Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Ekev

Since there are no Rabbi Frand shiurim for the next few weeks, I have been substituting vorts from other Rabbanim each week, rather than leaving the blog without a vort for shabbos. This week, I am again attempting to repeat a vort heard from R' Eli Mansour as recorded on Same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce the vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the maggid shiur.

Parshas Ekev contains the second full paragraph of Krias Shema. In so doing the Torah has now given the beginning parshios of Krias Shema in consecutive parshios as Vaeschanan had the statement of Shema Yisrael and the paragraph of V'ahavta. Rabbi Mansour commented about the use of the plural form for heart in both of these paragraphs ("levavcha" in Devarim 6:5 and "levachem" in Devarim 11:13. He quoted the gemara which explains that the plural form is used because one should love Hashem with both of his yitzarim.

Rabbi Mansour then asked - how is that one can love Hashem with the yetzer hara (evil inclination)? Isn't it difficult enough to love Hashem with the yetzer hatov?

Rabbi Mansour answered that the yetzer hara of jealousy can be used to serve Hashem. If a person sees another who is more modest in conduct or more devoted, a person can say, I am jealous of how well that individual behaves. Similarly, if one sees another who spends more time learning then he does, the person can be jealous of the limud torah.

Rabbi Mansour then tied the Shema's concept of two yetzarim to the statement in the Aleinu prayer that a person should know Hashem in the Heavens above and the land underneath. Rabbi Mansour quoted the Ben Ish Chai who explains that if a person is thinking about spiritual matters he should always look up (Bashamayim M'Ma'al), but if a person is thinking about physical matters he should look down (al ha'aretz mitachas).

The Ben Ish Chai's concept is easily understood within the context of our daily lives. A person can look at another and say, he learns more than me, he gives more tzedakah then me, he is more involved in community affairs. Of course that same person can look at someone else and say, he goes to minyan less often than I do, or he only goes to one shiur a week and I go to more shiurim. If the person looks up in spiritual matters (Bashamayim M'Ma'al) then he will grow closer to Hashem. On the other hand, if he looks down, then he will not have spiritual growth.

The same can be easily seen in the physical world. A person can look at another and say, he has less money than me, he has a smaller home, he has an older car. Or, the person can look at someone else and say, he has a better job, he takes better vacations, he has a nicer home. If the person looks down when thinking about the physical (al ha'aretz mitachas) he will not be jealous of others.

The Ben Ish Chai then gave a mashal. There was a man who had a servant who he told to disassemble a ladder which led to the roof. The servant went to the ladder and began to take the rungs off, but started at the bottom of the ladder. By the time the servant completed the task, he was on the roof, with no ladder and no way to get down. The servant said to the master - you tricked me, now I am stuck. The master responded - now you understand that when you disassemble a ladder you need to start at the top.

A few weeks later, the master asked the servant to disassemble a ladder which went down into a well. Remembering his past experience, the servant started at the top and began to work his way down. Sure enough, the servant became stuck at the bottom of the well with no way to get out. Again, he complained to the master - you tricked me and now I am stuck. The master responded, you are going in the wrong direction again. When you want to disassemble a ladder which goes down, you need to start at the bottom and work your way up.

The Ben Ish Chai summed up the mashal and gave the nimshal - people are always going in the wrong direction. When a person is thinking about physical aspects he usually looks at someone else and thinks - that person is better off than me, when in reality he should look at someone lower and say, I have it better than him. Similarly, when thinking spiritually we look at another and say, I go to minyan more often, I learn more, when we should be looking at someone better than us and trying to emulate that person.

This is the true use of the yetzer hara in our avodas Hashem.

The Ben Ish Chai then tied this all together with the shofar. On Rosh Hashanah we hold the shofar with the narrow part down and the wide part up. This is a symbol to us that we should be interested less in the physical aspects of this world and more in gaining spirituality.

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