Pearls of Rashi – Nitzovim

This week’s Torah portion, Nitzovim, begins by telling us that Moshe Rabbeinu gathered the entire Jewish nation into Hashem’s presence. He did so in order to bring them into His covenant[1]. This included all Jews, without exception; “the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every Jewish man, your young children, your women, and the convert who is within your camp, both your woodcutters and your water drawers[2].”

Rashi cites the words “both your woodcutters and your water drawers” and explains as follows. “This teaches us that Kena’anim (Canaanites) came to convert in the days of Moshe …and he made them woodcutters and water drawers for the Jews.”

The Alter Rebbe explains this on a deeper level[3], as it relates to our Divine service. Our verse specifies woodcutters. The Hebrew word for “wood” is “eitz – עץ,” which is related to the Hebrew for counsel, “eitzah – עצה.” He interpreted “woodcutters” to mean that one must cut, i.e. remove from his mind the “many thoughts (counsels) that are in the heart of man[4].” Furthermore, he explained that “water drawers” refers to draining from ourselves the water, which “makes all enjoyments grow[5].”

Simply speaking, the Alter Rebbe is teaching us that when serving Hashem, one may not look for “shortcuts.” After all, it is not easy expend all of one’s energy on the study of Torah and the performance of Mitzvos. One may find a justification to take the easy way out. This teaches us that this is only the “counsel” of the Evil Inclination. Furthermore, one may be led astray by his physical desires. Therefore, we must “drain” ourselves of these desires.

Rashi’s comments add an additional dimension to this teaching. It does not only apply to the time that one spends serving the Almighty, while studying Torah or praying. Rather it applies equally to the time one is occupied with business. This would include while eating, drinking and taking care of all of one’s physical needs. It may be possible to think that at such times there is no need to be concerned with the “many thoughts that are in the heart of man.”

This is why Rashi teaches us “that Kena’anim (Canaanites) came … in the days of Moshe.” We find throughout the Tanach that the word “Kena’anim – Canaanites” has the meaning of merchants[6]. Rashi is teaching us, that even when one is involved as a “merchant,” he is engaged in his mundane needs, he must still beware of the “many thoughts that are in the heart of man.” He must never give in to the urge to follow his desires.

May we all have a good, sweet year both in physical and spiritual matters. Have a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 14, Page 117

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י בתו וחתנו שיחיו
הרה”ת ר’ שמואל ורבקה שי’ מענדלסאהן

[1]. See Rashi at the beginning of our Parshah, Devorim 29:9.

[2]. Our Parshah, Devorim 29:9-10.

[3]. See Hayom Yom, Page 89.

[4]. Mishlei (Proverbs) 19:21.

[5] See Tanya Chapter 1.

[6]. See Hoshea 12:8, among other sources.

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