1.

As a rule the Torah avoids repetition, and when it occurs, it is expounded by the Sages and commentaries. Interestingly, in the parshah of Eikev there is a concept which is repeated three times but with a slight variation.

The concept I am referring to is “lalechet biderachav” — “to go in His ways.”

Towards the beginning of the parshah it says “You shall observe the commandments of Hashem, your G‑d, lalechet biderachav — to go in His ways — u’leyirah oto — and fear Him” (8:6). Later on it says “And now Israel, what does Hashem your G‑d ask of you but to fear Hashem, your G‑d, lalechet bechol derachav — to go in all His ways — ule’ahavah oto — and to love him” (10-12). At the end of the parshah it speaks of the reward for observing His commandments and specifies “lalechet bechol derachav — to go in all His ways — u’ledavka bo — and cleave to Him” (11:22). Rashi explains that deveikut — cleaving to Hashem — means cleaving to students of Torah and to the Sages and this is considered as cleaving to Him (Ibid.).

On a similar pasuk “V’oto ta’avod u’vo tidbakun” — “Him you shall serve and to Him shall you cleave” (13:5) — Rashi explains that it means “cleave to His ways, perform acts of kindness: bury the dead, visit the sick”; the Gemara (Sota 14a) adds also that it means to emulate the attributes of Hashem, such as malbish arumim — clothing the naked — and nichum aveilim — comforting the mourners.

Thus, the concept of lalechet biderachav — going in His way — mentioned three times is not a repetition; rather each time has a different emphasis: yir’ah — fear — ahavah — love — and deveikut — cleaving.

The Jewish people are called B’nei Yisrael — which in Yiddish is popularly translated as “Yidden” — (אידן), and every individual is titled a Yid (איד).

Although Yid is obviously a form for Yehudah, perhaps it could be said that the term Id (איד) is an acronym for the three details emphasized in connection with going in Hashem’s ways, 1) Ahavah (אהבה) — love, 2) Yir’ah (יראה) — fear and 3) Deveikus (דביקות) — attachment.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, when a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13 he becomes a full-fledged member of B’nai Yisrael — the Yidden. It is my fervent wish and berachah to you that throughout your life you should be a holeich bidarkei Hashem — one who goes in the ways of Hashem — and proudly carry the title Id (איד). This means excelling in your Ahavat Hashem — love for Hashem — yir’at Hashem — fear of Hashem — and deveikut baHashem — attachment to Hashem — which means cleaving to Torah authorities, seeking and following their guidance, and also excelling in acts of chesed — kindness to a fellow Jew.


2.

In this week’s parshah Moshe continues delivering his parting words to Klal Yisrael. He says that shortly they will be crossing the Jordon River to enter Eretz Yisroel where they will be enjoying victory and prosperity. He warns them not to allow the forthcoming prosperity and security to blind them to the identity of the source of its blessing: Hashem. As an introduction he recalls some of the sins that they committed after the Ten Commandments were given. He does this in order to caution them not to take their responsibilities lightly and not to repeat their deficient behavior and pattern of rebelling against Hashem

At length he reviews the sin of the Golden Calf and how he felt it necessary to break the Luchot — Tablets. Careful analysis will show that though this event was already related in Parshat Ki Tisa of Chumash Shemot, there is a descriptive word used here that does not appear there.

There it says “It happened as he drew near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing that Moshe’s anger flared up “Vayashlech mi’yadev et haluchot va’yeshaber otom tachat ha’har” — “He threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain (32:19). In the current recollection it says Va’etpos bishnei haLuchot — I grasped the two Tablets — va’ashlichem mei’al shetei yadai — and threw them from my two hands — va’ashabrem l’eineichem — and I smashed them before your eyes” (9:17).

Now, when Moshe descended the mountain he was holding and carrying the Luchot in his hands, so the word “Va’etpos” — “I grasped” — seems difficult? The term “grasp” means to grab, or to use the power of seizing and holding. Why and from whom did Moshe need to grab, seize or take control of the Luchot? (See Ohr HaChaim.)

The Rebbe in Likkutei Sichot (Vol. 34, pp. 51-56) explains that Moshe grabbed them for legal reasons — to establish his exclusive ownership of the Luchot before acting on his decision to break them. Although the Torah states (Shemot 31:18) that Hashem “gave” Moshe the Luchot, and the Gemara (Nedarim 38a) interprets this verse to mean that the Torah was given to Moshe as a gift, Moshe had not intended to keep the Luchot for himself, but to confer their ownership to the entire Jewish nation. Moshe therefore “grabbed hold” of the Luchot before breaking them, to cancel his original plan to give them to Klal Yisrael, and reestablish outright ownership over them and avoid the possibility of damaging (or stealing) property that did not belong to him exclusively.

An additional reason for Moshe’s repossession of the Luchot before breaking them stemmed from his extraordinary love and devotion to the Jewish people. By claiming exclusive ownership, Moshe sought to ensure that the guilt of shattering the holy Luchot would lie squarely on his shoulders (though he had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the eigel — golden calf) and not on the Jewish people whose behavior led to his action.

A question still remains: from whom did Moshe grab them?

According to the Gemara (Avot D’Reb Nathan 2:3), an interesting episode took place in connection with the shattering of the Luchot. When Moshe came down and saw the depraved scene, he said to himself, “If I give them the Luchot, I will bring terrible guilt upon them, since the heinous crime they committed is punishable by death from Heaven,” so he turned back. The seventy elders saw him and chased after him. He held onto one end of the two Luchot and they held onto the other end. Moshe was stronger than all of them, so he grasped the Luchot from them, threw them down, and shattered them.

So while we now have an explanation for the word “Va’etpos” — “I grasped” — it is still necessary to understand the basis of the dispute between Moshe and the elders. What was their difference?

There are people who excel in bein adam lachaveiro — inter-human relationships — but lack in bein adam laMakom — their relationship with Hashem. They generously help a person in need but are lax in the performance of purely spiritual mitzvot. On the other hand, there are people who are meticulous in their relationship with Hashem, but much is to be desired in their dealings between man and man. The Tablets consisted of the Ten Commandments, five on each stone. The first five belonged to the category of mitzvot between man and G‑d, while the other five were mitzvot between man and man.

The elders argued, “It is true that the Jewish people violated what is written in the first group of Commandments, but they are all from the category of mitzvot between man and G‑d. Let the people at least remain with the second group of Commandments, which belong to the category of mitzvot between man and man.”

Moshe insisted, “Although they were written on separate stones, the two stones were attached to one another, in order to accentuate their inseparability. The rationale for obeying the ethical principles of the Torah in dealing with fellow human beings is not because they are self-evident and logical, but because these principles too were given at Sinai and are the word of Hashem.”

My dear Bar Mitzvah, Rashi in his commentary on the last pasuk of the Torah, writes that the “awesome deeds that Moshe performed before the eyes of all of Israel” was his taking upon himself to shatter the Luchot — Tablets — and quotes the Gemara (Shabbat 87a) that Hashem ratified his decision, and gave him a yasher ko’ach — well done!

Hashem’s approbation of Moshe’s bold action, and even His expression of thanks to him for it, undoubtedly means that He agreed with Moshe’s philosophy that bein adam laMakom and bein adam lachaveiro are inseparable. One without the other is not fifty percent, but rather zero.

Now that you have become an “ish” — “man” — hopefully you will endeavor to be an ish hama’aleh — a well-rounded man who will excel in both your relation with Hashem as well as your interhuman relationships. This will assure you the realization of King Shlomo’s words “Umetza chein v’seichel tov b’einei Elokim v’adam” — “You will find favor and goodly wisdom in the eyes of G‑d and man” (Proverbs 3:4).


3.

This week’s parshah, Eikev, and last week’s parshah, Va’etchanan, contain two portions which are an integral part of our prayers that are recited at least two times a day. These two portions are also in the tefillin we wear and in the mezuzot on our door posts.

As you can undoubtedly guess, I am referring to the Shema and “Vahayah im shomoa.” The first portion commands us to acknowledge the oneness of Hashem and to love him. The second portion emphasizes the performance of mitzvot with total dedication, and the rewards and punishment connected with their fulfillment or neglect.

In Gemara (Berachot 13a) they are described as Kabalot ol malchut Shamayim — acceptance of Hashem’s sovereignty — and Kabolot ol mitzvot — acceptance of the yoke of the commandments.

In addition to a major overall difference that the first portion is in singular and the second in plural, our sages have pointed out other differences and offered various explanations.

There is, however, a difference which I have not found indicated by our sages nor an explanation for it. I would like to discuss this observation.

We are commanded to teach these words to our children, to put them in the hand and head tefillin and to write them in our mezuzot.

In the first parshah of Shema, the order is first “Veshinantam l’vanecha — you shall teach them thoroughly to your children” — followed by “ukeshartem l’ot al yadecha — bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes” (6:7-8). In our parshah, the second portion of Shema, the order is reversed. First we are told “ukeshartem l’ot al yedechem” — “you shall bind (these words) for a sign upon your arm and let this be an ornament between your eyes” — followed by “velimadetem otom et b’neichem” — “you shall teach them to your children” (11:18-19).

Why the difference?

Perhaps it could be said that the Torah is imparting an important lesson to parents in regards to their obligation to educate their children and likewise there is an important lesson to the children.

A parent is obligated to teach his child Torah as soon as he is able to speak (11:19, Rashi). When the child reaches the age of thirteen, he becomes Bar Mitzvah and is required to wear tefillin. Many parents take an active interest in their child’s education when he is very young. However, as he grows older, their participation wanes.

In the first portion of the Shema, the Torah is teaching us that the first obligation of a parent is to teach his child Torah while he is very young, and, when he reaches the age of thirteen, the parent must see to it that he puts on tefillin. The second portion is teaching us that even when the child is already wearing tefillin i.e. he has become Bar Mitzvah, the parent is not free of his obligation to educate his children. He must continue to teach and always be involved in his children’s Torah learning.

As I mentioned, not only is this a message to the parents but there is also a message to children.

If the Torah feels that parents should continue teaching and guiding children even after Bar Mitzvah, apparently, Torah feels that they have something to teach and children can benefit from them.

We are living in a time when adolescents think they know it all. They are now after Bar Mitzvah and the Torah labeled them as Gedolim — mature individuals. The message of Torah, thus, is that even when you are putting on tefillin and have become a gadol, nevertheless, there is still much that your parents can teach you and that you can benefit by learning from them.

My dear Bar Mitzvah — our sages have said “Eizehu chacham halomeid mikol adam” — “Who is wise, one who learns from everyone” (Avot 4:1). I would like to add to this that it applies even moreso to one who learns from his parents. I can unhesitatingly say you are blessed with great parents and grandparents. They have much knowledge that they can convey and instill in you. Hopefully, you will follow the advice of King Shlomo who said “Shema beni musar avicha v’al titosh Torat imecha” — “Hear, my child the discipline of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother” (Proverbs 11:8).