Devar Torah - Eikev

Friday, 7 August, 2020 - 11:00 am

With the Rebbe’s Staff of Pleasantness we Hasten the Geula

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

This week on Wednesday was the 15th of Av, Tu b’Av.  Tu b’Av is one of the greatest Yomim Tovim. One reason is because “the daughters of Jerusalem would go dancing in the vineyards”. Whoever didn’t have a wife would go there to find himself a bride. The daughters would say; “Young man, lift up your eyes and see which you choose” (Taanis 26b). 

The Gemara describes different categories of "daughters" and how each would call out to her perspective bridegroom:

What would the beautiful ones among them say? "Look for beauty, for a woman is for beauty."

What would those of prestigious lineage say? "Look for family, for a woman is for children." etc. (Taanis 31a).

The Rebbe explains that the marriage of Hashem and His people also includes these different categories of "brides": the souls of Israel, which include "beautiful" souls, souls "of prestigious lineage," etc. 

We can learn a lesson today from the Tu b’Av and the custom of making shidduchim. Each man and each woman has something special to offer. We need to assure that their special qualities are a proper fit, one to the other. A marriage choice needs to be based solely on the needs of that couple not the expectations or desires of the parents. The daughter said; Young man, lift up your eyes”, she did not address the parents! Parents can help but they cannot choose for their children.

The narrative in the Gemara teaches another important lesson about making good choices. It shows us to choose life goals based on an overall outlook not on feelings alone. A person who gets married based on both the intellect as well as feelings stands a much greater chance of having an enduring marriage compared to those who choose based feelings alone.

This same thing applies back to every one of us in our service of Hashem.  An essential cornerstone of our service is to be able to explain to our animal soul that Elukus, that G-dliness is good and to live a life filled with Kedusha. 

The Rebbe explains that Bnei Yisroel were told to hold a stick in their hands (in Hebrew “makelchem b’yadchem) while they ate the Korbon Pesach on their way out of Mitzrayim. In spiritual terms this means that we  are so attached to the physicality of the world that we have no ability to remove ourselves from forbidden lust and desires. The animal soul is like a dog who always lusts for more and more. A kelev in hebrew can be read, k-lev, meaning kulo lev, meaning only heart and passion but no intellect. 

We are unable without the strong guidance of a stick to change our animal soul. We don’t wait for the animal soul’s approval, we tell it to do as we say. This approach is explained at great length in the 29th chapter of the Tanya. Once we have spoken directly to the animal soul with decisive strength we can go on to make true and lasting changes. The stick represents strong leadership and taking control over our base desires. 

Just as it is with ourselves similarly it is true in how best to parent. While of course it is essential to be supportive and take the time to listen and empathize with our children as they are, because we truly care we also need to be firm when necessary. At difficult moments there can be power struggles where it isn’t clear who’s the leader. If we lack firmness when it’s necessary we are the followers when a firm guidance is needed. It can be done with a ‘makal noam’ with pleasantness and compassion, but it must be firm. The same is true with community leadership. 

The Previous Rebbe (volume 7 page 59 of Igros Kodesh) quotes Rav Yisroel Salanter, one of the greatest leaders of the Mussar Movement. He once made the following comment on the Mishnah that says that the face of the generation leading up to Moshiach will be like the face of a kelev, a dog. He explained that a dog runs ahead of its owner but when it reaches  a crossroad or uncertainty it looks back to see what its owner wants. Rav Salanter  said that  to look backwards is not leadership. Leaders who cannot say what is necessary and instead say what they think others want to hear should not be leaders.

When we look at what's going on today in the coronavirus environment of 2020 the message could not be more relevant. The leaders of the greatest cities in America are not leading. They are following what the people want to hear not what is in their best interest. They are being political when they should be saving lives and restoring order on the streets. They are arrogant. That they cannot admit the obvious truth of the clear and open danger that their citizens face and instead  turn a blind eye. Just like dogs display chutzpa with their actions so too these leaders when confronted with the reality of violence and injury in the streets due to lack of good policing policies and the taking over of government buildings instead of taking action they join the protest! 

The Gemara ends with; “We have no one to lean on, only our Father in Heaven”. Now is the time to cry out in protest “Ad Masai!?” How do we make lasting change? By learning the Torah especially Chassidus, Mivtzoyim and Ahavas Yisroel to guide our lives and fill our days with  Kedusha. Instead of allowing our lust for pleasure and acceptance to take control, we use the stick of pleasantness (the Rebbe’s Gartel) and choose to be led by the Rebbe. This is the only solution which brings Moshiach.

By taking action; giving extra tzedakah, adding an extra pasuk in Chumash, an extra chapter in Tehillim and doing more to educate our children with love and fear of Hashem we can change things for the better. 

Instead of wasting our time finding out who's who in culture, entertainment, style and fashion, we  use a stick of guidance and a stick of pleasantness to guide ourselves and boldly take action. 

This is what the 15th of Av teaches us and is more relevant today than ever before. “Young man, lift up your eyes and see which you choose!” The daughters of Jerusalem, (the neshamos that have fear of Hashem) remind us to lift up our eyes to look beyond ourselves, and only then make a choice. “Lift up your eyes- Sao Marom Aynechem” is an acronym in Hebrew for the word Shema in the pasuk: “Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod”. Accept upon yourself the existence of Hashem in this world and upon your personal life, and then choose. 

Just as on the 15th of the month the full revelation of the sun shines on the moon, so too Hashem is likened to the sun and the Jewish people to the moon. Tu b”Av is already fixed in our calendar as the greatest "15th" of them all. The 15 of Av provides us the first glimmers of the full moon of Moshiach. And with the revealed arrival of Moshiach, ...the 15th of Av will be truly revealed as our greatest Yom Tov. May we all merit to see the revealed unity of Hashem and the Jewish People, the best possible  shidduch, with the coming of Moshiach today.

A  Good Shabbos

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