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Parshas Eikev - Just Follow the Rules              22 Av 5779

08/22/19 23:05:18


One part of a pulpit rabbi’s job is to comfort and give encouragement to those who are not well. One of the usual but deeply-felt comments I make as I take leave of someone is that the next time I see this individual I hope he or she will feel stronger and better and will be completely healed. In most cases once the patient leaves a facility, I follow up from time to time either by phone or text. The best scenario of all is when the tables are turned, and instead of me visiting a person who is not well , that person is able to visit me in my office! Last week I had an incredible visit from someone who, according to the logical course of the illness, should not have been sitting across my desk.

A renewed member of life and now of the Shul met with me after a long four-year battle with multiple life-threatening issues. For many years Dennis Mesnick volunteered for Beth Jacob, raising money for the shul to help continue spreading Torah values throughout the community. Dennis, for all the years that I have known him, was always upbeat, willing to help anyone, and a mensch. After battling serious illnesses these past four years, he consistently expresses no anger with what life has dealt him. To the contrary, he savors all that life still has to offer him. During our meeting, which I prefer to call a visit, we both tried to stay positive and not dwell on the past illnesses and continued challenges of life. Nevertheless, as we tried to stay away from the medical chat, it inevitably came up. One of the most fascinating lessons that I am aware of was reviewed again. The introduction to Path of the Just states, “I’m not here to teach you anything new, but rather to remind you of all the things you know already.” During our conversation Dennis told me about his wonderful doctors and mentioned one critical message. Due to Dennis’s condition, his doctor stated the following: “As long as you stay away from certain foods, you will live.” As he continues to improve, he keeps those words of his doctor close to his lips, adhering to that golden rule. The doctor did mention other patients who had the same condition as he but did not follow his advice. Correspondingly, the status of their health had fallen far from where it should have been. An interesting follow-up to this is that Dennis feels that his doctor is more supportive of him because he follows his advice religiously, making the right choices to be healthier. When one follows the orders and directions of any authority, there tends to be more support and encouragement from that teacher, parent, physician, employer and so forth. That has always been Dennis’ message: follow the orders and directions of those who are trying to help you.

While visiting people who need a Refuah Sheleima, it often happens that the person calls me “doctor”, instead of “Rabbi”. Obviously, this is not a sign of disrespect but a mere confusion of titles, since the title “doctor” is so often used during their ordeal. I not only take no issue with this slight confusion, I recognize the vital link between those who care for the physical to those who nurture and shepherd the spiritual. It’s not only the doctor to whom we should heed. Rabbis tell us that by following the Torah good will result for you and your family. This concept is clearly seen within the Torah itself!

In this week’s Parsha Eikev the Torah states in Devarim, 11:13-21, the second paragraph of the Shema whereby Hashem decries to the Jewish people והיה אם שמוע תשמעו אל מצותי אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום לאהבה את ה" אלוקיכם ולעבדו בכל לבבכם ובכל נפשכם “If you are careful to pay heed to my commandments which I am prescribing to you today, and if you love God your Lord with all your heart and soul…”This statement is followed by a guarantee of the blessings of sustenance, health and long life. Today we live at a crossroad between generations. The old school of thought is just that, old school: stick to what has worked for centuries in Jewish education for both old and young. The younger generation, however, feels they need something new and different. Reb Shlomo Luntzitz in his commentary Kli Yakar, emphasizes this point of the old school. Kli Yakar quotes Rashi, “If you listen to that which is old, you will hearken to that which is new. Chaza”l, the Rabbi’s of Blessed memory, teach Mitzva Goreres Mitzva - that the recompense for a Mitzva is a Mitzva, and understanding creates more understanding, namely from the old to the new.

The Kli Yakar then diverts relating something in reference to what Moshe stated: “With all your hearts and with all your souls…”, yet ‘with all your might’ it is not stated, as it is in the first paragraph of Shema. The reason ‘with all your might’ (Devarim 6:5) it is not mentioned here is because it is prevalent in every society to have an individual whose money is dearer to him then his body. Hence, the corny old joke of the robber saying to the victim, “Your money or your life!” followed by a long pause and the robber continues, “Nu?” The man replies, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!” Rashi stated earlier "יש לך אדם": “You possess a man.” From those words we deduce that this character flaw is not prevalent in a community. We find this flaw in one individual or in a limited number of people whose opinions are invalidated relative to mankind. We do not, however, find this in a community or a congregation because the majority will discount the wasteful opinion and completely disregard it. On the other hand, according to what Rashi stated about a person’s ‘might,’ we deduce that in every attribute that He (Hashem) measures for you, whether it be for good or for evil.

In today’s day and age we need to go back to basics and not think that every new method of study or worship is now hip; I need something new, something different. Rather stick to the old, and eventually that old will feel new again in the present just as it felt in the past. There is no reason to change course after hundreds of years; it is best to stay focused following the Torah, observing the Mitzvos and serving God the good old-fashioned way. Unfortunately, the old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” applies today. Those individuals who cry out the loudest seem to get the most attention, bending people’s ears to their false and corrupt ways of thinking. We should never apologize for the ultimate standards the Torah presents, providing us with a magnificent roadmap, guiding us how to live our lives. There is no need to cave in or compromise our principles and methods that have carried us for centuries in building Jewish communities throughout the world.

May Hashem give strength and wisdom to the leaders of our generation to rememberוארך ימינו כי הם חיינו and with this in mind continue to teach and guide Hashem’s children to remember to follow the medicinal orders of following God’s orders.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Thank you to Rabbi Dr. Kanter for his commentary on the Kli Yakar in his sefer published in 2003.

Sun, July 12 2020 20 Tammuz 5780