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Parshas Lech L'Cha - "Thinking Deep"     10 Cheshvan 5783

11/11/2022 11:28:42 AM


This Dvar Torah is sponsored by the Adelman/Gleiberman families in memory of Mr. Lonnie Adelman, Yehuda Zev Ben Shlomo Yitzchok z”l

One of the many horrible high school experiences I endured were all standardized tests, especially the SATs. Beyond the typical multiple-choice questions which most often can be figured out through a process of elimination, these multiple-choice questions were deceptive since, in my view, most of the choices offered could reasonably have been  the correct answer. They were written in a manner to purposely confuse the already-nervous test-taker. It was not only necessary to know the material; to answer correctly, it was essential that the student understood how to accurately decode the question.   This week I was reminded of these unpleasant memories thanks to experiencing nightmares, night sweats, and flashbacks of anxiety regarding  the upcoming election. Let me explain…

This week, in good company with many Jews across America, I found myself in the middle of two major elections. First, the Israeli elections, which, after an unprecedented fifth election in three years on November 1, showed clear indications that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who served as the ninth prime minister of Israel from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 to 2021, was expected to return as prime minister following the 2022 Israeli legislative election. The Israeli election, however, did not grip me with fear as I could not vote since I am not an Israeli citizen. Nevertheless, it did set the stage for the upcoming U.S. elections set to take place this coming week. I chose to vote early, but that has not calmed my deep anxieties.

Typically,  there are the usual two candidates running for office.  Most often, I vote on party lines but will cross party lines when the candidate is someone whom I feel is worthy of my vote. In addition to the typical choice of candidate,there are referendums and propositions to vote for or against. Today,  twenty-six states have the power of initiative or referendum, showing what powers—initiated statutes, initiated amendments, veto referendums, or some combination— are available to their residents. Effective in the 2021/2022 election cycle, a signature requirement, with modifications from state-to-state, applies for each type of measure. Each state has different types of initiated statutes or amendments, such as between direct or indirect initiatives. If you are really interested in all of this, you can go online to read all the details about the process in each state by searching  ‘propositions state by state’.Just click the appropriate chart.

As I was filling out my mail-in ballot,  a mental melt down reminiscent of my high school years slowly enveloped me. I began to relive the trauma regarding a line of double or triple innuendo questioning packed with confusing, misleading language, clearly designed to trick the voter to approve a measure which is not only unclear but potentially harmful.  It took me longer to go through seventeen propositions than to complete a tractate of Gemara/Talmud. And I’m still unsure if I chose the answer which I believed to be correct. Whenever I fill out these questionnaires, I say to myself, “Why don’t they just ask the question directly?” After reviewing this week’s Sidra I found an answer to my question!

In this week’s Parsha Lech L’Cha the Torah states in Bereishis 12:1 "ויאמר ה' אל אברם לך-לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל הארץ אשר אראך"  “God said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you’. Rashi immediately jumps on the obvious question: ‘Why didn’t God tell Abram where he was to go?’ Rashi presents a Midrash which answers that God did not reveal the land to Abram immediately in order to make it beloved in his [Abraham’s] eyes and to give him a reward for each and every word. Similarly at the end of Vayera, in the commandment of the Akeidas Yitzchok, Hashem describes an elaborate description of whom he is to take to slaughter and once again, He does not reveal the place immediately. It is revealed only after he is already on his journey.  I might add not only did Avraham receive extra reward based upon each word Hashem used to describe the command, but Avraham would receive extra rewards for every step taken while kept in the dark regarding his ultimate destination. Rav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt”l, the Steipler Gaon, writes in his sefer Birkas Peretz on Chumash:  The first reason the Midrash offers ‘to make it beloved in his eyes’ we learn that when a person looks for something toils over it for a long time, the matter becomes clear and beloved to him. The Steipler continues, explaining  if the matter (understanding) would have come easily to the person, by chance,  without undue effort,  then it would not have the same value as if he had put in the effort.

From this we derive a lesson regarding the long-lasting effects of doing Mitzvos and learning Torah. Those who immerse themselves in learning the process and details of the Mitzvos will perform them differently, developing long-lasting, positive  effects upon the individual. The same applies to learning Torah in-depth with careful analysis.  Such effort will bring more meaning and truth to the Torah and bring the devoted individual closer to God. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Things that come without effort and toil will be regarded lightly. Truth be told this lesson extends not only to Torah and Mitzvos but to any situation and relationship in life, both spiritually and physically. Therefore, Hashem did not reveal information to Avraham immediately, rather Avraham would toil in the word of God, and it became precious in his eyes.

I now think back to the voter’s card and the proposition list that I forced myself to go over and review several times. In the end I won’t say I understood everything about each proposition but going through each one and reading over the confusing explanations accompanying each proposition helped me to understand the issues at stake in California. Whether I agree with them or not, whether I voted yes or no is not the issue. Through focused effort,   I developed  a deeper sense of understanding the issues that loom around us. With this newfound knowledge and a greater sense of appreciation of the importance of these issues, I now look forward to seeing the results of these propositions that will either alter our way of life or keep the status quo. On a deep, personal level, this valuable lesson applies to learning Torah.  All of us need to actively seek out the profound meaning of the precious words of the Torah, delving into performance of mitzvos, making every word, every mitzvah ever more sacred and beloved in our eyes.  Ultimately, this active effort to understand and to apply brings us closer to Hashem.        

Fri, December 8 2023 25 Kislev 5784