Perspective
- # 826 – Yom Kippur: Women and the Shehecheyanu; Women and Kor’im
- # 869 – The Mitzvah of Chinuch-Whose Responsibility? Mother or Father?
- # 870 – Yom Kippur – The Yom Kippur That They Did Not Fast
- # 913 – The Tefilah of Oleinu
- # 957 – Coming Late for Tekias Shofar and Other Rosh Hashana Issues
- # 1000 – Ta’amei Hamikra – The Tropp – How Important Is It?
- # 1044 – Must You Stand for Chazoras HaShatz on Rosh Hashana?
- # 1088 – Learning During T’kias Shofer?
- # 1131 – Asking For Personal Needs On Rosh Hashana?
- # 1173 – Oops! I Forgot Ya’Aleh Ve’Yavo in Bentching on Rosh Hashana
- # 1217 – Fascinating Halachos Pertaining to a Choleh on Yom Kippur
- # 1261 – Did I Say Hamelech Hakadosh? / Nuts on Rosh Hashana
- # 1305 – The Case of the Esrog That Was Not As Advertised
- # 1349 – The Baal Tokeah Who Was Doubtful If He Could Blow
- # 1437 – Dip the Apple in the Honey Make A Bracha: Which Bracha?
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