August 4, 2020 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm #1889555abukspanParticipant
Eikev – Restoring Sight:
ואמרת בלבבך כחי ועצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה וזכרת את ה’ אלקיך כי הוא הנתן לך כח לעשות חיל
And you may say in your heart, “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth.” Then you shall remember Hashem, your G-d: that it is He Who gives you the strength to make wealth (Devarim 8:17-18).
While reviewing Parashas Eikev, where the Torah elaborates on the pitfalls of material success and how the blessing of abundance can cause one to lose sight of the true Provider, I came across a fascinating insight on a pasuk in Bereishis (18:4): “Yukach na me’at mayim ve’rachatzu ragleichem ve’hisha’anu tachas ha’eitz – Let a bit of water be brought and wash your feet, and recline beneath the tree.” Rashi says that the Arabs used to worship the dust of their feet, and that is why Avraham brought water to wash off the dust.
Several questions arise on this pasuk: Why did Avraham say, “Let a bit of water be brought and wash your feet”? What else does one wash with? In addition, why did he say that a little bit of water should be brought? Was he being stingy?
While we laugh at the absurdity of worshiping idols – which were only made yesterday – worshiping the dust of one`s feet seems to be taking this meshugas to a whole new level. This brings us to another question: What would motivate a rational person to worship the dust of his feet? Does it have symbolic meaning?
Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev once saw a man running in the marketplace. “Why do you hurry so?” asked the Chassidic master. “I am pursuing my livelihood,” replied the man. “How do you know that your livelihood lies before you,” asked Rav Levi Yitzchak, “and you are running after it? Perhaps it lies behind you, and you are running away from it.”
When a person is confident in his ability to find and close a deal, he is, in a sense, worshiping himself. A good door-to-door salesman may go through several pairs of shoes a year, often running to catch another client. If his attitude is: “I must pound the pavement eight hours a day, or be on the road x amount of weeks a year, in order to make a living,” he is losing sight of the fact that with Hashem in control, his year’s biggest sale may be just around the corner, rather than in another town.
This person believes: “Kochi ve’otzem yadi – My strength and the might of my hand [or feet], asah li es hachayil hazeh – made me all this wealth.” He does not worship Hashem; he worships himself.
These Arabs (a term also associated with salesmen and merchants) worshiped the dust of their feet. They attributed their success to their knowledge of where to go, where to run, and where they could find the best setting to close a deal. The dust kicked up while running to the next deal was the price they had to pay for their success. They worshiped themselves and their efforts, as symbolized by the dust on their feet.
In Nachalas Chamishah (Ki Sisa), Rav Chaim Moshe Gostynski writes in the name of his father-in-law, Rav Chaim Yaakov Blum, that Avraham Avinu helped dispel this notion. He showed wayfarers the true path and taught them to recognize and know that all strength is from Hashem. He had them wash their feet, removing the belief that they were the masters of their destiny.
This is also explained by Rav Aharon Levin, in HaDrash Ve’Ha’Iyun (p. 85, maamar 68), who answers one of our initial questions. Rav Levin explains that Avraham was hinting to his guests that at times all one needs is a little. Just as a bit of water goes a long way, so, too, when it comes to parnassah, all one needs is a bit of effort and a small amount of work. He was teaching them that worshiping and relying on the dust of your feet is not just foolish, but unnecessary.
Perhaps the addition of the word “water” in the verse is imparting another message. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 26b) writes: “Why is the Torah called Tushiyah [based on a verse in Yeshayah 28:29]? Because it weakens the strength of man.” Many ask: How can Torah be debilitating and weaken one’s strength, when another Gemara seems to say the opposite? In Eiruvin (54a), it says that if someone feels pain in his head, his throat, his intestines, his bones, or his whole body, he should toil in Torah (based on pesukim in Mishlei).
In Ohr HaDei’ah (p. 472), Rav Uri Langner explains that the “weakening of the strength of man,” which the Gemara says is caused by the Torah, is referring to the attitude of: “Kochi ve’otzem yadi – My strength and the might of my hand,” which a self-centered person lays claim to. When one finds success, it is easy to forget the truth: “ki Hu hanosein lecha koach laasos chayil – that it is He Who gives you the strength to make wealth.” The cure for this, writes the Gemara, is to toil in Torah. This reacquaints a person with the fact that Hashem is in control of all, and he only succeeded because Hashem shined His goodness upon him.
Toil in Torah cures physical ills, as it says in Eiruvin. At the same time, it weakens or suppresses a spiritual malady, the unhealthy ego of a person, which causes a person to say, “This was all due to my effort.”
This could be hinted to with the addition of the word “water” in the pasuk in Vayeira. Chazal tell us, “Ein mayim ella Torah – When speaking of water, we are referring to nothing but Torah” (Bava Kama 82a). Avraham was telling his guests, “Do you want to be free from your self-centered idolatry, the worship of the dust of your feet? Then take a little water, a little Torah. The Torah’s refreshing and life-sustaining lessons will teach you about a new and healthier way to live. A life no longer rife with uncertainty and disease, but one filled with trust and confidence in the One Who is all powerful, Hashem.”
This, as is written in Nachalas Chamishah (see also Ksav Sofer on Parashas Vayeira), fits well with the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah, Nasso), which says that in the merit of Avraham offering his guests to sit under a tree, we were given the mitzvah of succah. One goal of the mitzvah of succah is to take away the feeling of “Kochi ve’otzem yadi asah li es hachayil hazeh.” At harvest time, which is in the fall, a person could easily look back at his efforts and think that all this bounty is his. Precisely at this time, the Torah tells us to go out of our comfortable homes, sit under the stars, and reflect on where everything really comes from. Avraham taught this lesson to his Arab guests, as well, and in that merit, Hashem gave us the mitzvah of succah, which also teaches us: “ki Hu hanosein lecha koach laasos chayil.”
This is somewhat akin to the Gemara in Shabbos (118b), which says that anyone who keeps Shabbos according to its laws, even if he worships idols as in the generation of Enosh, will be forgiven. When one places his success at his own feet and believes that it is a result of his own work, this is a form of idol worship. Shabbos, on the other hand, restores a person’s mindset that Hashem is the center and cause of his success. By taking the day off, he comes to realize that the world continues without all his effort; this fosters a realization that his success on the other six days is not his either.
According to the Nachalas Chamishah, this can help us understand an interesting Gemara, which says that walking with long strides takes away 1/500 of a man’s eyesight. The way to restore it is by drinking the wine of Kiddush of Leil Shabbos (Berachos 43b, Shabbos 113b; see Rashi).
s wrong with taking long strides, and in what way does this harm a persons vision? And why does the Kiddush wine effect its cure? Perhaps we are describing – as in the story with Rav Levi Yitzchak – someone who is running to make a living, thinking that he alone knows where to go, and not trusting that it is Hashem Who guides and powers his strides. Such a person believes, “Kochi ve’otzem yadi asah li es hachayil hazeh.”
This person, writes the Gemara, loses some of his eyesight. His vision and perspective on just Who runs the world become blurry and skewed. His actions in the realm of business spill over and affect everything he sees. He believes that everything that goes his way is a result of his efforts, not part of a greater unfolding plan.
The solution, says the Gemara, is Shabbos Kiddush. When a person makes Kiddush, he acknowledges the reality that it is Hashem`s world, and that it is He who provides parnassah. At that time, the person puts on new eyeglasses, which help him view the world from the perspective of, “It is He Who gives you the strength to make wealth.” This becomes the cure as it atones for his idol worship, his worship and bondage to self.
I must end with a thought my father once told me. The Gemara (Kiddushin 3a) discusses a unique animal called a kvi, a כוי. The discussion concerns the halachic status of the animal. We have a safeik, a doubt, whether the animal is a chayah, a wild beast, or a beheimah, a domesticated animal.
כוי is an acronym for the words כחי ועצם ידי. The message is: If a person claims “Kochi ve’otzem yadi,” that his accomplishments are due to his own strengths and talents, then he is a kvi. He may be a beheimah or he may be a chayah, but a mentch, a person, he certainly is not.August 5, 2020 9:41 am at 9:41 am #1889690Reb EliezerParticipant
We should not say אלהינו למעשה ידינו don’t worship your actions of your hands. In Parashas Voeschanan, Moshe Rabbenu warns that we should not forget Hashem when receiving houses and fields without any effort and work. Which is interesting. Do you forget Hashem more when you acquire something with your effort or gain it for free?August 5, 2020 11:25 am at 11:25 am #1889698Reb EliezerParticipant
Rashi in the beginning of Parashas Vayero says that וירא to see means to understand.
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