by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – September 16, 2015
In the Torah portion of VaYelekh, amongst Moses’ parting words before his passing, we read (Devarim 31:12-13), “Gather together the people – the men, the women, and the small children, and your stranger who is in your cities – so that they will hear and so they will learn, and they shall fear the L-rd your G-d, and be careful to perform all the words of this Torah. And their children who do not know, they shall hear and they shall learn to fear the L-rd your G-d all the days that you live on the land to which you are crossing the Jordan, to possess it.”
According to the latter day Torah giant R. Yisrael Meir Kagan, known as the Chafetz Chaim (Mishle Ha-Chafetz Chaim, 35) the words “all the days” in the aforementioned verse are to be understood as a call to consistency and constancy. We are expected to be consistent in our devotion to G-d, in obeying His commandments and performing His precepts. We are not to give in to temptation. Oftentimes, it happens that we sometimes are fully devoted with all our energy to G-d and His Word and then, at some point, we falter and succumb to temptation to neglect and transgress His commandments, and then, later, we again strengthen ourselves once more and repent our actions and return to our prior level of devotion. While it is quite commendable – very much so – that we come back to G-d after faltering, we are being alerted in this verse to the need to exert the utmost effort to devote our hearts and souls to G-d, following Him with our undivided attention “all the days” to the extent that we do not come to the point of succumbing to temptation.
It is suggested that our situation can be compared to a sick individual who meets a friend in the street who asks him how he is doing. The sick man responds, “I am sick.” When his friend inquires as to the nature of the illness, the man tells him that he is suffering from a severe fever. However, the friend, noticing that he does not look ill at all, wonders how this man could be ill. The sick man, in turn, explains that, in fact, on that very day he is feeling well and has no fever; but, the nature of his illness is such that one day he is bedridden with a debilitating fever and another day he feels fine and can walk around like everyone else, and this continues to occur for weeks. Consequently, even when he does not experience the fever, he is still in the midst of a very serious illness.
Similarly, when we have days that we are absolutely healthy spiritually, serving G-d with great devotion, if temptation suddenly takes a hold of us and causes us to neglect our duties to the Al-Mighty, we are in the midst of an illness even when we regain our spiritual health and again abide by His Will. The illness can only be said to end when we once and for all rid ourselves of our inclination to temptation.
G-d, therefore, asks us to make every effort to strive for consistency and abide by His precepts and be devoted to His Will “all the days.” We must not treat it cavalierly to buckle under temptation, complacent in the feeling that we return to Him afterwards. We should not be complacent to sometimes obey His Will and sometimes not, no more than we can shrug off an illness that continuously comes and goes. To do so is betraying a sickness that we are experiencing. As in the case of a physical illness, we do not want to be well one day and ill the next. We must strive for consistency. We must persevere to follow his guidance – “all the days.”