Friday, September 01, 2023

always another rung to climb

  וְהָיָה כִּי תָבוֹא אֶל הָאָרֶץ  Was just speaking this morning with my daughter in Yerushalayim and told her to look at the first Ohr haChaim on the parsha: והיה כי תבא אל הארץ – אמר והיה לשון שמחה, להעיר שאין לשמוח אלא בישיבת הארץ על דרך אומרו (תהלים קכ״ו) אז ימלא שחוק פינו ו

Later in the parsha we read: וְלֹא נָתַן ה׳ לָכֶם לֵב לָדַעַת וְעֵינַיִם לִרְאוֹת וְאׇזְנַיִם לִשְׁמֹעַ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה (29:3)  Sefas Emes (5634) asks: you mean the dor de'ah that stood by Har Sinai and got the Torah did not have daas, did not see things clearly, did not hear the voice of Hashem?! Of course they did!  They experienced Hashem's revelation in the fullest possible way.  However, what they lacked was the , the עֵינַיִם, the אׇזְנַיִם.  Revelation to them was like an out of body experience. There was a disconnect between the material world, the secular world, of day to day life, and their religious experience.  The generation that was going to enter Eretz Yisrael experienced things differently.  When they learned parshas shoftim about beis din, about malchus and Jewish government, when they heard halachos about fighting wars to defend their borders, laws about agriculture and business, this spoke to their day to day life.  Torah for them was not some abstract construct, but was l'maaseh in all its forms. That's the Torah that we are slowly rediscovering today after so many years in galus.

I was not planning on writing that, but got sidetracked by the call.  What I was planning on writing was about an interesting thing later in the parsha in the section of the tochacha.  When it speaks about the brachos, we read that וּנְתָנְךָ יְהֹוָה לְרֹאשׁ וְלֹא לְזָנָב וְהָיִיתָ רַק לְמַעְלָה וְלֹא תִהְיֶה לְמָטָּה (28:13).  But then later, in the tochacha section, we read that הַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבְּךָ יַעֲלֶה עָלֶיךָ מַעְלָה מָּעְלָה וְאַתָּה תֵרֵד מַטָּה מָּטָּה (28:43).  It does not sound very fair.  When we are on top, it says only once לְמַעְלָה, but when the aku"m have the upper hand, for them it's מַעְלָה מָּעְלָה two times.  And on the flipside, when we are in charge, וְלֹא תִהְיֶה לְמָטָּה, but when they are in charge, וְאַתָּה תֵרֵד מַטָּה מָּטָּה two times.  

I saw R' Ovadya Yosef quoted a mashal from the Ben Ish Chai, whose yahrzeit was this past week, to explain what's going on here.  A man had a dream in which he saw a huge ladder with 1000 rungs pointing up to the sky, and the king of the land began to climb the ladder.  After much time and effort the king made it halfway to the top, 500 steps up, and then vayikatz... v'hinei chalom, the dream ended.  The man told his wife about this fantastic dream, and she encouraged him to go to the king and tell him, and so he did.  Upon hearing the story, the king bestowed upon the man a gift of $1000.  One of the less than honest chambermaids was witness to this event, and figured that if the king paid $1000 for this dream in which he got only halfway up the ladder, imagine how much he would pay someone who told him that he made it to the top.  She made an appontment for her husband to appear before the king, and he related his concocted dream that the king reached the top of the ladder.  When the king heard what the man had to say he screamed for the guards to throw him into the dungeon.  No reward, not even a thank you.  The question on everyone's mind was why the first guy got a reward and the second guy was thrown in jail.  So the king explained: b'shlama according to the first dream, I achieved great things, but there is so much more ahead of me that I can and will yet accomplish.  The rest of my life can be as great as the first part.  But if I've already reached the top, this is the pinnacle of everything I can and will accomplish, that means it's all downhill from here (typical middle age depression : )  That dream does not deserve reward; it's a curse, not a blessing.

R' Ovdaya explained that when we are on top, it's only  לְמַעְלָה, one time, because there is always more in store for us from Hashem.  There are no limits to what we can accomplish and what the reward might me.  And on the flipside, when we are pushed down, it is וְאַתָּה תֵרֵד מַטָּה מָּטָּה, two times, to the very bottom, because that curse is a blessing in disguise.  When you've hit rock bottom, there is no place to go but up.  When it comes to the aku"m, the opposite is true.  הַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבְּךָ יַעֲלֶה עָלֶיךָ מַעְלָה מָּעְלָה, to the very top, and from there, there is no place to go but down.  וְלֹא תִהְיֶה לְמָטָּה like them, meaning only one לְמָטָּה for them, because for them there is always yet another lower level to which they can fall. 

I haven't seen anyone else explain the difference between the pesukim, so wanted to pass on this fantastic vort.

From a comment by Shloma: אלול = אנו למעלה ועוד למעלה

On a different note, just found this list of 1500+ chakiros.  Enjoy!


  1. Goes well with אלול = אנו למעלה ועוד למעלה

    1. Thanks - I added that to the post

  2. Beautiful moshol. There is an interesting sub-text of wives influencing their husbands for good or bad, which is not necessary to the main moshol. Reminds me of the midrash of Onn ben Peles.

    1. it's the old blame it on the wife strategy

    2. That's very, very old. As old as Adam and Eve.

      In his moshol, though, the "blame" is for both good and bad. So it's more like, the husband follows the wife, so better make sure she is righteous and will give good advice.