As Simchas Torah is the conclusion of reading the Torah, the Haftorah picks up from where we leave off, with the first perek of Yehoshua in the Navi. There is a very famous, oft quoted, pasuk which is one of the sources of the requirement to delve into learning Torah. The Navi writes: “This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth; you shall contemplate it day and night, in order that you observe to do all that is written in it, for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper” (Yehoshua 1:8). (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The Radak introduces to us an argument that took place amongst our Sages as to whether this pasuk is referring to a mitzvah to learn Torah for all people, even those that know the whole Torah in its entirety, or if it is a blessing.  The Radak also has two explanations of what “you shall contemplate it day and night” refers to. The first is that the Navi is reemphasizing the point after he said “This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth” that “you shall contemplate it day and night,” which would mean that one should constantly be learning day and night at any time that he finds free from his matters of livelihood. The second is that ‘contemplation’ is referring to matters of the heart, as the pasuk in Tehillim says “And the thoughts of my heart” (Tehillim 19:15). (Click here for Hebrew text.)

“Contemplation of the heart” is referred to by Rashi as התבוננות, meaning focus or meditation. According to this interpretation it would seem that day and night refer to a 24/7 (as long as one is not in unclean areas) type of learning which does not necessarily need a sefer open to learn from, but rather wherever one goes they are contemplating and focusing on a case from or a line of the Torah. Anything, something, according to everyone’s own level, that he or she can take with them wherever they go. It is with them in their head to dissect, review, clarify, and make crystal clear; a matter of Hashem’s Torah, The Blueprints of Creations, and our Guidebook for Life.

The pasuk goes on to say that if one does focus and spend a lot of time on Torah learning, learning how to properly live one’s life through Divine guidance, then he or she will “observe to do all that is written in it, for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper.” The Radak observes that the words the pasuk uses for success areתצליח  and תשכיל which sound like success is in your hand; “You will be successful.” In truth, the Radak says that even though success is not dependent on man, rather by observing Hashem’s Mitzvos they will be rewarded with success coming to them, however it is as if he paved the way for his own success.

It would seem from this Radak that the reward of success is only truly valued if one feels like he is producing it, not just that success is simply coming to him; he must know he is successful. What also follows is that an honest, successful person must live with a paradox. On the one hand, since he or she has learned so much and have dedicated their entire essence to following and trusting in Hashem’s word, living and breathing it, understanding it and practicing it, than they know full well that success in one’s life, the feeling of peace and tranquility, wealth, happiness and health, all of it comes from Hashem, as a reward for observing His mitzvos. Yet, on the other hand, how can one feel the pinnacle of success, if that means feeling that he or she created it themselves?

In reality, what this means is that one must for sure intellectually know that everything comes from Hashem, and all the effort one puts in to everything in life is answered with results from Hashem. However, Hashem gives us the ability to emotionally feel that we accomplished and are successful, and that is the ultimate reward in this world! Hashem gave us the ability to make that proper balance of knowing and being confident that success ultimately comes from Him but we still feel that sense of accomplishment with our hearts and that balance is one of the tests Hashem expects us to succeed in!

In this week’s Torah Portion of Ha’azinu we read the Song of Moshe, which he proclaimed before his death. In the haftorah we read the Song of Dovid from Shmuel Beis perek 22. What is interesting to note is that we can find The Song of Dovid almost verbatim in Tehillim perek 18. In Shmuel Beis “The Song” ends “He Who is a tower (מגדיל) of salvation to His king and does kindness for His anointed, to David and his descendants forever” (Shmuel Beis 22:51). In Tehillim the song ends slightly differently in the beginning of the pasuk: “He Who makes great (מגדול) the salvations of His king…” (Tehillim 18:51).

This pasuk is mentioned towards the end of birkas hamazon. On weekdays we say “He Who makes great…” and on Shabbos, Yom Tovim, and Rosh Chodesh it is read: “He Who is a tower…” The Etz Yosef says that the phrase from Tehillim was chosen for the less holy, weekdays because it was written before King Dovid became king. The phrase from Shmuel Beis was composed when King Dovid was at the peak of his greatness, and it therefore better suits Shabbos and Yomim Tovim.

The Yalkut Shimone in Shmuel Beis, paraphrasing a Medrish Shochar Tov in Tehillim, recounts: “’He Who is a tower of salvation to His king:’ At the time that Hashem acts with kindness towards Dovid, Heaven and Earth rejoice, as it says after this, ‘The Heavens speak of the honor of Hashem” (Tehillim 19:2). So too, at the time that Hashem prepares the throne of Dovid, all will rejoice, as it says ‘Until eternity I will prepare your offspring’ (Tehillim 89:5). What does it write after that? “And the heavens acknowledge Your wonder’ (Tehillim 89:6). One pasuk says ‘makes great’ and the other pasuk says ‘Who is a tower’. Rebbe Yudan says this is because the salvation of our nation does not come all at once; rather it grows greater and greater. What does ‘Who is a tower’ refer to? That He makes the King Moshiach like a great tower. ‘The name of the Lord is a tower of strength; the righteous runs into it and is strengthened.’ (Mishley 18:10).”

If you delve into the Medrish Shochar Tov on Tehillim, it elaborates a bit more when discussing what it means when it says that Moshiach will come little by little. “Rebbe Yudan said that because the redemption of this nation does not happen all at once, rather little by little, then what does ‘makes great’ refer to? That it [the salvation] grows bigger and bigger before the Jews, because they are now wallowing in great anguish and if the redemption would come instantaneously they would not be able to withstand the great salvation which comes through such anguish, therefore it comes little by little and grows greater and greater. This is why the redemption is compared to dawn as it is written, ‘Then your light shall break forth as the dawn’ (Yeshayahu 58:8). Why is it compared to dawn, for there is no greater darkness then the time right before morning and if the ball of sun would just pop up at that time all species would go blind, so rather at dawn a ray of light first enlightens the world and then the ball of sun rises and sheds light and no species is blinded as it says, ‘But the way of the righteous is like the light of dawn; it shines ever brighter until the day is perfect’ (Mishley 4:18).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Imagine at this very moment, poof, Moshiach shows up. Redemption is here. Every Jews returns to our homeland in Israel, peace takes root all over the world, “no nation will lift up sword against nation,” the lion and sheep will live amongst each other, the ultimate in peace and harmony in the world! Wouldn’t it be bliss?! Wouldn’t it be worth it to happen at any moment? What could be wrong with a perfect state of existence?

Many people, upon being liberated from the Nazi concentration camps, were given a hearty meal by their emancipators. This they quickly consumed;  but their fragile bodies were not able to handle food in that quantity, and they perished. Similarly, this is what the Medrish is referring to, but on a psychological level. If salvation, which is likened to the “great tower” of Moshiach would come for the downtrodden Jews out of the blue, then the effects of going from such a state of suffering to the opposite end of the spectrum, perfect bliss, would be devastating. Barely anyone would be able to handle such a rollercoaster; therefore, the Medrish says that Hashem’s plan is to prepare us little by little for the coming of Moshiach, so when we are ready we will be able to embrace such a lofty and perfect existence, without going from one extreme to another.

One can ask, and often does ask, why Hashem puts us through all this suffering to begin with. This can be answered with another parable. Have you ever observed chulent cooking or a soup in the process of being made? The raw, unrefined ingredients are put into a pot with liquid and spices to help it taste good and to transform it into something edible. Then the heat causes all the food to boil up and get scalding hot. Everything is tossed around, things bumping into each other, sometimes even spilling over, but in the end, more times than not, you have a delicious chulent or soup. All those violent turns and motions in the pot transform an imperfect, raw dish, with the right ingredients, into a savory delicious delicacy. So too Hashem puts us “through the ringer” even in the most treacherous circumstances, in order to refine and smooth out all our imperfections, clear away all the impurities, so that we will be ready for a time when everything will be in a perfect state of existence.

May we be in tune with the steps Hashem is taking to making great our coming salvation in due time, perhaps even proactively work on ourselves to speed up the process so we will be rightfully prepared for the coming of Moshiach and the tower of salvation for His king.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder


This Shabbos is called Shabbos Shuva, based on the opening line of the Haftorah: “Shuva Yisrael od Hashem Elokecha” (Hoshea 14:2). It deals with the topic of teshuva, repentance, which is why it was chosen to be read between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. What is unique about this Haftorah is that it spans three of the Minor Prophets, Hoshea, Yoel and Micha. The first pasuk read from Micha states: “Who is a G-d like You, Who forgives iniquity and passes over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not maintain His anger forever, for He desires loving-kindness” (Micha 7:18).
One of the 13 attributes of Divine Mercy is “Forgiver of Iniquity,” which is mentioned in this pasuk. This attribute refers to Hashem forgiving an intentional sinner. The Yalkut Shimone on this pasuk refers to a gemara in Rosh Hashana 17a: “Raba said: He who forgoes his right [to exact punishment] is forgiven of all his iniquities, as it says, ‘Forgiving iniquity and passing by transgression.’ Who is forgiven iniquity? One who passes by transgression [against himself]. R. Huna the son of R. Joshua was once ill. R. Papa went to inquire about him. He saw that he was very ill (on his deathbed) and said to those present, make ready provisions for his [everlasting] journey (i.e. his burial shrouds). Eventually, however, he [R. Huna] recovered, and R. Papa felt ashamed to see him. He said to him, ‘What did you see [in your illness]?’ He replied, ‘It was indeed as you thought, but the Holy One, blessed be He, said to them [the angels]: Because he does not insist upon his rights, do not be particular with him,’ as it says, ‘Forgiving iniquity and passing by transgression.’ Who is forgiven iniquity? He who passes by transgression.” Rashi explains that since he relinquished his right to exact retribution for the wrongs done to him, Hashem’s Attribute of Justice relinquishes its rights to exact punishment on him for his sins. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The conundrum this evokes is that how could Hashem, whose total essence is truth, simply ignore a blatant sin deserving of punishment? Isn’t that an injustice, a lack of honesty right there? It would seem that Hashem even acts in this fashion towards someone who has not fully repented and erased his sin, but simply overlooks the wrongs done to him by anyone else. Where is the justice and honesty here?

We know that Hashem must be acting with proper justice, and that He is also not simply ignoring a rebellion which should be taken care of. The logic must therefore be that Hashem, when exacting reward and punishment, always acts measure for measure. Therefore, in this case, acting measure for measure dictates that if this person overlooks wrongdoings done to him by other people then Hashem rightfully overlooks the wrongdoings committed by individual towards Him! This goes as far as to say that someone who deserves to die from a deadly illness might be given an extension of life, as the gemara above shared.

At this time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur it is worthwhile to focus on this concept in the 13 attributes of Mercy which we proclaim in our slichos and Yom Kippur davening. We should apply it to ourselves so that just as we overlook others’ iniquities against us, Hashem will overlook our iniquities against Him, even if, for some reason, we don’t achieve the required level of complete repentance.


This week’s Haftorah is the last of the Haftorahs of Comfort read in the weeks after Tisha B’Av, depicting the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash when Moshiach comes, including the ingathering of all the Jews from exile. In the middle of the Haftorah we have the famous pasuk: “On your walls, O Yerushalayim, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night, they shall never be silent; those who remind the Lord, be not silent” (Yeshayahu 62:6).

This pasuk is expounded upon in the conclusion of the 9th perek of Gemara Menachos: “On your walls, O Yerushalayim, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night, they shall never be silent; those who remind the Lord, be not silent. What do they say? — Rabba son of R. Shila said. [They say,] ‘You will arise and have compassion upon Tzion, for there is a time to favor it, for the appointed season has arrived.’ (Tehillim 102:14).  R. Nahman b. Isaac said, [They say,] ‘The Lord builds up Yerushalayim’ (Tehillim 147:2). And what did they say before this (before the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash)? — Raba son of R. Shila said, [They used to say.] ‘For the Lord has chosen Tzion; He has desired it for His habitation’ (Tehillim 132:13).” Rashi points out that in the future the “watchmen” will also be saying the pasuk of “For the Lord has chosen Tzion,” as the Iyun Yaakov observes: this is alluded to in the next pasuk: “This is my resting place forever,” referring to the future when there will be no more exile and destruction.The Maharsha explains who these “watchmen” are: “They are the angels who give a positive account of the Jews and convince Hashem to be gracious on the Jews so that they will be redeemed from exile, speedily in our days.” The Maharsha goes on to recount that in the day and night these angels declare these pesukim, as it writes: ‘Today, if with his voice you will be heard’ for every day is the time and the appointed season has come for the redemption, (explaining the first pasuk). Also, when it says “builds up Yerushalayim,” the present tense is used, for every moment in time is the potential moment of the redemption (explaining the second pasuk). The Maharsha concludes that the pasuk said before the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash which will also be said once it is rebuilt, speedily in our days, refers to the fact that Hashem chose Tzion in this world and desires it to be His “permanent abode” in the World to Come. (Click here for Hebrew translation.)

If the angels are constantly pointing out our merits and showing Hashem that we deserve to be showered with His grace and redeemed from the ongoing exile, why then hasn’t Hashem, the All Powerful, All Good, with one of His attributes of mercy being graciousness, redeemed us already?We must say that Hashem who is also All Knowing understands that if he were to redeem us now then it wouldn’t be with the utmost of grace, as we have the ability and potential to be more deserving of redemption. If Hashem redeemed us before the best possible time, then our lives in The World to Come could not be fully appreciated or enjoyed, as it will be when we are redeemed at the opportune time.

This is alluded to from a gemara I quoted in last week’s Food for Thought: “Rebbi Yochanan said, “The son of Dovid (Moshiach) will come in a generation which is either entirely innocent or entirely guilty. Entirely innocent as it says ‘And your people, all of them righteous,’ entirely guilty as it says ‘And He saw that there was no man, and He was astounded for there was no intercessor’ (Yeshayhu 59:16) and it also says ‘For My sake, for My sake I will do etc.’ (Yeshayahu 48:11)” (Sanhedrin daf 98a). (Click here for Hebrew text.)

This gemara seems to indicate that Moshiach will come if the Jewish people will be fully ready and deserving to receive Moshiach (which the Maharsha in that gemara says will be when we all choose to do complete repentance on our own). We can then assume, being that Hashem is All Good and Gracious, that that must be the most optimum time, when Hashem will send Moshiach, so that we can then appreciate to the maximum his presence, and the new state we will be in. However if, G-D forbid, we sink so low that there is pretty much no hope in ever reaching perfection by ourselves, then Hashem, without a choice, will indeed redeem us for the sake of his Holy Name lest a tremendous chillul Hashem will take place (the Maharsha says that Hashem will achieve this by sending a king the likes of Haman to force us to repent and be deserving of redemption).

We are on the eve of a new year and Rosh Hashana, the Day of Judgement, is upon us. May we all, every Jew as a whole, finally come together in true repentance, and be judged to be inscribed in the eternal Book of Life.

This week’s Haftorah for the Torah Portion of Ki Savo is a prophesy of the End of Days, when there will be a new existence in the world, including the resurrection of the dead. The last three pesukim state: “Your sun shall no longer set, neither shall your moon be gathered in, for the Lord shall be to you for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be completed. And your people, all of them righteous, shall inherit the land forever, a scion of My planting, the work of My hands in which I will glory. The smallest shall become a thousand and the least a mighty nation; I am the Lord, in its time I will hasten it” (Yeshayahu 60:20-22).
There is a fascinating Yalkut Shimone I would like to share, and then focus on one specific point. “’Your sun shall no longer set,’ Rebbe Shimon ben Yochai said, the entire 40 years the Jews were in the desert not one of them needed the light of the sun by day or the light of the moon by night. Rather the clouds [of Glory] knew when the sun rose and set and it lit up the camp. They would be able to look at a barrel and know what was inside it or in a bucket and know what is inside it because the Holy Presence rested amongst them. So to in the future, as it says ‘I will get up and l will light up because your light has come. It also says ‘the sun will no longer be the light for the day.’ It also says ‘Your sun will no longer come.’” What is interesting to point out is that in the future the light of the Holy Presence which will light up the world is a different type of a light than what the sun shines and the moon reflects; it is so bright it has the power to act as x-ray vision. (Click here for text in Hebrew.)
The Yalkut Shimone goes on to quote two gemaras in Sanhedrin: “And your people, all of them righteous, shall inherit the land forever,” Our Rabbi have taught, ‘Every single Jew has a share in the World to Come as it says ‘And your people, all of them righteous etc.’ (Sanhdrin 90a). Rebbi Yochanan said, “The son of Dovid (Moshiach) will come in a generation which is either entirely innocent or entirely guilty. Entirely innocent as it says ‘And your people, all of them righteous,’ entirely guilty as it says ‘And He saw that there was no man, and He was astounded for there was no intercessor’ (Yeshayhu 59:16) and it also says ‘For My sake, for My sake I will do etc.’ (Yeshayahu 48:11).”

The first part of the Gemara in Sanhedrin is actually the first Mishna in Perek Chelekof Sanhedrin. After it says that every single Jew has a share in the World to Come, it then lists qualifications of those who do not have a share in the World to Come. This is seemingly a contradiction within the Mishna but can be resolved based on the Maharsha’s explanation of this Mishna.

The Maharsha explains that because in previous chapters the Mishna describes how big sinners receive thefour types of capital punishments, it says here about them that even though a Jew might sin, they still have a share in the World to Come (as we see by Achan earlier on in the tractate, on daf 66). The Mishna specifically says a “share,” for not all the shares are equal; as it says in Bava Basra 75a: ‘each righteous person is scalded from the canopy of his friend’ (see there for its commentary). The Mishna then brings a proof, as it says ‘And your people;’ meaning, ‘and your people.’ All of them. Including the sinners after they accept their judgement, of one of the four capital punishments. They are all righteous, as it also says there earlier (daf 88): ‘the corpse of you servant,’ literally your righteous ones who are your servants that were once held liable for judgment originally, and since they were killed, they are called your servants. For this reason they say that by accepting their judgment in this world they are deserving to forever inherit the land, which is a reference to the World to Come, as it is written on this topic: ‘in their land they shall inherit twofold etc.’ (Yeshayahu 61:11).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
We see from this Maharsha that every single Jew is born with a share, or portion, in the world to come. And each Jew has a chance to mold their portion in whatever way he or she chooses, making it bigger or smaller, each person in his own unique way. And, when a Jew dies, if they choose to accept their portion, they receive it even if they were such a sinner in their lifetime that they were deserving of the death penalty. However, if he or she rejects his or her share in the World to Come then it will be lost. Indeed, the Mishna enumerates different scenarios that might cause this to happen, as it says: “But the following have no portion in the World to Come: He who says that resurrection is not a Torah doctrine, the Torah is not from Heaven, and an apikoros [who denigrates Torah and Torah scholars]. Rabbi Akiva adds: One who reads from heretical books. And one who whispers [a charm] over a wound and says: Any of the diseases that I have inflicted upon the Egyptians, I will not inflict upon you. For I, the Lord, heal you” ” (Exodus 15:26). Abba Shaul says: Also, one who pronounces the [four letter] Divine Name as it is spelled.”

There are non-Jews that also have a share in the World to Come; they are called righteous gentiles, as enumerated in the Bartenura commentary on this Mishna. However they aren’t born with this portion; rather, they must earn it in their lifetime.

We see how potentially easy it is for every Jew to get into Olam Haba, the World to Come. It is given to us on a silver platter when we are born. We are given the tools to mold it in our lifetime, and as long as we don’t openly reject the portion we will receive it      in the World to Come.

May we all be inspired at this time of the year, during these days leading up to Judgement Day and the days of repentance to work on ourselves for the coming year on how we can mold our share to be bigger and better than before!

This week’s Haftorah is the combined haftorahs of the Torah portions of Re’eh and Ki Setzei from Yeshayahu perek 54 and 55:1-5.  We combine the Haftorahs in this manner when Rosh Chodesh Elul falls out on the Shabbos of Re’eh, as it did this year, two weeks ago. Within the haftorah is a pasuk which is quoted at the conclusion of many tractates of the Talmud including Brachos, Yevamos, Nazir, and Krisos: “And all your children will be students of Hashem, and your children will have peace” (Yeshayahu 54:13).

At the end of Ein Kelokeinu, which we say towards the end of the shachris davening and Bameh Madlikin which we say between kabbalas Shabbos and maariv we recite a paragraph which is the conclusion of Gemara Brachos: “Rabbi Elazar said on behalf of Rabbi Chanina: Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as it is said: ‘And all your children will be students of Hashem and your children will have peace’ (Yeshayahu 54:13) – do not read [בניך] ‘your children,’ but [בוניך] ‘your builders.’ There is abundant peace for the lovers of Torah, and there is no stumbling block for them’ (Tehillim 119:165). ‘May there be peace within your wall, serenity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and comrades I shall speak of peace in your midst. For the sake of the House of Hashem, our G-D, I will request your good’ (Tehillim 122:7-9). ‘Hashem will give might to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation with peace’ (Tehillim 29:11).”

The Maharsha explains why the gemara Brachos concludes in this fashion: “This paragraph was added for it would seem because this entire tractate, the prayers and blessings that are mentioned in it are rabbinic decrees, and the reason for them is to increase peace in the world which is done [through a relationship] between the Jews and their Father In Heaven. The reason why it says ‘do not read [בניך] ‘your children,’ but [בוניך] ‘your builders’ is because these prayers and blessings are what keep the world in existence in place of the sacrificial service. All the rest of the pesukim show this intent, and therefore with peace you shall place upon it more peace, Amen Selah!” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The rabbis of the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah, soon after the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash, enacted, for the most part, the blessings and prayers we have today in our siddurim. Each word and sentence was selected and crafted to effectively connect to Hashem in the most optimal manner possible.  For this reason the gemara in Brachos aptly concludes with these pesukim, that describe the peace that the rabbis imbued onto the world through prayer and blessings. This enhances the relationship between Hashem and His children, thereby keeping the world in existence; as if they are the builders of the world.

It is interesting to note that the Rabbis are called “builders” in the gemara: “and all ‘your builders’ will be students of Hashem, and ‘your builders’ will have peace.” But in actuality, according to the Maharsha, the Rabbis who created the prayers and blessings were the architects, and we, who say the prayers and blessings on a daily basis, are in fact the builders of the world. We keep the world running through our daily prayers and blessings. Why then are the rabbis called the builders?

It would seem that being the architects and creating the design to ensure the world is “created” optimally deserves credit as if they themselves built and sustain the world, even to this day.

If one were to think about the ramifications of this Maharsha, this means that we have a great responsibility to strive, to pray, and to says blessings with all our heart, with the greatest intentions possible, for it is a logical observation that the more one’s prayers or blessings are effective, the quality of the world’s existence is improved, commensurate to how much we show we care about our relationship with Hashem.

This is a lot to think about as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur draw closer.

The newest addition to Food for Thought: The Spanish Edition! Haga clic aquí para leer en español. Please share this with your Jewish Spanish speaking family, friends, and associates.

In Kabbalas Shabbos we sing in the fourth and fifth stanzas of Lecha Dodi: “Shake off the dust – arise! Don your splendid clothes, My people. Through the son of Yishai, the Bethlehemite! Draw near to my soul – redeem it! Wake up! Wake up! For your light has come, rise up and shine; Awaken awaken, utter a song. The glory of Hashem is revealed on you.”

These stanzas are based on three pesukim in this week’s haftorah for the Torah portion of Shoftim, which take place in the 51st and 52nd perakim of Yeshayahu: “Awaken, awaken, arise, Jerusalem, for you have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of His wrath; the dregs of the cup of weakness you have drained” (Yeshayahu 51:17). “Awaken, awaken, put on your strength, O Zion; put on the garments of your beauty, Jerusalem the Holy City, for no longer shall the uncircumcised or the unclean continue to enter you. Shake yourselves from the dust, arise, sit on your throne, O Jerusalem; free yourself of the shackles around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion” (Yeshayahu 52:1, 2).

This Haftorah speaks of the low points of exile and the hope of redemption. The Ibn Ezra in 52:1 is of the view that all the commentaries agree that this prophesy is still talking about the future (by the final redemption; which means the previous perek is also discussing the future).  In 51:17 Yeshayahu says; “Awaken, awaken… for you have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of His wrath.”  The Ibn Ezra says this is a form of a parable comparing the Jews to a drunkard who no one knows what to do with, since he is unconscious. In 52:2 when Yeshayahu says “Shake yourselves from the dust,” the Ibn Ezra again says this is a form of a parable; that is why he tells them to “sit on your throne;”  he is currently lying in the dust. Yeshayahu further tells the Jews: “free yourself of the shackles around your neck” because they will not be subjugated under the rule of the other nations anymore.
Yeshayahu is prophesizing of a time, may it come speedily in the near future, when all the Jews will be redeemed from exile. But currently we are like an unconscious drunkard who drank the wrath of Hashem, lying in the dust. We are also shackled under the rule of the countries in which we live. In the prophecy Hashem is encouraging us to, when the redemption arrives,  arise from the dust to adorn ourselves in beautiful royal clothes, sit on our thrones, and remove the shackles from around our necks, for the unclean and uncircumcised will no longer be in Yerushalayim. The whole world will be sanctified with the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the coming of Moshiach. The Jewish people under the leadership of the Moshiach will be the leading class of the entire world; therefore they should remove the shackles around their necks.It would seem that until that point the Jewish people will have a feeling of being trampled and shackled by the other nations, no matter how free the country they live in or how rich and powerful the Jews are. We can be the leaders of the economy, industries, Hollywood and, science. We are influential in the government; but we will still feel shackled, and Hashem will have to beseech us to remove the shackles when we are redeemed. Why is this?

We must say that for every Jew, no matter what state he or she is in, observant or non-observant, rich or poor, living in a free country, or under a dictatorship, all are subjugated under the shackles of exile. But it’s not only psychological. There is a halachic concept introduced by the rabbis called דינה דמלכותא דינא, the law of the land is the law, meaning the rabbis decreed that we have to follow the rules and laws of the country we are living in (as long as they don’t directly go against the Torah). The fact that the Rabbis decreed such a thing means it becomes incorporated into the law of the Torah, since there is a mitzvah to listen to the rabbis, as it says in this week’s Torah portion:  “And you shall do according to the word they tell you, from the place the Lord will choose, and you shall observe to do according to all they instruct you. According to the law they instruct you and according to the judgment they say to you, you shall do; you shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left” (Devarim 17:10, 11).

May the redemption and true sovereignty come speedily in our days!

This Shabbos and Sunday is Rosh Chodesh Elul, on which we read the Haftorah from the last perek of Yeshayahu. Towards the beginning of the Haftorah it states: “Listen to the word of the Hashem, O Charedim, ‘Your brethren who hate you, who cast you out, said, ‘For the sake of my name, Hashem shall be glorified,’ but we will see your joy, and they shall be ashamed.’ There is a sound of stirring from the city, a sound from the Temple, the voice of Hashem, recompensing His enemies” (Yeshayahu 66:5, 6).
Who are Charedim? Rashi says Charedim are “the righteous who hasten through trembling to draw near to His word." “Your brethren” that Hashem warns the Charedim about, Rashi says are the ‘transgressors of Israel’ mentioned above, who said “Turn away, unclean one” (Eicha 4:15). Who also told them: “Keep to yourself, do not come near me” (Yeshaya 65:5). These transgressors of Israel, Rashi says, tells the Charedim: “For the sake of my name, Hashem shall be glorified;” meaning, “With our greatness, the Holy one Blessed be He, is glorified, for we are closer to Him than you are.” Rashi concludes his explanation of the pasuk by saying: “The prophet says, ‘What they are saying is not true, for “we will see your joy, and they shall be ashamed.” Why? For sound of their stirring has come before the Holy One Blessed be He, from what they did in His city, and a sound emanates from His Temple and accuses those who destroyed it, and then the voice of Hashem, punishes His enemy.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
At this time of history, Yeshayahu recounts two groups of Jews during the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash: the Charedim, those who zealously and fervently kept Hashem’s Torah with a deep sense of Yiras Shamayim [fear of Hashem], and another group, who thought they were close to Hashem, and even seemed to be the upstanding citizens of the time, the higher class. But, in Hashem’s eyes, they were transgressors of Israel, who will be paid retribution for their misdeeds. This “higher class,” in their haughtiness, claimed that the Charedim were extremists, unclean people who should keep to themselves and stay away from everyone else, and that, to the contrary, they are closer to Hashem than the Charedim.

Hashem, who can look into the depths of the heart of man, is clearly able to differentiate between good and evil. But how can a person, searching for the truth, in order to do what is right, with only the naked eye, be able to see through the façade of the upper echelon of society who claim to be close to Hashem, while absolutely denigrating  the real righteous people?

The sign to perceive who is right from who is wrong, and to know who to emulate, is within Rashi’s definition of what Charedim are: “the righteous who hasten through trembling to draw near to His word." Rashi does not say the Charedim draw close to Hashem; that is what the sinners of Israel claim they are doing, but in their own way. Rather, they “draw near to His word;” the Charedim scrupulously follow the word of the Torah, Hashem’s blueprints of creation and handbook for mankind. They do it with precision and deep heartfelt fear of Hashem. Not for their honor but for Hashem’s honor. A righteous person truly close to the King would surely run to meticulously follow the King’s rules and laws, especially if he knows it is in his best interest to follow them as well.

The acuity and passion coupled with trembling in awe to observe Hashem’s Torah, to walk in His ways and do His will is the sign of a true Charedi.

In this week’s Haftorah for the Torah portion of Ekev, Yeshayahu proclaims: “Who among you is God-fearing, that obey to the voice of His servant, and now walks in darkness and has no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord and lean on his God” (Yeshayahu 50:10).
The Gemara in Berachos learns a profound incite from this posuk. “Rabin son of Rebbe Adda in the name of Rebbe Yitzchok says [further]: If a man is accustomed to attend Synagogue [daily] and one day does not go, the Holy One, blessed be He, makes inquiry about him. For it is said: ‘Who among you is God-fearing, that obey to the voice of His servant, and now walks in darkness and has no light?’ [And still] if he absented himself on account of some religious purpose, he shall have light. But if he absented himself on account of a worldly purpose, he shall have no light. ‘Let him trust in the name of the Lord.’ Why? Because he ought to have trusted in the name of the Lord and he did not trust” (Gemara Berachos 6b). (Click here and here for complete Hebrew text.)

explaining the gemara says that Hashem asks this person who regularly comes to minyan why he didn’t come today. The pasuk refers to him as a G-D fearing Jew because he regularly comes and davens before Hashem. However, today, it is considered as if he went to a dark place and not a light place, because he did not get up early to go to shul.

The Maharsha delves into more detail, and points out that the gemara is trying to rectify how the beginning of the pasuk says: “‘Who among you is God-fearing’ and then calls them “and now walks in darkness.” Meaning, who among you is G-D fearing, to come to shul to listen to the servant of Hashem, referring to the sheliach tzibor (leader of the prayers) because the service of the heart is called prayer, which he is now walking in darkness from since he did not go to minyan. He is now doing something which does not give off light for him which is something mundane, excluding if he didn’t go to shul because he was going to do a mitzvah which he would then be going with light, “for a mitzvah is a candle and the Torah is light” and then he would be involved in one mitzvah and exempt from praying with a minyan. And because there are people who think that earning a living to support their family is also a mitzvah, it therefore says: “let him trust in the name of the Lord;” meaning, he should trust in Hashem that he will give him parnasa (livelihood) and he should not have prevented himself from going to shul.

The Iyun Yaakov explains why the gemara is referring to specifically someone who goes to minyan all the time and not everyone. Since this individual habitually fulfills this mitzvah, he definitely should trust in Hashem that nothing bad will happen when going to shul, for one who strictly observes a mitzvah will not have anything bad happen to him. But if he is not regularly doing this mitzvah, he doesn’t have as great of sense of security, since he does not receive reward in this world for the mitzvah at the time it is completed.
Who are we talking about? The pasuk and gemara is talking about a Yirah Shamayim, a G-D fearing Jew, which means this is a person assumingly already imbued with emunah and bitachon, belief and trust in Hashem, who is consistently going to davening with a minyan every day. He might skip a minyan every once in a while when involved with another mitzvah, which is fine. But now he is faced with a business meeting, which he knows will take him away from minyan, but he thinks it is all right because it is a mitzvah to support ones family, which we learn from the gemara in Kesubos 47b. We see there that a kesuba, a marriage document, which includes inside it is the obligation to feed and clothe one’s wife, is all based on pesukim in the Torah. Yet what he overlooks is that the effort (hishtadlus) he is supposed to put into taking care of his family is commensurate with the amount of trust (bitachon) he has in Hashem “for since he habitually fulfills this mitzvah of going to minyan he definitely should trust in Hashem that nothing bad will happen when going to shul for one who strictly observes a mitzvah will not have anything bad happen to him,” as the iyun Yaakov said. But the issue is how he could be receptive to this fact if he thinks he is doing a mitzvah by supporting his family and since he is involved in one mitzvah he thinks he is exempt from praying. So how is it possible for him to realize he is doing something wrong?

A person who develops a habit is transformed by it into a whole new status. For example, a person who always speaks loshon hara, slander, is known as a “baal lashon hara,” and this has very grave consequences. He is treated by Hashem much more severely than one who slanders another only once in a while. So too the opposite is true. If one habitually fulfills a certain mitzvah, for example going to minyan every time, he is transformed into a whole new realm and gets club benefits like rewards in this world and the next. If this person truly valued his status symbol he would have realized that he could go to minyan and Hashem assures him He will take care of his family. This realization comes through a constant focus which can be best met through a consistent regiment of mussar study specifically on the topics of bitachon, as well as reward and punishment.

Staying on top of your game is not easy, even for the best of best. However continuous qualitative reinforcement can keep you on your toes.

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Nachamu based on the opening pasuk of the haftorah: “Nachamu, nachamu ami…” It is the haftorah of consolation read the Shabbos after Tisha b’Av. The first two pesukim of the haftorah state: “Be comforted, be comforted my nation, says your G-D. Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim (referring to the Assembly of Israel) and call to her for her days are filled for her sin is finished for she accepted from the hand of Hashem double [suffering which was given to her through the nations] for all her sins” (Yeshayahu 40:1-2).

The Ibn Ezra, according to his own understanding of these pesukim, says that they refer to our current exile. He points out that the repetition of “nachamu, nachamu” is speaking to the prophet or the leaders of the nation in a quick fashion, or second after second, meaning this is an emotional statement intoning: ‘may you be comforted quickly or constantly’. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The Ibn Ezra then says on the beginning of the next pasuk that “one should always speak to the heart in order to remove depression and worry that passes through another.” That is what the pasuk refers to when it says: “Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim”.

The Ibn Ezra is making a bold statement that one should always speak to the heart in order to remove depression and worry. It sounds as if taking successful action to remove the depression or to speak intellectually to the issue in a way that would seem to resolve the worry would still not take care of the problem for anyone – even men of tremendous intellect, sages and leaders of the generation. Why, seemingly, is this the only method to get rid of depression, or at least always must be included in the formula of removing depression and worry?
In context, Yeshayahu’s prophecy is referring to Hashem talking to the Gedolim, rabbinical leaders of the generation, at the end of days. It will be a time in history when the redemption will have come or is undoubtedly imminent. The sense of depression and worry through the generations of exile should therefore be erased; yet this heart to heart conversation is needed for every single Jewish individual.

It would seem that talking emotionally to one who has depression or worry is the only means to get through to them, because you are addressing the emotion with an emotion; you are speaking their language. Hashem showed us how to do this by saying: “Be comforted, be comforted my nation,” in a tone which conferred a sense of consistency or swiftness. A statement which intoned a sense of care and compassion with whom he was talking. May this comfort come speedily in our days.