In this parsha we read about an additional covenant with Hashem, which the Jewish people were brought into, and a curse that would come upon those who would stray away from the Torah. Moshe cautioned about the grave consequences for an individual who may think there is nothing to be scared of. There is one obscure phrase in his warning: “And it should come to pass, when he hears the words of this curse, and he blesses himself in his heart, saying, I will have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart, resulting in ravah (satisfaction) being added to tzmeah (thirst)”. What is the meaning of the expression: adding satisfaction to thirst?




It is known that not all commandments of the Torah are equally easy or difficult to keep[1] and not all prohibitions are equally attractive[2]. The greatest temptation that has been in existence after desire for idolatry was removed[3] is undoubtedly forbidden relations. However even among the forbidden relations some are far more desirable than others, while a few even seem repugnant to a normal person[4].


The Ramban[5] writes that the word “ravah” should be translated as the opposite of the word “tzmeah” (thirst). The Torah is thus saying that “ravah” (lack of desire) would be added to those things one is naturally thirsty for, meaning the undesirable prohibitions will be added to the desirable ones. A person who starts out by breaking those commandments for which he is “thirsty”, i.e. where the forbidden fruit seems very desirable, in the end will not be satisfied[6]. In his constant pursuit of pleasure he will ultimately end up doing even the most disgusting things that seemed completely unpleasant before. He would thus add those prohibitions for which he used to be “satisfied”, or had no desires for, to those prohibitions for which he was thirsty.


The true way to have a balanced life of enjoyment is to curb one’s desires and use this world’s pleasures carefully and with restraint. Overindulgence on the other hand, leads only to never-ending pursuit of pleasures and lack of any satisfaction[7]. May we all deserve to control our desires and use our energy in serving Hashem[8] so that we merit a speedy coming of Moshiach.




This short parsha briefly predicts what would happen to our nation after Moshe’s death and hints to our history until the end of days. Hashem issues a number of warnings that because of our sins a great suffering would come upon us while He would hide His face from our nation. What is the meaning and purpose of suffering?




It is known that even the bad predictions and punishments of the Torah are meant for our good. When Hashem sends us suffering it is done for our benefit[9]. Throughout our history the Jewish people often did not reach the great level expected from them. During such times, Hashem in His mercy hid His face[10] and many troubles would come upon our nation. Invariably we would then repent and return. Our sages thus state that suffering was the true good (tov meod) referred to in the beginning of creation[11]. This applies both to suffering on individual level and on national level during prosecutions. Suffering in this world can also purify us and prepare us for the existence in the afterlife[12]. The Talmud (Menachos 53b) compares our nation to olives. Just as olives give their oil when being crushed, so too the Jewish people show their true greatness during affliction and oppression.


One of the reasons behind the power of suffering is due to the fact that deep inside the Jewish people possess a very holy soul whose light only gets diminished because of physical temptations. Once the material gets weaker during periods of suffering, the spirituality begins to shine forth with greater light[13]. There is also a deeper spiritual reason for the power of the Jewish people to improve through suffering. The Talmud states (Yevamos 63a): “Punishment only comes to the world for the sake of the Jewish people[14]”. Our sages teach[15] that the idolatrous nations generally do not accept suffering. Their worship of deities they chose for themselves depends on hoping to receive benefits. During suffering they start cursing their “gods”. On the other hand the Jewish people accept suffering and thank Hashem for it[16]. The reason for this has to do with the structure in the spiritual worlds. As we discussed many times, our nation is compared to the wife of Hashem[17]. The root of all Jewish souls is connected to the Holiness of the Creator, for the arrangement of Sefiros used to bring Divine Flow (the masculine aspect) is united with the Sefira of Malchus showing our nation’s readiness to receive. The collective Jewish soul constantly chastises us in order to bring our improvement, but it only brings our merits before Hashem. When the Jewish people suffer, they start repenting of their misdeeds and their love for the Creator grows.


On the other hand, there is no unification between the masculine and feminine aspects in the unclean worlds. The feminine part[18] (nukva desitra achra) entices people to sin, while the masculine part (Satan) acts as an accuser. Since the two are not united[19], the accusation and “love[20]” don’t coexist. The nations coming from this spiritual root thus only get angrier and curse during times of punishment.


Throughout history our nation fell and rose many times. In this century we experienced a fall that could hardly be compared to anything before, yet we are rising from it as well. The terrible unprecedented suffering of the Jewish people during the World War 2 caused the movement of Teshuvah to start. Indeed the Torah predicts (Devarim, 30) that after the terrible suffering we will start coming back. Hashem will then renew His covenant with us and will be with us. May we deserve to do perfect Teshuvah without the need for further suffering and see the fulfillment of these predictions.


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[1] The GR”A wrote that this is the hint of the expression (Talmud, Shabbos 155b): “There is nobody richer than the pig or poorer than the dog”. The commandment of not eating pig is very “rich” while the prohibition against gossiping is very poor. Even most nonobservant Jews don’t eat pig, while even the most religious break the prohibition against evil speech (loshon hara) which is compared to a dog.


[2] See for instance Talmud, Chagiga 11b.


[3] See our words to parshas Bechukosai.


[4] Like desires to have relations with people of the same gender, or even relations with animals.


[5] On Devarim 29:18, see also the GR”A in Aderes Eliyahu (29:18).


[6] Moreover, habitual breaking a particular prohibition makes it a lot harder to stop (see Talmud, Yoma 86b). The GR”A (on Mishley 1:23) writes that whatever a person does, there is a sprit sent to him, so that he wants to continue doing it again. Indeed, our sages teach (Avos 4:2): “A sin leads to another sin, while a mitzvah leads to another mitzvah”.


[7] It is interesting to mention here that the general word for a heretic used by our sages is Epicurus. There is no question that this word comes from the name of a Hellenistic Greek Philosopher who believed in no supervision from Above and no life after death (Nietzsche – the main philosopher relied on by the Nazis also largely based his system on the writings of Epicurus). The most fascinating truth is that even Epicurus himself advocated restraint since he held that overindulgence destroys a person. This shows that even a person that believes in nothing, still observed that the hedonistic lifestyle is only destructive! Unfortunately the contemporary physiologists did not learn even from Epicurus, for their main idea of “treatment” is overindulgence (see Tshuvos Vehanhagos 1:465, see also Tur, Otach Chaim 240, Even Haezer 25).


[8] This was of course one of fundamental ideas of Chasidism: channeling one’s love and other emotions so as to serve the Creator (see Tzavaas Harivash 14; 22; 84).

[9] One of the advantages of punishment is that a person or the whole nation would not stray too far beyond a possibility of rectification (see Talmud, Avoda Zara 4a; see also Tanchuma, Nitzvaim, 1). Dovid thus prayed (Psalms 94:12): “Happy is the man that is being punished by Hashem”. He also thanked Hashem for both punishing him and supporting him (Tehillim 23:4). Hashem promised Dovid to also punish his descendants when they sin (Shmuel 1:7:14). This is the best guarantee that the dynasty of Dovid would last forever.


[10] Indeed this parsha uses the expression (Devarim 31:18) “Haster Astir (completely hide)” hinting to the times of Ester (see Talmud, Chulin 139b). The danger of annihilation in that time period caused the Jewish people to return in a way no prophet was able to do (see Talmud, Megila 14a)!


[11] See Bereishis Raba 8:9.


[12] See Tana Debe Eliyahu Zuta, 11.


[13] It is for this reason that in certain cases when a Jew does not want to keep a particular commandment, he is beaten until he agrees. Deep inside every Jew wants to keep the mitzvos, but the physical often does not let him, so he is beaten until the physical weakens (see Rambam, Laws of Divorce 2:20; see also Nefesh Hachaim 1:18).


[14] See Maharal on Agada explaining the statement. See also Zohar 3:273b; Ramchal, 515 Tefilos, #137; Shla Hakodesh, end of commentary to the book of Shemos.


[15] See Tanchuma Yisro, 16.


[16] See Talmud, Brochos 60b; see also our words to parshas Vaeschanan.


[17] The entire Shir Hashirim speaks about this relationship, see also Yeshiyahu 50:1; Yirmiyahu 3:1; Hoshea 2:18-22.


[18] This is the frivolous woman mentioned in Mishley 5:3-11; 7:10-23; 9:11-18, see the GR”A’s commentary there and GR”A on the Zohar 1:44b, 2:245a.


[19] See Zohar 2:103a; Tikuney Zohar, 21st Tikun, pg. 49 (55b in GR”A’s edition).


[20] In truth the unclean side actually hates those who listen to it.