We live in an age of conveniences – and dangers. Our affluence presents dangers to our quest for spiritual perfection, which the Torah cautions against and which Rabbi Avigdor Miller elaborates on in Parshas Vayelech.
“And he shall eat and become satiated and shall become fat…” (31:20). This warning is already stated before: “And you shall eat and be satiated. Beware for yourselves lest your heart be deceived and you shall turn aside” (11:15; also 8:14). And it is reiterated: “And Yeshurun grew fat and he kicked” (32:15). This aspect of the perils of prosperity emphasizes the selfishness and arrogance that are engendered by being overfed.
Thus, even the blessed communities of the loyally observant must be constantly on guard, especially today when the comforts and luxuries have increased beyond the experience of previous generations. No previous era has ever witnessed as much satiation and opportunities for happiness as we have today, and therefore the admonition “Beware for yourselves” is now more appropriate than ever.
Today’s conveniences and abundance impose a responsibility beyond that of all previous generations. Man’s chief function in life is to recognize Hashem’s kindliness: “It is good to give thanks to Hashem and to sing to Your name, O Most High” (Tehillim 92:2), meaning: What is the highest good? To give thanks to Hashem. How much must we give thanks and sing? “To narrate Your kindliness in the morning, and Your steadfastness in the nights” (ibid. 92:3), which actually means to begin in the morning to declare Hashem’s kindliness and His steadfastness, and to continue throughout the day into the night.
This fundamental duty is incumbent not only upon the blessed people of Hashem, but also upon all of Mankind. “For thus is the obligation of all the created: to give thanks, to acclaim, to adore, to glorify, to exalt, to honor, to make supreme and to praise” (Shabbos-morning prayers). “Praise Hashem, all you nations” (Tehillim 117:1); but Israel is even more obliged: “For His kindness upon us is greater” (ibid. 117:2).
Therefore even the loyal observant Jew must constantly exert himself to fulfill his function of always being mindful of Hashem’s constant kindliness. But especially today, and even more when dwelling in lands of abundance and total liberty, how great becomes the necessity to busy ourselves with the study of Hashem’s countless benefactions and with endless praise both in thought and in words, and also in increased performance of Hashem’s Torah obligations.
This presents a very real challenge. Thus: “Beware for yourselves lest your heart be deceived” to fail to understand this obligation.
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“Take this book of the Torah and you shall put it at the side of the ark of the covenant of Hashem your G-d, and it shall be a witness against you” (31:26). This is an important function of the Book of the Torah (in addition to its function as the authentic model for all future copies): that the nation of the Torah must never attribute any of its misfortunes to any reason other than a retribution for transgressing the words of the Torah. Instead of merely blaming our persecutors and saying “We do not understand Hashem’s secrets,” this testimony stands forever as the sole and true explanation of all that transpires.
Thus the catastrophe which came upon European Jews must impel us to “search out our ways and investigate” and understand that never before had European Jews become estranged from Torah loyalty as in the last 80 years. And the travails experienced by Jews in the Holy Land must open their eyes to recognize how far the State of Israel has travelled away from the Torah. This is precisely that which this verse declares (Fortunate Nation).
Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.
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