by Andrea Simantov June 28, 2013


By A. Simantov

Moshe wanted to warn Israel, since they continually angered God from the time they left Egypt until they came to the Jordan. Now, it is one thing to give a warning; it is something else for it to be accepted. “If a person accepts rebuke, he will be able to avoid sin and will bring blessing and good to the world.” One source of rebuke identified by Rabbi Yitzchok Behar Arguiti is from one’s wife. The wife is responsible to admonish her husband, particularly if he fails to support the running of the house, set aside time for Torah study every night, recite Grace aloud after meals; and pray with the congregation. “She has the power to correct him, and if she does not do so, she is punished on that account.” The Talmud relates that the wife of the great sage and martyr Rabbi Chanania ben Tradion was punished for not scolding her husband when he pronounced God’s explicit name in his meditations. Although his intention was to learn, and he harbored no desire of personal gain, he used the name publicly and was, thus, punished. His wife was punished for not rebuking him to keep aspects of Judaism because, in fact, man is obligated to listen to his wife. We learn from this that a woman should make every effort to speak to her husband if he does something that goes against the Torah. (Torah Anthology, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, 1984.)

The Midrash in Vayikra Rabba tells of a bucket with no bottom to it. Yet, the employer offers his workers wages to fill it! The fool sees it as having no purpose, but but the wise man realizes the pay is for the labor and not the product. Society conditions us to think only about the product or profit. If we cannot do the whole job, we despair of even trying! Learning Torah, however, is different, as we see in the Mishna: “Lo elecha hamlecha ligmor (You are not expected to complete the work); V’lo ata ben chorim l’hebatel me’mena (But neither are you free to desist from it).

July and August find many of us more relaxed and enjoying extra free time. The High Holidays lie just ahead, however. Perhaps this is the time to increase our learning of Torah, taking time to reflect on the efforts we put into the things we do and the efforts we see to completion. Rabbi Tarfon, commenting on the task of mastering volumes upon volumes of Torah study, says, “Do not be dismayed. The work is not for you to complete.” It seems that while we should, indeed, learn, in no sense are we obligated to finish the work. As the Chofetz Chaim says, “It is not for you to achieve but to act. Achievement is the province of the Almighty.” Everyone on his or her level should undertake to set aside some time each and every day for learning Torah, and  for making an effort.


From the Torah to your table

Bahya Ben Asher asks the following on Matot-Massei: “Why is an unintentional murderer not penalized with capital punishment?” He answers, “Because there was no unity of action between his heart and his body. His heart told him not to kill, but his hands did kill.”

Discuss the moral of this Torah comment that “Man should strive to coordinate his body to follow the dictates of his heart and to direct his life to do God’s bidding.”


Final thought

If you consider that every person with whom you come in contact was created by God, in His image, for His honor, you will show deference to all without considering their level. This honoring of man is in essence the honoring of God. (Rav Chayim Volozhiner, “Ruach Chayim.”)


Torah Portions

July 6: Matot/Massei (Numbers 30:2-36:13)

July 13: Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

July 20: Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

July 27: Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)


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