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בהנחל עליון גוים בהפרידו בני אדם יצב גבלת עמים למספר בני ישראל

When the Most High gave the nations their portions, when He separated the children of man, He set the borders of nations according to the number of Bnei Yisrael. (32:8)

Following the Flood that devastated the world, the few survivors rebuilt, and all the people who lived together sinned once again by creating the Tower of Bavel. Hashem dispersed and divided them into seventy nations, with seventy distinct languages corresponding to the number of souls that had descended together with Yaakov Avinu to Egypt. The Torah is conveying the message that when the nations sinned again, they forfeited their chance to be the human bearers of Hashem’s mission for humanity. Instead, Hashem selected Klal Yisrael to replace the larger, more populous nations with the much smaller, but more distinct and…

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זכור ימות עולם בינו שנות דר ודר

Remember the days of old/world history, study the generational epochs. (32:7)

A number of years back, during the recession that had a major impact on the financial markets and resulted in devastating blows on the finances of many bnei Torah, the question was posed to Horav Eliyahu Svei, zl: Why? These were bnei Torah who had done well financially and, being exemplary bnei Torah, they used the profits of their investments well. They supported yeshivos and promoted all forms of Torah chinuch. Their money was used to fund chesed organizations that helped individuals in need. Thus, it came as a surprise when their fortunes suffered a reversal. Why did Hashem take…

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זכור ימות עולם בינו שנות דור ודור

Remember the days of old/world history, study the generational epochs. (32:7)

Remember the days of old to incorporate their lessons into the present. Traditionally, following a major collective tragedy Rabbanim yirei Shomayim, G-d-fearing scholars, have authored Sefarim which portray events that occurred as being part of our history and demonstrating Hashem’s Divine Hand in conducting these events. When the Jews were expelled from Spain following the Tach v’Tat pogroms, this was the case. Following Churban Europa, many articles and sefarim were written to depict the Divine Hand manipulating events. I write this because the further in time that we are removed from these events, the easier it is to fall into…

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הלד' תגמלו זאת עם נבל ולא חכם?

Is it to Hashem that you do this, O vile and unwise people? (32:6)

Rashi defines naval as vile as a result of our lack of gratitude to Hashem Who has done everything for us. An ingrate is both an abominable person and unwise, because, when people see his lack of human decency, they will distance themselves from him. Targum Onkeles offers a novel exposition in which he translates am naval as ama d’kablu Oraysa, the nation that received the Torah. This translation begs elucidation. Why should the nation that accepted the Torah be described as naval (which is normally defined as abomination or another uncomplimentary term)? Horav Eliyahu Schlessinger, Shlita, offers an innovative…

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האזינו השמים ואדברה ותשמע הארץ אמרי פי

Give ear, O’ Heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth. (32:1)

Moshe Rabbeinu is characterized as the anav mikol adam, most humble man on earth. Thus, it appears audacious and out of character for him to make a declaration asking heaven and earth to listen to him. This is inconsistent with his humility. The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, explains that, indeed, one who is by nature humble does not speak and certainly does not call attention to himself. Therefore, when such an unpretentious person makes a declaration, it is heard. Such an individual who never speaks may posit that he has merited (by being silent thus far) that he should now be…

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קל אמונה ואין עול

G-d of faith without iniquity. (32:4)

Rashi explains that Hashem’s judgment is exact and fair. Everyone receives his due reward – the righteous might wait a bit, but it will arrive in due time; the wicked who have acted meritoriously will also be rewarded in kind. Life is a harmonious whole, which we, as mere mortals with limited perception, are unable to perceive. Nonetheless, we believe that it all comes together: good fortune with failure; joy in contrast to sadness, celebrating milestones, both joyous and tragic. A human being cannot fathom how the pieces of the human puzzle of life fit together, but they do. Shortly…

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עם נבל ולא חכם

O’ base and unwise people. (32:6)

The Torah is criticizing Klal Yisrael for being an am naval, base people, and v’lo chacham, unwise. Ramban quotes Rashi who comments that they forgot the good that Hashem had done for them. They were unwise in realizing the good and bad, the consequences of their ingratitude. He then quotes Targum Onkeles who renders the phrase (critique) in a manner which begs elucidation. Naval – ama d’kablu Oraisa, “A nation that received the Torah.” Ramban explains that Onkeles translates naval as being related to navol tibul, “You will surely become weary” (Shemos 18:18). Thus, the Torah is intimating that Klal…

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שאל אביך ויגדך זקניך ויאמרו לך

Ask your father and he will relate it to you, and your elders and they will tell you. (32:7)

Issues arise; questions abound; to whom do we turn for sage advice, intelligent counsel? The Torah enjoins us to turn to “your father,” whom Rashi interprets as the Navi, prophet, Torah leader of the generation, and “your elders,” who are the chachamim, Torah scholars. After a lifetime of Torah study and devotion, these Torah scholars have honed their minds through the daas, wisdom, of the Torah which they have cultivated. Horav Avraham Yaakov Teitelbaum, zl, quotes a novel homiletic exposition of this pasuk rendered by his Rebbe, the venerable Horav Meir Arik, zl, which is practical and timeless in its…

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אם שנותי ברק חרבי ותאחז במשפט ידי

That I shall sharpen the shine of My sword and My hand shall grasp judgment. (32:41)

“My hand shall grasp judgment.” Chazal (quoted by Rashi) derive from the language of this pasuk (concerning the concept of “grasping” judgment), “Not like the attributes of flesh and blood (mortals) is the attribute of Hashem. Once a human being shoots an arrow, once he releases the bow, he is unable to take it back. Hashem, however, shoots His arrows and has the power to retrieve them (before they hit their intended target). It is as if He holds them in His hand (ochazon b’yado).” Rashi is teaching us is that no restrictions limit Hashem’s power. He is not restricted…

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כי יראה כי אזלת יד ואפס עצור ועזוב

When He sees that enemy power progresses, and none is saved or assisted. (32:36)

Hashem’s judgment determines the punishment which Klal Yisrael deserves. When the situation reaches the point decreed by His punishment, the punishment comes to an end. He shall relent his treatment of them, for He will recognize their utter helplessness and their complete dependency on Him. Concerning the last words of the pasuk, “and none is saved or assisted” [Which basically means that Hashem sees that we have thrown in the towel; we realize that ein lanu l’hishaein ela al Avinu she’ba’Shamayim, “we have no one upon Whom to rely other than our Father in Heaven.”], Chazal (Sanhedrin 97a) teach that…

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