How much is really in our control?

In the midst of his five-week-long farewell speech, Moshe Rabbeinu informs B’nei Yisrael that Hashem does not ask much of them. “Only to fear Him,” Moshe assures the nation (D’varim 10:12).

Parshas VaEschanan

In Parshas VaEschanan, we read about the Arei Miklat, the cities of refuge for those who unintentionally kill (D’varim 4:41-49). This parshah usually falls out immediately following Tish’ah B’Av, and, consequently, shortly before Elul. At face value, the Arei Miklat, Tish’ah B’Av, and Elul do not seem to share a thematic connection. The Ir Miklat is a city of refuge – a safe haven – for one who unwittingly murders. Tish’ah B’Av is a day of sadness and destruction, as klal Yisrael mourns the loss of the Beis HaMikdash and the tragedies that have occurred throughout Jewish History. And Elul is the month of t’shuvah (repentance). What links these three topics together? In order to understand their deep underlying connection, let us delve into each of these three topics.

I want the very best.” That’s what we tell ourselves, isn’t it? As human beings, we understand that there is a spectrum of quality for everything, and we want only the best. We desire the best relationships, teachers, friends, food, clothing, experiences, the best of everything. But what makes something the best? Sometimes, it’s the quantity; this brand supplies more of its product for the same price. But often, it’s the quality that makes the difference. When you pay an increased rate for a service, experience, or luxury, you do so with the assumption that you are receiving a higher quality product, one that is fundamentally improved from the basic, standard package. With this in mind, let us explore a unique idea connected to Parshas Eikev.

Small acts can make a huge difference!

Sefer D’varim might feel like “déjà vu all over again” as Moshe reiterates the most crucial Torah values before his death. The first topic that Moshe reviews is the laws of judges, including the importance of remaining unbiased and impartial. Chazal teach that the prohibition of accepting bribes is not limited to financial kickbacks but includes non-monetary benefits, as well (K’subos 105b).

“Be comforted, be comforted, My people.”

What exactly is so comforting about Shabbos Nachamu? We just completed a painful three-week process, trying to internalize how lost we are without the Beis HaMikdash. On Tish’ah B’Av we sat on the floor and bemoaned all of the tragedies that have taken place since, and as a result of, the Churban. But has anything changed since then? Unfortunately, despite the very meaningful Tish’ah B’Av experiences, we still find ourselves in exile, bereft of a Mikdash. Why should we feel any sense of consolation – and what does Shabbos have to do with any of this?

Eight-year-old Josh sat in his living room excitedly opening his birthday presents. He had already received some new toys from his grandparents, but his parents told him that their present was extra special. He’d be able to use it to light up whatever he wanted, to make unique shapes on the walls, and to play games in the backyard. As he took his brand-new flashlight out of the box, he excitedly flicked the switch to turn it on. Nothing happened. He flicked the switch off and back on, and again nothing happened. He pointed it around the room, then ran outside to the backyard and pointed it around out there, as well. It must be broken, he thought sadly, as he trudged back into the house and dejectedly ate his birthday cake.