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פן תרבה עליך חית השדה

Lest the beasts of the field increase against you. (7:22)

Rashi comments that Moshe Rabbeinu was well aware that a Jew’s righteousness protects him from wild beasts. One who is close with Hashem has nothing to fear from wild animals. Moshe was also very much aware that, realistically, the Jews would eventually fall short of this sublime level of virtue. The Talmud (Shabbos 151b) states that a wild beast has no jurisdiction over (cannot harm) a person until that individual appears (to the wild beast) to be just another animal. (When a person taints his Tzelem Elokim, Divine Image, due to a lack of righteousness, then the wild beast sees…

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וזכרת את כל הדרך אשר הוליכך ד' אלקיך זה ארבעים שנה במדבר

You shall remember the entire road on which Hashem, your G-d, led you these forty years in the wilderness. (8:2)

The Mesillas Yesharim (Perek 1) writes: “For all the circumstances of this world, whether favorable or adverse, are in reality tests for a person to overcome.” Poverty and wealth are both challenges; likewise, tranquility and suffering are tests “provided” by Hashem for the purpose of giving the person the opportunity to garner reward once he successfully emerges triumphant. Life is a test, an opportunity to excel. The very awareness that what confronts us at every turn is nothing more than a test makes the encounter bearable – and surmountable. The Torah enjoins us to remember the travail and difficulty that…

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ועתה ישראל מה ד' אלקיך שאל מעמך כי אם ליראה את ד' אלקיך

Now, O Yisrael, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, your G-d. (10:12)

The Pele Yoeitz explains Hashem’s request pragmatically. “You watch my field, and I will watch yours,” or, in modern day parlance, “You have my back, and I will have yours.” Yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, is something that Hashem expects us to achieve on our own. Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for fear of Heaven. Bread, sustenance, is Heaven-sent. The Almighty intimates that we will make a trade: You will have yiraas Shomayim; I will owe you, and My payback will be sustenance. The Noda B’Yehudah questions the pasuk’s choice of wording. First, what is the meaning…

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ולמדתם אתם את בניכם לדבר בם

You shall teach your children to discuss them. (11:19)

The Sifri underscores the words, l’dabeir bam, “to discuss them.” From the moment that one’s child is able to speak, his father should teach him, Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morashah kehillas Yaakov, “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov.” A child’s first words should be Torah. His speech should be Torah-oriented. He learns this from his father. How? It should be the manner in which his father speaks. Aviv melamdo, “His father teaches him,” says Sifri. How does a father teach a young child who has just begun to speak? He does this…

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ואתפלל אל ד'

I prayed to Hashem. (9:26)

The effect of prayer can never be overstated. We have no idea of its power: to alter a decree; to incur favor; to demonstrate our love for the Almighty in recognizing that it is all in His hands and that, without His constant will, we are nothing. We think of prayer as requesting something positive. After all, why would anyone ask for something bad to occur? The following story is a wake-up call, but it is the punch line that really delivers an inspirational message. A distinguished rav/motivational speaker was dispatched to speak to a group of irreligious Jews in…

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מה ד' אלקיך שואל מעמך

What does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you? (10:12)

Horav Yeruchem Levovitz, zl, views ahavas Hashem, love for Hashem, as the yesod, foundation, of the entire Torah. To love Hashem is not a mitzvas asei, positive commandment; rather, it is the principle upon which hinges all of the mitzvos of the Torah. Every mitzvah is just another aspect of our love for Hashem; mitzvos are our expression of love. When we carry out a mitzvah, we are demonstrating our unabiding love for the Almighty. This love is reciprocal, because we understand and acknowledge Hashem’s love for us. A Jew’s commitment to Judaism — the very same commitment that impelled…

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את ד' אלקיך תירא

Hashem, your G-d, shall you fear. (10:20)

Fear is a powerful word which connotes various emotions, from respect to anxiety, love to awe. Since Hashem is beyond anything we can imagine, the definition of fear with regard to the Almighty must also be unique. The notion of comparing the fear one should have for a talmid chacham, Torah scholar, to that which one should have for Hashem begs elucidation. The Midrash Tanchuma (Beha’alosecha) teaches us that the es, conjunctive word, which precedes (es) Hashem Elokecha (tira) instructs us to fear one who has mastered the Torah. (Clearly, such mastery involves much more than erudition. It applies to…

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למען ירבו ימיכם וימי בניכם על האדמה אשר נשבע ד' לאבתיכם

In order to prolong your days and the days of your children upon the land that Hashem has sworn to your forefathers. (11:21)

I just came across a homily published in 1929 by Horav Elazar Meir Preill, zl, Rav of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in which he decries the lack of respect for the “older” generation. There used to be a time (he writes) when the older generation were the pillars of the Jewish community, their advice sought, appreciated and accepted. “Here” (in America at that time), the younger generation has taken charge – relegating their forebears to a place of honor in a nursing home or to a corner of their homes. Not only is their opinion not sought, it is not accepted….

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ואכלת ושבעת וברכת את ד' אלקיך

Chazal teach us that Bentching, Grace after meals, is a mitzvah min haTorah, Biblical command. Veritably, it is obvious that one should offer his gratitude upon deriving benefit from another. When we take into consideration that food sustains us and that Hashem is the Source of all food, it does not take a deep thinker to understand the obligation of u’beirachta – “and you shall bless.” If we eat and are satisfied, the natural consequence should be blessing Hashem. Indeed, before the Torah was given to Klal Yisrael, our Patriarch, Avraham Avinu, taught the world about the greatness of Hashem…

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כי הוא הנותן לך כח לעשות חיל

That it was He who gives you the strength to make wealth. (8:18)

Targum Onkelos adds his own interpretation to the above translation. He writes: Hu d’yahiv lecha eitzah l’mikni nechassin, “He (Hashem) gave you the idea to purchase property.” Horav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, zl, explains that, while one may attribute his financial success to siyata diShmaya, Heavenly assistance, he does not deny that it was his strategy, his personality, his cunning, his business acumen – “him, him, his.” He had Divine assistance, but it was his idea to initiate the project. Onkeles teaches us that this is categorically untrue. The very eitzah, idea, was not self-initiated. It, too, was placed into his…

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