Shabbat schedule - Friday - Shabbat, August 15-16, 2014

Torah Reading: Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25)  
Haftorah: Isaiah 49:14 - 51:3      
Pirke Avot: Chapter 5 (Learn more about Pirkei Avot 
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 7:35 PM   
Shabbat ends: 8:37 PM   

Removing Fear


In the beginning of this week’s parsha G‑d allays the fears of the Israelites of th emnay nations they will confront when they enter into, conquer and inherit the Promised Land.
“If you shall say in your heart, ‘These nations are more numerous than us! How will we be able to drive them out? Do not fear them! You should always remember what G‑d, your G‑d, did to Pharaoh and to the whole of Egypt: the great proofs your eyes saw, the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm with which G‑d your G‑d took you out. So will G‑d your G‑d do to all of the nations that you fear.” 
The question can be raised, at this juncture, why should the Jews express fear? Wasn’t it quite obvious that G‑d’ assistance made their minority status irrelevant? Haven’t they seen all the great wonders of the wars they fought just days, weeks and months earlier; the war against Sichon, Og and the Midianites? 
Second, if G‑d’s intention was to quell their anxiety why did He have to respond to their fears by way of a question, “If you shall say in your heart?” The Torah should have simply stated: “Do not fear the nations etc.” 
Third, why does the Torah stress that “if you shall say in your heart?” If “in your heart” means  “If you shall fear,” let it say that! If, on the other hand it means literally, “if you shall express this fear,” then it was not just in their hearts, it would also be on is also on their lips. It should therefore have stated, “If you shall say…”
The second question is answered in the Chassidic work “Igra d’kallah.” His answer and novel interpretation of this verse can perhaps help to remove the other two questions as well.
But first a brief introduction is in order:
There are two reasons that people fear their enemy. 
The first and most common is that it is human nature to be intimidated or outright terrified when one confronts a formidable foe that wishes or has the potential to destroy you. When a hungry alligator comes towards you, you are overcome with fear. When a terrorist threatens people, they are naturally instilled with fear. No amount of bravery will help to allay the fear. Only someone who has a weapon that can neutralize the threat can remain calm and confident of survival.
In other words, fear that is brought on by an external threat can be removed when one is equipped with the right weapon.  
The most effective way of allaying our natural fears and anxieties is to recognize that we are in G‑d’s hands and we can place our trust in Him regardless of the extent of the threat. 
Of course, we must also avail ourselves of the natural instruments that can protect us; but knowing that it is ultimately G‑d’s power that makes these natural instruments effective. This meditation is an especially effective therapy if one realizes that the external threats that have engendered the fear were placed there by G‑d as a test of our trust in Him. 
There is however a more sophisticated form of fear that appears to be impervious to the remedy that we have for the first form.
This is the fear that we experience when we realize that the enemy that threatens us was created by us. We have created the monster by our own sins and shortcomings. 
And this form of fear, Igra d’kallah maintains, is what the Torah addresses here. It was not the first natural sense of fear that G‑d was trying to treat. That fear has already been discussed in earlier sections of the Torah and the Jews who were poised to enter the Promised Land after forty years in the desert were well aware of. 
However, with this verse the Torah opens a new chapter in the world of fear and anxiety. It is the fear that is generated when a person reflects on how their own iniquity served as a catalyst that created so many enemies and monsters.
If G‑d were to have placed obstacles before us, we can reason, that there is no basis for concern, because the obstacle is a test that G‑d obviously knows we can pass. All we have to do is approach the obstacle as a challenge that was meant by the Divine Challenger to overcome by recognizing that G‑d is on our side and that the challenge and the means to overcome the challenge come form the same Divine source. The more we reflect on the source of the challenge, the more we realize that it is only a facade; the obstacle is not real.
When, however, we—and not G‑d—create the obstacle because we failed in our mission, we may take this as a sign that we have abandoned G‑d’s protective cover and that the formidable and foreboding challenge is an insurmountable one; not just a mirage and a test. How could we overcome an obstacle that we created because we “drove” G‑d out of our lives and dug our own grave? How can we rely on Him to get us out of the rut when it was not Him that got us into it?
This gnawing question and fear is what the Torah addresses here.
Let us now rephrase the Biblical text: 
“If you shall say in your heart ‘these nations are more numerous than us!’”  Instead of translating the word “mimeni” as “than us”, it can be translated as “from me.” The reason why there are so many nations (read: hostile forces that seek to destroy us and who enjoy a numerical advantage over us) is due to the fact that we created them; they come from us. Their superiority is not natural; it is a product of our own devices. Why are these nations more numerous? Because of us! 
The strength of these nations, we may think, does not come from G‑d, but generated solely by our own weaknesses and transgressions. How then, we can justifiably ask, can we possibly drive away these negative forces?
The answer is that this very heartfelt feeling of helplessness due to one’s sins and the remorse we feel in the depths of our heart (“If you shall say in your heart”) is the force that obliterates the negative forces we created. This feeling of remorse that emanates from our heart constitutes the very power to remove the threat from all the negative forces that we may have been responsible for their existence. When a person expresses heartfelt Teshuvah (repentance) and returns to G‑d by showing remorse for their past errant behavior, that uproots the energy that was generated by our sins. 
Thus the Torah says (not, “If you shall say in your heart…” but “When you say in your heart... do not fear them.” If your Teshuvah is sincere, that sincere expression of contrition is itself is the reason why you no longer have to fear. The fear is what gets rid of the cause of the fear!
But the Torah continues:
“You should always remember what G‑d your G‑d, did to Pharaoh and to the whole of Egypt: the great proofs your eyes saw, the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm with which G‑d your G‑d took you out. So will G‑d your G‑d do to all of the nations that you fear.”
This additional response, according to Igra d’kallah, was intended as a rejoinder to a follow up question the person who expresses remorse might raise: 
“True, I did Teshuvah, but I am devoid of any Mitzvot. While I might be able to erase the past, what have I to show for myself, that I should deserve to be saved from the threatening forces that I created with my sins?”
To respond to this new concern that we lack adequate Mitzvot, the Torah continues with the description of how G‑d took us out of Egypt. When we left Egypt, our Sages tell us that we were spiritually “naked.” Yet, despite that, G‑d redeemed us, and so He will redeem us, not only from the exile He imposed on us, but even from the exile mentality and mindset that we created.
On a deeper level it can be said that when one changes their exile mindset, that itself serves as the catalyst to perform the Mitzvot. Lack of performance of the Mitzvot can come from two sources: One is the natural inclination that G‑d planted in us for us to overcome. Or it can come from our own stubborn insistence on maintaining an “exile mindset” that stifles our spiritual creativity and stamina. Thus the result is that we become lax in our observance.
Once we correct our own imposed exile mentality we open ourselves up to the G‑dly force that will ultimately take us out of all forms of exile: the exile G‑d created and the exile that we create.
It is crucial that we recognize that the exile that we created is neutralized the moment we realize that we created it and that it is an aberration and we are sorry we created it. This realization can be expressed in many ways. One way it is dramatically expressed is when we pray for the Redemption or study the Torah’s teachings about Moshiach and Redemption. These exercises remove the grip exile forces have on us.
The Rebbe (whose father’s Yahrtzeit we our observing this Shabbat the 20th of Av), informed us unequivocally that we are living on the threshold of the Messianic Era. And all that we have to do is open our eyes to this new reality and prepare ourselves and our communities for the arrival of Moshiach by increasing in acts of goodness and kindness, along with all the other Mitzvot and study of Torah.
Perhaps, the Rebbe was saying that the G‑dly imposed exile conditions have been, for all intents and purposes, removed. What is left is for us to remove is the cover on our own eyes. The Rebbe exhorted us to not stubbornly insist that we are products of exile. Our mission is to come to the realization that our exile mentality is self-imposed. The moment we “upon our eyes” to this realization, we will be well on our way on the road to the Promised Land with the actual Redemption through Moshiach.

Moshiach Matters

A man’s spiritual labors should be imbued with a constant yearning for the Redemption, in the spirit of the phrase,“I await his coming every day.” Our Sages taught, “What is the light that the House of Israel is awaiting? — it is the light of Mashiach.” Thus, too, they taught, “When a man is led into the Heavenly Court he is asked, ‘...Did you yearn for the Redemption?’ ” So since one is obliged to serve G‑d constantly, all day long, it is clear that this hopeful anticipation should likewise be constant, all day long.
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit