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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Ki Savo: Lightbulb Moment

ולא נתן ד' לכם לב לדעת ועינים לראות ואזנים לשמע עד היום הזה
Hashem did not give you a heart to know, or eyes to see or ears to hear until this day

This cryptic verse was stated by Moshe Rabbeinu to the Jewish People at the end of the forty years that they spent together in the desert. What is Moshe telling the people?

Rashi, citing Chazal from Meseches Avodah Zara 5b, explains that a student does not really understand the depth of his Rebbe’s words until forty years later. We might think we understand what is being said at the time, and sometimes appreciate some of the wisdom that is being conveyed, and other times we might dismiss something as being simple or self-understood. However, the truth is that it might take us forty years to fully comprehend the depth of the advice or thought, and we might have a ‘lightbulb’ moment “Oh! So that’s what he meant!”

The Gemara gives us the story behind the story:

Forty years earlier, when the Jewish People were standing at the foot of Har Sinai, they were hearing and seeing the thunder and lightning of the giving of the Torah. The people got scared and felt overwhelmed and asked Moshe to be serve as an intermediary to relay the words of Hashem, and they will listen and obey everything through Moshe. At the time, Moshe was actually concerned that this request was coming from a bad place; perhaps it was a rejection of sorts of Hashem, and why wouldn’t they want to hear the Torah directly?

To this Hashem responded ויאמר ד' אלי שמעתי את קול דברי העם הזה אשר דברו אליך היטיבו כל אשר דברו “I have heard everything the people have requested, everything they ask for is good and correct”. Hashem Himself כביכול was able to see and testify, that this request was coming from a holy source; from true reverence, fear and respect for the word of Hashem.

Hashem then asks, rhetorically, מי יתן והיה לבבם זה להם ליראה אתי לשמר את כל מצותי כל הימים “if only they would remain on this level of reverence and fear of heaven forever, and if only someone would be able to ensure that they would stay at this level forever!

Forty years later, at the end of their sojourning in the desert, it occured to Moshe, Wait! When Hashem asked ‘Who can ensure?’ the people had the opportunity to respond, ‘You Hashem , You can ensure!’ מי יתן – תן אתה! Who can ensure? You can ensure! Moshe himself finally understood the depth of what Hashem, Moshe’s Rebbe so to speak, was really saying! Hashem was inviting us to ask Hashem to help us and ensure for us that we would remain on the level of Har Sinai forever! What a missed opportunity! And Moshe criticized the people for not having said this tefillah forty years earlier.

Tosfos asks the obvious question: if even Moshe didn’t realize this until much later on, how could he have expected the people to understand this at the time? Tosfos answers, that Moshe didn’t get the hint because for him it was unnecessary; he was already on that high level, and didn’t need this heavenly aid to retain these height forever. But we, the people, would have benefited from this special help, and we who needed it should have seen the opportunity immediately.

We see an amazing thing- every person has the capacity to truly diagnose his own set of weaknesses or challenges, and every person knows intuitively what he or she needs to ask of Hashem. And Hashem is waiting for our tefillos!

May we use this special tool that we have to it’s fullest, and all be inscribed for a year of health, happiness and everything good!

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