Thursday, October 6, 2022

Parshas Hazinu 5783



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Ha’azinu - Succos

12 Tishrei 5783/October 7, 2022


Everybody knows the apocryphal story about the rabbi who loved golf so much that he decided to sneak out of shul to play a few rounds on Yom Kippur afternoon. To his utter delight, at every hole he scored a hole in one. Not only was it his best game ever, but it was also the best game of golf ever.

The angels in heaven were shocked. Is this the reward that a rabbinic sinner deserves? But they soon realized the incredible wisdom of the rabbi’s stellar performance. For the rabbi couldn’t tell anyone in the world about his incredible feat.

I’ve often wondered if a woman sets her table beautifully for Yom Tov or makes a particular fancy meal or dish, but doesn’t post a picture of it on her status or social media, has she fulfilled her obligation? Does it count for anything if it wasn’t publicized?

The prophet Michah famously exhorts us, “And you shall go modestly with your G-d.” Modesty is not limited to a mode of dress, but more profoundly it’s about an attitude and mindset. To be modest means to be inward focused, to act in accordance with one’s values without always seeking the approval or attention of others.

In society people love to post their lives on social media. Often people are looking for validation, adulation and attention. But external validation leaves a person feeling somewhat empty and unfulfilled.

There is another dimension to the idea of modesty. When something is special, we keep it private, not because we are ashamed of it but because it’s unique and precious. Halacha prohibits spouses from show affection for each other in public. Part of the reason is, not because doing so is shameful, but because it’s special to them and must remain so. It’s no one else’s business.

There is a specialness in privacy and when something is exclusive and hidden.

In his famous lecture, “Ten steps to greatness” Rabbi Avigdor Miller suggests that every day one should do one act of chesed - even a small one - that no one in the world knows about, except Hashem. Such an act is performed with true modesty and integrity.

The Navi relates that after a great miracle occurred to Chizkiyahu Hamelech, the Babylonian King was so impressed that he sent letters and a gift to Chizkiyahu. When the envoy of the Babylonian King arrived, Chizkiyahu wanted to impress them, and he showed them his treasure house and many other invaluable artifacts. Rashi writes that Chizkiyahu even showed them the holy Aron, luchos and sefer Torah (Melachim II 20:13).

The prophet Yeshaya then informed Chizkiyahu that because he had pridefully shown the Babylonians the Jewish People’s treasures, those treasures would eventually be looted by the Babylonians following the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.

Our greatest treasures aren’t meant to be flaunted or exposed. They retain their uniqueness specifically by remaining hidden and private.

On Yom Kippur we reach deep within ourselves and connect with our Creator in the deepest and most private recesses of our being. We state in the viduy recited on Yom Kippur that Hashem “probes all innermost thoughts and minds and hearts.” In those deeply private chambers of our soul, we seek divine connection.

That follows with the holiday of Succos. The sanctity of the succah is primarily the result of having valid schach above. However, there must also be walls (at least two and part of a third) beneath the schach in order for the succah to be valid.

The holiness of the succah is personal and modest. It is the result of our creating a private place, cordoned off and designated for the sole purpose of living under the shade of G-d.

It’s the things we do, feel, and think that no one else knows about that is most connected with our core essence. During the month of Tishrei we turn inward to get in touch with who we really are. Our job then becomes to maintain that awareness after the great holidays have ended, and not allow it all to get lost in the ostentatious externalities that surround us.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

Freilichen Yom Tov & Chag Sameiach,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum