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Devar Torah - Eikev

Thursday, 6 August, 2015 - 8:00 pm

We are Bound Together by Our Goal
to Win Without Compromise
By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

This week is parshas Eikev. The parsha’s first words, “V’haya Eikev Tishma’un- Because you hearken to these laws” refers (according to Rashi) to doing mitzvos that people often trample under their eikev, their heels. If we keep even these mitzvos, Hashem promises that he will keep the covenant and the kindness that he promised the Avos.

The Torah is telling us to be equally diligent with all of Hashem’s mitzvos. We cannot do less with the mitzvos that seem less significant to our finite minds. Sometimes we can have a cavalier attitude about what we consider minor mitzvos. We dichotomize between mitzvos that the Torah says carry a severe punishment to those that don’t. We are careful not to violate the Shabbos or eat on Yom Kippur but we are inconsistent on the fine details of minor mitzvos. We might tell ourselves that if we do it fine, if not it’s also ok. The truth is we need to view every mitzvah just like chametz on Pesach. Mitzvos are the will of Hashem and connect us with Hashem and in this all mitzvos are the same. 

There were two Chassidim of Kotzk that learned together day and night. Once on an Erev Pesach one of them said to the other: “We cannot learn today, we have to prepare for supper”.  Another time on an Erev Yom Kippur one of them said to the other: “We have to stop learning now, we need to prepare for Maariv”. His friends asked him why was he calling the Pesach Seder supper. After all it’s Pesach, its not just any day. And calling Kol Nidrei, achas b’shana Maariv? How could he speak in such a way about such lofty moments of the year? He answered that in Kotzk a Wednesday night Maariv is like Kol Nidrei and every meal is like a Pesach Seder. That’s the lesson of parshas Eikev, every detail, every day and every aspect shares an essential part. They all connect us to the one and only Hashem with an eternal bond.

This past Wednesday was the 20th of Av the Yartzeit of the Rebbe’s father, HaRav Levi Yitzchok, OBM. For Rav Levik small things were big, often giant, and he did not bend. He went against a major regime and did not compromise even on small details. Nowadays we live in an era of compromise. Some think about compromising by wearing a small size yarmulke instead of a regular size yarmulke or by wearing tzitzis on the inside instead of the outside of their garments. Others think about trimming their beard or whether they really have to show up every day to Mincha-Maariv. Some think about how strict they need to be about tznius. They tell themselves that it’s not such a big deal. It’s not Yom Kippur and it’s not  the Pesach Seder. For Rav Levik OBM every day was Pesach and every day was Yom Kippur. All the details mattered.

We see this same approach by the Rebbe whether it was the amendment to the law of return that requires conversion according to Halacha known as Mihu Yehudi, not trading land for peace or the mivtza of Geula and Moshiach. According to the Rebbe there is no compromise and every person and every detail plays an essential role in the fulfillment of these goals. The entire argument the Rebbe made on not trading land for peace was based on one simple Halacha. Others complained about being too outspoken about the Camp David accords. The Rebbe was unwavering and said that we cannot sell the land because we are afraid to loose funding for building Yeshivos. When the Rebbe was outspoken about a Chief Rabbinic appointment in Israel he was threatened that if he continued to speak out Chabad would loose their Tefillin booth at the Kosel. The Rebbe continued to speak out unabated and unwavering. The same holds true for the issue of Mihu Yehudi and Inyaonei Geula and Moshiach.

Today we stand at a perilous crossroads with regard to the deal with Iran and once again the Jewish people are placed in the middle and once again we are divided. The choice seems to be between fear and strength. Some fear that the Jewish people in general and Israel in particular will be blamed if the deal doesn’t work out. They fear becoming isolated and ostracized even more by the international community. They fear that our relationship with the United States will be weakened. Even the President of Israel voiced these concerns and called them “deeply troubling”.  In a world already awash with instability and with radical Islam and terrorism on the march, this only adds fuel to the fear and concern. The stakes are very high indeed and people become weakened by the magnitude of the problem and veer toward compromise. We know that weakness breeds weakness and one compromise inevitably leads to yet another.

Let’s be clear about this. During the Holocaust 300-500 Rabbis made a protest and a march on Washington on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Nazi controlled Europe. There were those who said not to pay attention to them and to focus instead on the war effort. They were against diverting warplanes (even though they were in the general vicinity) to bomb the train tracks leading into Treblinka and Auschwitz. They said this because they were afraid of appearing as having dual loyalties.

In 1965 I was by a fabrengen when the Rebbe spoke about Sandy Koufax choosing not to pitch at the World Series when it fell out on Yom Kippur.  There was a lot of pressure placed on him to play, at least part of the day. The Rebbe spoke about how Sandy Koufax refused to play for the entire day. The Rebbe focused on that one action and it’s greatness. Sandy Koufax made a statement that “I am a Jew”, even at the cost of power, money and prestige. No pressure was able to sway him from identifying as a Jew, and a Jew doesn’t play on Yom Kippur. So too with each and every mitzvah that we do, every mitzvah comes from Hashem, do we have the courage to stand up and be counted?

There is a quote about baseball from Sandy Koufax that also applies to our situation today and about being dedicated the goal of bringing Moshiach without compromise. The quote reads as follows. “There is among us a far closer relationship that the purely social one of a fraternal organization because we are bound together not only by a single interest but by a common goal. To win. Nothing else matters, and nothing else will do.” By being united and by staying the course we will reach the goal of bringing Moshiach. A Good Shabbos. A Good Chodesh.

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