Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Re'eh

Since there are no Rabbi Frand shiurim until Elul, 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 Re'eh begins with Moshe telling the Jews "Re'eh" - See that today I am giving before you today a blessing and a curse. In so doing, Moshe mixes the singular and plural forms as the direction see is said in the singular and the you is stated in the plural form. Of course this prompts the question - why mix the singular and plural forms in the same sentence?

Rabbi Mansour answered by making reference to the sociological concept of peer pressure. When a person is with a group, it is difficult to buck the trend and separate from the masses. By using the term Re'eh in the singular form, the Torah is telling us that while we think that we are acting individually, the impact of the action is on the masses. A person may feel that he is acting on his own and is not being watched or observed, but his actions are always seen.

By way of example, a woman may go out dressed tziniusly, not for show but just because that is the way she is. Without realizing it, the woman can have a positive impact on another who looks at her and admires her sense of tzinius.

Rabbi Mansour told a story about how he was once on a plane and he was learning from his gemara. When the plane landed, a person came over and said, "Rabbi you have given me tremendous mussar. I saw you sitting there learning from your sefer the entire flight while I was doing other things." Rabbi Mansour then told the audience that he had been learning and looking into the sefer the entire time because he was afraid, but the observer was obviously unaware of this. Instead, the man was moved by the fact that he saw the Rabbi learning the entire time.

Rabbi Mansour's story reminded me of another airline story involving my aishes chayil. One Pesach we flew back from Chicago on Chol Hamo'ed. This is no easy task as the kids can't eat any of the airline food and we must pack enough matza and Pesach snacks to satisfy our kids for the four hour door to door trip. After we landed at Islip, a man came over and approached my wife and told her that his mother would have been proud to see how Sarah kept giving the kids Pesach food during the flight. Obviously, we did not pack the food to try to be mikarev others, but there was certainly a positive influence on others, even though it was purely unintentional.

Unfortunately, there can be a similar unintended negative influence if one does something wrong which is observed by others.

Rabbi Mansour then broadened the vort by making reference to the concept of yarhteit. On the anniversary of a person's death, their family does things to commemorate the individual's passing, be it learning Torah, getting an aliyah or in some circles, fasting. The reason why these customs are observed on the anniversary is because the soul of the departed is being judged again on the day of death. The question of course is - since the person is long dead and was judged for his earthly actions years before, what is the purpose of the new judgment?

Rabbi Mansour answered by making reference to the ripple effect. When a person throws a stone into a pond, the rock impacts on the water and sinks to the bottom, but the waves from where the stone hit the surface begin to branch out into all directions. Similarly, when a man does an act in this world he is immediately credited (or debited) for the act. However, the act itself can impact far beyond the moment that the person did the deed. A person's children might have learned the value of certain mitzvos from the way the deceased lived his life. Or the person might have been mikarev another and that person is now frum and continuing to do mitzvos which also count towards the credit of the deceased.

The opposite can be true if the person did negative things which are observed and mimicked well beyond his lifetime and he will continue to be judged to the negative year after year as a result of his negative teaching.

Rabbi Mansour also made reference to Miriam and Yocheved who acted as midwives and saved the Jewish children. The Torah writes in Shemos 1:20 that Hashem rewarded the midwives and the Jewish people increased and became very strong. Rabbi Mansour asked - how is this a reward for Yocheved and Miriam? They did not receive any tangible benefit from the increased population! Rabbi Mansour answered that the reward was that every mitzva that the children did was also partially credited to Yocheved and Miriam. These children who were supposed to be killed were saved through Yocheved and Miriam and as a result, each act that the children and their children and their children's children did will all be applied to Yocheved and Miriam's account.

Another proof (albeit relating to the negative impact) can be seen from Sefer Bereishis. After Kayin kills Hevel, Hashem says to Kayin at Bereishis 4:10 - "all the bloods of your brother are calling out to me." Why does the Torah use the plural form of bloods? To show that Kayin did not only kill Hevel, he also cut off all future generations which would have come from him. This is a negative act with a long ranging effect.

A final example can be seen in relation to donated seforim and siddurim. Why do people donate seforim in memory of others? While part of the reason may be so that the deceased is not forgotten, this is hardly the main reason. The person who has passed away does not care whether he is remembered. But the learning or davening which is done from these donated seforim will continue to be a reward for the deceased.

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