Shevuos Vort: Our Power to heed Torah and fascinating reason for eating dairy

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    Eikev – In our Hands:
    ועתה ישראל מה ה’ אלקיך שאל מעמך כי אם ליראה את ה’ אלקיך
    And now, Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you, except to fear Hashem, your G-d? (Devarim 10:12).
    Rashi cites a well-known Talmudic dictum, whose source is in Berachos (33b): “Hakol bi’dei Shamayim chutz mi’yiras Shamayim – Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven.” When explaining this Gemara, Rashi says that Hashem decides whether a person will be tall or short, poor or rich, wise or foolish, fair-skinned or dark. But Hashem gave the choice of whether to be righteous or wicked to each and every person. He gave each one two paths to choose from, and advised him to pick the path of yiras Shamayim.
    Tosafos (in Bava Basra 144b and other places) points out that Rabbi Chanina’s statement of: “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven,”seems to be at odds with another statement of the Gemara, in Kesubos (30a): “Hakol bi’dei Shamayim chutz mi’tzinim pachim – Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for cold and heat.”
    Tosafos then explains that Rabbi Chanina’s statement in Berachos is referring to a person’s innate characteristics, which are preordained by Heaven, in contrast to whether a person will be righteous or evil. However, the Gemara in Kesubos is addressing man’s external tribulations and illnesses; whether or not a person will be harmed by outside forces is in the hands of Heaven, yet we are all given the ability to protect ourselves from cold and fevers.
    As per Tosafos, there is no correlation between the two statements. One assures me of the ability to protect myself from certain external threats such as cold and fevers, while the other refers to my ability to protect myself from my yetzer hara and choose to do the correct thing.
    The sefer Ziknei She’eiris Yisrael (p. 17, footnote #19) brings an alternative way to understand these two statements, which actually connects the two. At every juncture in which I am tested by my yetzer hara, I have a decision to make. At times, I must excite and energize myself to overcome the evil inclination, such as when he tempts me to stay in bed instead of getting up to go daven. On the other hand, in the case of a mitzvas lo saaseh, where the yetzer hara is trying to inflame my desire to perform a forbidden act, I must take the proverbial cold shower to deaden and cool my impulses toward the proscribed behavior.
    Thus, all is in the hands of Heaven with the exception of cold and heat. I have the power to apply cold and heat – to cool myself down and restrain myself from sinning in the heat of the moment, and also to invigorate and heat myself up to perform a mitzvah even against the dampening cold that the yetzer hara applies. This, then, has the same meaning as the initial statement of the Gemara – that everything is in the hands of Heaven except for fear of Heaven. These tools, of cold and heat, help me make the correct decision, and to choose to follow Hashem, which can only be accomplished with the proper yiras Shamayim.
    We can now understand, on an entirely new level, the reason brought in the Sefer Kol-Bo for our custom to eat dairy and honey on Shavuos, for the Torah is compared to milk and honey, as it says in Shir HaShirim (4:11), “Devash ve’chalav tachas leshoneich – Honey and milk are under your tongue.”
    Why is Torah compared to honey and milk? Rav Asher Anshel Yehudah Miller, in his sefer Lechem Asher (p. 68), explains this based on the Rambam in Chapter 4 of Hilchos Dei’os. The Rambam says that honey is good for elderly people, whereas milk is good for the young. The nature of honey is to warm the body, to excite the metabolism. Hence, it is good in old age. Milk, on the other hand, cools down the body, making it appropriate for the energetic and rambunctious youth.
    That is why the Torah is compared to these two foodstuffs, for it also has these qualities. Torah can kindle and energize a person to perform mitzvos, even against the cold, dampening effect of the yetzer hara. It can also help us control our desires when necessary, to get us to slow down and refrain from listening to the stimulating call of our evil inclination. When we eat milk and honey on Shavuos, we are reminding ourselves that we have the tools to follow through on our commitment to the mitzvos, thus enacting our personal kabbalas haTorah.
    If we don’t temper our passions or excite and energize ourselves when necessary, we fall into the temptation of sin, and at times we are required to bring a sacrifice to atone for these sins in the Beis HaMikdash. This, writes Rav Yaakov Yisrael Berger (Ahavas Yisrael: Part 1, p. 56), is the reason that when bringing a korban, the blood of the animal had to be sprinkled on the Mizbe’ach, and the cheilev, the fat, had to be burned on the Mizbe’ach, as well.
    Blood is always in motion and has warmth; it represents the energy and vitality of a person, which is needed to overcome the dampening effect of the yetzer hara. The cheilev, or fat, represents the cold and unmoving heaviness within a person, which is needed to strengthen our resolve against the encouragement of the yetzer hara when it entices us to perform a forbidden action.
    The person who sinned has failed in one of these arenas; either he did not overcome temptation, by slowing down and cooling it, or he failed to light a fire and take action. Either his blood or his cheilev has not served its purpose.
    To win any battle, one needs the correct armament. The Torah tells the sinner: Sprinkle that blood, burn that cheilev. Remember that you did not take advantage of the strength within you.
    Hashem has supplied us with all the tools we need for the job; it is up to us to make proper use of them.
    “Hakol bi’dei Shamayim chutz mi’yiras Shamayim.”

    Reb Eliezer

    The Haflaoh, Panim Yafos in Parshas Nitzovim on ובחרת בחיים explains that when we want to do mitzvos or convince someone to do mitzvos, do it from life emphazing the gan eden over the gehinom. That is why to fight the yetzer hara thinking of the day of death should the be the last resort. Doing mitzvos from life by learning Torah and looking at its reward of life through the reading of krias shema, this world and the next world, brings to loving of Hashem whereas the other way frightens him.

    Reb Eliezer

    Shavuos, we need lachem because if not for the yetzer hara we would have never received the Torah and the world would never have been created. The yetzer hara helps us to improve ourselves. If there were no resistance, the light bulb would not burn. Erickson’s child development theory says that one matures by overcoming problems. The yetzer hara might be this problem.
    The Chasam Sofer gives us another aitza to fight the yetzer hara. It says סור מרע ועשה טוב turn away from the bad and do good בקש שלום ורדפהו look for peace and run after it. Run after peace, how? Do something small for the soul, disturbing the peace between body and soul and let the body get used to it, reconstituting the peace, and continue this cycle.

    Reb Eliezer

    It says שחורה אני ונאוה I am black and beautiful. What makes us beautiful that we have the tendency to sin and we don’t or we do teshuva. The Torah finishes לעיני כל ישראך, in front of the Jews’s eyes. Rashi explains that the luchas were broken at the eigel in front of the Jew’s eyes. The Torah starts בראשית – בשביל ישראל שנקראו ראשית the world was created because of the Bnei Yisroel. If they would have been Malochim and have no bechira, free choice, there would have been no reason to create the world but since they have the tendency to sin and they are able overcome it, the world was created to gain olam habo as the beis in the beginning indicates the two worlds, this world and the next world.

    Reb Eliezer

    The Klei Yokor in Sefer Olelos Ephraim explains the saying of Hashem to Moshe Rabbenu to answer the malochim but he was not told to give them an answer but the word return חחזיר להם תשובה answer them back with their question. The malochim asked מה לילוד אשה בינינו what is a being born through a woman doing among us? Give them back there question as the answer. As we are a human being we need the Torah because of bechira, free choice and yetzer hara. The Ben Ish Chai compares Moshe Rabenu’s argument to a father who gave a suit to one his children which had precious stones sewn in the pockets. The argument was who gets it. Each one had his argument why he should get it. The youngest child gets up and says, let’s try it on and see who it fits. The makochim wanted the sodos, secrets hidden in the Torah. So Moshe Rabenu said that if the simple meaning does not apply to you, does not fit, then you get the Torah.

    Reb Eliezer

    Should be above if it does not fit, then you don’t get the Torah.

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