Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday's Torah Tidbits - Parshas Eikev

I recall once hearing a mashal about a man who was stranded in a foreign land. The man found that the streets were littered with precious gems, much like gravel. The man picked up the gems and began putting them in his pocket, believing that if he could only find a way home he would become a wealthy man. As time wore on, he realized that he was not going home anytime soon and he began to learn about the land he was in. In this country, the most valuable possession was milk. The man worked and worked and was able to buy a cow. He then redoubled his efforts and became an exceedingly successful dairy farmer. Once he had enough money, he purchased a ship and loaded it with vats of milk for the long voyage home. Upon his arrival in his home country, he realized the fallacy of his actions as the (now spoiled) milk was worthless.

I can't remember where I heard that mashal, but it is appropriate when considering an interesting posuk in Parshas Eikev. In Devarim 10:12, Moshe tells the assembled Jews, "V'ata Yisrael, mah Hashem Elokecha shoel mey'imach, ki im lirah es Hashem Elokecha..." Translated ino English, the Torah tells us that Moshe says to the Jews, what does Hashem ask of you, only to fear him and to go in his ways...

Rashi, in his second explanation of the pasuk indicates that chazal (citing to Gemara Berachos 33b) learn out from this verse the famous concept - "hakol bi'yidei shamayim, chutz mi'yiras shamayim" - everything is in Hashem's hands except fear of Hashem.

As noted by the Vilna Gaon, what a person considers valuable is what is least prevalent where he dwells. The Gaon brings a pasuk from Isaiah (33:6) where the prophet writes that fear of Hashem is what Hashem stores in His treasure house. The Vilna Gaon explains that to Hashem, the most valuable commodity is yiras shamayim. Since Hashem created the universe and all the worldly possession therein, He obviously has the power to make more gold and jewels, thus He has no need to store these things in His treasure house. Yiras shamayim is an entirely different topic as Hashem does not create it. In order to bring yiras shamayim into this world, we must choose to act and live our lives in the way that Hashem intends. If we choose the correct path, we can create more of this treasure, which Hashem will anxiously store in His royal storehouse, as to Him this is the most valuable treasure. However, the choice to do so is entirely up to us.

As this is one of the sheva d'nechemta, it would be appropriate to note that while the choice to build our level of yiras shamayim is ours alone, Hashem will assist us if we ask. The Ma'ayana Shel Torah brings the Ohel Torah who has an interesting take on the concept of hakol bi'yidei shamayim, chutz mi'yiras shamayim. He writes that "hakol bi'yidei shamayim" - when a person prays for something, Hashem can decide whether or not the person is worthy of receipt. This is tempered by the end of the phrase - "chutz mi'yiras shamayim" - that if a person genuinely wants to return b'teshuva, there is no doubt that Hashem will always grant him assistance in this endeavor.

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