Thursday, September 7, 2017



Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt’l related that he once asked a survivor how he endured five years in a forced labor camp, and remained a believer? How could he have emerged with the same love for Hashem?
The man replied, “We couldn’t keep one mitzvah in the camp. They deprived us of Shabbos, Yom Tov, Torah, etc. and from early morning until late in the evening they guarded us closely. But there was one thing they could not take away from us – the moon! There were inmates among us who calculated when Rosh Chodesh was, and when it was time to recite Kiddush Levana. On that night, as we would walk back to the barracks with soldiers on both sides, someone would whisper ‘Miken machen Kiddush Levana’ and we would hold hands and say Kiddush Levana. That symbolized everything to us.
This was a fulfillment of the words we recite in the blessing of Kiddush Levana: “To the moon he said that it should renew itself, as a crown of splendor for those borne by Him from the womb, those who are destined to renew themselves like it, and to glorify their Creator for the sake of His glorious kingdom.”[1]

After relating the harsh and frightening words of rebuke, Moshe Rabbeinu tells the nation: “You shall observe the words of this covenant… so that you will succeed in all that you do.”[2]
Rav Nissan Alpert zt’l notes that when a word ends with the letter nun – such as the final word of this verse (ta’asun- that you do) - it means to minimize whatever is being discussed.
At times, a relatively minor action can be as valuable as a greater action, because of its rarity and necessity. For example, if someone gives a few coins to a destitute person who is then able to buy some food which saves him from starvation, the contributor has saved a life despite the fact that he gave very little.
Moshe Rabbeinu was conveying to Klal Yisroel that after a period of tochacha (the fulfillment of the frightening rebuke delineated earlier in the parsha) merely preserving the covenant is itself profound. The ability to persevere in the face of terrible prosecution is heroic.
The generation of survivors, who we are still privileged to have met, are living fulfillment of this idea. Despite the atrocities they suffered they maintained their faith and have transmitted to us a conviction that defies all odds and logic. Our successes are solely due to their sacrifices.    

There’s a question that we all ask ourselves from time to time: If Moshiach didn’t come during the lifetime, and in the merit of, our great leaders of yesteryear, how can we dare think he’ll come during our generation? If the Chofetz Chaim, Chasam Sofer, Vilna Gaon, Ba’al Shem Tov, Rambam, and Rashi did not merit greeting Moshiach, how can we even hope to merit seeing him?
Rabbi Azriel Tauber related a poignant answer, based on the following analogy. In the army, there are two types of heroes. There is the hero who is willing to disregard his personal safety and place himself in peril for the sake of his comrades. He fearlessly plunges himself into the line of fire to take on the enemy and bring honor to his people.
Then there is the second type of hero who is not a particularly high-ranking officer, and isn’t known for his bravery or military acumen. But when he is captured by the enemy and offered his freedom and wealth for merely pledging his allegiance to the enemy, he obdurately refuses. He is willing to endure ridicule and discomfort rather than to turn his back on his king and his people. Such a person may not save his country but he shows ultimate loyalty and love for his king. Despite not having actually committed any great acts of heroism, his sheer loyalty makes him a hero for his people.
Throughout our history we have had many great and heroic leaders. These Torah giants invested every ounce of their strength and capabilities for the honor of Hashem, the Torah, and the Jewish people. They are analogous to the heroic soldier who is willing to take on the enemy under fire.
Then there is the second hero. He may not possess such extreme sagacity or leadership, he may not even be an accomplished scholar. However, he contains an incredible loyalty that trumps everything else. Though tempted by the ultimate enemy – the evil inclination – to succumb to the temptations and whims of society at large, he is unyielding. He may be assured pleasure and fun if he lets his guard down, and what’s more, he is guaranteed that no one will ever know of his actions, and he can maintain his veneer of piety. Yet he will not budge. Such a fellow demonstrates uncanny loyalty, borne out of sheer love and devotion for his king. He demonstrates that his unwavering love for Hashem is so strong that he is willing to forgo all pleasures of society, simply because it is not what Hashem wants of him.
Rabbi Tauber explained that while we may no longer have the first class of heroes, there are individuals in our time who are from the second class of heroes. No one in the world may know it, expect for Hashem Himself. It is their unbending loyalty in the face of such powerful urges and drives, that may very well be the catalyst and merit that brings Moshiach.
We may never achieve the greatness of that first class of heroes, but every one of us can become members of the second class of heroes. 
When Moshiach indeed arrives, we may be shocked to discover who Moshiach thanks for hastening his arrival. It may very likely be us!

“You shall observe the words of this covenant”
“To the moon he said that it should renew itself”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Related by Harav Matisyahu Salomon shlita, Siyum Hashas at Madison Square Garden, March 1, 2005
[2] Devorim 29:8


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