Thursday, August 3, 2023

Parshas Eikev 5783




Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Eikev

17 Menachem Av 5783/August 4, 2023


There are certain sayings and mantras that are as part of baseball as the game itself. One of those sayings is “good eye”.

In Judaism, having a good eye is something to aspire for. When Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai asked his students to “go out and seek the proper path one should choose?” Rabbi Eliezer replied that it’s to have a good eye.

It’s notable that in baseball one is said to have a good eye specifically when he holds himself back from swinging at a bad pitch. The truth is that even if a batter has a “good eye”, if the umpire erroneously calls it a strike, the batter’s good eye won’t help much. So, essentially, it’s the umpire who needs to have a good eye.

Over two decades ago, at an Erev Shabbos baseball game in camp, I came to bat in the bottom of the last inning, with two outs and two men on base, our team down by a run. The umpire, who I was and am close with, called a close pitch strike three to end the game. It’s a good thing I’m so easy going that I forgot about it right after and never thought about it again.

The idea of having a good eye and knowing when to restrain and not follow one’s instinct “to swing” is invaluable in life.

The Gemara (Yoma 69b) states: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Why were they called Anshei Knesses Hagedolah (the Men of the Great Assembly)? Because they restored the crown to where it used to be. (When referring to G-d) Moshe had stated “G-d Who is great, mighty and awesome.” Yirmiyahu came and declared that foreigners are lingering in His sanctuary, where is His awesomeness? So he did not say “Awesome” (when referring to G-d). Daniel came and declared that foreigners are enslaving His sons, where are His acts of strength? So he did not say “Mighty”. They (the Men of the Great Assembly) then came and declared, “On the contrary! This is His strength, that He restrains Himself and is patient with the wicked. This is His awesomeness, for were it not for His awe, how could one nation survive among the other nations (i.e., how could the pursued and persecuted Jewish people survive despite being pursued by so many enemies?)”

The Men of the Great Assembly comprised 120 of our greatest leaders and prophets. They led the nation back to Eretz Yisroel to rebuild the second Beis HaMikdash, they established the foundations for the study of the Oral Torah, they established the set order of our daily prayers, and they nullified the overpowering inclination to serve idolatry. Yet, the Gemara says that they merited their august title specifically because they restored the vernacular that Moshe Rabbeinu used when praising G-d.

In the opening Mishna of Pirkei Avos one of the quoted teachings of the Men of the Great Assembly is, “Be very patient when deliberating”. The simple meaning is that a judge must be patient and deliberate when adjudicating. He must not be hasty in passing judgement before he is aware of all the minute details.

However, beyond that, it is also an attitude a Jew must always have. Jewish history must be viewed with a long-term perspective. Much of our history is filled with inexplicably painful events. Yet, in the broader scope, it is clear that we are an eternal people.

Having a good eye entails having the patience to restrain one’s natural desire for immediate answers and not become discouraged.

At the conclusion of Chumash Bamidbar, the Torah details the 42 encampments that the nation traveled during their 40-year sojourn through the desert. The route they traveled was circuitous and arduous. But that path eventually led them to their ultimate destination.

Shem Mishmuel notes that every individual must traverse 42 journeys throughout his life. That road too is often circuitous and arduous, but it is the predestined path for us to arrive at our destination.

Success in life requires having a good eye. That unquestionably means that one must have a positive perspective and attitude. But it also means that one must have patience to face the challenges of life and stay the course with faith and vitality.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

        R’ Dani and Chani Staum