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Parshas Re'eh - Changing Human Condition     27 Av 5781

08/05/2021 03:12:19 PM


A few months ago my primary doctor retired and recommended a new physician for me. Being a new patient has both benefits and deficits. The benefit: Since I was a new patient  the doctor performed a thorough examination and ordered a battery of tests and blood work. The deficit: Since I was a new patient the doctor performed a thorough examination and ordered a battery of tests and blood work. One of the many recommendations he gave was to undergo a sleep test and also determine why my wife can’t sleep at night. The clinical interpretation of the study reported I spent 34.4% of the study (sleeping) with oxygen saturation below 90%; snoring was detected during 94.1% of the study. The solution to my wife’s insomnia was either for me to obtain a sleep apnea machine or for me to sleep elsewhere. Well, when it comes to Shalom Bayis, we all know that we need to give in a little, and that is exactly what I did; I received a new Resmed sleep apnea machine.

There are some contributing factors which lead to the need for a sleep-aid device. Ultimately, deep down we all know that this machine serves as a mask to the real solution: Sleep experts agree that excess weight is a serious contributor to sleep disorders. Losing weight would soon result in less dependency upon the sleep apnea machine.    

There are other situations where modern technology creates a means for helping us while simultaneously enabling us to continue the same poor practices and damaging lifestyle. This brings to mind a modern automotive feature which warns the driver with a series of beeps that increase in volume and frequency when  approaching too close to the vehicle ahead.  This feature, as incredible as it is, allows drivers to continue driving while texting or driving when drowsy, confident that the car will sound an alert when danger is imminent, allowing the driver to stop in time.  It is important to note, however that alerts, warnings, and other mechanisms merely override bad behavior and poor decision-making, encouraging false dependency upon the machine in place of following basic driving safety rules.  While there are numerous occurrences which we cannot control and that modern technology can be a major safety factor, we are also still expected to be alert and careful drivers. There is no question in my mind we should take advantage of those outstanding technological achievements, but we should also work on improving and protecting ourselves rather than putting us and others into compromising, potentially dangerous position.

A few safety examples range from use of child locks on cabinets and outlet plug protectors to sophisticated self-driving cars. These “good gadgets” give good protection but also allow us to slip into a sense of false security and safety. These tools are excellent safety devices but don’t work if they’re not put to use or if we become less actively involved drivers by paying less attention driving or to our children at play. This perception does not belong to me; it can be seen with clarity through the eyes of Torah

In the opening verse of this week’s Parshas Re’eh, the Torah states in Devarim 11:26 "ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה"  “You can therefore see that I am placing before you both a blessing and a curse”. Rabbi Moshe HaLevi Pollak in his sefer V’Ydaber Moshe writes that blessing or abundance and a plethora of what we tend to see as good isn’t necessarily so. Chaza”l teach us there are kinds of wealth that are guarded by the owner for evil  purposes. When the verse speaks about blessing, it requires the addendum from the next verse where it states 11:27 את הברכה......אשר תשמעו   The blessing…….[will come] if you obey the commandments of Hashem your God. If you perform Mitzvos and good deeds with your money, it will lead to true blessing. But if the wealth brings a person to false pride, jealousy, rivalry, and a competition, it will only lead a person to try to amass even more money and wealth.  Under those circumstances the potential blessing will end up cursing you. Rav Pollak parenthetically adds on the same rules which apply to the Eretz Yisrael. If the Jewish people fulfill and safeguard the Mitzvos, then Hashem will first give us and then maintain our dwelling in Eretz Yisrael; if not, we will be expelled. There is a great danger ahead if we turn away, trampling upon the ways of Hashem.   We, the Jewish people control the existential threat against Israel by acting properly and appropriately.  

The gemara Brachos 40b relates: “any blessing that does not contain mention of God’s name is not considered a blessing”. Anything that is good that does not recognize but dismisses the source from God will not be a blessing that will come to fruition. How often it is people give mere lip service, reciting the words but proclaiming that this blessing is the result of my hard work and effort.   With the help and guidance of Hashem we will receive Bracha - a blessing. With the focus, the spotlight, ourselves, the result will be a Klala - a curse.  

The Abarbanel gives a different twist, explaining that  the blessing is the observance, the obeying of the Mitzvos. The Mitvos I have been discussing are the ways of Hashem; it is our responsibility and duty to follow them in a healthy matter. The Mitzvos are the Derech Hashem - the path that Hashem set for mankind, avoiding outside mechanisms to get around it.

This is by no means an easy task. We have been conditioned to take the easy way out, using  whatever method available to have our cake and eat it to, rather than “changing our condition”. As we approach the month of Elul, a time for self-analysis and sincere introspection, perhaps we should try to work on our physical health and pay attention to the source of why we need intervention. Hopefully, we can rid ourselves of the intervention of outside stimuli and be healthier.  On a final note, if we earnestly work to control our activity and behavior in the physical way, we can, in turn,  master a change in our spiritual pursuits, leading a most wholesome, healthy life possible, serving  Hashem in the original form.

Ah Gutten Shabbos   

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Rabbi Moshe HaLevi Pollak (1845–1888), was a Hungarian rabbi born in Szerdahely. He studied under Avraham Shmuel Sofer. In 1872 he was appointed rabbi of Bonyhad, where he established a yeshivah which attracted students from all parts of Hungary. He was one of the founders of the Orthodox community of Bonyhad, which he developed to a considerable extent. He authored Va-Yedabber Moshe in five parts, on the Chumash and various Talmudic themes; Tikkun Moshe in five parts, sermons and discussions on Talmudic topics; and Birkas Moshe on tractate Chullin.

Mon, August 15 2022 18 Av 5782