Thursday, August 6, 2020

Eikev 5780


Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Eikev

17 Menachem Av 5780/August 7, 2020

Avos perek 4


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            It’s the day after Tisha B’av.

            The clock strikes chatzos.

            The halachos of aveilus are over.

            In camps, they try to get everything in at once. Music is blaring, as campers jump in the pool. Meanwhile, others bite into a freshly grilled hot dog, while staff members immediately begin shaving.

            It’s a great feeling to shave at the end of the three weeks. The same holds true on Lag Baomer, when shaving for the first time since the beginning of sefira.

            These last few years, as I shave, I’ve been noticing more patches of white in my beard. At first, I tried to blame my kids for putting whiteout in my beard while I was sleeping, but that didn’t work out well. So, I just blamed them for causing my beard to turn white.

            My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, relates that when his grandchildren ask him why his beard is all white, he tells them they should ask their parents. I’m beginning to understand.

            The greatest challenge of shaving and trimming is “doing the lines”. The first few years after I grew a beard, I didn’t do the lines well at all and it looked like someone did them at a carnival. As time has passed however, I’ve started to get the hang of it. I must say that I did rather well last week keeping the lines even.

            Nature is always producing growth. But nature’s production is wild and unkempt.

            For example, those who live in Brooklyn may be able to maintain their “lawn” with a pair of scissors. But those of us who live in more suburban areas need to mow their lawn or hire a landscaper to keep it looking neat and trimmed.

            Women also enjoy manicures on their fingers, to keep their nails neat and shiny. (It’s just another one of the many things about women I don’t really get...)

            The Torah (Devorim 7:22) relates that when Klal Yisroel conquers Eretz Yisroel it will be little by little, “lest the beasts of the field increase against you.” If the Cannaites would be uprooted quickly, vast stretches of land would be left unpopulated, which would leave them open to uncontrolled habituation by the surrounding wildlife.

            During the pandemic, many animals were seen freely roaming normally busy, but then deserted, streets. There are various reasons offered as to why that phenomenon occurred. But the primary reason is that animals generally live within a “landscape of fear”, trying to get what they need while avoiding areas where predators might be lurking. Those predators include humans.

            The Torah states in Parshas Bereishis, that Hashem blesses Adam that the fear of man will be upon all living things. Although we can damage that primacy by sinning and thereby distorting our supremacy over creation, there is a natural tendency for animals to fear and avoid humans.

            When humans retreat, due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, the landscape of fear retreats as well. If there are fewer people around, animals which normally restrict their activities to the evening, will venture out during the day.

            G-d created the process of nature in which there is ongoing and consistent production and growth. But He left it in the hands of man to draw the proverbial lines and to keep that growth in order.

            We all seem to know exactly how the lines should be drawn for everyone else. But we have no control over everyone else’s lines. The only lines we can draw are the ones on our own faces.

            The Torah is our ultimate guide in teaching us how to preserve creation, drawing moral lines which enable humankind and the entire world to thrive. When those values are challenged and discarded, wildlife invades. When humanity fails to exercise its supremacy, the lines of nature become overrun.

            That seems to be a pretty apt description of what is happening to our society, as the lines become increasingly blurred. The “values” purported are often hollow and leave us with reason to be concerned.

            Our task is to fulfill our roles of being the crown of society by preserving the timeless faith and morals that have been transmitted to us. We can then hope that G-d will help the world maintain its divinity as well.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum