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Friday, August 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Eikev

This week's shtikle comes with most unfortunate news: On Wednesday, my dear Opa, Mr. George Jakobovits, passed away at the age of 85 after a long and arduous battle with Parkinson's. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso,
Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel.

Anybody who had the pleasure of even a limited relationship with my Opa likely realized that one of the virtues that defined his very being was his devotion to his rebbe, R' Eliyahu Lopian, zt"l. Even the most mundane conversation would somehow ultimately lead to a story, a quote, or a dvar Torah from R' Elya. For me, the aspect of that special relationship which stood out the most was his strong dedication to "kevod hatefillah." I have heard many stories about R' Elya's fervent commitment to tefillah. One that comes to mind is the story of the air-raid sirens going off in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei and how the last to enter the shelter was R' Elya with a distraught look on his face. He was not upset about the imminent danger. He was upset about the lost kavanah for those last berachos of Shemoneh Esrei which was now gone forever. 

I can still remember as a young child how much my Opa would be bothered by people talking during davening. I remember his expression of dibelief, "How can this person not understand the holiness of Kaddish? Who in their right mind would even THINK of talking during Kaddish?" When I was a young, spunky kid, I lacked the maturity to truly appreciate this. But as I grew older, I found myself often wishing I could gather the strength and the courage to stand up for kevod hatefillah in the way that my Opa always did.

While kevod hatefillah was at the top of his list, his own kavod was always way down at the bottom. He would always insist on being called Mr. Jakobovits. Anyone who made the innocent error of calling him Rabbi Jakobovits would very hastily be corrected. But as is often the case, when someone runs away from kavod, it chases after him. 

While it is common to say when someone succumbs to illness that they lost their battle with that illness, I will venture to say that my Opa won a convincing and decisive victory over his illness. Whenever his illness would render a task too difficult, my Opa would never give up. When it became increasingly difficult to drive, he drove anyway. Then, it became absolutely impossible to drive to davening in the morning. So he walked. When it became impossible to get to davening without an hour's preparation that still did not stop him. His strength and determination was certainly a lesson to us all.


In parshas Kedoshim, we are taught for the first time that we must go out of our way to show love towards a convert. The pasuk says (19:34) regarding the convert "ve'ahavta lo kamocha," you shall love him as yourself. The authorities on the specification of each of the 613 mitzvos, such as Sefer HaChinuch and Rambam, do count this as a mitzvah unto itself. However, their source is not from Kedoshim. Rather, this mitzvah is not discussed until this week's parsha where it is said (10:18) "ve'ahavtem es hageir," and you shall love the convert. Asks R' Kulefsky, zt"l, why is the source for this mitzvah not its first mention in the Torah?


In Kedoshim, we also find the famous commandment to "love thy neighbour as thyself." The Torah's wording (Vayikra 19:18) is "ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha." The prefix "le" usually means toward. With regard to the love of HaShem, it is written (Devarim 6:5) "ve'ahavta es HaShem Elokecha." Accordingly, one would have expected the Torah to write "ve'ahavta es rei'acha kamocha." However, this pasuk uses a deliberately alternative wording. Our love of HaShem is expected to be absolute. Indeed, we are commanded to devote all our heart, soul and possessions toward that cause. But the Torah realizes that we cannot be expected to show such unequivocal love toward each and every one of our fellow Jews. Thus, the commandment to love your neighbour is not worded to imply that you must love him as yourself. Rather, we are simply commanded to act towards him in a manner that we would expect from others. As Hillel explained it simply to a convert, ironically, in the gemara (Shabbos 31a), that which you would not want done to yourself, do not do to others.


This, suggests R' Kulefsky, is the key to our original quandary. The pasuk in Kedoshim merely commands us "ve'ahavta lo." The command is in the same form as our requirement to love every Jew and thus, does not single the convert out in any way. However, the pasuk in Eikev  says "veahavtem es hageir." The use of the word es teaches us that we are required to show a special love towards converts, over and above that which we show towards every other Jew. This is what compelled the Sefer HaChinuch to derive this mitzvah from parshas Eikev, rather than parshas Kedoshim.

Indeed, my Opa showed a love for everyone (geirim included,) perhaps over and above what is expected in "ve'ahavta le'reiacha kamocha." In particular, his special love for his children and grandchildren is something we will always cherish and sorely miss. 

Yehi zichro baruch.

Have a good Shabbos and may we hear only of besuros tovos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Astro Torah: Superhuman Sight (by R' Ari Storch)


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