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Shabbat Parashat Eikev 5781

Parashat Hashavua: The Right Time for Calculations

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul p. 496-497

Moshe asked: “What does Hashem ask from you but to fear Him …?” The gemara (Megilla 25a) points out that unlike for most people, this was a trivial task for Moshe. Actually, the purpose of the giving of the Torah is fear of Hashem: “The day you stood … at Horeb … and I had them hear My words that they should learn to fear Me” (Devarim 4:10). “Gather the nation … so that they should hear and learn and fear …” (Devarim 31:12). Even the Jewish king was supposed to carry around a sefer Torah “so that he should learn to fear.” So maybe it is a small thing, and maybe it is the purpose of the Torah.

“Hashem made man straight, and they looked for many calculations (chishbonot)” (Kohelet 7:29). This implies that calculations represent a deterioration in man’s status. On the other hand, Chazal teach on the words “Come to Cheshbon” that we should make the “calculation of the world” (Bava Batra 78b).

The line leading from man to his Maker is innately straight, as a pure spirit yearns for Hashem, the source of his life and of goodness. However, if the line became crooked, it is necessary to make corresponding crooked lines (i.e., calculations) to get back to the desired place. We lost the knack of connecting directly, so we need to figure out through complex determinations where we are supposed to be.

That’s the reason that for someone like Moshe Rabbeinu, who had an ideal, natural relationship with Hashem, it is indeed simple to fear Hashem. But someone who is missing that relationship has to “learn to fear.” The giving of the first Tablets, with the awe-inspiring display of divinity, put the nation on the cusp of being on the level at which fear of Hashem is trivial. It could have turned into something that lasted “all the days …” (Devarim 5:25). However, the sin of the Golden Calf complicated matters greatly, and made it necessary to “quarry for yourself” (ibid. 10:1), with the great effort involved to figure out how to get back “in synch” with Hashem. Even after the quarrying and the toil it symbolized, there was still a need for Hashem to write on the new tablets (see Shemot 34:1).

We can only create an opening to our relationship to Hashem like the crack of a needle, and the rest requires Divine Assistance. The point of Torah study is to fear Hashem, but that fear is not as great as that which is above it, as it says, “The beginning of knowledge is fear of Hashem” (Tehillim 111:10).

We spend so much of the year in mistaken activity, things that distance us from Hashem, almost as if we are again making golden calves and bowing down to them. The month of Elul is a time to make calculations and start bending back in the right direction. We ask Hashem to create a new heart for us (Tehillim 51:12). While we are incapable of creating such a new heart, which requires the ability to create, we are capable of desiring such a pure heart. May we serve Hashem in a manner that demonstrates the yearning to be pure once again.


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