There are some weeks that a couple of exciting things happen at once, and I have to choose what to write about as an introduction, and it's very difficult to choose.
For example, this past week, my wife gave birth to a baby girl. Our first child in six years. And one day after my birthday. And an interesting story on how Hashem orchestrated the delivery. Yet, on the other hand, last Shabbos, my wife gave me permission to buy cold cuts and make my famous "Sandwich of Death," which hasn't been allowed in just around the same time.
Which one is more exciting to talk about? Well … I guess it's pretty simple:
The Sandwich of Death is a sandwich that I make with three types of cold cuts, raw onions, mustard, chummus, and of course some lettuce to make it healthy. The point of this sandwich is to clog your arteries to the point where you can actually FEEL a heart attack coming on, but not to the point where it actually happens. It brings you to the brink of death, if you will.
So, this Shabbos, I made myself one and one for each of the kids who wanted to try. And to my delight, and my wife's disgust, they enjoyed it immensely. Maybe I could sneak it in before the next six years.
Oh yeah … I had a baby girl. I guess that's exciting too.
"See (singular), I am placing before you (plural) this day a blessing and a curse. The blessing if you will listen to the commandments …." (Devarim 11:26).
Many commentators note that the word "see" is in the singular, while the rest is in the plural. The lesson that is taught, they say, is that Moshe was speaking to each individual while at the same time, speaking to the entire nation.
From this we learn the importance of taking speakers and even books seriously. When a speaker speaks, have in mind that he or she is speaking to you directly. By making everything "personal," you are more likely to absorb the lesson into your life.
My Rosh Yeshiva told over a story he once heard from the rav of his shul in America when he was a child. This rav told him that once, he needed to give a certain member of the shul a reprimand for his laxity in a certain mitzvah. However, he knew that if he spoke to the person one-on-one, the individual would most likely get upset and not change. Instead, he decided to speak about the subject on Shabbos as his weekly lecture.
After the lecture, the target came up to him and said, "Rabbi! That was an AMAZING talk!! Truly! You REALLY gave it to them!!" At that point the rav threw up his arms and said, "I give up!"
I would like to add my personal addition to this.
Perhaps, by the fact that the rest of the pasuk is in the plural, we can learn a similar, yet opposite, lesson. While on one hand, we need to take each speaker and each lesson personally, sometimes, one needs to make an honest appraisal of himself and know where he his holding. Sometimes, when a speaker is speaking on a level which is too high for the person, the person needs to say, "Okay, right now, this is for people who are bigger, however, perhaps I can 'dumb it down' and see how I can take the same lesson and apply it to my level."
My Rosh Yeshiva was known for his very serious, sharp, and honest lectures. That's why so many people loved to listen to him (and why I specifically chose this yeshiva to go to). Once a friend of mine was feeling down, comparing himself to the level that the Rosh Yeshiva was speaking. He went to speak to our rav (who is a rav in the yeshiva), and our rav asked, "Where do you sit when he speaks?" When he answered that he sits in the front, our rav said, "Move back a few rows," being, "learn the LESSON being spoken about, but don't think that everything applies to you." After that, when he learned to filter the lectures, he was able to better apply them to his life.
With that, I leave you with a wonderful Shabbos!