This past weekend was one filled with happiness, as we celebrated the wedding of my wife’s twin brother, Meir, and his new wife, Sara. A few people asked for a copy of my remarks from the Aufruf at the end of davening on Shabbat morning. Below is the Dvar Torah.
I wanted to speak today about the koach of listening. There’s a lot written in Sefer Devarim, Moshe Rabbeinu’s final mussar shmooze to Klal Yisrael, about how important it is to hear, to listen to the words of Hashem. The crescendo of this message was read last week with the Shema, but it continues into our parsha, Parshas Eikev. You don’t have to go far into the sedrah to see it: The first pasuk, vehaya eikev tishme’un es hamishpatim ha’eileh ushmartem veasisem osam, that because you listen to the words and laws of Hashem, you will be blessed. It’s set out so clearly for us, if we hear God’s message and take it to heart, we will be privy to all sorts of bracha that was afforded to our ancestors. Children, good crops, flocks of livestock, health, dominion over all who pursue to destroy you, etc. It seems like a pretty good deal, no? We follow Hashem’s mitzvot, and we’ll see all these great things happen to us. Now the Jewish people have been no stranger to suffering, yet at the end of the day, the word of God is something you can take to the bank. We hear the messages over and over again: listen to God, and everything would be good. Why the reiteration? Chazal make a point of telling us that the Torah is so succinct and calculated, that there’s nothing extra included! What’s the reason we’re hearing this message on repeat? I think the answer is, that simply, we need to be reminded. It’s not an extra reminder, but every juncture where this comes us is an opportunity for us to put this mandate into action. We know what we’re supposed to do, but we don’t always do it, and we need a glaring alarm every so often to keep us focused. There are times when it takes an even greater level of understanding. Let’s travel back to Parshas Yisro. The parsha begins Vayishma Yisro, and Yisro heard. Rashi immediately asks, what, pray tell, was it that Yisro heard? He answers that Yisro heard about Yetzias Mitzrayim and the war with Amalek. The only problem is, that Yisro wasn’t the only one who heard about these events: the entire world did! We recount in Az Yashir that the inhabitants of Philistia were gripped with terror, the chiefs of Edom were confounded, and those who dwelled in Cnaan had melted in fear. Amalek heard what happened and wanted to knock Klal Yisrael down a peg or two, and still attacked them! What was so special about Yisro? Yisro took action. It wasn’t enough that he heard about what Hashem did for Bnai Yisrael, he stood up and said “this is where I need to be” and cast his lot with the Jewish people. We’re standing now on the cusp of Rosh Chodesh Elul, and the sefarim hakedoshim tell us that on Shabbos mevarchim for Elul that the world starts to tremble. We can take this message of Yisro and apply it to our everyday lives. Starting next week, we begin to sound the shofar at the end of davening, as we do all Elul long. It’s done to remind us that Yom Hadin is approaching. Not to serve as a reminder that we need to clean the houses for our out of town guests, or plan our menus, or remember to get the apples and honey hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, but to remind us to take stock of the past year, and do teshuvah. We say “Ashrei HaAm Yodei Seruah, blessed is the nation who knows what the shofar means”, who knows what it causes us to do. Ideally, we should live in a world where when we hear the shofar, we can’t think about anything other than repentance. We hear, and we internalize. The Jewish people don’t have Naaseh or Nishmah, it’s the two together that make it work. This is the exact message I’d like to leave my brother-in-law with as he embarks on his journey into marriage to our future sister in law, Sara. Listening to each other, and acting upon what you hear won’t necessarily ensure a 100% smooth marriage, but I can’t think of a better word of advice. As Rabbi Lamm said to his children, Sara (of blessed memory) and Rabbi Mark Dratch, under the chuppah, from Sefer Bereishis, “Kol asher tomar eilecha Sara, shma bekolah, that whatever Sara tells you to do, listen to hear voice.”