(Haftara: Shabbat Nachamu: Isaiah 40:1-26)
(Pirkay Avot, Chapter 4 )
1. [4:7] “…listen to the laws and judgments…so you can live and come and inherit the land…” The mission of the Jews is mainly publicizing one universal God, and spreading the importance of justice and compassion. Our mission can be carried out anywhere. Why do we need a land?
2. [4:9] “Just watch yourself and guard your soul…” The Sfat Emet says that this pasuk is telling us to avoid the group arrogance that could be the result of the statements in the previous verses—“Who is such a great nation, etc.” What can be considered a healthy self-image as part of a nation, and what can be considered arrogance?
3. [4:12] “…You heard the sound of words, but didn’t see an image…” Our tradition greatly emphasizes the fact that God has no body, and there cannot be images of God. The Piacetzner Rebbe, however, tells us that, if a person needs it, he or she can have an image of God in their mind when they pray. Later, they can stop. Is the Rebbe justified in telling people to do something negative in order to have a better relationship with God.
4. [4:30] “…and you will return to God…” The Torah tells us that after sinning, the Jews will be dispersed all over the world, and then, as a result of their suffering, they will return to God. Why does returning to God happen through suffering, rather than through positive events and joy?
5. [Tisha b’Av] We prepare for Tisha b’Av with three weeks of semi-mourning. However, on the day after Tisha b’Av, we are already not mourning, and a week later, we celebrate Tu b’Av a day of happiness and love. Just as we gradually prepared for mourning for three weeks, shouldn’t we come out of the mourning gradually?
When the longing to be good to everyone becomes intensified in a person, then he knows that an illumination from the higher realm has come to him. He is praiseworthy if he prepares a proper place in his heart, his mind, his actions and in all his feelings to receive this elevated light. It is the most precious asset on earth. Let him hold onto it and not let it go.
–R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer