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22 August 2014

Parshat Re'eh: Of false prophets and idolaters

26 Menachem Av
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

The Midrash Says on Parshat Re'eh:

...Moshe explained to the Jews: "Eretz Canaan is full of objects pertaining to idol worship. You cannot build a Land of holiness, with a Beit Hamikdash in its midst, while surrounded by the artifacts of idolatry." 

"Eliminate everything associated with idolatry - such as altars, stones, or trees - by whatever method is most effective. Demolish them, burn them, or cast them into the sea. Leave no trace of idolatry! If a place was named after idols, change its name."

While it is a mitzvah to eliminate idols in any country (where Jews have the legal power to do so), in Eretz Yisrael the obligation goes further: The Jews are required not only to destroy all known idols, but must search for and demolish all the hidden ones as well.

The Torah repeatedly emphasizes that idolatry is the severest of sins. There could be no greater audacity than using one's intellect, which is capable of inferring the presence of the Creator, to deny G-d's uniqueness and attribute the vast intelligence that obviously activates all of creation to powers other than Him [even another human being.]

...The Torah declares that besides the inherent evil of worshiping idols, G-d hates the wicked rites of the idolaters. A Jew must therefore distance himself from all idolatrous practices.

...Moshe warned the Jews, "If any 'prophet' - whether Jewish or otherwise - ever arises in your midst and claims that a deity other than Hashem gave him a prophetic message, or even claims that Hashem Himself ordered the permanent abrogation of any mitzva of the Torah, know that he is an imposter. ...Do not attribute any truth to his words, even if he performs wonders in heaven or on earth. [Even if he says he is here to "stand with Israel."] ...G-d is testing your loyalty to Him. 

...The Torah enacts very strict laws against a maisis, a (Jewish) "instigator" or "missionary" who attempts to persuade our people to accept strange gods.

He is not included in the law of "loving a fellow Jew." Rather, it is a mitzva to hate him, in accordance with "Hashem, do I not hate those who hate You?" (Tehillim 39.21) He may also not be judged favorably, not treated mercifully, and in his case, Beit Din is exempt from its usual obligation to find exonerating factors for someone condemned to death.

...Rambam comments, "By not favoring a rasha and not covering up for him, we bring peace upon the Jewish people."

Even if you want to say that xianity is allowed to the gentiles - it is NOT ALLOWED to gentiles in Eretz Yisrael!! And even if you believe that they have "pure" motives, we are forbidden to allow them to perform xian worship on holy soil. How much more so to invite them to do so and to participate in it or even observe it!

In Sefer HaMitzvot it is written, "
It is a negative commandment 213 not to turn astray after idol-worship, neither in thought nor in word, nor even by watching."

Sefer HaChinuch Negative Commandment 426 - "show no mercy to idol-worshippers (we should have no kind feelings for those who worship idols, and nothing about them should be good or pleasing in our eyes; in other words,
we should remove far from our mind, and it should not [ever] arise in our speech, that there could be anything of value in one who worships in idolatry, and he should find no grace or favor in our eyes)

I've said this before, but it's worth saying again and again and again if I can get this idea across. The extent to which this sounds harsh or extreme to you is the extent to which you have assimilated Western values which stand in contradiction to Torah law.

Hashem says His thoughts are above our thoughts. It's up to us to align ourselves with the Torah and not to try to change it to fit "the times." We've become too complacent about this matter and too accepting of xianity even to the point of denying that is even idolatry. 

~Shabbat shalom~

21 August 2014

Parshat Re'eh 5774

26 Menachem Av
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

By Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi...

One of the many Halachot (laws) discussed in this week’s Torah portion Re’eh is the Torah prohibition against the consumption of blood. The Torah writes, “But be strong, not to eat the blood…” (12:23). Rather than simply issuing the prohibition, the Torah emphasizes that we must “be strong” to avoid violating this transgression.

The obvious question arises, why does observing this law require such inner strength and conviction? Blood is naturally repulsive. No ordinary, healthy person would feel any desire to drink blood. We could understand if the Torah would urge us to “be strong” not to eat a delicacy served in a restaurant with unreliable kashrut supervision. But why must the Torah exhort us to “be strong” when it comes to the consumption of blood, for which none of us feels any desire?

The ancient Egyptians observed a pagan ritual involving sacrificial offerings to spirits. As part of these ceremonies, the participants would drink the sacrificial blood. The children of Israel spent two hundred and ten years in this pagan culture, where the consumption of blood was deemed a sacred religious act. 

Inevitably, over the course of time, they became desensitized to the repugnance of such a ritual. No matter how intrinsically abhorrent and repulsive something is, prolonged exposure has the effect of dulling the senses and making that practice more acceptable. Indeed, contemporary society in 21-century America does not need to be “strengthened” with regard to the prohibition against drinking blood. We are automatically repulsed by such a notion. But a nation that spent over two centuries among ancient pagans needed this warning. Seeing people around them participate in these rituals for so many years desensitized them to the repugnance of the act and brought it dangerously close to the realm of acceptability.

We are being told that society is advancing (when really it has completely regressed) since more things have now become “acceptable” when they are really repulsive. It’s not that society has advanced, but that they had desensitized us to the complete degradation taking place all around us. We must remember that our values are dictated by the Torah, and not by the degradation of the society around us. What is acceptable for them is not necessarily acceptable for us. If we remember to keep our senses attuned to the teachings of the Torah, they will not become as dulled by the messages they pick up from the general society, and we will remain fully committed to the laws and values of our upright ancient tradition.

"The Holy Shabbat!"

26 Menachem Av 5774

As told over by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi...

About 30 years ago, an American rabbi visiting Miami, Florida gave a lecture on the life and accomplishments of the famed Chafetz Chaim. He described the life of the great sage who lived a humble life as a shopkeeper in the village of Radin, in Poland, yet was recognized throughout the Jewish world as a great scholar, tzaddik and leader.

There was another story the rabbi wanted to tell, but he hesitated, for he only knew part of it. As he stood at the lectern, he thought for a moment and then decided that he would tell it anyway. He rationalized that even an unfinished story about the Chafetz Chaim would have a meaningful message.

He began to relate an incident about a teenage boy in the Chafetz Chaim's yeshiva who was found smoking a cigarette on Shabbat -- the sacred day of rest. The faculty and student body were shocked, and some of the faculty felt that the boy should be expelled. However, when the Chafetz Chaim heard the story, he asked that the boy be brought to his home.

At this point, the rabbi interrupted the narrative and said, "I don't know what the Chafetz Chaim said to the boy. I only know that they were together for a few minutes. I would give anything to know what he said to this student, for I am told that the boy never desecrated the Shabbat again. How wonderful it would be if we could relay that message -- whatever it was -- to others, in order to encourage them in their observance of Shabbat." The rabbi then continued with his lecture.

After his talk, the hall emptied of everyone except for one elderly man, who remained in his seat, alone with his thoughts. From the distance, it seemed he was trembling, as if he was either crying or suffering from chills. The rabbi walked over to the elderly man and asked him, "Is anything wrong?"

The man responded, "Where did you hear that story of the cigarette on Shabbat?" He did not look up and was still shaken. "I really don't know," answered the rabbi. "I heard it a while ago and I don't even remember who told it to me." The man looked up at the rabbi and said softly, "I was that boy." He then asked the rabbi to go outside, and as the two walked together, he told the rabbi the following story:

"This incident occurred in the 1920's when the Chafetz Chaim was in his eighties. I was terrified to have to go into his house and face him. But when I did go into his home, I looked around with disbelief at the poverty in which he lived. It was unimaginable to me that a man of his stature would be satisfied to live in such surroundings.

"Suddenly he was in the room where I was waiting. He was remarkably short. At that time I was a teenager and he only came up to my shoulders. He took my hand and clasped it tenderly in both of his. He brought my hand in his own clasped hands up to his face, and when I looked into his soft face, his eyes were closed for a moment.

"When he opened them, they were filled with tears. He then said to me in a hushed voice full of pain and astonishment, 'Shabbat!' And he started to cry. He was still holding both my hands in his, and while he was crying he repeated with astonishment, 'Shabbat, the holy Shabbat!'

"My heart started pounding and I became more frightened than I had been before. Tears streamed down his face and one of them rolled onto my hand. I thought it would bore a hole right through my skin. When I think of that tear today, I can still feel its heat. I can't describe how awful it felt to know that I had made the great tzaddik weep. But in his rebuke -- which consisted only of those few words -- I felt that he was not angry, but rather sad and fearful. He seemed frightened at the consequences of my actions."

The elderly man then caressed the hand that bore the invisible scar of a precious tear. It had become his permanent reminder to observe the "holy Shabbat" for the rest of his life.

"A Few People of Truth"

25 Menachem Av 5774

Reposting from Rosh Chodesh Av 5771

Continuing with the autistic messages published at Messages from Heaven:

Menachem, motzaei"sh kodesh Shlach

Everyone can see war on the horizon, a giant war, immense destruction, immense killing, blood poured out from every side. We see this. We see that it's on its way to us. It's coming to the whole wide world and also to us in Eretz Yisrael. But the majority of people don't want to see it. A majority of the people with the big party, of people who prefer to be drunkards, being boisterous without true simcha. And in their eyes, whoever sees the truth - he's like their enemy who wants to put a stop to the simcha, and to stop the party.

And who are the people of truth? First of all, they are few people in this world - the vast majority - of the Jews and also of the gentiles - want only the falsehood. ("No one calls sincerely, and no one is judged faithfully; trusting in vanity and speaking lies, conceiving injustice and begetting wickedness." Isaiah 59.4) And among the Jews - who are the people of truth? It's not always possible to know. But, usually they are those who believe in HKB"H, but don't mix in with the larger hareidi society because a majority of the hareidi society is damaged. They are in control, but not exactly according to the Torah. And therefore, the hareidi world usually tries to be part of the larger world. The hareidi world tries to introduce a lot of materialism into their lives and with the materialism, they can't introduce spirituality because they don't go together. Therefore, they prefer the materialism, the majority.

People of truth prefer spirituality and the connection with HKB"H. They want less and less materialism because it damages the world. And even among the secular there are people of truth, but not actually truth, because without belief in HKB"H it's not possible to arrive at the real truth. But there is nevertheless, seculars that are on the path to the real truth and it won't take much time until they will also arrive to HKB"H. And they are very few, all the people of truth in total.

The world is filled with falsehood. Most of what we see in this world through the newspapers, the internet or all other media - the majority is complete falsehood. It's a figment of the imagination of the evildoers who want to take over the world. And the falsehood is everywhere. Also in the daily life of the regular person, whether it's in the advertising of products or simply that it's become a way of life, lashon hara and disputes and other various forbidden things that are not refined and that infringe on each other. The falsehood celebrates now. ("Indeed, they deceive one another and do not speak the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies, they commit iniquity (until) they are weary." Jeremiah 9:4)

Man tries to make an impact on society. For the sake of making an impact, he must adjust himself to society's concepts. And then, he presents himself as falsehood, as something not true in order to adjust to the falsehood that's going around the street. Who can understand what I am saying? Only people of truth. So, as we see, there are not many who can read this.

But, I'm warning you! As I said at the beginning, Hashem will purify us. The real Jews He will purify - until we shine. ("And it shall come to pass throughout all the land, says the Lord, two parts of it shall be cut off. They shall perish, and the third shall remain therein. And it shall come to pass throughout all the land, says the Lord, two parts of it shall be cut off. They shall perish, and the third shall remain therein." Zechariah, chapter 13) War is on the horizon. And the liars have what to fear. And the people of truth will suffer but they will survive. And this will arrive in the near future and everyone can see this. But the evildoers won't admit it. And besides this, there will be threats from nature. Man can indeed bring about destruction - but only until a certain point. Hashem will do signs and wonders and the fear will be very great. The people of truth will not be afraid. Because they will be happy that finally the truth is being revealed.

I am very sad, I cry, I know that we are before the great birth, before entering to a new world: the world of Mashiach, the Beit Hamikdash and etc. And this is really the end of the exile, but this moment is almost the most painful of the birth - it is this moment. Therefore, I request from the people of truth: Hold on! Don't go into a major depression, because another moment - the birth! End.



The Fragrance Dealer and the Oil Merchant

25 Menachem Av 5774

As told over by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi...

In the marketplace in Prague, in side by side stores with an adjoining wall, were stores owned by a crooked fragrance dealer and an honest oil merchant. The Jewish oil merchant had a good reputation and his business thrived, while the crooked fragrance dealer struggled to bring customers into his store.

One night after the market was closed the fragrance dealer drilled a small hole in the adjoining wall. He spent the next several days observing the oil merchant. He noticed that each night the oil merchant would count his daily revenue and place it into a red pouch that he would hide. This gave him an idea.

The next day he ran into the street screaming that his money had been robbed and he suspected the oil merchant since he is the only one who knew that he placed his money in a red pouch. Sure enough the police found the red pouch in the store of the oil merchant. Because of their respective reputations no one really believed the fragrance merchant but he told a good story and a trial was set to take place.

The talk of town was the big trial and the streets were full of debate as to who was the thief. Even the children talked voraciously about the upcoming trial. The ruler was in a conundrum and didn't know who to believe.

One night before the trial, the ruler walked the streets and overheard some Jewish children playing "court". One child presided, while arguments were made by other children pretending to be the two claimants. The ruler amusingly stood by listening to the proceedings.

After hearing both sides, the young judge asked them to bring a bowl of water. "We will put the coins in the water. If oil spots come floating to the top then we know the coins were handled by the oil dealer and he is innocent. If nothing floats to the top we will know that the rightful owner is the fragrance dealer and the oil merchant is a thief."

The very next day during the real trial before a packed courtroom, after hearing both side, the ruler asked for a bowl of water... The oil merchant was proven innocent and the liable was discovered. When all the townspeople praised the Ruler on his incredible wisdom, he said do not praise me but the little boy who gave me the idea.

That little boy whose name was Yehuda Lowe, said the Brisker Rov, is better known today as the Maharal MiPrague.

20 August 2014

The Wisdom of the Ohr HaChaim

24 Menachem Av 5774

As told over by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi...

The wheel of fortune had taken a downturn for a once-wealthy Jew who lived in the Moroccan city of Rabat. He was forced to leave home and wander from city to city and town to town, in search of an appropriate business opportunity that would enable him to support the large extended family that had come to depend on him.

He experienced many difficulties, yet he maintained his faith in the One that provides all. Finally, after several failed attempts, he succeeded in amassing a significant amount of money. Now he would be able to return home.

On the way, he passed through the town of Sali, which is not far from Rabat. As it was already fairly late on Friday, he figured he had better remain in Sali for Shabbat. A good friend from his youth whom he had not seen in many years lived there, and he knew he would find a warm welcome at his house.

Indeed, as soon as his friend saw him, he insisted that his surprise guest remain for Shabbat. The weary traveler accepted the invitation happily. Before candle lighting, he gave his money pouch to his host for safekeeping, so that he wouldn't have to worry about it during the Day of Rest.

By Saturday night, the traveler was anxious to reach home. Immediately after Havdalah, he requested his money pouch back from his friend.

"What are you talking about?" denied his host. "You never left any money with me."

The stunned guest could not believe his ears. He almost fainted. When he recovered his senses, he begged his friend to return to him the money for which he had labored so long and hard, and which was critical to his family's survival.

The host was beside himself with indignation. "You have some nerve!" he shouted. "Aren't you embarrassed? You slept in my house, you ate at my table, and now you dare to hurl at me these false accusations!"

The man soon realized there was no chance that this conniver would return the money of his own accord. He decided he had better go right away to make a claim at the Beit Din(rabbinical court).

The rabbi of Sali at the time was the famous "Ohr HaChaim," Rabbi Chaim Ibn Atar. The two men went to his house. Rabbi Chaim listened carefully to both sides. He then addressed the host: "This Jew claims the money which he says he deposited with you before Shabbat eve. What do you say?"

"It never happened," the man answered. "This man is slandering me."

Rabbi Chaim turned to the guest. "Perhaps there was a witness at the time you say you handed your money to him?"

The dejected man now felt even worse. "No, there was no witness there. Just before Shabbat we sat under a tree. That is when I removed my pouch and gave it to him to hold for me until Saturday night."

"Under a tree? Very good!" cried out Rabbi Chaim excitedly. "Go back and summon that tree to be a witness on your behalf!"

The traveler was taken aback when it sunk in what the rabbi wanted him to do, but being well aware of Rabbi Chaims reputation as a miracle-worker, he stood up and left the house, without questioning the great rabbi's instructions.

After just a few minutes, the Ohr HaChaim remarked that certainly the man has already reached the tree.
"What do you mean, Rabbi?" said the other man. "That tree is quite far from here."

Looking sternly into the man's eyes, Rabbi Chaim declared: "Give that poor innocent Jew his money back, right now!" Seeing the surprise on the mans face, the Rabbi stroked his beard and added: "If you didn't receive the money from him under that tree, how is it that you know where the tree is?"

The man turned pale. Without saying another word, he promptly returned the money that had been entrusted to him.

After he finally reached home, the merchant utilized most of his hard-earned savings for wise investments, and with G-d's help became wealthy again as he had been once before.

17 August 2014

"The Essential Core of the Whole Torah"

21 Menachem Av 5774

(H/T Israel 613)

There is only one verse in all the Tanach which is composed of all the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet plus the five end-letters. The verse in found in Tzefanyah (3:8) and speaks of the importance of waiting for the final redemption.
ספר צפניה פרק ג : ח
לָכֵן חַכּוּ לִי נְאֻם יְדֹוָד לְיוֹם קוּמִי לְעַד כִּי מִשְׁפָּטִי לֶאֱסֹף גּוֹיִם לְקָבְצִי מַמְלָכוֹת לִשְׁפֹּךְ עֲלֵיהֶם זַעְמִי כֹּל חֲרוֹן אַפִּי כִּי בְּאֵשׁ קִנְאָתִי תֵּאָכֵל כָּל הָאָרֶץ

“Therefore wait for Me, says Hashem, until the day that I rise up to the prey. For My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them My indignation, all My fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy.”

That all the letters of the Torah express this theme teaches us that the yearning and waiting for the redemption to reveal His dominion is the essential core of the whole Torah. (Beer Moshe Vayechi 820)

15 August 2014

Parshat Eikev 5774

19 Menachem Av 5774

Parashat Eikev: The golden calf still echoes
by Daniel Pinner

Parashat Eikev continues the second of Moshe’s three farewell discourses to his beloved nation, in which he recounts the salient events of the last forty years of desert wanderings. His second discourse began last week in Parashat Va-et’chanan (Deuteronomy 4:44), and will continue until the end of Chapter 26 (in Parashat Ki Tavo, in another 4 weeks).

The word “eikev” is somewhat open to interpretation. Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonatan both render, “It will be, in return for your hearkening to these ordinances, and you will guard them and perform them, then Hashem your God will guard for you the covenant and the loving-kindness that He swore to your forefathers”.

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch follows this interpretation and translates: “It will come to pass as the consequence of your hearing these legal maxims and carefully carrying them out, that Hashem your God will keep the covenant and the love with you that He swore to your forefathers”.

The Ibn Ezra and the Radak (in Sefer ha-Shorashim) both understand the word “eikev” to mean “ultimately, until the end of time”, both of them citing the way the word is used in Psalms 119:12. Thus per the Ibn Ezra, Hashem guarantees reward for the mitzvot, even though the reward may be delayed until the very end of the world.

The Radak is ambiguous: does he mean that the reward can be delayed, even until the end of the world? Or does he render, “If you keep these ordinances until the end of the world…”?

The Ramban defines “eikev” as “ba’avur”, approximately “for the sake of” or “because”, citing the meaning of the word in Genesis 26:5. Hence, “it will be, because you hearken to these ordinances and you guard them and perform them, Hashem your God will guard for you the covenant and the loving-kindness that He swore to your forefathers”.

The word “eikev” connotes “after”, hence the first understanding cited above (both Targumim and Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch).

I suggest that the conditional clause is not just the first half of the first verse of Parashat Eikev (“it will be, as a consequence of your hearkening to these ordinances and guarding them and performing them…”), and the consequence does not begin with the second half of the first verse (“…then Hashem your God will guard for you the covenant and the loving-kindness which He swore to your forefathers”).

Rather, the conditional clause covers the first two verses in their entirety, and the consequence begins with verse 14 (the third verse in our parashah).

Hence: “It will be, as a consequence of your hearkening to these ordinances and guarding them and performing them, and [of] Hashem your God’s guarding for you the covenant and the loving-kindness which He swore to your forefathers, and [of] His loving you and blessing you and multiplying you, and blessing the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your Land, your grain, your wine, and your oil, the offspring of your cattle and the flocks of your sheep and goats on the Land which He swore to your forefathers to give you – you will be the most blessed of all nations…”.

That is to say, according to this reading, it is not that Hashem guards the covenant and the loving-kindness which He swore to our forefathers as a consequence and a reward for our hearkening to the ordinances and guarding them and performing them, and that part of the covenant is that He will love us and bless us and multiply us, and bless the fruit of our womb and the fruit of our Land and so on.

Rather, our hearkening to the ordinances and guarding them and performing them, together with Hashem’s guarding the covenant and loving us and blessing us and multiplying us, and blessing the fruit of our womb and the fruit of our Land and so on, is what will make us the most blessed of all nations.

Later in the parashah (chapter9), Moshe admonishes us not to assume that Hashem grants us victory over our enemies, the nations who occupy the Land of Israel, because of our righteousness; rather, it is because of their evil that they lose.

And then Moshe continues by reminding us of how we provoked God at Horeb (Mount Sinai) with the sin of the golden calf: “Remember, do not forget, how you enraged Hashem your God in the desert…” (Deuteronomy 9:7), and then, over the course of 34 verses (until 10:11), Moshe continues by reminding us, in excruciating detail, of that entire débâcle and of how he pleaded and prayed to God not to destroy us because of that sin, but to sustain us despite it.

The first commandment that God gave us, immediately after the sin of the golden calf, was to expel all the idolatrous inhabitants of the Land of Israel: “Be on your guard lest you seal a covenant with the inhabitant of the Land…lest he be a trap in your midst. Instead smash their altars, break their pillars, and chop down their idolatrous trees…lest you forge a covenant with the inhabitant of the Land and go astray after their gods and sacrifice to their gods…” (Exodus 34:12-15).

This warning was amply justified there: after all, this came immediately after the mixed multitude had seduced the nation into idolatry. Moshe and the entire nation had just experienced how easily idolaters among them could be “a trap in their midst”, so now was the time for God to admonish them against allowing such a débâcle to recur.

In Parashat Eikev, almost forty years later, Moshe again connects the necessity to drive the idolatrous nations out of Israel with the débâcle of the golden calf. Near the beginning of the parashah he encourages us with the promise: “Hashem will remove from you every sickness; and He will not inflict upon you any of the evil diseases of Egypt which you have known – He will inflict them on all your enemies. You will consume all the nations which Hashem your God gives you; your eye shall not pity them, and you will not worship their gods, for it is an entrapment for you” (Deuteronomy7:15-16).

And Moshe continues: “Should you say in your heart: ‘These peoples are greater than me; how will I be able to dispossess them?’ – Do not fear them! Remember, remember well, what Hashem your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials which your eyes saw, and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm with which Hashem your God took you out” (vs. 17-19).

When the sin of the golden calf actually occurred, God used it by immediately afterwards commanding the Children of Israel to take possession of their Land and not to allow any idolaters or other enemies to remain therein. When Moshe reminded the nation of the event, he prefaced it by giving them the same charge.

Maybe the generation which worshipped the golden calf had not fully absorbed God’s riposte, and in case they had not, Moshe repeated it for the generation that was about to enter the Land of Israel and conquer it. In return for hearkening to God’s ordinances, guarding them and performing them, Hashem guards for you the covenant and the loving-kindness that He swore to your forefathers. And He will ultimately pay you your reward for keeping the mitzvot. If not now, immediately, then one day, even though it may be in the far distant future.

And know that you will be – indeed, you are! – the most blessed of nations, and this is for two reasons: both as a consequence of your keeping the mitzvot, and as a consequence of God’s guarding the covenant which He swore to your forefathers. Because you are God’s nation, because “Israel is called by the Name of God” (Tanhuma, Kedoshim 5), God will make you the most blessed of nations, even though you sin.

The Midrash Lekach Tov begins its exposition on Parashat Eikev by citing the verse, “A Song of Praise of Asaph: Surely God is good to Israel, to the pure of heart” (Psalms 73:1). The Midrash picks up on the word “akh” (which we have translated here as “surely”, which also means “however”), and expounds: “Wherever the word ‘akh’ occurs, it implies a restriction. Asaph the composer said: ‘Surely God is good to Israel’ – meaning even when He sits in judgement over them, because he used the name ‘Elokim’ [God, connoting His attribute of strict justice, in contrast to Hashem which connotes His attribute of mercy]”.

Even when God punished the Children of Israel for the sin of the golden calf, He was still good to them, sustaining them in the desert.

Moshe could remind them of their sin a generation later, and they could hear the rebuke, safe and secure in the knowledge that in spite of all, they were still God’s nation, charged with possessing the Land of Israel.

The echoes of the sin of the golden calf yet resound: the day of the sin, the 17th of Tammuz, would become a day of disaster throughout the generations, a day on which until this very generation we still fast in mourning for Jerusalem which was besieged on this day, and for numerous other disasters which happened throughout the millennia on this day.

“Eikev” – punishment can be stretched out until the very end of time, and the punishment for the sin of the golden calf is still unfolding in our days. But even this implies a measure of comfort, because even as punishment resounds through the generations, so too are we guaranteed our eventual reward, even if it come in the far-distant future.