Shimu (Yeedle)

August 6, 2021

In his last speech to Klal Yisroel, Moshe informs us that if we follow Hashem’s instruction, we will be blessed more than all the nations of the earth. But, in typical teacher fashion, Moshe doesn’t just impart these words of wisdom in the hope that we will trust him and take his word for it. In Parshas Re’eh, Moshe continues to take this epic opportunity to give us a lesson for all time. “Re’eh – See” – see the truth in my words, see what is before your very eyes! Look around! Can we possibly deny the supernatural love, protection, and prosperity that we receive when we observe the Torah?

The promises of blessing (and curse) are not simply promises for the future. Moshe is talking to each and every one of us – today – asking us to see that the Torah is emes; that those who study and keep its laws do in fact receive the Divine blessing that is promised to them. In the same vein, Moshe implores us to perceive the ultimate demise and destruction that befalls those who reject its holy words.

Rav Elazar Simcha Wasserman zt’l (1899-1992) would say that in previous days, some people used to say, “Oy, s’iz shver tzu zein a Yid,” that it is so difficult to be a Jew! “Difficult?” he would reply, “It may be inconvenient at times, but even so, we still say each morning with joy and affection, “Thank you, Hashem, for choosing us from all the other nations!”
Additionally, we say in our daily brachos “shelo asani goy,” acknowledging and appreciating the fact that He did not make us like the nations of the world – that he made us Yidden! To that, my great-grandfather, R’ Eliyahu Dovid Ribiat zt’l (1894-1988) would proudly declare, “s’iz shver tzu zein a Goy!”

After the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, Hashem Himself wants to console us. The Torah wants to build us up again. The haftoras of the Shivah D’nechemta tell us that what has happened is not destruction. Rather it is like plowing and sowing, preparing us for the planting of Moshiach. However, just as a field cannot yield produce without water, Klal Yisroel cannot survive without Torah.

Indeed Chazal teach us in many places and in many ways that Torah is likened to water. An unlearned Rabi Akiva inferred as much when he witnessed the droplets of water making their impression on the hard stone. He drew a parallel to himself, and knew that the letters of the Torah could make their mark on his heart made of flesh and blood. He applied the same mayim metaphor when threatened with physical death near the end of his life – ‘A Jew without Torah is like a fish out of water!’

In the third of the Shivah D’nechemta, this week’s haftorah states, “הוֹי כָּל צָמֵא לְכוּ לַמַּיִם” – to which Chazal inform us here that “Mayim” is once again our familiar reference to Torah. Everyone who is thirsty for life is told to come, drink, and enjoy the sweetness of Torah. Yeshayahu HaNavi once again echoes the words of Moshe Rabbeinu and tells us that those who heed the word of Hashem will forever reap His reward.

Shimu is a magnificent, mellow melody composed by Eli Laufer, and is passionately performed by Yeedle Werdyger on his 2002 album Yeedle IV. My love for this song is not new, as I remember bonding to the tune as soon as I heard it way back in ’02. The gentle words of the Navi. The delicate, pleading piano that accompanies throughout allows those words to enter your heart, while the instrumental “outro” helps its poignant message sink into the depths of your soul… Listening to it today, I have found this song to have remained just as effective, and I hope you will feel the same.

Wishing you a g’bentched Shabbos Mevorchim Elul!

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