Sign In Forgot Password

Parshas Devarim - It's All in the Transmission   7 Av 5779

08/08/19 09:16:26


May this dvar Torah, together with the actions of their children, serve as a merit for refuah Sheleima to Avraham ben Chana and Mazal Bat Amalya Mali.

A few months ago I wrote a piece about taking things surreptitiously to Israel and how, after getting caught up in my own lie, I told myself that I will no longer take things to and from Israel for others. Well, I have a confession to make. In my mind I thought to myself that I would just take something with me in my carry-on bag. I would agree to take an envelope of money or a credit card that needed to get to a family member in Israel. Taking something small such as an envelope has its own set of challenges: having the person pick it up, finding a way to deliver it, and so forth. Sometimes the item just sits where I was staying, waiting to be given to the individual. Sometimes it is never retrieved.

On my most recent trip to Israel, I took an envelope from someone in our community for their daughter in Yerushalayim. I was completely shocked, awed, and amazed at the reception I received regarding this envelope. The people’s son-in-law did not wait for me to call him or track him down; he called me as soon as I touched down and was willing and ready to meet me wherever I was - any time any place. If that wasn’t enough, when Aharon came to meet me, not only did he say thank you, but he handed me a little gift. When I asked him what was this for, he replied, “Just a little something to say thank you for delivering this to us from my in-laws in San Diego.” I was completely floored. He was so appreciative that he felt it was not enough just to say thank you; he felt compelled to express his appreciation in action and deed.

I would not categorize this with the old cliché’ ‘action speaks louder than words’. I believe a person is sincere when they say, “thank you”. Dale Carnegie is quoted as saying, “Pay less attention to what men say; just watch what they do.” One need not look further than Chazal in Pirkei Avos where we find a similar concept that children learn by modeling behavior, primarily the behaviors of their parents and teachers. This also applies to co-workers, friends, and people who know you. It isn’t what you say that teaches or impacts others as much as what you do. This act was another way of saying “actions speak louder than words”. Don’t get me wrong. Saying thank you and showing Hakaras Hatov is one of the most important traits a person must have. Here, I’m taking it to the next level of demonstrating the ‘thanks’ through actions and not through speech alone. Perhaps I was so impressed because the common words ‘thank you’ are said quite often, but all too often without genuine appreciation. The fact that Aharon displayed his gratitude in an act rather than just in speech taught me a greater lesson with regard to showing thanks beyond a mere few words. In Hebrew, the duality of saying and doing something can be found within the same word as we see in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas Devarim the Torah states at the outset of Devarim 1:1 אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל בעבר הירדן במדבר בערבה מול סוף פארןבין ובין תפל ולבן וחצרת ודי זהב"

“These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel on the east bank of the Jordan, in the desert, and in the Aravah, near Suf, in the vicinity of Paran, Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeroth and Di Zahav”.

The word Devarim, here translated as words, also has a meaning of ‘something’ from the word ‘דבר’. That something that is tangible relates to it is here that Moshe ‘spoke’ rebuke in a veiled fashion by only mentioning the places where the sins took place, but also that at these places ‘something’ tangible occurred. Giving different meaning to a word often changes the direction,.In this instance, however, the words and the action are consistent in Moshe’s message. This idea is mentioned by Rav Dovid Adani in his workMidrash HaGadol.* Rav Adani comments, “Don’t read the word Deebare (spoke), but read instead davar with a patach, an ahhh sound, meaning thing. The reason is that Moshe was afraid to rebuke the Jewish people. Moshe reasoned this in his mind because of one thing he had said to them, “Listen here, you rebels,” and as a result he was held back from entering the land of Israel. How much more so if we were to give everyone this rebuke what the repercussions might be! Only after receiving permission from Hashem did Moshe proceed to rebuke Bnei Yisrael by word and place.

A second idea is that words can be spoken and/or written down. Perhaps these words of rebuke were intended to be applied both ways. To raise a question and present an answer, we turn to the Gemarah Temurah 14a which discusses these exact words of ‘Eileh HaDevarim’ - ‘These Are the Words’. We have’ also learned that Rabbi Yehudah bar Nachmeini, the meturgaman (one who said over the lectures) of Reish Lakish (to the public), taught: The verse states:’ Write for yourself these words’. It also states: For ‘al pi’ – ‘by mouth’ of these words. How can we reconcile these verses? This teaches us that oral teachings cannot be written down, and verses that are written cannot be recited from memory. In the school of Rabbi Yishmael, they taught, ‘these’, means that these you should write, but the orally-transmitted laws should not be written down. The Gemora answers, ‘Perhaps the case is different regarding a new interpretation’. This is apparent from the fact that Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish used to carry and read books of aggadah (homiletics) on Shabbos. How could they do so? Isn’t aggadah not allowed to be written down as the Oral law is technically not allowed to be written? They expounded as follows: It is written: “There is a time to do for Hashem; nullify your Torah”. They explained it as follows: It is better that one letter of the Torah should be uprooted than that the whole Torah should be forgotten. The reason they could do so is because it was becoming impossible for people to remember the Oral law without writing it down.

Words alone should be enough in many areas of life. At other times, however, words just do not do justice nor do they make a lasting impression. The aftermath of needing the Oral Torah to be written down and a small token gift for doing someone a favor will last far longer than a simple ‘thank you’. Having written something down was meant to preserve the Torah for eternity. We are approaching Tisha B’Av and the culmination of the annual mourning period for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Another suggestion to help with our middos and behavior amongst ourselves would be to end the lip service of how we behave towards each other, to sincerely display the ahavas Yisroel that is necessary to combat the sinas chinam which will ultimately bring the redemption speedily in our day.


*Midrash HaGadol or The Great Midrash, written by Rabbi David Adani of Yemen (14th century), is a compilation of aggadic midrashim on the Pentateuch taken from the two Talmuds and earlier midrashim of Yemenite provenance. In addition, it borrows quotations from the Targums, Maimonides, and Kabbalistic writings, and in this aspect is unique among the various midrashic collections. This important work—the largest of the midrashic collections—came to popular attention only in the late 19th century through the efforts of Jacob Saphir, Solomon Schechter, and Rav Dovid Zvi Hoffmann. In addition to containing midrashic material that is not found elsewhere, such as part of the Mekhilta of Rabbi Shimon, Midrash HaGadol contains what are considered more correct versions of previously known Talmudic and Midrashic passages.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, July 12 2020 20 Tammuz 5780