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Parshas Vayeilech / Shabbos Shuva - Watch Your Step      5 Tishrei 5780

10/04/19 09:02:58


Dictionaries typically provide an array of definitions to words The Oxford English Dictionary, granddaddy of all English-language sources of word definitions, also gives in-depth etymologies – detailed histories of the derivation of every word included its vast word . In addition to all dictionaries, there is also our personal dictionary in which each of us describes or explains something. For example, in my personal dictionary under the word “stubborn,” my definition is: when a person hears a rattling noise and ignores it, or when a car is not driving properly, simply disregards it. The ultimate for me is when I have an ache or pain, or something more severe and completely discount it, declaring that it’ll go away… eventually. Wel, I experienced something that fits this description in my dictionary. A few weeks ago my wife and I traveled to NY for a wedding and before returning home we did some extensive walking in lower Manhattan visiting “Ground Zero”. Upon my return, I felt an intense soreness in my foot which I initially ignored (of course), eventually attributing the continuous, gnawing discomfort to dancing at the wedding and the walking around town. My foot was swollen a bit and after diagnosing myself I took some Motrin and rested a bit overnight, feeling good-to-go the next day. But, alas, it was not getting better, and as each day wore on and I bravely continued to walk around, the soreness grew stronger each day. Finally, as Rosh Hashana was approaching, I began to think about this foot of mine more seriously and went to see my doctor who gave me, among other things, an authorization slip to have my foot X-rayed. Being rather busy, I pushed off getting the X-ray for a few more days, reasoning, “Why should I spend so much money on a co-pay for the x-ray?” I overcame my clarity of reasoning and went to get the X-ray. The technician told me, “You are going to have to see the doctor!”

I could not believe that I broke my foot! I did not remember any time when I may have banged it or fell or even twisted it, yet… x-rays don’t tend to lie. Initially, the doctor said my foot might require being surgically repaired. After my proclaimed disbelief, accompanied by my continuous questioning of the need to have surgery, the doctor managed to maneuver the bone, trying his best to help me avoid surgery if he could help my foot to heal externally. There were many thoughts and messages going through my mind at the time, but mostly, I was and still am in denial that I broke a bone! Let’s be real; it does not hurt that much. In fact, I have no pain at all. Besides a little swelling, I don’t see anything wrong with my broken foot compared to the other one. There’s just a little discomfort…

There is a teaching about the fact that we tend to attribute any bad things or omens that happen to someone at the end of the year as a good sign, indicating that we have completed any punishment on the previous year’s account and therefore can hopefully go into the New Year with a clean slate. I hope for me that is definitely the case! However, this also set my mind in place for the upcoming Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashana To Yom Kippur. We read on both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur the prayer Unesaneh Tokef. A line of deep concern is וְתִזְכֹּר כָּל הַנִּשְׁכָּחוֹת: You remember all that is forgotten. In a Tefillah “L’Eil Orech Din” we say, “The one who scrutinizes secrets”: "לצופה נסתרות ביום דין. In reacting to my broken foot, I cannot recall anything or any particular time that this injury occurred. But it did. As for me, it was a well-kept secret that I had broken my foot - even when informed that it was broken. I was in disbelief. I could not remember, but Hashem remembered. I could not see anything. But God sees all that is hidden, especially that which man can not see. Throughout the year, throughout our entire lifetimes, we do things that are wrong, but we don’t remember ever committing them. Even when there may be a hint from above that I’m hurting a bit because I may have broken something [committed a sin], I brush it off and say it’s nothing. ignoring the warning signs, disregarding them, remaining in denial, unable to make that connection. We can’t see the crack but the Almighty does, because He sees all. To God the world is seen clearly, for us, mere mortals, we would need an X-ray. And even with the X-ray we still can’t believe it. I am not saying that any illness or sickness is caused by a sin or that a wounded person is bad. We know that sometimes the righteous have difficulties in this world. Nevertheless, these are signs that Hashem is clearly trying to communicate with us. Whatever that message is, we need to take it seriously and not discard it. We need to pay attention and address it. We must be aware of the steps we take and follow a path that the Torah leads us upon. The leaders of the Jewish people literally led us, walked the walk, teaching by example and giving of themselves for the Jewish people. There could be no one more suited for this description than Moshe Rabbeinu’s:

In this week’s Parshas Vayeilech the Torah states in Devarim 31:1"וילך משה וידבר את הדברים האלה אל כל ישראל" “Moshe went {literally walked} and spoke the following words to all Israel, saying to them: Today I am 120 years old and I can no longer come and go”. The steps of Moshe Rabbeinu were not ordinary paces. They teach us everything that Moshe did in Torah and Mitzvos was done for the sake of the Jewish people. Rav Yosef Ben Meir Teomim* in his work Noam Megadim writes the strength of the community gives strength to the leader to reach higher levels and climb the spiritual ladder step by step to lead Am Yisrael to a higher place. Furthermore, Rav Teomim writes that even after Moshe finished walking, meaning after his soul departed from this world, he continued to lead the Jewish people. As he spoke these words and the Jewish people heard his voice, the lessons he taught continue until this very day. In fact, the words you are reading right now are words that Moshe Rabbeinu himself taught us and continue to do so.

We need to be cognizant of our actions and steps because they are all truly hidden, a known only to Hashem. This applies to the sins and to the Mitzvos as well. We sometimes forget the negative or positive impact we have on others, whether we see this or not. Therefore, the lesson for this year is not to tread lightly, to the contrary let’s put our foot down, making positive and strong imprints of Torah values and chessed and kindness to all around us. We, the observant Torah-filled community consist of each individual, every one of us must step up to the plate and fulfill the mandate of V’Halachta Bidrachav: We shall follow or walk in His ways!

Ah Gut Shabbos & ah Gmar Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780