A Mature Focus

Friday, 23 August, 2013 - 12:00 pm

At the end of this week’s parsha Ki Tavo, Moshe – nearing the end of his life – reprimands the Jewish nation:

"You have seen all that the Lord did before your very eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to all his land; the great trials which your very eyes beheld and those great signs and wonders. Yet until this day, the Lord has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear.”

If Moshe attests to the fact that forty years prior the Jews saw the miracles in Egypt and the numerous wonders of G-d, why is he stating that they are incapable of knowing, seeing and hearing?

Let me put this in other words: If you were present when, for example, the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11, would you have a more impacting experience on that day or forty years later?

Why would Moshe declare that their first-hand experience at the time is inferior to their recollection almost four decades later?


The story is told about a young man, a budding Talmudic genius, who heard that great and wondrous things were being revealed by the Maggidof Mezritch. Chassidim were not very popular in those days and were even suspected of heresy by the Jewish establishment; but this young man found what his soul thirsted for, and became a disciple of the Maggid.

When he returned home after a year, he was greeted by his irate father-in-law. “What have you been doing for the last year? What have you accomplished wasting your time with those deviant people?”

“I learned that Gd creates the world,” answered the young man.

“That’s what you learned?!” yelled his father-in-law. Why, even our housekeeper knows that, and she never studied a page of Talmud in her life . . . Zelda! Come here!”

The housekeeper appeared from the next room, drying her hands.

“Tell us, please, Zelda,” he was trying to be as calm as possible, "who created the world?"

“Why . . . the Almighty, sir!”

“You see!” he turned to his son-in-law and shouted with rage, “Even she says so!”

“She says it,” said the Chassid. “But I know it.”


This Shabbat is also Chai Elul, the 18th day of Elul. It marks the double-birthday of both Rabbi Israel Ball Shemtov and Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founders of Chassidism and Chabad Chassidism, respectively.

The contribution of Chassidism is not primarily the additional customs, rituals or attire.  Rather it is the ability and opportunity to explore beneath the surface. But not just anywhere beneath the surface. Chassidic thought penetrates the soul because it is the soul. It’s the mechanism – through tremendous toil – to establish contact with the real me. Only by delving deeper into my own soul, peeling away layer after layer, can I come face to face with my own essence. Then, lasting change can prevail.


Yes, I may have been impacted for the moment at a deeper level on 9/11. But for those events to become part of me I will need to probe deeper.  An external event can be embedded in my soul via thoughtful and heartfelt exploration.  Through concentrated effort and immeasurable investment, I can indeed internalize the horrific tragedies – and superb accomplishments – of the past.


The month of Elul is a month of reflection. The 18th of Elul is the most dynamic day of Elul, breathing life into this period of introspection.

Let us capture the moment, and immerse ourselves in a profounder understanding of our Torah. Like our ancestors, with time, we can engage in a more meaningful relationship with our Creator and His Torah.

Comments on: A Mature Focus
There are no comments.