11 Aug TORAH WELLSPRINGS: SHOFTIM
Ancient sefarim state that the word tamim in the passuk (18:13) “tamim t’hiyeh am hashem elokecha” is written with a large Taf. The Kotkzer zt’l explains that the large Taf hints that there is room for everyone to enter. Everyone can have temimus. And it hints that one should be there entirely, with all his 248 limbs. The Baal HaTurim writes that the large Taf implies that if you have temimus, it is like you kept the entire Torah, from aleph- taf. Temimus means being at peace with everything that happens to you because you believe that everything is exactly as it should be. And those who take this outlook, “tamim t’hiyeh am hashem elokecha” they are with Hashem. As Rashi writes, “then you will be with Hashem and His lot.” The Divrei Yisrael zt’l describes the essence of temimus: A child doesn’t worry about the future. He trusts in his parent’s abilities and compassion. This is as how one should trust in Hashem. As Dovid HaMelech says (Tehillim 131) “I silenced my soul like a child who nurses from his mother.” Dovid HaMelech says (Tehillim 94:18) “If I will say that my feet faltered, Your kindness, Hashem, supports me.” The first words, “if I say…” seem extra, because it could have stated “if my feet falter…” The answer is, a person says that he falters and stumbles, but it isn’t actually so, because Hashem’s kindness never abandons him. A child builds a castle from Lego, and then someone comes along and breaks it, bringing the child to tears. A thirteen-year-old bachur laughs at the child for crying over such foolishness. But that bachur has his set of problems. He is upset and crying because his mashgiach rebuked him. An older bachur sees how the younger bachur is upset at his clash with his mashgiach, and he laughs at that problem, because he has far greater problems to deal with. He is in shidduchim, and a shidduch he was hoping for fell through, and he is very upset about that. A yungerman sees the older bachur upset that he lost a shidduch, and he thinks to himself, “Is that a reason to be upset? One shidduch doesn’t go through, the next one will. But I have a family to support. He has no idea about the struggles of shalom bayis, chinuch habanim, parnassah that yungerleit deal with on a daily basis. He doesn’t know what true problems are. Someone older sees this yungerman bemoaning his fate, worried about his parnassah, etc., and he laughs at those tzaros, because he claims that he is going through much harder times. He is in the midst of marrying off his children, and he has to pay large sums of money each year. Dovid HaMelech says, “Hashem, how many are my hardships. I know what troubles are, because I’ve been through all types. Therefore if I say that I have a problem, you can be certain that the problem is very great. Nevertheless, even in those circumstances, Hashem will help him.”
Many people think it is impossible for them to do teshuvah, because they know how hard it is to change. Therefore, we must inform them that Hashem helps us with our teshuvah. Our abilities are definitely limited, but if we try, Hashem will help us, and Hashem can do anything. Change is therefore very possible. This idea is alluded to in this week’s parashah: The Torah says “When you go out to war on your enemy, and you see horses, chariots, a nation that is greater than yours, don’t be afraid of them, because Hashem your G-d is with you…” (Devarim 20:1). The Or HaChaim explains that the passuk is alluding to the greatest war of all – the war against the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara is stronger than people because, (1) He has more experience in “the great battle” (2) Human nature desires those things the yetzer hara is selling us, (3) after a person commits many sins, the yetzer hara becomes even stronger than before. With these factors working against us, it seems we will never succeed overcoming the yetzer hara. The passuk however tells us not to worry. “Ki teizeh l’milchama al oyvecha” when you go out to war against the yetzer hara, v’raita sus, the horse represents the yetzer hara who is trained in warfare, v’rechev, this represents the human body, whose composition desires sin and forbidden pleasures, im rav mimcha, implies that the strength of the yetzer hara has increased, since the person listened to him so many times in the past. Taking into account all of the above, how can one change his ways? The answer is don’t be afraid Hashem is with you and He will help you. The Or HaChaim writes, “It is true that if you would be battling with your own power, you don’t have strength to win this war, but since Hashem is with you, His great strength will save you.” Rebbe Mottele Slonimer zy’a writes (Maamar Mordechai p.342): Two tzaddikim made a pact that whoever dies first would come tell his friend in a dream what happened to him in his judgment. One of them was niftar, and soon afterwards came to his friend in a dream. He said, “When the court reviewed my deeds, they saw that everything was perfect. But I had one sin, the sin of shochad (taking bribes). Once, while serving as av beis din, one of the parties placed money into my pocket without me knowing. For this, I was told that I would need to go to Gehinom. I told the court that I don’t want to go there, so they brought me to a very large building, gave me a small hammer, and said, ‘Demolish this building with the hammer. When you finish, you will go to Gan Eden.’ “I was devastated. It seemed that I would take many years before I succeed in demolishing this great edifice. It was a very large, sturdy building and I only had a small hammer to work with. “But then I thought: ‘Why did I wear tallis and tefillin every day during my lifetime? Why did I study Torah and keep the mitzvos? It was because I wanted to do Hashem’s will? Right now, it’s Hashem’s will to destroy this large building with this hammer. So I will do it with joy — even if it takes many years.’ With a joyous heart, I raised the hammer and swung it at building with all my might. The entire building collapsed, and I was swiftly brought to my place in Gan Eden.” This story reminds us that sometimes a deed seems very difficult, but if you set yourself to doing it, you see that it wasn’t so hard. Similarly, doing teshuvah sometimes seems impossible, but if you try, and Hashem helps you, you will attain your goals much quicker than imagined.
Try, Try, Again
The difficulties related to change are only at the beginning. As Chazal tell us, “all beginnings are hard.” Eventually, your new behaviors become second nature and easy to perform. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (1:4) writes, “After a person practices [getting up early] four or five times, it will not be hard for him [because] when one desires to be pure, he is helped [from Above].” Similarly, all bad habits can be overcome with practice. “Bereishit” stands for “Bet-Reshit” (two beginnings). This indicates that if one tried to change his ways and failed, Bet-Reshit, start from the beginning again and try a second time. And if necessary, start a third time, and a fourth time, until you succeed. On Shabbos, at Minchah, we read the parashah of the upcoming week, but we don’t finish it. On Monday and Thursday, we start reading the parashah again, but both times we don’t finish it. And then, on Shabbos we begin the parashah a fourth time, and this time we complete it. This teaches us to keep on trying. If at first one doesn’t succeed, try again, in the end you will succeed. The Rebbe of Lechovitz zy’a said that Bereshit Bara Elokim Et Hashamayim V’et Ha’aretz, the entire world was created for úéùàøá, for people who start anew and strive again and again to change their ways. Elul is also roshei teivos for “Leibedig un Vayter Leibedig”, lively and lively again, because teshuvah should be performed with happiness. Be happy and keep trying, in the end you will succeed.