Friday, August 07, 2009

rabim hagoyim ha'eileh - mimeni

The Yid haKadosh is quoted as saying that Sefer Devarim is the best mussar sefer. R' Tzadok writes that the words can be felt as if Moshe Rabeinu was directly speaking to each one of us. I think that feeling is especially strong when you read a parsha like Eikev.

You may ask when you come to Eretz Yisrael (7:17):
יז כִּי תֹאמַר בִּלְבָבְךָ, רַבִּים הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵלֶּה מִמֶּנִּי; אֵיכָה אוּכַל, לְהוֹרִישָׁם
"How can I conquer these nations which are so much greater than me?" The Torah answers to remember the events and miracles of Yetzitas Mitzrayim and you will realize there is nothing to fear.

Why does the Torah introduce this parsha by suggesting that a question or doubt will arise and need to be addressed? Why not simply command not to fear the enemy because you know G-d has the power to deal with them and you are not on your own? It sounds almost like there is a cause-effect relationship between the question and the promise of Hashem's help.

The Sefas Emes explains that the first step to acknowledging Hashem is recognizing "rabim hagoyim ha'eileh m'meni" -- we do not have the power to go it alone against the obstacles in our way. Without a recognition of man's limits there is no room to recognize G-d's help, nor will that help be forthcoming.

Here's a different remarkable reading from the Igra d'Kallah: When you see that there are obstacles, that the world is not what it should be, "Rabim hagoyim ha'eileh", then the first step to do tshuvah is to say, "Mimeini," the problems stem from me and are mine to correct! With that acceptance of responsibility a person will merit Hashem's help even if he is not yet worthy, just as Hashem redeemed us from Egypt despite our lack of merit.

There are many people who respond to calamity by blaming G-d. It's His fault that the nations are so strong, that there we have so many problems of every sort, that the world is not the garden of Eden that it once was and should be. The "blame G-d" attitude is the opposite of "Mimeini," recognizing our own faults as a cause of harm and seizing upon the opportunity we have to be agents of change. We may not understand why bad things occur, but we can do our part to correct the problem.

The Chasam Sofer on our parsha explains the pasuk we say in bentching, "Na'ar hayisi v'gam zakanti v'lo ra'isi tzadik ne'ezav..." If we take this pasuk seriously, I doubt we could say it. Has no one seen a tzadik suffering, his children suffering? How could G-d do such a thing! The answer is that the pasuk is not talking about G-d, but about us. David haMelech says that he never saw a tzadik and his children suffering -- he didn't just see and walk away bemoaning the lack of justice in the world, but he saw and did something about it to alleviate that suffering! And for those who walk away blaming G-d, perhaps the reason G-d arranged for them to witness the problem was precisely to ellicit their intervention to correct it... "Mimeini"

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