Devorim: Inconspicuous


rabbi-nosson-greenbergBy Rabbi Nosson Greenberg

As we read reports from throughout the world of the rearing of anti-semitism’s ugly head Hashem Yerachem, we are reminded of the famous dictum of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai who tells us “Halacha hi beyadu’a  she’Aisav  soneh  l’Yaakov” It is a known rule that Aisav (eternally) hates Yaakov” (see Rashi to Beraishis, 33:4). I am no grammarian (nor a grammatician) but the word “beyadu’a” looks a tad awkward (if anything it should have said yadu’a). Perhaps we can offer an explanation which can offer some guidance as to how Yidden should comport themselves whilst stuck in this quagmire we call Galus.

In this week’s parsha Moshe gathers the Bnai Yisrael to prep them for their impending entry into Eretz Cana’an. He begins to deliver a review of the history of the past forty years in the Midbar intertwined with heartfelt words of reproof. He tells them, “Vayomer Hashem aylye laimor rav lachem sov es hahar hazeh, pnu lachem tzafona” – “Hashem said to me saying, “Enough of your circling this mountain; turn yourselves northward”” (Devarim, 2:4). Now on a simple level, Hashem, who said this to Moshe as the Yidden were passing by the territory of Sai’ir, is just commanding them to head tzafona-to the north. The Kli Yakar, however, sees several deeper messages contained within Hashem’s directive. He suggests that the word tzafona might mean to hide (as in tzafun of Seder-night fame). What Hashem is therefore telling us is as follows: If a Yid finds that whilst in Galus (hence the reference to travelling around the region of Har Sai’ir which is also known as Edom, the current Galus) he has met with a modicum of success, he should not flaunt it but rather –tzafona– he should hide it. Descendants of Aisav and Yishmael feel a deep resentment towards the success of a Yid in the material world. In their mind, they are the rightful owners of such a world, and Yidden have used nothing but illegal actions to access such materialism, specifically when Yitzchak usurped his older brother Yishmael, and Yaakov took Yitzchak’s brachos away from Aisav. Yaakov Avinu recognized this during the famine in Eretz Cana’an when even though he was not affected with a food shortage, he commanded his sons to nevertheless go through the motions of procuring food. As he said, “Lamah tisra’u” -“Why should we draw attention (and jealousy) to ourselves?” This, says the Kli Yakar, is unfortunately a message lost on many of our co-religionists who, after being blessed with success from Hashem, flaunt their largesse. And invariably their conspicuous consumption metamorphosizes into invidious consumption. And that’s when chas veshalom trouble begins.

Now we can understand what Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai meant with his word “beyadu’a”.  If Klal Yisrael falls into the category of yadu’a – they become known- (in other words they are beyadu’a) and garner the unwanted attention of the world by their lavish and unnecessary material lifestyle, then know with certainty they will be hated by Aisav. This is the recipe of life in Galus: a lot of tefillah, a great dollop of ani ma’amin, and a good dose of “Lama tisra’u”. If we want to have our cake, yes we can eat it but not out in the open in public display, for the natives are extremely restless.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.

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