PARSHAT KI TAVO 5778 – SECRETS OF THE TORAH WITH RAV BERLAND, SHLITA
From the words of Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, translated from ‘Tzama Nafshi’.
AM YISRAEL IS A HOLY NATION
Am Yisrael is an Am Kadosh (holy nation). It only seeks to serve [God] in holiness and purity. Am Yisrael doesn’t seek to get ‘prophecies’, or big ‘spiritual levels’, which is what the nations of the world and the people who don’t know the true way to serve Hashem are looking for.
This was the mistake that Bilaam made, and that all the nations of the world makes. By them, the ikker (essence) is to be a ‘big’ man, an important guy, someone who’s famous. But by Am Yisrael, we’re only looking for one thing: how do we serve [God] in holiness and purity, which is the opposite of all the ideologies and the doctrines espoused by the nations of the world, who don’t have the first idea about true kedusha (holiness).
They really have no idea about this concept of kedusha. Am Yisrael are kedoshim (holy), they aren’t satisfied with just empty words. By us, the first thing we do is start to work on our kedusha, on our shmirat eynayim (guarding of the eyes), on kedushat habrit (sanctifying our marital relations), and we fight for these things. We want to be saved from [transgressing] the ‘don’t’ in ‘don’t stray after your hearts and lust after your eyes’, even though this is very hard, and a person often doesn’t see any way that he could possibly be saved from transgressing this.
But he knows that he has to fight for it, and that he doesn’t have any other choice – this is the whole reason he came to the world!…
KEDUSHA IS THE MAIN FOCUS
And this is what is written in the book Even Shleimah, by the Vilna Gaon, that a man only comes to the world in order to overcome this thing, only for this he comes to the world. And not for any other reason! All the other things only come to help assist him with his kedusha.
People think that kedusha is an insignificant thing. There’s 613 mitzvot, and these also include the ‘don’t do it’, the negative commandment, to not stray after our hearts and lust after our eyes…
The Rambam says that all those who think it’s OK to skip over the ‘don’t’ in ‘don’t stray after your hearts’ etc, and who like to put that part in brackets, or leave is somewhere on the side, and who like to say: “There’s 613 mitzvot… On this one mitzvah, I’m not makpid (strictly observant)… After all, not everyone keeps every single mitzvah.
I’m keeping the mitzvah to be a Torah genius, and to be a famous scholar, and to be a person reknowned to have ruach hakodesh (the spirit of prophesy). But to keep the ‘don’t’ in ‘don’t stray after your hearts’? I don’t have time for that. This is beyond my capabilities, I’m a busy man, I’m the one driving the bus, here.
Truly, the world is making a big error with this. It’s certain that a person can guard his eyes, even someone who has to drive somewhere can guard his eyes, he can ask God to guard his eyes for him, because by way of prayer, it’s possible to attain everything.
Just like Avraham Avinu, who travelled across the world but who didn’t see anything. And also like the sons of Yaakov Avinu, who went from Israel to the land of Egypt, and who didn’t open their eyes the whole way. The midrash says that they didn’t see anything on the way. A person can travel across the whole world, and still guard his eyes!
Now, we’re travelling to Uman, and it’s certain that we can guard our eyes throughout the journey. People look at profanity, then say there’s nothing wrong with it. A person blemishes his eyes, then says ‘what did I do?! What sin did I do?! I’m not influenced but what I’m seeing!’ – but this is a lie!!
WHY CHAREIDIM RUN AWAY FROM PROFANITY
It’s told that the ‘Beit Yisrael’ had to meet a group of professors, who asked him: “Why are the chareidim so scared from seeing things, from every sight? These things don’t influence us or disturb us at all.”
The Beit Yisrael replied, “What can we compare this matter to? To a Bedouin and a European gentleman. The Bedouin spends his whole life going barefoot over sharp stones and splinters and thorns. From the day he’s born, he’s walking across the pointiest stones, and it really doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t feel any pain in the soles of his feet.
“And then we have the European gentleman, who is bothered by even the smallest stone that he can feel inside his shoe, or the tiniest bit of sand, and already he can’t go on, because his foot hurts him. He suffers a great deal from this.”
The Beit Yisrael continued: ”This is the moral of the story: You professors are like the Bedouin, you’ve already so spiritually sullied yourselves, with all your infinite tumah (spiritual impurity), that a small stone, a small sin, a small forbidden sight, a small glimpse of something – you already don’t notice it at all.
“But for a person who has a completely refined soul, and who is guarding his soul, even the smallest thing – the smallest sin, the smallest forbidden sight, the smallest forbidden peek – this bothers him! It pains him! It stabs him with a thousand daggers.”
MAN’S FREE CHOICE IS IN THE EYES
Man’s free choice exists only in the eyes. The moment that a man guards his eyes, he can reach all the spiritual levels that exist in the world. He’s not going to speak lashon hara any more, he’s not going to be harshly judgmental of other people, he’s not going to oversleep, he’s going to keep Shabbat, and lay tefillin…
And we’re not just talking about guarding our physical eyes, here, we’re also talking about guarding our ‘mental’ eyes, too. A person can guard his physical eyes, but he still has an infinite number of other eyes, like ‘jealous eyes’, and ‘hateful eyes’, and ‘honor-seeking eyes’ – he has to guard every type of ‘eye’ that he has, and to disconnect all of his senses from the world.
He shouldn’t look at any worldly matter, he shouldn’t look at anything. All his senses and all of his desire – it should all be only for Hashem Yitborach, and for Hashem’s honor. And when a person guards his eyes like this (both his physical eyes, and his ‘jealous’ and ‘hating’ eyes, etc)…then all the secrets of the Torah are revealed to him, and all of the secrets of creation, and all the wonders of the world.