Torah Weekly

For the week ending 7 August 2004 / 20 Av 5764

Parshat Ekev

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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If Bnei Yisrael carefully observe even those "minor" mitzvot that are usually "trampled" underfoot, Moshe promises them that they will be the most blessed of the nations of earth. Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael that they will conquer Eretz Canaan little by little, so that the land will not be overrun by wild animals in the hiatus before Bnei Yisrael are able to organize and settle the whole land. After again warning Bnei Yisrael to burn all carved idols of Canaanite gods, Moshe stresses that the Torah is indivisible and not open to partial observance. Moshe describes the Land of Israel as a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates, a land of oil-yielding olives and date-honey. Moshe cautions Bnei Yisrael not to become haughty and think that their success in Eretz Yisrael is a result of their own powers or vigor; rather, it was Hashem who gave them wealth and success. Nor did Hashem drive out the Canaanites because of Bnei Yisrael's righteousness, but rather because of the sins of the Canaanites, for the road from Sinai had been a catalogue of large and small sins and rebellions against Hashem and Moshe. Moshe details the events after Hashem spoke the 10 Commandments at Sinai, culminating in his bringing down the second set of Tablets on Yom Kippur. Aharon's passing is recorded as is the elevation of the levi'im to Hashem's ministers. Moshe points out that the 70 souls who went down to Egypt have now become like the stars of the heaven in abundance. After specifying the great virtues of the Land of Israel, Moshe speaks the second paragraph of the Shema, conceptualizing the blessings that accompany keeping mitzvot and the curse that results from non-observance.


What, Me Worry?

"Now, O Yisrael, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, your G-d, to go in His ways and to love Him and to serve your G-d with all your heart and all your soul." (10:11)

If television puts everyone in the same global meetinghouse, then the Internet creates a myriad of private electronic booths. This is both its power and its danger.

A secular Jew will have no problem asking a question over the Internet to a virtual Rabbi. After all, his beard and peyot are merely virtual. Without the Internet, that person might never hear Torah Judaism in another way. Peer pressure or his own feelings of alienation may keep him from ever crossing the threshold of a yeshiva.

By the same token, the very anonymity of the Internet is why it is so dangerous in a religious home. Even with the best of net-filters, in just a couple of clicks, a youngster could find himself in a virtual bookshop worse than anything you could find near Times Square. Twenty years ago, he would have to been brazen enough to make a journey to such an insalubrious area with his cash in hand. He would have to have conquered his embarrassment and shame to enter such a shop and to ask for the stuff they keep in the brown envelopes in the back room. Nowadays, with no one to make him feel ashamed. All that stands between him and his negative drive is his own yirat Shamayim (fear of Heaven).

And on that, one should never rely.

When Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai lay on his deathbed, his students asked him to bless them. He replied, "May your fear of G-d be as great as your fear of your fellow man!"

They answered him, "Rebbe. Shouldnt our fear of G-d be greater than our fear of our fellow man?"

He replied, "Halevai! (If only that!) Would it were that your fear of Him should equal your fear of flesh and blood! When a person commits a sin he is worried that someone may see him. But the fact that G-d is watching him, that doesnt bother him."

  • Source: Babylonian Talmud

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