SALT - Friday, 22 Av 5778 - August 3, 2018


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  • Rav David Silverberg
Jeffrey Paul Friedman z"l
August 15, 1968 – July 29, 2012
ז"ל יהודה פנחס בן הרב שרגא פייוועל
כ"ב אב תשכ"ח – י' אב תשע"ב
            Towards the beginning of Parashat Eikev, Moshe urges the people not to fear the battles they would have to wage in Canaan to take possession of the land, assuring them that God would lead them to victory.  He then adds that the conquest would proceed gradually, rather than take place instantaneously, “pen tirbeh alekha chayat ha-sadeh” – “lest the beasts of the field become numerous for you” (7:22).  If the native population of Canaan would be vanquished too quickly, the land would be largely desolate, and thus quickly overrun by dangerous animals. 
            A classic Chassidic reading of this verse is offered by Rav Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub, the second Rebbe of Modzhitz (Imrei Shaul, p. 272).  He suggests interpreting the warning of beasts allegorically, as referring to the “beasts” within the people, animalistic attributes such as ferocity and violence.  The Rebbe explained that if Benei Yisrael would conquer the land too quickly, this would engender negative qualities within them.  If the process of conquest would be too intensive, the people might become violent and inhumane.  The process had to unfold in a slow, gradual manner due to the fear that the inner “beast” within the people, the selfish, aggressive, brutish and heartless tendencies to which all human beings are potentially prone, might otherwise overrun their personalities and characters.
            The Modzhitzer Rebbe here teaches that even when we engage in inherently worthwhile and valuable pursuits, including the performance of mitzvot, we must be wary of the “beast” within us.  Involving ourselves in important undertakings does not provide instant protection against “animalistic” tendencies.  Even as we engage in matters of great religious significance, we must carefully guard ourselves – as we must always do – to ensure we act in a dignified, humane, sensitive and appropriate manner.  We can never assume that this happens by itself simply by virtue of the value and importance of what we are doing.