In this week’s haftarah we are compared to a worm.
“Do not fear worm of Yaakov, men of Israel, I am the One who helped you, says Hashem, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (Yeshaya 41:14).
The Radak explains that a worm’s only source of power is its mouth, which, at times, enables it to destroy plants with its continuous chewing. A worm is small and soft, but can still manage to ruin a stiff plant. So too, we, Klal Yisrael, use our mouths to daven and, at times, overcome our tough enemies with Hashem’s help.
Yet, sometimes we think we have more power than we actually do. Sometimes we think we have more knowledge then we actually do. While thinking we are greater then we are can be detrimental to our avodas Hashem, can having too much knowledge do the same?
They say that knowledge is power. The right data can bring financial success, we think. Following the news can make us stay safe, remain healthy, travel with confidence and never be caught in the rain without an umbrella, or so we assume. This is what drives many people to be “newsies,” and in today’s technologically advanced world there are more and more news notifications to which people can subscribe.
Rabbi Tzvi Teichman writes, “Our hunger for information is driven by a primal need for control and stability in our lives, but in reality it only creates a false sense of security. Knowledge may be a vital tool for life, but it can never guarantee success, let alone happiness. Living life with little doubt and uncertainty is comfortable, but if we are to ever acknowledge Hashem’s hand in our lives we must embrace the challenge of the unknown. In doing so, we can discover many things we never knew were possible.”
The Torah implores us to refrain from engaging in the practices of the ov and yidoni. These were oracles of the occult that were able to access spirits of the netherworld making people privy to details of the future. Even in ancient times, the hunger to get ahead by accessing information no one else had was already a desperate pastime. By forbidding these practices, Hashem Yisborach is telling us that an obsession with the constant need for privileged information can lead toward idolatry and an abandonment of belief in G-d, who alone controls our destiny – despite the projections of the newsmen.
Rabeinu Yitzchak ben Yehuda, one of the Baalei Tosfos, in his sefer Paneach Raza, says something astounding about ov, yidoni, and Shabbos based on the Chumash juxtaposing the two mitzvos of keeping Shabbos and not turning to these oracles (Vayikra 19:30-31). He says that no matter the expertise of the diviners, the spirits couldn’t be summoned on Shabbos! This inability of these divinations to communicate on Shabbos is testimony to the specialness of Shabbos. The day’s holiness lies in its focus on Hashem’s absolute power; those who seek success with an attempt at foreknowledge will have no success without Him.
Rabbi Teichman continues, “The more we live our lives immersed in an endless pursuit of information and news, the modern day version of ov and yidoni, the more we endanger our special relationship with Hashem.”
Sefer Avnei Chefetz, as explained by Rabbi Teichman, suggests that the word ov comes from avah, which means to desire, to have urges, indicating an approach to looking for easy solutions, to following one’s whims without toil and effort. The word yidoni comes from yada, alluding to knowledge and information, becoming preoccupied by “facts” and “news” that offer “clear” guidance in life. We are bidden to connect and rely directly on Hashem and not place our faith in “knowing the future.”
Becoming too attached to the news can be described as a modern day ov and yidoni, and we should relish in the fact that we cannot follow the daily news on Shabbos. On Shabbos, we turn only to Hashem; the only news we follow are the new insights in Torah we learn.
Being shomer Shabbos is a great display of bitachon in Hashem Yisbarach. This is what is meant by the comment, “It should be in your eyes [on Shabbos] as if all of your work is done” (Rashi on Shemos 20:9). When Shabbos comes, we strengthen our trust that all our physical sustenance comes from Hashem and thus, working on Shabbos, against His will, cannot possibly bring us any gain. We should be thrilled to have a respite from the daily grind and put all of our trust in Hashem.
Since we display this great trust in Hashem on Shabbos, He responds middah k’neged middah, measure for measure, and grants us special security and protection. This is why the custom developed to say the pesukim of V’shamru before Shemoneh Esrei. In it we say that if Klal Yisrael observes and protects Shabbos, it will, in turn, protect us as well. The Abudraham quotes the zemer of the Ibn Ezra as support for this idea, “Im eshmera Shabbos, Kel yishmereini, if I keep the Shabbos, Hashem will protect me.” (These ideas are brought in the Tur, Siman 267.)
When we regularly follow the news, we are, most often, listening to people who don’t share our Torah values. In addition, let’s say that on any given average day, between work commutes, errands, driving to shul, and the like, we are in the car for a total of even just one hour a day. Over a week, that adds up to six hours; over a month around 25 hours, and over a year around 300 hours. Do we really want to spend 300 hours listening to people who not only don’t share our values, they may be espousing thoughts and ideas antithetical to Torah?
Instead, lets use those hours wisely. We can listen to shiurim, mussar lectures, talks on the parsha, Nach, etc. The minutes and hours really add up and much Torah learning can be accomplished in transit.
We make it through a Shabbos every week without following the daily news. Let’s see if we can make this part of our daily treks as well, so that we don’t become too obsessed with our own feelings of control.