Then he commanded the overseer of his house, saying, "Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man's money into the mouth of his sack. And my goblet, the silver goblet, put into the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his purchase money." And he did according to Joseph's word, which he had spoken.
Breisheit 44:1-2

As seen before Yosef had showed closeness and camaraderie.
And he had portions brought to them from before him, and Benjamin's portion was five times as large as the portions of any of them, and they drank and became intoxicated with him.
Breisheit 43:34
How in one verse can Yosef sit, eat and drink with his brothers, then in the next verses turn around and seemingly set in motion a plot to have his brothers arrested.  Was his external actions truly reflective of what he felt in his heart? The Or HaChaim HaKadosh says that we have to look deeper to understand these issues.

Perhaps this suggest 3 things.
  1. In order to cleanse them of the sin of stealing, when they kidnapped him, he created suspicion about them so that there would be embarrassment about the sin of stealing Yosef and then they would be admonished of that sin.
  2. He also wanted to see if they were prepared to put up their own lives to save Binyamin. Then Yosef would be able to see how strong the trait of brotherhood was in the family, and also this would serve to cleanse them of their sin towards Yosef.
  3. He wanted to offer a hint about the sin they perpetrated on Yosef. Then they would begin to reflect on their actions and feel like maybe their is someone in this house that is familiar with their actions. Thus we saw earlier how Yosef tried to provide clues to them that he knew certain details about him, when he sat them "They sat before him, the firstborn according to his age, and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at each other in astonishment." (Breisheit 43:33).

Vayishlach - Rebranding

God said to him, "Your name is Yaacov. Your name shall no longer be called Yaacov, but Yisrael shall be your name." And He named him Yisrael.
Breisheit 35:10
Name changing has occurred on several occasions in the Torah. The most famous is the interaction with G-d and the couple, Avram and Sarai, permanently changing their names to Avraham and Sarah. So how does this compare to the episode in this week's parshah, where G-d 're-brands' Yaacov as Yisrael.

Has G-d permanently uprooted the name of Yaacov? Asks the Or HaChaim Hakadosh, what is different by Yaacov from Avraham. By Avraham we learn that calling him Avram is a transgression, but this is not the case by Yaacov.

As discussed in Mesechet Brechot
"Your name shall no longer be called YaacovIsrael shall be your name." This does not mean that the name Yaacov shall be obliterated, but that Yisrael shall be the principal name and Yisrael a secondary one.
Brechot 12B-13A (Soncino Translation)
Avraham is Completely Renamed
This differs from nature of how Avraham is renamed. There is agreement in Mesechet Brechot that Avraham's name change is permanent and to the core, but opinions differ as why.
Bar Kappara taught: Whoever calls Avraham Avram transgresses a positive precept, since it says, Thy name shall be Avraham.(Gen. 17:5)  R. Eliezer says: He transgresses a negative command,  since it says, Neither shall thy name any more be called Avram (Gen. 17:5)
Brechot 13A (Soncino translation)  
What is the significance of this name change? Why go so far to debate why this identity must be changed?

Vayetzei - Hidden Secrets

The second aliya starts off with the verse:
And he looked, and behold! a well in the field, and behold! Three flocks of sheep lying beside it, because from that well they would water the flocks, and a huge rock was upon the mouth of the well.

 וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה בְאֵר בַּשָּׂדֶה וְהִנֵּה שָׁם שְׁלֹשָׁה עֶדְרֵי צֹאן רֹבְצִים עָלֶיהָ כִּי מִן הַבְּאֵר הַהִוא יַשְׁקוּ הָעֲדָרִים וְהָאֶבֶן גְּדֹלָה עַל פִּי הַבְּאֵר
Breisheit 29:2

Yaacov's arrival at this well is not happenstance, but is filled with deeper meaning. The commentators take different approaches as to what this verse comes to symbolically communicate.

Quoting the Midrash, the Ramban says that this verse gives us a peak at the future. That Yaacov 'happens upon' a well, guarded by 3 flocks of sheep, and covered by a great stone - is all significant.

  • Well: a metaphor for the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple).
  • 3 flocks of sheep: 3 pilgrimiges to Jerusalem (Succot, Pesach, Shavuot)
  • From that  well: this is (The Beit HaMikdash) that the flocks (pilgrims) should drink from (imbibe the Holy Spirit)
  • Return the rock onto the mouth of the well: this is closing the well (Beit HaMikdash) until the next festival
Another metaphor 
for out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Yeshayahu 2:3
For Torah is compared to water (coming out of the well) as it says in the Gemarah
Sow to yourselves in charity, reap in kindness; again, water [in this connection] signifies ‘the law’ as stated, "Ho! All who thirst, go to water" (Yeshayahu 55:1).
Baba Kama 17A

Kli Yakar
The Kli Yakar also reveals the hidden meanings encoded in this verse.

  • 3 flocks of sheep: 3 [leaders from the Torah] that met their wives at a well - Yitzhak, Yaacov, and Moshe
  • Well: metaphor for women
  • 3 flocks of sheep: 3 partners in creation - Man, Woman, and G-d
  • From that well: the offspring drink all their sustenance from these 3 partners
  • Huge rock was upon the mouth of the well: this is the essence of the modest woman, her true beauty locked away from the world
  • Return the rock onto the mouth of the well: that the inner beauty of the woman is not revealed to everyone (only her husband), and after they are intimate she returns to her modest form (the stone is rolled back)

Rabbeinu Behaye
All of the Avot (Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov) encountered episodes with a well.

  • Well: represents the Beit HaMikdash, for that is the structure that will be constructed in the future for their offspring (the Jewish people)
    From out of the metaphorical well comes Torah, for Torah is represented as water.

 וְהִנֵּה שָׁם שְׁלֹשָׁה עֶדְרֵי צֹאן
The word "שם" (there) seems to be superfluous.
But we get a hint at the significance of this word from Yehezkel.
So I arose and went out to the plain and behold, there the glory of the L-rd was standing, like the glory that I saw by the river Chebar, and I fell on my face.
Yehezkel 3:23

  • 3 flocks of sheep: this represents Am Yisrael - the 3 is the 3 parts of Am Yisrael, Kohen, Levi and Yisrael
  • 3 flocks of sheep: represents the three set times for visiting the Beit HaMikdah (Succot, Pesach, and Shavuot)
כִּי מִן הַבְּאֵר הַהִוא יַשְׁקוּ הָעֲדָרִים וְהָאֶבֶן גְּדֹלָה עַל פִּי הַבְּאֵר

This verse further hints at the name of G-d where we see the YudKayVavkay.

Here we have three of the letters of the name of G-d. This is in the words of the verse dealing with providing drink to the flock, reprentative of the flocks getting spiritual sustenance from G-d.
And where is the last letter?

The word "גְּדֹלָה " comes to represent the enlarged DALET at the of the word ECHAD in the Kryiat Shma, since this DALET is bigger than the rest of the letters. So from the end of this word we take the final letter for constructing the name of G-d.

Vayetzei - Navigating the Road Ahead

In the opening scenes of the parshah, following the vision of angels going up and down the ladder, Yaacov suddenly saw G-d. G-d appears to Yaacov in splendor and glory, blessing him and his offspring, and makes the following promise.

And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go, and I will restore you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have spoken concerning you.
Breisheit 28 13-15
So with blessings and promises, and a direct vision from G-d, Yaacov would seem to be 'set.' We would have thought that Yaacov was bursting with enthusiasm and ready to embark on the journey he had started.

Yet, just a few pasukim later, upon waking, he displays a far different reaction. He was frightened and says:

וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר אִם יִהְיֶה אֱ־לֹהִים עִמָּדִי וּשְׁמָרַנִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ וְנָתַן לִי לֶחֶם לֶאֱכֹל וּבֶגֶד לִלְבֹּשׁ
And Jacob uttered a vow, saying, "If G-d will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear;
And if I return in peace to my father's house, and the Lord will be my G-d;
Then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of G-d, and everything that You give me, I will surely tithe to You.
Breisheit 28 20-22
This seems like an odd reaction, considering the complete divine protection that he was offered just a few verses earlier.  Shouldn’t Yaacov's reaction have been more confident?

  1. Why is Yaacov asking “if” G-d will be with him, didn’t  G-d Himself just promised him  directly that He would be with him?
  2. Why does Yaacov vow by the name of G-d as KeloKim (the name of Judgement), while G-d Himself presented himself by the name YudKayVavKay (the name of mercy) – especially when Yaacov’s vow is about having mercy and doing him chesed?
  3. Why does Yaacov seem to present conditions for a deal to G-d, stating “terms up front” that need to be fulfilled in order for him to dedicate himself to G-d? Shouldn’t faith prevail, especially having received  divine promises?
  4. Why is Yaacov’s first concern about materialistic protection? Like bread and clothes?
  5. Why does Yaacov stipulate his conditions that for fulfillment of terms, he will “tithe” ( עַשֵּׂר אֲעַשְּׂרֶנּוּ לָךְ) – we say the Avot already kept mitzvoth, now he wants make a mitzvah conditional?

The commentators address these issues.

Question #1
Why is Yaacov asking “if” G-d will be with him

Says The Kli Yakar:

Heaven forbid that one should say that Yaacov was in doubt about the direct promises from G-d. Since as we saw, G-d already said 'I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go.'
Rather The Kli Yakar says, Yaacov wasn’t asking for physical protection, since he was already promised that. 

Really Yaacov was requesting protection for his soul against the possibility of coming to sin.
We can see this directly in the words of G-d's promise:

וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּך וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ וַהֲשִׁבֹתִיךָ אֶל הָאֲדָמָה הַזֹּאת כִּי לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ עַד אֲשֶׁר אִם עָשִׂיתִי אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתִּי לָךְ
Breisheit 28:15
G-d had promised to him to ‘bring you back to this soil' - where the return to the land of Israel was under G-d's divine supervision. While Yaacov's response was 'and if I return in peace to my father's house' .
  • G-d promised to return Yaacov only 'to this soil'
  • Yaacov asked for protection to return all the way 'to my father's house.'

We can conclude that they were talking about two different journeys.

Question #2
Why does Yaacov vow by the name of G-d as KeloKim

The Gemarah in Brechot states:
R. Yacov b. Iddi points to a contradiction. One verse reads: "And behold, I am with you, and I will guard you wherever you go," and the other verse reads: "And he was frightened!"
[The answer is that] he [Yaacov] thought that some sin might cause [God's promise not to be fulfilled].
Brechot 4A
So after receiving a divine promise, how can Yaacov lack confidence, but be in fear?

Says the Netivot Shalom: G-d’s promises were presented in the name of YudKayVavKay, which is a name representing the trait of divine mercy. And because of this Yaacov was afraid!

What did he fear? He feared that if he should slip up and sin, then this divine mercy would be lost and he would have to face the alternative – the trait of divine, uncompromising judgement.

So from this concern, already at the outset he takes 'precautionary measures' and invokes the trait of judgement, expressed in the name - KeloKim. Sensing how vulnerable he feels on the journey he is embarking on, and out of concern that he may slip up in his journey, he asks for divine judgement to be at his side from the start.

Question #3
Why does Yaacov seem to present conditions for a deal to G-d, stating his “terms up front” that need to be fulfilled

In comparing the differences between the promises of G-d to the responses of Yaacov, we see that Yaacov's focus and concern was to be protected from sin.

Says the Kli Yakar:

Protection from sin, or to not come to the point of actually sinning, this is dependent on our personal choices. 

But to be protected from being confronted with the possibility of sinning, this can only be provided by divine intervention. G-d's statement to Yaacov referred to providing him physical protection in the statement 'I will protect you wherever you go.' The pasuk uses the expresseion - 'wherever' (BKOL).  In life, all roads are dangerous and many paths lie before us to go on.

Yet Yaacov said 'protect me on this journey that I am taking.' And in response, G-d directs Yaacov to the special path that Yaacov should specifically go on, to be protected on.
What is that path? 
It is the Path of G-d and Torah and Mitzvot. 

We can see this directly in the words of G-d's promise 'I will protect you wherever you go' - where the word ANOCHI seems to be superfluous.

וְהִנֵּה אָנֹכִי עִמָּך וּשְׁמַרְתִּיךָ בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ וַהֲשִׁבֹתִיךָ אֶל הָאֲדָמָה הַזֹּאת כִּי לֹא אֶעֱזָבְךָ עַד אֲשֶׁר אִם עָשִׂיתִי אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתִּי לָךְ
Breisheit 28:15

And so the word 'ANOCHI' is added. This is to emphasize that divine protection is required to protect us when confronted with sinful influences and places. This is what Yaacov meant when he said 'protect me' and let me return 'complete' - meaning protected from sin and a complete person, devoid of sin.

Question #4 Why is Yaacov’s first concern for material protection?

Concerning physical protection, Yaacov was covered. G-d said 'I will protect you wherever you go' since  we have physical protection in Eretz Yisrael,  then we need  this protection when going out of Eretz Yisrael. G-d also promised to Yaacov 'and bring you back to this soil,' so Yaacov was ensured physical protection for  the full, round trip, back to Eretz Yisrael.

However Yaacov's concern was really about spiritual protection. He was concerned about not learning from the ways of Lavan. And not just Lavan, but also from the Canaanites and Emory in Eretz Yisrael. That is why Yaacov made his personal request stating 'and if I return in peace to my father's house' - not that he should be physically protected until reaching his father's house, but that Yaacov should be protected from the influence of sin throughout his journey (to not learn from Lavan, not be influenced by Canaanites, and Emory).

Then why Bread and clothes?

Yaacov was not looking to benefit materially, and we see this in 'if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear' - where Yaacov asks for specifically these items. Yaacov wants to emphasize that he only needs to receive the most basic sustenance. This is to provide him the level of assurance that he should not be put under stress  out of of providing for himself, and driven to sin. Morever, if Yaacov's motives were for material gain, then he should have asked for  valuable goods like gold and pearls.

Question #5 why does Yaacov conclude with an offer to tithe?

Adds the Netivot Shalom:
Our Rabbis have taught: It is forbidden for a man to enjoy anything of this world without a blessing, and if anyone enjoys anything of this world without a blessings,  it is as if he stole from Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
Brechot 35A
The importance of making a brechah is that you make Hashem a partner in your actions, and in your life. But when you take advantage of this world without a brechah, you take the opposite approach and you alienate Hashem. As it says in Mishlei:
איש תהפוכות ישלח מדון, ונרגן מפריד אלוף
A perverse man incites quarrel, and a grumbler alienates the Lord.
Mishlei 16:28
Yaacov’s offer of tithes (maser) was not an attempt on his part to take on a new Mitzvah, rather this was his effort in taking his first steps into Olam Hazeh. Until this point, Yaacov had nothing to do with this world. He was a part of the spirituality of Yitzhak.  He was the quintessential yeshiva bochur. The Ish Tam. He didn't know anything about 'office politics.' Now his life stood at a crossroads, and was taking a turn, going down into this world. 

He we would be getting married, having children, going to work – and all in the house of Lavan – the most impure place possible.

So Yaacov’s vow is a way for him to deal with this upheaval, of this profound change in his life, of confronting the challenges of this world.  To be better prepared to handle the material and take on the challenges of this world - Olam HaZeh - he seeks to immediately establish that all his material gains should be transformed to spiritual ones, by declaring all his material growth to be bound to tithes - to have a spiritual value. 

This approach is also reflected in the vision of the ladder. The ladder's base is in this world, but the top (the head if you will) is in heaven.


So we see that this event goes far from representing self-doubt by Yaacov, and is not at all a form of 'striking a deal'. What we see here is a true dialog. G-d offers to provide physical protection and guidance. Yaacov accepts this implicitly and turns the discussion to the fate of his soul, asking for different ways to be protected from the  sinful influences of the world around him.

This provides us a guide for all of  our daily struggles. Every day, we go on journeys and leave the safety of our homes, and risk entering the world. On our journeys we are physically vulnerable to the dangers all around us. 

In life, we are really on a more important journey – a journey of the soul. This mission is constantly under attack, as we are bombarded by media messages selling us all kinds of foreign values and tempting us. Just as Yaacov was sensitive to the frailties of the human condition and  inherent weakness, he looked to G-d for guidance and protection, so as to ensure the success of his journey. For us, this provides us a good model for taking extra measures for navigating the road ahead in our own lives, and protecting our own souls.

Chayei Sarah - Greed Built into the DNA

During the discussion between Avraham and Ephron over the purchase of the burial plot for Sarah, there is an interesting issue one of the verses.
 וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָהָם אֶל עֶפְרוֹן וַיִּשְׁקֹל אַבְרָהָם לְעֶפְרֹן אֶת הַכֶּסֶף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר בְּאָזְנֵי בְנֵי חֵת אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שֶׁקֶל כֶּסֶף עֹבֵר לַסֹּחֵר
בראשית כג:טז
Here, unlike all the other mentions of Ephron, in one instance the name Ephron appears without one letter, the letter Vav.

Says the Baal HaTurim, this instance of the name Ephron appears with out the letter 'Vav' (אפרן). This word has the Gematria (numerical equivalent) of the word "רע עין" - at a value of 400 (Reish is 200, Eyin 70x2, Yud 10, Nun 50), which means stinginess or greedy. And so the 400 [of  his greediness] comes in counter to the 400 silver pieces that Avraham paid Ephron in order purchase to the Maharat HaMachpelah (Cave of the Double), the seminal resting place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

Was Ephron a slippery character?
Is the missing Vav hinting at deeper, more profound flaws?
Why Vav? What is the significance of the absence of this letter?

A Fair Price?
Rashi notes on this verse that the name Ephron "is spelled without a “vav,” because he promised much but did not do even a little [i.e., he promised the cave as a gift but took a great deal of money for it]" This is illustrated in the pasuk that appears earlier.
"No, my lord, listen to me. I have given you the field, and the cave that is in it, I have given it to you. Before the eyes of the sons of my people, I have given it to you; bury your dead."
Breisheit 23:11
In one verse, Ephron emphasizes the gift that he is offering Avraham, with 3 consecutive mentions of giving. Yet, the attractive offer goes from a gift to a high price in just a few verses.
And Ephron replied to Abraham, saying to him, "My lord, listen to me; a [piece of] land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is it between me and you? Bury your dead."
Breisheit 23:14-15
The 'gift' quickly appreciates and becomes a mere 400 sheckels of silver. Like a smooth salesman, Ephron tries to get his client to take possession of the product, belittling the money issues, and pushing them off to be dealt with later.

Says the Ramban, that it appears that Ephron tried to exact a value for this property that was far inflated from the market price. And the Ramban brings the Gemarah:
...the wicked promise much and do not perform even little. Whence do we know? — From Ephron. At first it is written, "The land is worth four hundred shekels of silver;" but subsequently, "And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant"; indicating that he refused to accept anything but centenaria, (Centenarius = 100 manehs; a maneh = 100 zuz = 25 shekels.) for there is a place where shekels are called centenaria. (Hence he gave him 400 centenaria, instead of ordinary shekels as he demanded at first: this is deduced from the phrase ‘current money with the merchant’, implying that it was recognised everywhere as a shekel)
Baba Metzia 87A (Soncino Translation)
At this exchange rate, the 400 centenaria comes to 10,000 sheckels.
Rav Aryeh Kaplan in The Living Torah further expands on the underhanded nature of  this deal.
Considering land values at the time this was highly excessive. Thus, for example, King Omri paid only 6000 sheckels for the entire territory of Samaria. (Kings I 16:25)

The Power of the Letter Vav
Says the Kli Yakar, expanding on the words of the Baal HaTurim, the Talmud in Baba Batra addresses the significance of the absence of the letter Vav.
R. Isaac also said: He who gives a small coin to a poor man obtains six blessings, and he who addresses to him words of comfort obtains eleven blessings.
Baba Batra 9B (Soncino Translation)
Continuing on this foundation, the Kli Yakar naturally concludes that anyone, then, that does not give even a 'prutah' to the poor is not deserving of the six blessings. Hence Ephron's name is missing the letter Vav, which has the value of six. This is indicative of his true nature, one who is stingy, penny-pinching, and greedy.

The Kli Yakar shows us that we also learn about the fate of those entrenched in miserly characteristics.

R. Joshua b. Levi also said: We give the cup of blessing for the recital of the Grace after meals only to one who is of a generous disposition, as it is said: He who has a generous eye [a good eye] will be blessed, for he gave of his bread to the poor (Mishle 22:9), read not ‘will be blessed’ but rather 'shall say the Blessing'.
Sotah 38B
That is to say, the person who was not generous, and did not give to the poor is of a Bad Eye, or as the Baal HaTurim described an "רע עין".  Where do we see the six blessings in this discussion in Sotah?

We must look at the verse quoted in its source to understand the point here.
טוֹב-עַיִן, הוּא יְבֹרָךְ:    כִּי-נָתַן מִלַּחְמוֹ לַדָּלמשלי כב ט
The word  'will be blessed' is written as "יְבֹרָךְ" - without a Vav. The Talmud explains to pronounce this as if it as has a Vav, as "יְבֹורָךְ". Says the Kli Yakar, both the written and pronounced approach fit together, since one who is generous to others is ultimately blessed himself. Likewise the opposite holds true.

4 Bad Events Connected to 400
The Kli Yakar finds further basis to connect more bad events to the amount of 400 - the amount paid for burial cave, and numerical value of bad eye  "רע עין" , miserliness.

1. The episode with Ephron
2. The sale of Joseph down to Egypt, set in motion the eventual enslavement of the Jewish people - a circumstance that was destined to last for ... 400 years (Breisheit 15:13).
3. Yaacov returns to Canaan and faces his brother Esau in what he fears could be the final confrontation. Yaacov's messengers scout out Esau's group and report that Esau approaches with ... 400 men (Breisheit 32:7)
4. Naval, the wealthy man living in the Carmel, that the Tanach describes as "the man was hard, and of evil deeds; and he was a Calebite." (Shmuel A 25:5) And David approached him with ... 400 men.

Learning the Traits of Generosity
So we see sources and examples validating the power of 6, and the importance of its absence. The 'six' or the Vav plays a major role here and provides great insight into one's true nature.  From this one unassuming, slim letter we learn that our lives should go down a path of showing generosity to others.

We also learn the contra to this. That should we lack the Vav in our lives, not only do we not merit the six special blessings but we bring upon ourselves the power of the Bad Eye - the power of 400.

Vaera - Powerful Medicine

Says the Kedushat Levi, Rav Levi Yitzhok from Berditchev, that Hashem puts the treatment before the pain. How do we see this? The discussion in Mesechet Megillah explores this issue.

"After these things." (Megilat Ester 3:1) After what? — Raba said: After G-d had created a healing for the blow [which was about to fall]. For Resh Lakish has said: The Holy One, blessed be He, does not smite Israel unless He has created for them a healing beforehand, as it says . "When I have healed Israel, then is the iniquity of Ephraim uncovered."(Hosea  8:1)  Not so, however, with the other nations: He smites them first, and then creates for them a healing, as it says: "The Lord will smite Egypt, smiting and healing." (Isaiah 19:22)
Mesechet Megilah 13B (from Soncino Translation)
We learn from this piece that G-d puts a global perspective upon events, and early on provides the 'cure' or soothing treatment, to alleviate the pain of oncoming suffering.

Healing For the Blow
So how does this figure in Parshah Vaera?
Says the Kedushat Levi, we see this manifest in this Parshah as well. Yitzhak is a pre-eminent figure strongly associated with the concept of exile. How so? The 400 years ordained for the people of Israel to be in exile  in servitude are counted from the birth of Yitzhak.

That has the original exile. But we still persist in exile today, even with the growth of a physical community in Eretz Yisrael. We continue to languish in a spiritual exile. So what is the treatment, the healing, that can cure the condition of the exile?
The Moshiach!
Which even if he is slow, we wait each day with enthusiasm.

How do we see this in Parsha Vaera? The birth of the nation of Moav provides a nascent symbol for the coming of the Moshiach. Since Ruth will arise from this nation and Kind David is descended from Ruth. The Moshiach defined as a descendent of King David.

So this is how G-d put the healing before the blow, and that we should merit to see soon in our days the arrival of the Moshiach and to be taken out of physical and spiritual exile.

Lech Lecha - On the Path to Destruction

And there was a quarrel between the shepherds of Abram's cattle and between the shepherds of Lot's cattle, and the Canaanites and the Perizzites were then dwelling in the land.
Breisheit 13:7
What Quarrel?
The verse describes a quarrel, a dispute that arose between the shepherds of Avram and the shepherds of Lot. With Lot being the nephew of Avram, this could be considered a family feud.

What were they fighting about?
Rashi describes the details of the confrontation.
Since Lot’s shepherds were wicked, and they pastured their animals in fields belonging to others, Abram’s shepherds rebuked them for committing robbery, but they [Lot’s herdsmen] responded, “The land was given to Abram, who has no heir; so Lot will inherit him, and therefore this is not robbery.” But Scripture states: “And the Canaanites and the Perizzites were then dwelling in the land,” and Abram had not yet been awarded its possession. [from Gen. Rabbah 41:5]
There was no fight over land, since the shepherds of Avram had no interest to graze the lands that the shepherd of Lot had moved onto, grazing on private property. So essentially this tension was based on a matter of honor. Lot's shepherds did not deny grazing on this land, or even that this was obviously under private ownership. They based their integrity on a controverted interpretation of the law, whereby they concluded that the land was bound to be theirs, so in a sense it was theirs now. Rashi emphasizes that verse mentions the presence of Canaanites and Perizzites to undermine the claim by Lot's shepherds, showing that this promise had yet to come about.

Yet Rashi's explanation opens several questions.
The shepherd's of Avram did not know otherwise that Avram, already at an advanced age, would eventually have his own heir. So why contest this claim by Lot's shepherds?
Rashi explains that the verse includes the seemingly extra text “And the Canaanites and the Perizzites were then dwelling in the land,” in order to show that the lack of validity to the claim by Lot's shepherds, that the promise to Avram had not yet been fulfilled. Yet why mention both nations, the Canaanites and the Perizzites?  After all in the earlier verse, it referred only to the Canaanites being in the land.
And Abram passed through the land, until the place of Shechem, until the plain of Moreh, and the Canaanites were then in the land
Breisheit 12:6
Peace in the Land
The Kli Yakar raises these issues and addresses them in his commentary. The Kli Yakar says "some say that the verse wants to say that these were the two great nations - the Cannanites and the Perizzites - and they dwelt in the land [of Canaan] without dispute, [while] these two groups of shepherds couldn't settle the land together."

The great family of Avram, the proto-Jewish family, lived in strife and fought. To mirror this condition, the verse shows how our enemies, the nations destined to be vanquished by the tribes of Israel - the Cannanites and Perizzites - live amongst each other in harmony. It is both a lesson and a criticism of our behavior as a Jewish nation, that we fight between ourselves while our enemies live in comfort.

The Great Surrender
Following the dispute between the shepherds, Avram makes Lot a generous offer
Is not all the land before you? Please part from me; if [you go] left, I will go right, and if [you go] right, I will go left.
Breisheit 13:9
The Kli Yakar explains also the appearance of both these nations in our verse explains Avrams motives to dealing with Lot. Says the Kli Yakar "Here the shepherds of Avram did their part and rebuked the shepherd's of Lot for stealing and if they did not accept the rebuke then they were saving their own lives"

What does this mean "saving their lives?"

Continues the Kli Yakar, "the shepherd's of Avram rebuked them for stealing and the shepherd's of Lot contended that all of the land belonged to Avram (etc.). and Avram considered that if the inhabitants of the land saw that he was taking hold of the land and assuming ownership, while his group was small in numbers then obviously they would gather their forces and attack. That is why this verse also includes the Perizzites, for they were brave people living in fortified cities"

The verse later, based on the report of the spies, supports this contention.
the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified

Bamidar 13:28  
Shows the Kli Yakar further, he brings the episode of Shimon and Levi and the slaughter of Shechem, to show further the reputation of the Cannanites and Perizzites.

Thereupon, Jacob said to Shimon and to Levi, "You have troubled me, to discredit me among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and among the Perizzites, and I am few in number, and they will gather against me, and I and my household will be destroyed."
Breisheit 34:30

Tranquil Dwelling
The verse is also particular to not only mention the names of these other nations that could be aroused to confrontation, but also says that the 'dwelled' in the land.
and the Canaanites and the Perizzites were then dwelling in the land.

Breisheit 13:7
Says the Kli Yakar, "the verse says that they dwelled to say that until now they are dwelling in tranquility. By seeing that shepherds are in their fields establishing ownership, then there will be senseless war. There [Avram says]  "Please part from me."

This further displays Avram's cautious decisions, putting full faith in Hashem's promise to give him the land, without entering into useless wars, and not showing unnecessary hubris to the inhabitants.

Time to Make Choices
Despite the initial contentions of Lot's shepherd's that in fact they were doing nothing wrong, that in fact the fields were theirs de facto, they never denied sending their flocks to graze in these fields.

Says the Kli Yakar, "thus Lot went to dwell with the people of Sodom, who were not particular about stealing."

Avram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain, and he pitched his tents until Sodom.  And the people of Sodom were very evil and sinful against the Lord.
Breisheit 13:12-13
Says the Kli Yakar, the verse "And the people of Sodom were very evil and sinful against the Lord" is placed adjacent to this to show that since they sin with money and were not particular of stealing, thus Lot goes to settle by them."

The Path to Destruction
Lot's choices at the beginning of this episode were motivated by greed but blurred by his own legal acrobatics to justify his party's behavior. Ultimately the path he set down lead him to Sodom, a doomed city.

As we note in mishna:

Ben Azzai said: Be eager to fulfill the smallest duty and flee from transgression; for one mitzvah induces another and one transgression induces another transgression. The reward of a duty is a duty, the reward of one transgression is another transgression.
Pirkei Avot 4:2

 Lot took step after step, transgression after transgression, which lead him down a path which he was locked into, sealing his destiny. In our lives, we are constantly confronted with decisions for how to behave. Sometimes it feels like a little lie is easiest, or to slightly bend a rule won't be noticed, or worse to deny any wrongdoing through sophisticated justification. These may start out as small, minor infractions, but once we allow ourselves to behave in this manner, then we are quickly sliding down towards a destiny that will be difficult to extricate ourselves from, without conscious and dedicated effort to correct our behavior.

Noach - What Makes a Tzaddick

Following the flood, the survivors, Noach and his family,  are redeemed and in the midst of recovering from this trauma, their fears are put to rest. G-d makes clear that this will not occur again.

And the L-rd smelled the pleasant aroma, and the Lord said to Himself, "I will no longer curse the earth because of man, for the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth, and I will no longer destroy all living things as I have done.
וַיָּרַח ה' אֶת רֵיחַ הַנִּיחֹחַ וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל לִבּוֹ לֹא אֹסִף לְקַלֵּל עוֹד אֶת הָאֲדָמָה בַּעֲבוּר הָאָדָם כִּי יֵצֶר לֵב הָאָדָם רַע מִנְּעֻרָיו וְלֹא אֹסִף עוֹד לְהַכּוֹת אֶת כָּל חַי כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי 
Breisheit 8:21
The commentators have a lot to say around this verse verse.
What does it mean that man's heart is evil? Does that mean that man is beyond redemption?
Why make this declaration now, after the flood, doesn't this undermine the significance of having carried out the flood?

Rashi says about "from his youth":
This is written: מִנְעֻרָיו [without a“vav”] [implying that] from the time that he [the embryo] shakes himself [נִנְעָר] to emerge from his mother’s womb, the evil inclination is placed in him. — [from Breisheit Rabbah 34:10] 
Rashi says this shows the very essence of human nature. Rashi is saying that our eternal enemy, the Yetzer Hara, hounds us from birth. This seems to mean that we are at a disadvantage in life, starting out with a heart of evil.

Divine Regret?
Says the Slonimer Rebbe in the Netivot Shalom that this leaves us to conclude that the cause of the flood is the essential evil in man's heart, as shown earlier, when Hashem initially declares his intentions to destroy mankind in a flood:
And the L-rd saw that the evil of man was great in the earth, and every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time.
וַיַּרְא ה' כִּי רַבָּה רָעַת הָאָדָם בָּאָרֶץ וְכָל יֵצֶר מַחְשְׁבֹת לִבּוֹ רַק רַע כָּל הַיּוֹם 
Breisheit 6:5
This is the verse set in motion the events of the flood, seeming to show that the flood was the result of  the evil in man's heart. Yet as we just saw, this is the very reason given for why Hashem promised not to flood the world again.

The Slonimer Rebbe reconciles these two verses by taking Rashi's explanation, saying that man is not evil to the core. Rather, from birth man has an evil inclination embedded within, which gives man the capacity for evil. In contrast, the inclination for good is a quality that needs to be developed and nurtured.

The Slonimer Rebbe emphasizes the subtle and fundamental differences between man before and after the flood.
  • Before the flood: every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time
  • After the flood: the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth
Man in the post-flood world is more mature, and only has the capacity for evil, rather than the man of the pre-flood time, whose every move, all the time, was dedicated to evil.

Youth Is Not Bad
 Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch is very disturbed by this position. He finds this so difficult to take in, that he practically restructures the verse, for the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth:
"for the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth," has been completely erroneously taken to be the cause of this new determination of destiny… The words, "for the inclination, etc.," are in parenthesis, and should be read as: [if] the inclination of man's heart should be evil [again], [even] in his youth, so that the only way of saving him would be to destroy the generation, [nevertheless] I will no longer destroy all living things as I have done. 
Youth are neither righteous nor evil. Woe unto them that take the average child or adolescent nature to be evil! Whoever has really observed children say: No, it is not true that youth are bad, the inclination of man's heart is not evil from his youth. It is not in youth that man sets evil as his ideal. Rather, on average, one finds more adults than adolescents whose hearts and minds are directed to evil.
Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, commentary to Bereishit 8:21

The Prayers of Hershele
I recently heard on the radio a tape of Reb Shlomo Carlebach telling a story. He told the story in the 1970's after the Yom Kippur war, and Israeli Prisoners of War returned from Egypt, to describe the holiness that these individuals had achieved. So tells Reb Shlomo...
Once there was a  village in Russia and they were confronted with a terrible decree. The villages in the area must all close down a relocate to the larger city centers, which could be hundreds of kilometers away. The villagers did not just worry about the move, but that this relocation could mean the death of hundreds of Jews forced to make this terrible journey. So they went to their beloved rabbi for help.
They begged their holy rabbi, Rav Dovid, to pray and influence the heavens to turn this terrible decree. But their rabbi sadly responded, that he didn't have the power to counteract a decree this strong. They would have to turn to a person far more holier than him.
"Who?" the people asked, "who should we go and see?"
"A holy yid that lives far from here, Reb Herschel. You need to find Reb Hershel. Only Reb Hershel is filled with enough holiness that his prayers can have this much influence."
The people of the village traveled far to the town their rabbi had spoke of. When they reached the town they looked around and asked people: where do we find the holy Reb Hershel?
However the locals shook their heads. "There is no Reb Hershel."
"What?" they replied, "but our rabbi sent us here to get a blessing from Reb Hershel."
"There's no Reb Hershel here. The only Hershel here, is Hershel the drunk."
"Hershel the drunk?"
"Yes and he is where is always is, lying down on the street."
The tired village people trusted their rabbi and sought at Hershel the drunk. Just as they were told, there was Hershel the drunk, a disheveled figure sitting on the street with his back up against the wall.
"Are you Hershel?"
"Yeah I'm Hershel," he yelled back.
"We have come from a far away village. Our rabbi sent us here to find you. We have a terrible situation. A horrible decree has been issued forcing the entire village to be abandoned and everyone move to the large cities. He needs a blessing to overturn this decree."
"So what do ya want from me?" asked Hershel, somewhat inebriated.
"Our rabbi said that you could pray for us."
With this, Hershel began to laugh. "Me?!" he said, "you want me to pray for you?" He laughed some more.
They didn't know what to think. This was who their rabbi sent them so far to see? Their rabbi wouldn't play a joke on them, especially under the circumstances. They turned back to Hershel.
"Please, we've come so far and as unusual as it may sound, our holy rabbi said that only your tefila is strong enough to break this decree. Please pray for us."
Hershel stopped laughing. He turned his head towards the heavens, and said, "Nu? Creator of the Universe! You gonna help them already!" Hershel lifted up a nearby bottle, and took a swig.
The village people thanked him, and bid him farewell, still confused and not really absorbing what went on through this encounter, and to what value all this was for.
When they returned to their village, they went to their rabbi.
He asked, quite matter-of-fact, if they had seen Reb Hershel.
They responded that they did.
The rabbi asked, if Reb Hershel had prayed on their behalf.
They responded that he did.
Yet now they were more confused than ever. "Rebbe!" they cried, "we have the utmost respect for you, and trust your every word. But we don't understand. Why send us so far to someone like Hershel. He wasn't the holy man that we were expecting."
The rabbi closed his eyes and nodded his head. "Yes, I will explain."
"Hershel has come to a bad situation, but he wasn't always like this. Once many years ago, Hershel heard about the big city. Someone told him that if he works and saves his money, then he can go to St. Petersburg and stay in the nicest hotel, have the best food, and be waited on like a king. Hershel was determined to make this happen. He worked and saved, scrimping together every last ounce of savings. For ten years he labored, never squandering, always saving. Then after 10 years, he had the funds he needed for his experience in the big city. He had saved 500 rubles.
He used part of his funds to get a train ticket, and he traveled to St. Petersburg. As he got off the train, he came to the main square. Then he was confronted with a shocking scene. One man was beating an older man. The older man was being beaten terribly, while his attacker yelled, "I'll kill you!"
"Stop," yelled Hershel, intervening, "what's going on, why are you attacking this man?"
"He owes me money, and I'm going to get it."
"Money?" said Hershel, "how much money does he owe you?"
"500 rubles."
Without even thinking, Reb Hershel reached into his pocket and took at the money he had been saving for 10 years, and handed it to the beater. He took the money and went away.
"You saved me," said the older man that was being beaten.
Then with no money left, and just the return ticket for the train, Hershel left the city and went back to his town.
The rabbi turned to his followers. "You see I strive for one kind of holiness - kind treatment, fear of heavens, fulfilling the mitzvot. But Hershel achieved another. Without even thinking, and for a complete stranger that he would never see again, he gave up all the money he had earned over 10 years. He threw out his dreams of the big city. He even overturned his whole life, ending up as the town drunk.
"This powerful sense of sacrifice, willing to rise to the occasion of helping his fellow man without coercion or pressure, this was a level far beyond me. And that, that is why I sent you to Reb Hershel. His tefillah, the blessings of Reb Hershel are much more powerful than mine, and can break through the outer shells of heaven and arouse heavenly mercy."
Jewish Guilt
Says the Slonimer Rebbe,  Hashem gave a gift to Jews to have a heavy conscious (or as some would say Jewish Guilt). This powerful feeling plagues us when we are lax in our behavior. Even when transgressing, in every Jew there is always a little bit of good that can save him. This doesn't mean that we are fundamentally evil, but rather our Yetzer overpowers us. The challenge is that even when we do fail to not let that moment overcome us. How? Our connection with Hashem. Says the Slonimer Rebbe quoting the Gemarrah in Shabbat, anyone that keeps Shabbat even an idol worshiper from the generation of Enosh will be forgiven.

This means that Shabbat is a readily available opportunity to connect with Hashem. Shabbat serves as a regularly occurring sign that we still have a connection with the holy, and evil has not consumed us.

Breisheit - To Work and Protect

Now the Lord God took the man, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.
Breisheit 2:15
The Or HaChaim Hakodosh  notes an interesting language in the verse, that it says "to work it and to guard it." This commentator raises several questions.
  • Why would the Garden of Eden needed to be guarded, after all there were no thieves?
  • What is this 'work' that the Garden of Eden needs? If it needed to be worked, then who worked the Garden of Eden all these years since the banishment from there?

Vayelech/Nitzavim - Life or Goodness, Which Takes Precedence?

The Siege of Leningrad
I heard a report recently on the BBC. A researcher was writing a report on the Siege of Leningrad in World War 2. The siege was romanticized by the Russians as a time of triumph and bravery shown by the Russian people. The siege of Leningrad was the most lethal siege in world history, resulting in the deaths of up to 1,500,000 soldiers and civilians. The Red Army established a route for bringing a constant flow of supplies into Leningrad. This lifeline did bring military and food supplies in and took civilians and wounded soldiers out, allowing the city to continue resisting the enemy. Civilians in the city suffered from extreme starvation, where at one point the only food available to a citizen was 125 grams of bread, of which 50–60% consisted of sawdust and other inedible admixtures.

Reports of cannibalism appeared in the winter of 1941–1942, after all birds, rats and pets had been eaten by survivors. Hungry gangs attacked and ate defenceless people.

Against these circumstances, the researcher discovered an interesting fact. Early on in the siege, amongst the flow of supplies, there was an apportionment to the zoo animals. This was reported in the UK's Daily Mail "Only the zoo preserved its star attractions, like ‘Beauty’ the hippopotamus, with special rations of hay."

The researcher was shocked by this action. How could the Russians, in the face of such devastating horrors still apportion food to zoo animals? The researcher turned to her Russian translating assistant and said.

"They should have slaughtered the zoo animals immediately and fed them to the starving women and children!"
The Russian assistant turned to her and said, "What? And if they were cold should they have burned the violins?"

Life and Good
There is an interesting verse in the middle of Parshat Netzavim
Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil,
Dvarim 30:15

Why does the verse put 'life' before 'good'? isn't 'good' referring to Torah and Mitzvot? Shouldn't 'good' be put as the higher value, preceding the reference to 'life'?

The Kli Yakar raises this question and provides an insightful response for the structure of this verse. The Kli Yakar first proposes that "if life is what you request, then look to goodness, and do good in the eyes of Hashem."

Doing Good
Based on this desire, the Kli Yakar suggests this verse comes to address this request, saying "that you shouldn't do good in the eyes of Hashem in order to gain life, rather you should live in order to do good."  Had the verse presented been presented as "set before you good and life" then you may have been lead to believe that doing good is the path to gaining life, making doing good only a 'means' with the 'end' to gain life.

So, the Kli Yakar continues, the phrasing of this verse can be seen as a warning. It is warning to not look for ways to extract demands from Hashem, that you shouldn't look at doing good as the giving you a way to expect to be rewarded.  Rather you should live, in order to do good.

Material Life
You should not look at material life as your main focus in this world. The Kli Yakar explains that you shouldn't request material life from Hashem since if you request life. Though if you do request material life, then it should be to dedicate more time to the service of Hashem, as noted in Tehilim "Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see goodness?".

Living Life for Hashem
The Kli Yakar concludes, based on the quoted verse in Tehilim, that we should love the days of our life so that we can see in them the goodness of Hashem. What is goodness? Torah and Mitzvot.

It is like it says next to "to love Hashem your G-d and stick to Him, since He is your life." This means that this is the purpose of your life. Since there is no other reason that G-d gives you life except for this reason.

Using Our Time to the Fullest
As we see here, there is no formula to extend life, only at the mercy of G-d. No one knows how long they have, but we all do know that we are all limited to 24 hours in a day. It is up to each of us to use that time to the fullest to enhance our connection to Hashem.

I was shocked and impressed by the BBC report, where material items were the focus and highly valued while lives were considered to be secondary. It made me think and contemplate how dear life is.

We are all just as limited with the time remaining to us before the onset of Yom Kippur. We should merit to use this time to better ourselves, and continue to strive to grow spiritually and become close to Hashem.

Ki Tavo - Mitzvah Brings On More Mitzvot

The Parshah ends with a profound conclusion and promise.
If you observe the words of this covenant and keep them,  you will be successful in all that you do.
Dvarim 29:8
There is a seeming repetition in this wording. Why does the verse need to state "observe" and "keep" the covenant?

Isn't observing the covenant actually keeping the covenant? When one is observing mitzvot, he is doing them, isn't he?

The Kli Yakar addresses this question with a novel approach.

A Mitzvah Causes A Mitzvah
The Kli Yakar brings the famous Mishnah in Pirkeh Avot.

Ben Azzai said: Be eager to fulfill the smallest duty and flee from transgression; for one mitzvah induces another and one transgression induces another transgression. The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, the reward of one transgression is another transgression.
Avot 4:2
How does this Mishnah clarify the verse?

The Kli Yakar applies the teaching of this Mishnah directly to the words of the verse, saying "One mitzvah causes that 'you will be successful in all that you do.'"

This line of thought comes out of the Mishnah itself, "for one mitzvah induces another" - where each mitzvah brings on the possibility to do another mitzvah in turn. 

How does the Mishnah Reveal Success?
The verse in Dvarim promises that keeping mitzvot will ensure success in life. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot offers that "the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah". How does this provide success? Isn't success a new home? a promotion at work? a new car?

These are the elements, are measures, that we take to rate worldly success, or in other words 'this-worldly' success. But the mitzvot are the unique spiritual opportunities in our lives for binding and enhancing our relationship Hashem, making another mitzvah a true reward and paving the way for our spiritual success.

Repetitive Wording?
What about the seeming repetitive wording? The phrase "If you observe the words of this covenant and keep them" serves to mirror the wording of the Mishnah. The Kli Yakar explains that "observing will bring you to keeping [mitzvot], and the reward is keeping [mitzvot]. "   

The Kli Yakar concludes his explanation by elucidating the final words of the verse, by saying: "you will be successful (to bring more) in all that you do." Where your doing the mitzvot creates a seemingly perpetual success, producing more mitzvot - and therefore more success.

Shoftim - Fighting the Real Battle

When you go out to war against your enemies, and you see horse and chariot, a people more numerous than you, you shall not be afraid of them, for the L-rd, your G-d is with you Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
כִּי תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה עַל אֹיְבֶיךָ וְרָאִיתָ סוּס וָרֶכֶב עַם רַב מִמְּךָ לֹא תִירָא מֵהֶם כִּי ה קלֹקיךָ עִמָּךְ הַמַּעַלְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
Devarim 20:1

  • What war is the Torah referring to in this verse?
  • Why does it say "When you go out..." and not "When you go to fight..."
  • Why does it start in the singular "Taytzai" and when the intention is for the entire group (should be plural)?

Vaethanan - Making It Stick

The Kli Yakar provides some fascinating insights into a verse in this parshah.

But beware and watch yourself very well, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw, and lest these things depart from your heart, all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children and to your children's children.
Devarim 4:9

The Kli Yakar first notes that this verse serves as the basis for a mishnah in Pirkei Avot.
Rabbi Dostai ben Yannai said in the name of Rabbi Meir: He who forgets one word of his study, Scripture regards him as though he was liable for his life; for it is written (Deuteronomy 4:9) "But beware and watch yourself very well, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw." Could this apply even if a man's study was too hard for him? Scripture says (ibid.): "lest these things depart from your heart, all the days of your life" Thus a person is not guilty unless he deliberately puts those lessons away from his heart.
Pirkei Avot 3:10
The Power of Forgetting
What is inherent in this verse that makes it serve as such a powerful warning for forgetting what we have learned?

The Kli Yakar explains that the mishnah in Pirkei Avot brings a harsh warning for when we forget our learning, so G-d will forget us. As it says in the verse:
My people were silenced for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being a priest to me; seeing that you have forgotten the Torah of your God, I, too, will forget your children.
Hosea 4:6
Just One Makes All the DifferenceFurther support in this direction comes from the statements of our sages. The Kli Yakar brings a gemarah describing the discussion between Hillel and Bar He He.

Bar He-He said to Hillel: "And you shall return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him who serves God and him who has not served Him." (Malachi 3:18)
‘the righteous’ is the same as ‘he that serves God’,
‘the wicked’ is the same as ‘him who has not served Him.’!
He [Hillel] answered him: ‘he that serves God’ and ‘him who has not served Him’ both refer to the perfectly righteous;
But he that repeated his learning a hundred times is not to be compared with him who repeated it a hundred and one times.
Said [Bar He-He] to him: And because of [just] one he is called ‘him who has not served Him’?
Hagiga 9b (Soncino Translation)
Bar He-He asks a good question to Hillel. How does one (1) make the difference for who is more righteous and serves G-d better?

Gematria Reveals
Literally the gematria (the numerical value) of the words show the difference.
 וְשַׁבְתֶּם, וּרְאִיתֶם, בֵּין צַדִּיק, לְרָשָׁע--בֵּין עֹבֵד אֱלֹקים, לַאֲשֶׁר לֹא עֲבָדוֹ
The first letters of the words עֹבֵד אֱלֹקים לאֲשֶׁר
‘he that serves God’
These letters amount to 101

The first letters of the words    לֹא עֲבָדוֹ
‘him who has not served Him’
These amount to 100

The verse intrinsically conveys the power of the extra one, that one who repeats his learning 101 times, that is truly called serving G-d.

The Presence of 101
The Kli Yakar offers additional references to 101 in other places. He compares the Hebrew words for 'forget' and 'remember'

Forget is made up of the gematria
Shin: 300
Kaf: 20
Chet: 8

Remember is made up of the gematria
Zayin: 7
Kaf: 20
Reish: 200

The difference between these two words is: 101

The Kli Yakar brings the essential message from this outcome as, if you want to nullify the power of forgetting then you have to go back and repeat what you have learned 101 times.

The Angels
The Kli Yakar adds that the angel designated for memory has powers amounting to 227.
While the angel designated for forgetting has powers amounting to 328. Since the angel of forgetting is 101 units more powerful than the angel of remembering, it is up to man to be diligent and repeat his learning 101 times to strengthen his memory. Thereby for each repetition he reduces the power of the angel of forgetting, till by 101 times, he has brought himself to be under the dominion of the angel of remembering so that he will no longer forget what he has learned.

Intrinsically Hidden
Our verse from our parshah also intrinsically has this message as well.
 רַק הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ וּשְׁמֹר נַפְשְׁךָ מְאֹד פֶּן תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ וּפֶן יָסוּרוּ מִלְּבָבְךָ כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ וְהוֹדַעְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְלִבְנֵי בָנֶיךָ
The following letters in these words are key: הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ וּשְׁמֹר נַפְשְׁךָ מְאֹד
Hey: 5
Vav: 6
Nun: 50
Mem: 40
This amounts to 101

This means "But beware and watch (yourself) very well"

The first letter of the remaining word from this statement: לְךָ

Lamed can allude to the concept of Limud, which is learning.

So the intrinsic message of our verse is Beware and watch yourself (your learning) very well (by repeating it 101 times).

Devarim - Taking Every Word Seriously

אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן בַּמִּדְבָּר בָּעֲרָבָה מוֹל סוּף בֵּין פָּארָן וּבֵין תֹּפֶל וְלָבָן וַחֲצֵרֹת וְדִי זָהָב

These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on that side of the Jordan in the desert, in the plain opposite the Red Sea, between Paran and Tofel and Lavan and Hazeroth and Di Zahav.
Devarim 1:1
Implicit Language
The language presents a simple, banality and seemingly straightforward description of events. But Rashi brings an added dimension to this narrative, explaining:
These [language] are words of rebuke, noting all of the locations that they angered G-d, so that the places are mentioned implicitly [without stating explicitly the low depths and rebellious actions of Am Yisrael] out of respect for Israel's honor.
The  nature of implicit language for rebuking the Jewish People starts right at the beginning of this parshah, from the very first word. This is the twilight time of the leadership of Moshe and he is setting the foundation for how the infrastructure for Jewish society should move forward. There is a statement by Ch'azal saying that the initials from the first word of the parshah form an implicit warning, and guidance for behavior.
The word is אֵלֶּה, representing the words אבק לשון הרע (Avak Lashon Harah)

Shlach - Size Matters

Following the spies first look at Eretz Yisrael, they delivered a devastating report about the land of Israel and  about the inhabitants that they saw.
There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, descended from the giants. In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.
 וְשָׁם רָאִינוּ אֶת הַנְּפִילִים בְּנֵי עֲנָק מִן הַנְּפִלִים וַנְּהִי בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם 
Bamidbar 13:33
It is a very interesting choice of words they make to describe their situation. What importance is attributed to specifically describing themselves as grasshoppers

The Spies are Liars
The discussion in  Masechet Sotah raises the issue, how the spies themselves were able to know what the local inhabitants perceived them. 
The pasuk states In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.  R. Mesharsheya said: The spies were liars! Regarding 'in our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers', very well - but how could they known 'and so we were in their eyes'?
But it is not so (that the spies did not lie in this matter),  for when [the inhabitants] held their funeral-meal (after burying the dead)  they ate beneath cedar trees, and when [the spies] saw them they climbed the trees and sat there. Then they [the spies] heard them say: 'We see men like grasshoppers in the vineyards'.
Sotah 35A
So the question comes up were the spies, assuming what others thought about them, or did they actually hear what was said about them.

What is the Significance of Ants?
Rashi quotes this selection in his commentary on the pasuk but makes a slight shift:
We heard them telling each other,"We see men like ants in the vineyards."
שמענו אומרים זה לזה נמלים יש בכרמים כאנשים

From out of no where, Rashi changes the wording to describe the perception of the spies as ants instead of grasshoppers. Why ants? What is the significance of ants?

The Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven
The Kedushat Levi, Reb Levi Yitzhok from Berditchev, raises this difficulty with 2 explanations. 

In the first explanation, he says, 'it appears to me that it is a rule that when Am Yisrael fulfills the desires of Hakodosh Baruch Hu then they are raised up and draw closer to the nature of  'malchut' of the Creator. And that is what Rashi is hinting at in deliberately using the term ants, instead of grasshoppers. The spies removed the yoke of heaven from their backs, the yoke of 'malchut'  and that is the point that Rashi wants to show by saying 'ants'. As it says in the verse:
Go to the ant, you sluggard; see her ways and become wise, for she has no chief, overseer, or ruler; yet she prepares her bread in the summer; she gathers her food in the harvest.
לֵךְ-אֶל-נְמָלָה עָצֵל;    רְאֵה דְרָכֶיהָ וַחֲכָם אֲשֶׁר אֵין-לָהּ קָצִין--    שֹׁטֵר וּמֹשֵׁל. 
Mishle 6:6-8
The ant is known to not regard another entity as dominating or ruling over it.

Why Eretz Yisrael?
In the Kedushat Levi's second explanation, he relates the discussion:
 'King Ptolemy (Philadelphus of Egypt [285-247BCE] asks, why do you want to conquer Eretz Yisrael - isn't all the land [of the world] from Hakodosh Baruch Hu?
The Jews answered back that G-d gave us this land, and it would be (literally) stealing to take another land.

Just as Chazal says in Mesechet Eruvin (100B):
What is meant by the pasuk:  "Who teaches us [more] than the beasts of the earth, and Who makes us wiser than the birds of the skies?" (Iyov 35:11)
‘Who teaches us [more] than the beasts of the earth’ refers to the mule which kneels when it makes water, ‘Who makes us wiser than the birds of the skies’ refers to the cock which first coaxes and then mates. R. Johanan observed: If the Torah had not been given we could have learnt modesty from the cat, honesty from the ant [(objection to) robbery’], chastity from the dove, and good manners from the cock who first coaxes and then mates. 
Another reference to the ant. How does the ant teach us about honesty, and how does it fit into Rashi's explanation?

In Rashi's comments on this passage he explains: ants do not take food from their fellow ant. Ants have a heightened sense of smell, when they find a piece of food, they can identify if another ant has laid claim to it.

That is how the Kedushat Levi explains Rashi's use of the term 'ant', where the inhabitant referred to the spies. The term ants suggests that the spies had no intention to 'steal' any of the land of Israel. 

A Matter of Perspective: Kli Yakar on Rashi 
The Kli Yakar gives another perspective on Rashi's use of 'ants'. He explains this is a matter of perspective. That for the spies, they saw themselves as the size of grasshoppers in comparison to others, but for the inhabitants standing far away, the spies when on to assume that they appeared as ants to them. 

The Fundamental Question of How you see Yourself
Is that all there is to the Kli Yakar's commentary? There perception of ants is just a matter of perspective, for where you are standing? The issues raised in the passage in Sotah is important. Perhaps the spies had heard the whispers of the inhabitants in the trees, talking about grasshoppers. Perhaps the inhabitant's whispers were actually referring to the spies.

Or perhaps the spies, who had already established based on their own point of view that they created a self-perception, seeing themselves as grasshoppers, and just assumed any reference to men in the vineyards was talking about them.   

Your Self Worth
Rav Soloveitchik asks, how do they know that the giants thought the spies were grasshoppers? Rashi compared them to ants and not grasshoppers. But how could Rashi be arguing on the passuk?

This is teaching us to be aware of the danger of low self-esteem. If you see yourself as a grasshopper, that’s exactly how others will see you. Do you think that low self-esteem stays the same? It’s a downward spiral. It’s only a matter of time that you will see yourself like ants.

Rashi focuses his switch in wording in his commentary on the later half of the pasuk: 
and so we were in their eyes.
He is providing a strong observation not on the assumption that the spies made about how others perceived themselves. 

We have more examples of the importance of self-perception. 
... you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Vayikra 19:18
In Shabbos 31a, Hillel says "That which is hateful to yourself, do not do to your friend: This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary, go now and learn it."

From these places, we learn that before you engage your fellow person, you must engage yourself. That all the more so, you should not do something hateful even about yourself.

It is here we see the fundamental principal to not just do good things for others, but the first step  in developing your character and 'working on yourself' is developing a good sense of self worth, a positive one that is in line with reality, not skewed by internal doubt. 

Internal Doubt
The alternative is a process of reinforcing a skewed way of thinking. This is an endless, vicious cycle where you project a negative self-perception onto the way you believe others see you. This is a continually and internally reinforced situation making one more and more withdrawn, leaving yourself to second-guess what everyone is thinking. Just like the spies seemed to second-guessed what they believed the inhabitants thought of them.

Holding On to a Position of Honor
What brought the spies to this position? The Netivot Shalom asks this, saying that the spies were all the greatest leaders of Israel, the finest of each tribe. How could they fall?

He explains that the tribal leaders were afraid of losing their positions and respect upon entering the land of Israel. They wanted to maintain the status quo and keep their positions of importance just as outside of the land of Israel.

The spies sent by Moshe were the hand-picked best that the Jewish people had to offer. They had no competition! So then, what were they afraid of?

They were afraid of themselves!

What to be Afraid of
To enter the land of Israel, they needed to have the qualities of humility and humbleness. These were essential qualities which they were lacking. This is evident in how they present themselves. When we humble ourselves in deference to the vastness and infiniteness of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, we can say that we are a mere grasshopper - a small entity in comparison to the vastness of Hashem. Yet when we are no longer focused on humility and humbleness, but concern ourselves with what others think, then we are lacking in a critical characteristic.

To compensate for this lacking, they started to weave lies and cover up the truth. They criticized the land and showed no faith in heavenly promises. They sought to draw the entire people after them.

Not What They Think
Ultimately it's not what other's think, but what we say about ourselves. We can confidently look at ourselves as tiny grasshoppers, humbling ourselves in comparison to the awesomeness of Hashem. Yet we don't have to listen to those giants, those giants of the world sitting high up in their ceder fortresses looking at the nation of Israel from afar and saying, they look like grasshoppers or even ants. Let them think whatever they want!

We know what we are worth.

Yet, one can't just decide through sheer willpower to withstand this debilitating skewed thinking. It needs to be uprooted deep within oneself, going in deep, and uprooting this harmful behavior. Otherwise the perception of oneself as a grasshopper can descend to being an ant, a flea, a tick etc etc.

Legacy of the Spies
Even after the sin of the golden calf, the Jewish people was not so severely punished, as the spies. The spies were caught up in their own interests, painfully aware of the lack of the critical qualities of humility and humbleness required for leading the Jewish people into the land of Israel. Their insecurities grew rampantly, and out of control, and they fought to hold on to what they were quickly losing - an important position, a seat of honor. And we are reminded of the mishna in Pirkei Avot:
"Rabbi Elazar HaKappar said: Jealousy, lust and the [pursuit of] honor remove a person from the world."
Avot 4:28
The spies report set in motion suffering and a legacy that the Jewish people have had to contend with resulting in 40 years of wandering the desert, and the ongoing, and enduring, anguish of Tisha B'Av. So just as this condition was sparked by a lack of humility and humbleness, and insecurities, we should strive to 'fix' this matter by looking inward, and taking upon ourselves new ways and paths to add humility to our lives and develop more humbleness in our spirit.