RAV BRAZIL PARSHAS RE’EH תשע”ה
ELUL – DID YOU HEAR THE LION ROAR?
The parsha begins with the words ראה אנכי נותן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה. See that I am placing before you today beracha and curse. Hashem is telling us that there are only two choices in Jewish Life, that there is no mediocrity or pareve ground. If one does not strive to be the best which is to receive the beracha, he will ultimately land up with the worst, the curse (Seforno). From where does one get insight to live with the ambition of directing himself towards perfection and not settling to live on a cruise control mode for the rest of his existence? The answer is found in the first word of this passuk ראה see. Forming a relationship with Hashem compels one to infuse it with the sense of sight as if it was real and tangible. To the degree that one’s relationship with Hashem bonds in this fashion, the greater the beracha, simcha and shelaimus one will achieve during his lifetime.
The Ramah in the beginning of the Shulchan Aruch reveals this foundation by writing שויתי ה’ לנגדי תמיד הוא כלל גדול בתורה to sense and conduct our lives as if we are in Hashem’s presence at every moment. Most people live with the blindness of seeing only nature as a reality. The more virtuous individuals see Hashem as the Prime Mover behind the force of nature. In a nutshell, this perceptive vision that pierces through the veil of Hashem’s concealment is called יראה which share the same letters as ראיה. Those individuals who merit this middah live a different life style with deeper meaning and direction, in contrast to those who unfortunately do not. Without יראה, one’s davening and Shabbos for instance are sapped of vitality and renewal as they become a mere ritualistic burden for one to quickly get it over with.
But there a period in the calendar year when there is a segulah that facilitates a Yid to deepen his relationship with Hashem with the middah of Yirah. This time segment is called the days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Hoshanah Rabba a total of 51 days. This is hinted in the passuk אנא ה’ הושיעה נא the word נא is 51. We beseech Hashem to save us during this period of Days of Judgment from the galus, from our bad middos, from our yetzer harah, and from our shortcomings in Torah and Mitzvos.
This is alluded to in the passuk (Bereishis 21,7) מי מלל לאברהם that the word מלל means praise. What makes one praiseworthy is hinted in the acronym of the word itself מלל . The Mishnah states (Avos 3,1) דע מאין באת ולאן אתה הולך ולפני מי אתה עתיד ליתן דין וחשבון One must constantly be cognizant of his past, present and future. From where did he come, to where he is going and before whom he will be obligated to render an accounting of all his shortcomings. The word מלל is the acronym of מ אין לאן לפני . If one lives his life accordingly, then he will be praiseworthy as Avraham Avinu.
The first recognition of one’s origins מאין from a putrid microscopic semen, is pretty easy to recognize. The remaining two, that of the direction and focus of one’s life, and the final judgment are quite more challenging. However, during these 51 days starting from Rosh Chodesh Elul, the spiritual climate for this cognizance is compelling. This is hinted to by the word לאן – towards (ל) the 51 (אן) days of דין וחשבון one is now journeying.
The following is an editorial from CNN. Of all the stories you heard in the news in the past few days, which one moved you the most? Which outraged you, brought you to tears, led you to action? Which did you talk about with your friends, post on Facebook, discuss on Twitter? If the answer is the killing of Cecil the lion, you are in lots of company .
By now, it seems, most people agree that the killing, apparently for fun, of the majestic lion by a Minnesota dentist visiting Zimbabwe was a perplexing act of pointless cruelty and cowardice. It spawned millions of posts on Facebook and Twitter — a kind of outrage tsunami.
Cecil, who was apparently well-known and loved in the natural park where he lived in Zimbabwe, died in a most unnatural way, lured from his home and slaughtered. (The dentist, now perhaps fearing for his life, has apparently gone into hiding.)
The intensity of the backlash over the trophy killing has triggered a counter-backlash. Why, some are now asking, do people care so much about the death of a lion when so many human beings are suffering and dying? The surge of sorrow for a dead lion, they say, when compared to the relative quiet about other wrongs, reveals a moral flaw in our humanity, a defect in our moral compass.
A Facebook page titled “Shame Lion Killer Dr. Walter Palmer,” at last count with 13,000 members, carried some of the angry criticism. One writer posted a question: “What’s more appalling, the death of ONE lion…or the 30,000 children that die from hunger daily?” Ending world hunger is not impossible, but it’s not simple or easy. And yet, the fact that it is difficult does not excuse us from the urgency of trying.
No, there is nothing morally flawed in being outraged about the death of a gorgeous lion. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back over that. Sign a petition, even. But there is something deeply wrong in not caring, not doing more to stop the attacks that continue to kill thousands in Syria; or about the millions of suffering refugees created by war and terror— the highest numbers since World War II — or about the 9 million people (3 million of them children!) who die of hunger-related causes every year.
And now kehavdil in contrast let us take a look at the Torah editorial. There is another type of lion that should move us more than Cecil and of which we have every right to talk with concern about its demise. This lion’s name is Elul and the Yamim Noraim. These 51 days of Awe are coined the days of the Lion as it is alluded to in the passsuk אריה שאג מי לא ירא (Amos 3,8) When the lion roars who is not afraid?The acronym of אריה spells אלול, ראש (השנה), יום (כפור), הושענא (רבה) the four highlight days of awe and judgment during the months of Elul and Tishrei. If one does not take seriously these days of Teshuvah by letting them pass over him without any change aroused by an increase of the middah of יראה which are also the letters of אריה, it is tantamount to killing the Lion.
It is mamesh incredible the number of people who reacted to Cecil’s death with such human compassion. The reason why? Merely because it was given a human name Cecil by some nobody and it therefore brought about a human emotion. In big contrast is this Lion of Kedusha which was named by a big somebody, the Prophet Amos who received this name of its awesomeness from Hashem. Our awesome reaction to the presence of this Lion of Kedusha is not only expected but also encouraged because it will be the deciding factor in the shaping of our yearly judgment and future.
All said and done, to the end Cecil the lion still remained a carnivorous ferocious animal that when hungry enough would eat even those who treat it like a human. In contrast the Lion of Elul is not about a physical lion but rather it is about the heavenly calling of teshuvah directed to you the human being who is on trial and about to be judged. The critics above claimed that it was immoral to worry about Cecil’s untimely death and not about human suffering and hunger. Yidden who care about the Kedusha Lion of these coming days are the ones who truly take focus of their spiritual inventory and demonstrate that they are really concerned about the human suffering, sicknesses, poverty, and death that are direct products of these Awesome Days. If we shoot this Lion by being non reactive to the inner pulse of these Holy Days, then in essence we are shooting nobody but ourselves and making the one of a kind unique individual called you, endangered and perhaps even extinct chas veshalom.
This is something that one must truly take to heart because starting in Elul we Yidden also have a spiritual Face Book that we must soon address. We too must Face the day when the Book of Life and Death are open before the Almighty on the Day of Reckoning which no one can escape. In this book we too write are destiny as we say in the tefillah of Yamim Noraim וחותם יד כל אדם בו the signature of each person’s hand is in the Sefer Hazichronos. Let me put it to you this way: Life continues after the death of Cecil. The same cannot be said about the death of Amos’s lion. For that we must raise a raucous.
This public reaction over the premature death of a lion that preoccupied one’s thoughts, conversations and actions is the heavenly call from Hashem to us to at least do the same for His Lion of 51. Our tefillos and Shabbos could become revitalized during this period. The word התפלה is gematriah אריה שאג. The words הויה לנגדי תמיד כלל גדול (with the five words) is gematriah שבת (with its three letters). Let us hear the roar of Lion 51 which has the ability to wake us up from our slumber that pulls us towards the fulfillment of a lifestyle of earthliness characteristic of this passing world. The call of the shofar is the call of the lion. Even more so. If during these days we can muster up the consciousness of דע מאין לאן לפני which is gematriah 427 we would have the זכת (427) to see משיח בן דוד which is also 427 (including the three words).