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Parshas VaEschanan - Pace Yourself, It is a Long Ride                        14 Av 5779

08/15/19 18:24:59


Last week a group of young students rented a car for their vacation. Lo and behold, using different drivers and estimations of fuel in the tank, they ran out of gas on the freeway. As I shook my head in disbelief, they asked me if I’ve ever run out of gas? Baruch Hashem and Bli Ayin Hora I have not, but, I have had some very close calls. One clear instance comes to mind…In the back of my mind I remember that my car needed gas. Being the Chochom (stubborn in this case) that I am, I tend to fill up where I get a discount and therefore habitually arrange to shop at the Costco where they have a gas station. The indicator in my car told me I had 14 miles to empty. I Waze the directions from my house to that Costco and it calculated a distance of 14 miles. Perfect. I decided to take the chance and, while driving, I could only think to myself, ‘I better not run out of gas!’ I remembered a supposed truism that the faster the car is driven the more fuel it burns. Therefore, I tried driving at a reasonable speed of about fifty-five mph and staying in one lane. Staying in the one lane also kept me at a consistent speed since I did not need to slow down or speed up when changing lanes. Lo and behold, when I arrived at the gas station my fuel indicator read three miles to empty! Incredibly, I actually saved gas by using this method of driving. This was all substantiated in a study I later found on-line.

A U.S. News & World Report article in July, 2008, explained how to drive and maximize your gas mileage. By now, most people know the boring basics: Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Change your oil and air filter regularly. Remove heavy items from your car. Still, watch the drivers on any highway, and you'll see fuel being wasted in every lane. That's because many drivers these days simply don't know much about how cars work and don't understand the mechanics of mileage. Jack Pokrzywa, manager of ground vehicle standards for SAE International, which sets technical standards for the automotive industry, explained what makes gas mileage go up or down. Here are some of the most common mileage mistakes:

“Driving too fast. Everybody knows that highway mileage is usually better than city mileage. So the faster, the better, right? Wrong by a mile. Most American cars operate at peak efficiency—generating the most forward momentum with the least amount of fuel—between 50 and 60 miles per hour. There's nothing magical about that range, except that the government establishes the city and highway mpg ratings for cars by operating them within certain speeds for a short period of time. Automakers want to get the highest mpg ratings possible, so they engineer their cars to be most efficient at the speeds at which the government tests them. If the government tested at 30 miles per hour instead, then no doubt carmakers would engineer their vehicles to be most efficient at 30. At speeds over 60 mph, gas mileage drops off a lot more than most drivers probably realize. The aerodynamic drag created by a moving vehicle increases exponentially; it takes more power to overcome the added resistance, forcing the engine to work harder, therefore burning more fuel. A lot more”.

If your car has an on-board computer that displays your instant gas mileage, the difference between 60 mph and 80 mph will be obvious—and substantial. At 60, a typical four-cylinder car might average about 30 mpg; at 80, it could fall to about 20 mpg. In other words, your gas mileage going 80 miles an hour on an open road might barely be better than the mileage you get navigating stoplights and city traffic. The Torah is a full navigation system unto itself. In addition to giving us the route it also dictates how we should drive in order to get there efficiently.

In this week’s Parshas VaEschanan the Torah in Devarim 5:29-30 states: ושמרתם לעשות כאשר צוה השם אלוקיכם אתכם לא תסורו ימין ושמאל. בכל הדרך אשר צוה השם אלוקיכם תלכו למען תחיון וטוב לכם והארכתם ימים בארץ אשר תירשון. “Be careful to do what God your Lord has commanded you, not turning to the right or left. Follow the entire way that God your Lord has commanded you, so that you may live and do well, enduring for a long time on the land that you are going to occupy”.

*Rabbi Abraham Menachem Rapa of Porto (Rappaport) in his commentary Mincha Belula explains the words right and left not as directions but adding and subtracting. The definition of going to the right is understood as adding to the existing 613 mitzvos, while going to the left is the notion of taking away from the 613 mitzvos. Sometimes we think doing more or going faster is better - it pulls to the right. On the other hand, a person pulls to the left to decrease from the Torah’s mitzvos by going slower. In either scenario right and left is synonymous with faster and slower, resulting in something bad on both paths.

Rav Naftoli Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (the Netzi”v) in his commentary Haamek Davar on Torah explains, “be careful what you do” not to add or subtract mitzvos from the Torah that are between man and God. We are forbidden to alter that which we received and have a transition from Hashem. It states we are not deviate to the left or to the right because they are all Chukim - statutes - that are untouchable. The next verse, “follow the entire way,” reflects upon the mitzvos between man and his fellow man. “The entire way” is alluded to at the end of the second chapter of Talmud Bava Metzia as meaning Gemilus Chesed - acts of loving kindness - which refer to people. There again we are directed not to turn to the left or the right. We are to stay on the straight path of doing kindness, as there is no measure to this Mitzvah.

If we stay on a straight path in one lane, not veering to either side we will have the energy and the fuel to get to our final destination. Going slower or faster, left or right, only burns more fuel and energy , causing us to lose mileage, to fall short of our goal. Let’s keep or eyes on the fuel tank and stay on the straight and narrow path the Torah had paved for us, allowing us to have the ability to reach our destination with fuel to spare!


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky



*Mincha Belula, commentary on the Five Books of the Torah, by. Verona, 1594.

On the title page and on page 59/b are ownership inscriptions in Italian Hebrew writing: "Pinchas Chai Anav and his brother". [R. Pinchas Chai Anav (died in 1769), an Italian sage, Rabbi in Ferrara, close disciple of R. Yitzchak Lampronti, author of Pachad Yitzchak. The ten volumes of his monumental work Givat Pinchas were never printed. The Chida who met him in Ferrara, wrote about R. Pinchas, "…He was very clever and in 1755, I had merited a number of days enjoying his Torah thoughts at the time I was on a mission there in my youth.”

Sun, July 12 2020 20 Tammuz 5780