<i>Va'etchanan</i>: Between Hopelessness & <i>Ge'ula</I>

The <i>Haftarah</i> for our <i>parsha</i> begins, <i>"Nachamu, Nachamu Ami yomar Elokeichem"</i> ? "Comfort, comfort my people -- says your G-d." (Yishaiya, 40:1) This sentiment seems to be silent, but yet it is a theme of <i>parshat Va'etchanan</i>.<br/>

Moshe Burt,

The Haftarah for our parsha begins, "Nachamu, Nachamu Ami yomar Elokeichem" ? "Comfort, comfort my people -- says your G-d." (Yishaiya, 40:1) This sentiment seems to be silent, but yet it is a theme of parshat Va'etchanan.

Indeed, there is a bridge, an allusion, in the parsha between Moshe's continued tochacha, reminding us of our special relationship with Hashem and his warnings of what would happen if B'nai Yisrael strays from the Torah path, and Moshe's recounting of the Asseret HaDib'rot (the Ten Commandments). This bridge is a short posuk that describes the three arei miklat, the three "cities of refuge", on the east side of the Jordan. (Parshat Va'etchanan, Perek 4, posuk 41)

Shem Mishmuel asks about this posuk's placement. It seems to be totally misplaced and unrelated to the material before or after it. He says that it could be that it is mentioned here to indicate Yisrael's enthusiasm for mitzvot. The gift of EretzYisrael to the nation was just discussed and the separation of cities shows how dear the land was to them, for this issue was dealt with immediately. However, this explanation seems inadequate to Shem Mishmuel as the conquest of the east bank of the Jordan from Sichon and Og was already dealt with in parshat Devarim.

Moshe felt it necessary to rebuke the people before his death, but he was aware of a hazard that rebuke entailed. He feared that when he described the past failings of the B'nai Yisrael, and the dangers that the future held in store for them, they would despair of ever succeeding. He feared that a feeling of hopelessness might set into the people, a depression from which they may never recover. The generation that stood at the border of Eretz Yisrael, ready to enter 40 years later, felt that if their ancestors were unable to resist temptation, how could they possibly maintain an appropriate relationship with Hashem of love and devotion, and avoid aveirot that would incur his wrath?

The arei miklat, the cities of refuge, as well as the 42 cities of the Levites were established to provide refuge for the accidental murderer. The Levi's prime task was to sing songs of praise to Hashem in the Beit HaMikdash, thus inspiring the people to deepen their connection with the Divine. Therefore, the Levi is the medium, the kli, through which the accidental killer may reestablish his connection to Hashem and rehabilitate himself after his error.

The very existence of the arei miklat and the laws regarding them have a clear implication; there is always hope for the future. Even someone who is an accidental killer, who has lost his life force and ability to continue a meaningful existence should not lose hope. It is always possible to move forward and to begin again. The Torah presents the arei miklat to prove that whatever the situation, there is always hope. (Shem Mishmuel pages 380-382)

And so we, in our generations, stand on the edge of the time of the Moshiach, the Ge'ula Shlaima, having emerged from Tish'a B?Av, from what we hope was the last taanit. And yet, a feeling of hopelessness has set into the people, a depression from which they despair for their recovery. The result is that the weakest link, who make up the political leadership of MedinatYisrael, as well as the administrations of all of its major secular institutions and the print and electronic media, has inculcated a mind-set that has crept into all sectors of B'nai Yisrael, including segments of religious Jews, which says that we are weak, few in number and as grasshoppers before the Arab nation and all of the nations. How can we stand up to the Islamic nation? There is no choice but to bow at the altar, at the Avodah Zara of Oslo and its misguided, misdirected offshoot, the "Roadmap." This mind-set says that we can never emerge victorious and live in peace. That we are somehow compelled to make one-sided agreements and agree to hudna until the Arab world arms sufficiently so that they can close in for the kill; that we must allow ourselves to be attacked and killed or we will never get out of the economic malaise that we are in; that we have no choice; that we must burn tires and pollute and poison the air ? make an entire region of Israel spanning from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem, to Modi'in, to Beitar, to Ramla, to Kiryat Gat into a vast environmental wasteland ? in order make 100 million NIS annually and employ 100 people, despite all of the proof of environmental harm and the existence of efficient technologies that render the rubber recyclable.

This mind-set totally discounts the Almighty.

But behold, we do have a choice. With emunah (faith) in HaKodosh Borchu, we can stand up as men and hold unequivocally to our emmet (truth). "Mi LaHashem Eilai." And we can back up our emunah with chesed, with mitzvot, just as did B'nai Yisrael in Bamidbar, with strong enthusiasm for mitzvot.

B'nai Yisrael can be inspired through their mitzvot to deepen their connection with the Divine.

(And with this as a segue, I mention my Sefer Torah Recycling Network and the restoration of Sifrei Torah slated for Homesh and for a kehilla in Bat Ayn. What better way is there for all of B'nai Yisrael to claim Eretz Yisrael as their own than to establish a town like Homesh, which until now lacks it's own Sefer Torah, as a Makom Torah, a place of Torah? Just as the Levi is the medium, the kli, through which the accidental killer may reestablish his connection to Hashem and rehabilitate himself after his error, so too, can we be such a kli in establishing Mokomot Torah throughout EretzYisrael and, in this way, solidify our closeness with Hashem.)

In closing, I want to add a short vort excerpted from the Tisha B'av video shiur given by Rabbi Yissachar Frand. Rabbi Frand called upon all religious Jews to undertake a revolution; to accomplish one chessed a day ? a Chessed Yomi to be done in tandem with the Daf Yomi.

He told a story about a Chassidic rabbi who was placed in a German labor camp during the Holocaust. He had been there approximately two years when he and an elderly man were called in to the commandant's office and told that they could go free. He just needed to sign a document. But it was Shabbos. The rabbi pondered his dilemma. First, he thought, "Sure I can sign, it's pikuach nefesh." But then thought again, he would stay the remaining three or four or so years, he just couldn't violate the Shabbos.

And so, he told the commandant that he couldn't sign the document because it's Shabbos. The commandant was incredulous and told him, "You can sit here and rot."

Then the commandant turned to the elderly man who was sickly and asked him to sign, but the man would not sign on Shabbos.

But then the rabbi chimed in, "I'll sign for him."

Again, the commandant was incredulous. He asked the rabbi why he would not sign for himself and yet would sign for the elderly man. He was astounded at the rabbi's kindness, that he would desecrate his Shabbos for his fellow Jew, that he would do a kindness for another on Shabbos, yet not for himself. The commandant then turned to the rabbi and told him that he was freed.

In the z'chut of our chessed and mitzvot, may we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge'ula Shlaima, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v'yameinu ? speedily, in our time ? immediately, achshav, miyad, chik-chak, etmol!

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