Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Parsha Va’etchanan

In this week’s parsha the Midrash states: “The one who merits wealth merits everything.  Under what circumstances is this so?  When the wealth he holds has been conferred by Heaven and is in the accordance with the Torah, then [the person who possesses the wealth is considered as if he has everything].  Conversely, if his wealth was sanctioned by Hashem, then it is considered as if the wealth was taken undeservedly.”

What the Midrash is teaching us is that there are two kinds of wealth: (1) divinely authorized and (2) wealth that is unauthorized by Hashem.  The question is how do we understand this distinction? The answer is that there are two types of divine reward that pertain to Tzaddikim: (1) reward bestowed in This World and (2) reward that is bestowed in Olam Haba.  Some Tzaddikim merit both types of reward.  When that is the case, the wealth they enjoy in this world is sanctioned by the Torah. This is the individual that the Midrash refers to – “the one who merits wealth merits everything.”  On the other hand, other Tzaddikim merit a share in Olam Haba, but do not attain wealth in this world.  If they hold wealth in this world, it has to come to their hands against accepted Torah principles.

The Midrash provides an illustration of wealth that was inappropriately attained.  The Shevatim of Gad and Reuven requested a portion of land across the Jordan River.  When Moshe heard this from them he felt disturbed by their willingness to separate themselves from their brothers. He also perceived that they assigned more importance to their material concerns than their spiritual endeavors.  Moshe therefore insightfully concluded that their yearning for material possessions indicated that their wealth was not divinely sanctioned.  Therefore, the Midrash reveals the importance of evaluating our relationship to materialism.  

Essentially, we must be certain that all our financial affairs are in accordance with Torah practice and thought.  If Klal Yisroel does so, then we can be assured that the wealth that we receive in this world is sanctioned by Hashem. This is based on Ohr Rashbaz of the Alter of Kelm.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Va’etchanan – True Refinement


Recently, I experienced the misfortune of driving behind a garbage truck on a two-lane road for over a mile. It was a very long mile. I admit, my patience was tested. Finally, it veered off to a side street and I was free. Nonetheless, driving down the highway miles away, I could still smell the stench of the garbage.  

This brings home an important lesson: the actions we take leave a scent that remains with us long after the action is taken. This is true, be it for good or for bad. We are indeed fortunate to be given the Torah with so many Mitzvos in which to involve ourselves, to create a pleasant scent even long after the Mitzvah is completed.   

Parshas Vaeschanan recounts the giving of the second Luchos (tablets) – the Ten Commandments – to Moshe.  Before Hashem gave the Torah to the Jews, He first offered it to all the other nations (Rashi in Zos Habracha). Hashem offered it to Edom, who inquired what is written in the Torah. Hashem replied, “one may not kill.” “Forget it” replied Edom, “we exist through murder.”  Next Hashem offered the Torah to the nation of Yishmael in which the same dialogue ensued and Hashem declared, “One may not commit adultery.” Yishmael also turned down the offer as this commandment was contradictory to their lifestyle. Yet, we know that all the nations of the world are commanded and obligated to keep the Seven Noahide laws, which include “Do not kill” and “Do not commit adultery.” Since Edom and Yishmael were already bound to these laws, how could they use them as pretexts to turn down the Torah?   
There is a Chazal that compares the Torah to bread. Just as physical food nourishes the body, Torah is the spiritual food which nourishes the soul. Our food is digested, becoming protein, fat cells and energy within us-everything we need. A similar process is true with Torah, explains Rav Gedalya Schorr. A person who toils in learning will have Torah become part of him. This enlightens us about an entirely new realm of what observing Torah and Mitzvos accomplishes.  Torah is not just an instruction manual of what we should and should not do; rather, it’s a sustaining force within us when we learn it well and incorporate it within us. Some people learn Torah to fulfill the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah – Torah study.  But the person who truly engrosses himself in Torah enters into a different dimension.  The Torah and he become one.

Let’s not forget: we are not a computer which stores the knowledge of Torah in our heads. If that were true, then only the most gifted minds would be commanded with Torah study. It’s a different element entirely. It’s not about retention, nor about volume. The Torah’s purpose is to transform us to be better people. It’s not an easy job.   

Rabbi Wolbe would say, “No accomplishment is achieved on its own.”  While it takes focus and effort, the Torah is the instrument that molds us.  This explains another Chazal which compares Torah to fire.  Fire has the ability to soften metal so it can be bent and shaped.  Similarly, the Torah molds and shapes our character and soul.    
The Alshich notes the only difference between the first and second Luchos was that the first Luchos were hewn by Hashem and the second carved out by Moshe.  However, the words were written by Hashem on both.  To have the words of Torah written on ourselves, we need to carve, mold and shape ourselves to be a vessel worthy of having the Torah written on us and incorporated within us.  When we apply ourselves, the Torah takes our “raw” self and refines it, like fire softening metal.

This explains the Torah being refused by Edom, Yishmael and the other nations. True, they were already prohibited from killing and adultery, but those are specific commandments.  However, if Hashem would give them the Torah, that would mean they would have to transform their essence to abhor these behaviors.  That is something they were not willing to do.  

There are three foundational qualities that all Jews possess: to be compassionate, ashamed, and benevolent, all of which we received at Har Sinai. These qualities all come together with observance of the Torah. Our focus, therefore, needs to be on integrating the lessons and values the Torah teaches us until they are synthesized within us. It’s a continuing process which constantly nourishes and betters us, making our lives more meaningful and enjoyable.  

The World expects a higher level of conduct from the Jew because Hashem gave us the Torah with the mandate and the ability to refine ourselves; it is our gift, our obligation and our salvation.