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Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan 5775

Parashat Hashavua: Our Wisdom in Our Eyes?

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, p. 483-4

“And you shall observe and do, for it is your knowledge and your wisdom in the eyes of the nations” (Devarim 4:6). The sefer Torah was always the book of knowledge and wisdom. Different cultures and all sorts of different books entered the world sphere, and yet our book remains the Book of Books, the holiest and most important of all books. There is practically no language in the world, from the most distant land, that the Torah has not been translated into and where it is not sold. Our land, which was promised to us, is also held in great esteem by the nations as the “Holy Land.” They consider it sacred and worthy of admiration. Nations even hold us to be a special nation, and our scholars have often been revered. All who were in contact with us realized that we have something special. Even in the time that we were subjugated by the Romans, there was a movement of Romans who wanted to convert to Judaism.

The problem is that we do not always see the greatness within ourselves. At times, the Holy Book is not at all holy in the eyes of part of the youngsters. Instead of “our knowledge and our wisdom,” they want to learn the wisdom of other nations. There is no greater chillul Hashem than this. “They came among the nations … and they desecrated the Name of Hashem, when it was said of them, ‘They are nation of Hashem …’” (Yechezkel 36:20). Moshe Rabbeinu did not merit entering Eretz Yisrael because he caused a chillul Hashem, but the level of his wrongdoing was very minute, and that was enough to cost him.

From the place where we are at, how much must we toil to have Hashem’s Name sanctified by our actions? How does one do it? Chazal tell us that one should be a person who is deeply involved in Torah and speak in a calm way with people, so that they will say: “Fortunate is the one who taught him Torah.” Making Hashem who gave us the Torah beloved based on our actions is a kiddush Hashem. The opposite is a chillul Hashem (Yoma 86a).

If one is responsible for creating a kiddush Hashem or a chillul Hashem, respectively, among the nations, then certainly we must be careful how our fellow Jews view things. After all, we find within the halachot of not violating the Torah under duress that public desecration is referring to doing so in front of a group of Jews (see Sanhedrin 74b).

We need to try to be at our best in our actions, our mode of behavior, our speech, and our thoughts. In that way, all will be able to recognize that we are members of the nation that Hashem blessed. Everyone should sanctify himself regarding his pure thought and being careful about how his time is spent and with what energy level we spend it, so that we will act to increase the power of mitzvot and the pleasantness of the Torah.
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