One Hundred Opportunities
ועתה ישראל מה ה’ אלקיך שואל מעמך… (י:יב).
“Behold Israel, what does Hashem requests from you…” (10:12).
This verse is the scriptural hint to the rabbinical mitzvah of pronouncing meah berachos, one hundred blessings a day! Let us understand what this is all about. Originally, this precept was enacted by Moshe Rabbeinu. After time, it was partially forgotten and neglected. King David came along and reinstated it as a protection against a terrible plague that was killing one hundred young men every day! [See Tur (Orach Chaim 46) and Kad Hakemach (Erech Berachah)].
The Gemara Menachos (43b) tells us that a play on words spells out this obligation. Read the above quoted verse replacing the word מה with מאה. “Hashem requests one hundred (blessings) from you!” The commentators struggle with the strength of this hint and offer many other hints found in the verse. The Baal HaTurim adds two other points here. Firstly, the verse itself contains a total of one hundred letters! Additionally, the word ממך has the numerical value of one hundred. This hints to the fact that Hashem desires one hundred Blessings, ממך, from you! What is the understanding of all three of these hints?
In a relationship, we have the opportunity to develop closeness by expressing gratitude and thanks. This is the way that people grow closer, by recognizing and appreciating what the other provides for them and expressing thanks! Hence, in our relationship with Hashem we make berachos! Berachos are a vehicle through which we acknowledge all that Hashem so generously provides us with! There are three requirements for this. The best thank you is expressed with the following three characteristics: (1) It is well thought out. (2) It is stated articulately and not mumbled. (3) It emanates from our own heart, and is not forced.
I believe that this is what the three hints found in the verse express! (1) מה and מאה: The berachos should be thought out, otherwise they are מה, not worth too much (Based on Sefer HaChaim)! (2) 100 Letters: This shows that it should be expressed clearly and not just sped through sloppily, just as every letter in the verse is important and expressed! (3) ממך: Hints to the idea that it must come from you as a heartfelt expression of gratitiude. These are the keys to making the best blessing and giving thanks to Hashem!
In the building of the Mishkan, we find the appearance of the number one hundred in a unique place. There were one hundred sockets that held up the walls of the Mishkan. They were the foundation and ground support for the entire building. (The reason that there were two sockets per each of the fifty wall beams, though intriguing, is beyond the scope of this essay.) The purpose of the Mishkan was to provide a dwelling place for Hashem in this world. Our job is to bring Hashem into our lives as well. Hence, Chazal established for us guidelines as to how to accomplish this bond. They gave us meah berachos which are the foundation for getting close to Hashem! When we make a berachah, we are thanking Hashem and bringing down many more blessings in return for our gratitude! Just as the sockets were the support and foundation of the Mishkan, so too meah berachos are the foundation of gratitude and support of our relationship with Hashem. May we all merit that Hashem should bestow His blessings upon us in return for our proper adherence and care in making berachos properly for Him!
With All Your Money
והיה אם שמוע תשמעו אל מצותי… ולעבדו בכל לבבכם ובכל נפשכם (יא:יג).
“If you will all listen… to serve Hashem with your hearts and your souls” (11:13).
We pronounce the Shema at least twice a day and there are numerous perplexing aspects that deserve our attention. Last week’s Parsha contained the first paragraph of Shema, which discusses the Unity, Power and love of Hashem. In this Parsha, we have the second paragraph of “VeHayah” which discusses the acceptance of the Mitzvos and reward and punishment.
In the first paragraph, it states (6:5), “You shall love Hashem with all your heart, all your soul and all your money”. This is stated in the singular form. In our Parsha, it states (11:13), “…to serve Hashem with all your hearts and all your souls”. This is in the plural form. There are two other distinct differences as well. Firstly, in our Parsha there is no mention of “money” and secondly, the first paragraph discusses loving Hashem and here it discusses serving Him.
Rabbi Chaim Volozin zt”l gives a famous explanation, which in truth is found in the words of Rashi in our Parsha (see last Rashi on 11:13). The first paragraph is hinting to the highest level attainable for individuals; whereas, the second paragraph is discussing everyone. Meaning, the level of loving Hashem with all of your money is the highest achievement. Someone that puts his full trust in Hashem regarding one of the hardest areas in life, Parnasah, livelihood, shows their true colors. Rabbi Volozin states that this primarily refers to one who lives life according to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Berachos 35b) who makes Torah his sole focus of work. The second paragraph discusses the job of the followers of Rabbi Yismael (there) who states that man should spend part of his day working in vocational pursuits. (The greatness of each person following either option and all of the details is beyond the scope of this article).
I suggest that this now explains why the context of Shema is “love of Hashem” whereas VeHayah focuses on service. The first level towards growth is one who sees himself as a servant of Hashem. The next stage is to develop the love. In fact, without the love and commitment, one would not be motivated to ascend higher. See Rabbeinu Ovadia Bartenura on Avos (1:3) for vital clarification of this entire topic.
Hence, the common-folk begin with the service of Hashem. The individuals then develop and excel in love of Hashem. Certainly, both categories have both, servitude and love, as both verses ultimately apply to everyone, but we are stressing their dominant feature. The more that one loves Hashem and appreciates all of the goodness which He bestows upon him, the more one dedicates his life towards the true trust, love and service of Hashem.
Extra Short and Sweet Exalted Mitzvos
The first verse in the Parsha states that if we follow the Mitzvos, we will be greatly rewarded. What needs to be understood is the term “Eikev, heel” which is used. Rashi states that it refers to Mitzvos that people “trample on” by stating that they are minor. Hence, the verse is promising reward to one who keeps even the forsaken Mitzvos.
Humans are greatly influenced by their surroundings. The place that we reside has a profound impact upon what we view as “normal” and “acceptable”. Our peers together with us, define the standards and we effect each other’s attitudes and outlooks. This can work for the positive or negative.
“Eikev” means that even when we live in a society that tramples upon Mitzvos and calls them unimportant, never-the-less, we return the Mitzvos back to their true value and perform them to their fullest.
The Test of the Manna
The verse states that the Manna fell from heaven every day, “L’maan Nasosecha, in order to test you (Devarim 8:16).” What is the big test in receiving your sustenance every day straight from Hashem?
The Ramban explains (Yisro) that every situation a person is in is a test, whether it is pleasant or challenging. When Hashem sends a hard situation to a person it is for the sake of building him and allowing him to bring out his great potential that lied within. If he rises to the occasion he will acquire deeper and stronger Shlaimus, completion as a human being.
When Hashem gives someone something good, it is for the same purpose, to make him great. How so? When someone gets married, becomes rich, finds success, Hashem expects great things from him. He watches to see what the person will do with that success. Will he let it get to his head, become distracted and forget about his mission in life. Or will he fill his heart with gratitude to Hashem and dedicate himself more and more to the service of Hashem. This is what Hashem looks at when he blesses someone with good things.
With their daily sustenance delivered to their doorstep, the Jews had plenty of time on their hands. This was a test of bounty to see how it would be used. The Jews dedicated themselves to serving Hashem with all their hearts and souls. This was a show of their true greatness!
The first Rashi in Parshas Eikev is famous. The Torah (Devarim 7:12) states that if one is scrupulous to keep the mitzvos then Hashem will bestow material blessings and great rewards upon that person. The Torah uses the word “eikev” which means “heel.” Rashi comments based on Chazal that the Torah is stating that if one is careful to watch and keep the “smaller mitzvos that people walk over with their heels” then he will be generously rewarded.
What Does This Mean?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l (1895 – 1986) asks: How are we to understand this? This is no such thing as small mitzvos!? We are taught that all mitzvos are great and have a profound spiritual impact on the world. Which mitzvos are seen as light and easily trampled upon?
In the Person’s View
Rabbi Feinstein explains that the mitzvos being referred to here are those that a person does not treat properly due to his or her own ignorance. There are many people who make a bigger deal over a segulah or detail of a stringency more than a direct mitzvah itself. There are some that take on customs and details yet lack basic Torah knowledge. Hashem desires us to be well-versed with the Torah and all of the mitzvos. We must study the Torah to get a deeper and clearer understanding of what Hashem asks of us. When one works hard to connect with and comprehend the mitzvos that he himself trampled upon due to lack of knowledge, this act is most precious to Hashem and is rewarded with the most special rewards enumerated in the parsha.
I have had the privilege of being close to my dear rebbe, Rabbi Efraim Greenblatt shlit”a for almost 20 years. May Hashem send him a refuah shlaima. Rabbi Greenblatt is a talmid muvak (primary disciple) of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and so I felt it appropriate to share this story here after quoting Rabbi Feinstein’s comments. I have asked Rabbi Greenblatt many shailos, halachic questions, spanning all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch. I once called him to ask him a slew of complex minutea that had no practical relevance but that I was wondering about after learning through a particular topic in Gemara. He excitedly shared his wisdom and at the conclusion he was open and honest with me. He expressed to me: “Why is it that so many people regularly ask me all types of complicated theoretical and obscure questions and yet I get so few questions about whether saying a certain thing is lashon harah (evil slander) or something that can hurt another person!”
Rabbi Greenblatt explained to me that he felt it was important for people to learn practical halachos of how to treat others and how to live life as a Torah Jew. This is that way that we can ensure that all of the mitzvos are given the respect and attention that they deserve. We are promised great rewards for one that fulfills this.