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Parshas Ki Savo - Guest Post Rabbi Larry Rothwachs  15 Elul 5783

09/22/2023 08:50:49 AM

Sep22

Guest Post by Rabbi Larry Rothwachs
A number of years ago I was visiting Israel for a short 72 hour visit and was able to accomplish so much in a short amount of time. How did I manage to accomplish more in 72 hours than I normally do? To strengthen the question, this was before Waze when people were still using GPS devices. But this time, I didn’t even have my GPS with me! I normally relied heavily on the GPS, especially in Israel. GPS is great — you put in where you are, where you want to go, and can even add stops along the way, and it calculates the best or fastest way to get there. But this trip, I knew I had only 3 days and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. In other words, even without the GPS, I did exactly what the GPS says it is doing after one plugs in the address: “calculating.” In advance of the trip, I planned every stop and route very meticulously and that allowed me to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.

There is a word in parshas Ki Savo that appears only one time in Tanach.

וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה וְהַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם, אֶל כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר: הַסְכֵּת וּשְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל, הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה נִהְיֵיתָ לְעָם, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, וְשָׁמַעְתָּ, בְּקוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ; וְעָשִׂיתָ אֶת-מִצְו‍ֹתָו וְאֶת-חֻקָּיו, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם

What does haskeis mean? Most would probably translate it as pay attention, be silent, contemplate, or listen very carefully. The Seforno, however translates it as create an illustration in your mind:

הסכת – צייר במחשבתך, כמו ״את סכות מלככם״ (עמוס ה׳:כ״ו).

Based on this, the Shem Mishmuel writes that anyone who wants to engage in self improvement, be it in spiritual or physical matters, should make sure to have a mental plan mapped out in advance. This is similar to what Chazal say in Berachos (30b) that chasidim rishonim would meditate before davening. This is what haskeis u’shma means, calculating your route to achieve success. He concludes that this is the way to prepare in Elul, to imagine and visualize where you want to be during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and plan out the steps to take during Elul to reach that destination.

Throughout Aseres Yemei Teshuva we will recite daily, “שיר המעלות ממעמקים…תהיינה אזניך קשובות”. What we must remember, though, is if we want Hashem to listen to us and be more attentive to our needs, we first must demonstrate that ourselves — כל המרחם על הבריות מרחם עליו מן השמיים.

The way to accomplish this is by being haskeis u’shma, being attentive to the needs of others and planning out how to achieve that goal.

As we now reach the midpoint of Elul, Akavya Ben Mehalel (Pirkei Avos 3:1), provides us with a foundational roadmap for life:

עֲקַבְיָא בֶּן מַהֲלַלְאֵל אוֹמֵר, הִסְתַּכֵּל בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים וְאֵין אַתָּה בָּא לִידֵי עֲבֵרָה. דַּע מֵאַיִן בָּאתָ וּלְאָן אַתָּה הוֹלֵךְ וְלִפְנֵי מִי אַתָּה עָתִיד לִתֵּן דִּין וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן

If we are haskeis u’shma, we know where we are coming from and where we want to go, and plug it into the GPS of life, it will hopefully allow us to calculate the best route for self-improvement on the journey of life. 

Thank you Rabbi Rothwachs!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, June 25 2024 19 Sivan 5784