Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Thought on Parshas Breishis

A Thought On Parshas Bereishis Introduction This has been a challenging year. My trips to Jerusalem were delayed owing to my aveilus for my father a'h. I was able to go to Israel in the early summer, and spent some time combing the sefarim stores for my yearly Rishon. I visited a number of places but to no avail. There are seldom Rishonim appearing these days, and I have had the zechus of covering many of those which are accessible. Finally, one day, I chanced into a small basement shop and the owner told me that he privately prints a nice edition of a lesser-studied Rishon. I looked it through but was not convinced that this should be my first choice. I asked him to hold on to it, and that I was going to shop a bit more. He understood totally. I returned about two weeks later and settled on his sefer. I was excited to have it. I told no one. However, about a month ago, I was visiting a major American yeshiva, where the mashgiach has asked to consult with me. Some years ago, he had been studying faxed copies of my parsha emails, enjoying them. At the close of our meeting, he asked me if I had seen a recently-published "new Rishon." I had never heard of that reference, and he showed me a copy, saying that I could obtain it from a local individual whose father had worked on the ancient manuscripts and published it. I arranged to obtain it, and finally decided that this would become my choice for this year. Little is known of the author. We cannot be sure which country he came from, as he is not cited in the classic biographical works, his sefer was never published until this edition came out seven years ago, and we can only estimate the time in which he lived by the occasional references he makes to earlier scholars. From those citations, it would seem that he was either from France, Germany or Austria, and would have lived after the beginning of the 13th century. His work is largely remez, meaning it works at a deeper level of interpreting the Torah's allusions and hidden, hinted messages, as opposed to elucidating the text and its lessons. In many ways, he writes like the Rabbeinu Efraim whose works we studied many years ago. What is unique about this sefer is that it first emerged in manuscript form in Yemen, of all places, about three centuries ago! This might be the reason that is exists at all today, for many manuscripts of European origin disappeared or were destroyed. How it made its way to Yemen is not clear, but there are only a few copies of the manuscript known to exist, and we are about to study this new edition. I introduce to you the Sefer HaRemazim - the Book of Allusions - of Rabbeinu Yoel. ************** "...v'ha'aretz haisa tohu va'vohu v'choshech..." "...and the world was empty and formless, and darkness..." (1:2) Remez approaches the Torah for its parallel meanings, looking for hints and allusions to other levels of understanding. Many of the remazim seem, initially, unrelated to the overt meaning of the verses until we begin to spy beneath the mist some connections, some relationship, between the overt and the covert. Rabbeinu Yoel finds in the opening passages of the Torah some forecasting of later events pertaining to the Jewish people. When else was HaShem's world "empty and formless"? When there was no longer a Holy Temple where the Jews could serve Him. This is hinted in the words of the first verse above: tohu has the numeric value of 411, and the first Mikdash was laid waste, formless and empty, in its 411th year.The second Mikdash stood for 420 years, which is the numeric value of the word haisa. The word which follows, choshech, hints to the darkness which fell over the world when the sacred light in the Temples vanished. "'Yomer lo, aiecha..." "...and HaShem said to him, where are you?..." (3:9) The word aiecha is spelled "aicha." When HaShem appears to call out as if uncertain where Adam and Chava are hiding, His question "where are you" equals the word aicha which means "how could this happen?" This is paralleled when Yeshaya the prophet (22:12) says that HaShem called for tears and lamentation. Our sages say that this began when Adam committed the first sin. Yermiahu the prophet echoed this lamentation and crying when he asked "Aicha?" The first lamentation for man's misdeeds began in Eden and reverberated again when the Mikdash was destroyed. We resonate with the pain expressed by HaShem, when we recite Aicha, just as He said Aiecha. " v'nod ti'h'yeh..." " will be wandering and restless..." (4:12) The first human exile following the banishment from Eden was the forecast that Kain would wander restlessly. The last letters of the three words are ayin, dalet, and hae. They form the word aidah - the chosen people. The exile of Kain set into motion the exiles of the Jewish people following the destruction of each Mikdash. This is why in golus we wander, restless. Thus, teaches Rabbeinu Yoel, the words of the Torah are also blueprinting for us the dynamics and processes which will unfold in the world for the rest of time. This year iy'H we will peer into the Torah through his mystical lens, exploring its remazim. Good Shabbos. D Fox

A Thought on Parshas V'zos Habracha

"...v'lo kam navi od b'Yisroel k'Moshe..." (34:10) "...and no one else had arisen as a prophet of Israel as Moshe..." In this final parsha of the Torah, ibn Shu'aib turns again to a deeper analysis of the meaning of the verses. He ponders the message whereby the Torah tells us that no one was like Moshe. The verse says, literally, that "no prophet had arisen like Moshe" which is in the past tense. That is a bit mysterious. There were many prophets in the centuries which followed the era of Moshe. Does our verse mean to imply that after Moshe, there arose someone greater than him? Surely one of our 13 Ani Maamin principles is that Moshe was the superior prophet. ibn Shu'aib shares that there are different ways to understand the verse. He cites the Rambam, who writes that Moshe's superiority was that when he forecast miraculous events, they happened just as he had described and they were revealed to believers and heretics alike. An example of this is verse 12 which says that the signs and wonders occurred "in the presence of Pharaoh, his servants and the Jewish nation." Everyone around witnessed the miracles, even evil people. In contrast, other prophets' revelations had a selective "audience". Not everyone was able to perceive or witness the signs which they forecast. An example of this is Melachim 2, 8:4, where Elisha's servant is asked to explain to the king what miracles Elisha had generated. In contrast, the Ramban views the contrast between Moshe and other prophets as a matter of range and intensity of the wonders which they facilitated. Moshe was there for the spectacular giving of the Torah, which was unparalleled before or after him. Moshe was there for the Mon, the Clouds of Glory, and the Pillars of Fire, which endured for forty years. The Well, the Quail, the travel through wilderness without fears of snakes, scorpions and beasts, lasted for forty years. None of the other prophets were involved in miracles of such a range, and for such sustained intervals. Ramban also writes that to Moshe were revealed all of the visions and prophecies which would ever be given over throughout history, whereas other prophets only knew the prophecies which they experienced personally. As for ibn Shu'aib, our master contends that the literal wording of the verse - the past tense - teaches an important lesson: everything was predestined before the creation of the world. Everyone who would ever have any Divine prophecy was predesignated from that "time before there was time." Therefore, all prophecy which would ever surface on Earth was bound to be manifest, so that when the Torah writes that "no prophet arose such as Moshe", this was because all of the prophets were already "there" (to back this up, he cites Yeshaya 48:16 "m'es heyosa sham Ani" - "from the time it came into being, I was there.") In parshas VaEra, HaShem told Moshe of his superior prophetic visions; in parshas BeHalosecha, we see Moshe's ascendancy above others who had visions; finally, in our parsha, this verse hints at how all the prophecies and prophets which had been planned from before existence were unequal to Moshe's. This ends our year of learning the Torah with Rabbeinu Yehoshua ibn Shu'aib. His style was rather versatile and he thinks and writes differently than the French and Italian Rishonim whose works we have studied. Many of his lessons and views are memorable and unique. I gained considerably from this scholar's work, and hope to refer to him in the years to come. And now - the time has come to begin a new Rishon on the Torah. We have merited study with Rashi, Ibn Ezra (short and long versions), Rav Saadia Gaon, Chezkuni, Rabbeinu Bachya, Rabbeinu Yona, Rabbeinu Avraham ben Rambam, Recanati, Radak, Seforno, Rashbam, Rabbeinu Efraim, Ralbag, Rosh, Rambam, Rabbeinu Chaim Paltiel, Bechor Shor, Rabbeinu Avigdor, Panae'ach Raza, Sefer HaGan, ibn Shu'aib... Let us see what parshas Bereishis brings to our weekly parsha emails, with the loving help of HaShem. Owing to my travels, I am sending this one out early, and it will be followed shortly well in advance, by the new Rishon on Bereishis. Good Shabbos and good Yom Tov! D Fox

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Thought on Parshas Ha'azinu

"'lae ka'as oyev agur..." (32:27) "...were it not for the anger the enemy has in store..." In this penultimate parsha, the Shira of Moshe exemplifies the very nature of song. Song is a fusing of both parts of the human brain - the structured verbal half and the abstracting imaginal half. Verbal language is focused and logical. Imagery is unbridled by the rigidity of logic and precision. It is for this reason that song, while utilizing words, and also utilizing sound and image and abstraction, can transcend beyond a cerebral impact and can trigger feelings, memories, sensations and other non-verbal reactions in those who sing and those who hear it. ibn Shu'aib is very aware of these dual properties of this Song, and explains that each word and phrase serves a logical purpose - revealing a factual meaning, yet the Song also goes beyond a recounting of fact, and enters into a revelation of primordial time as well as a forecasting of times yet to come. He sees in Ha'azinu references to the era of the Creation, and the era of Moshiach and the afterlife. The Song is predicated on the fact that HaShem has given us the gift of Teshuva. He has shown us the ways in which we can retrace our actions and undo the negative effects and consequences of straying from Torah and Mitzvos. Based on a midrash, ibn Shu'aib writes that HaShem likens us to prisoners who have an escape route but who fail to use it. The warden is not impressed by their decision to stay put. He thinks that they are foolish for not taking advantage of an opportunity to flee to freedom. HaShem gave us a mechanism to escape from the prisons which we create for ourselves through decadence, dishonesty and deceptiveness. That is Teshuva. We can actually reverse our direction and get out of our impure ruts, if we take advantage of that opportunity. These Days of Repentance are our finest opportunity yet if we fail to run with Teshuva, HaShem judges us as self-encased in our own folly, by choice. This is one message of Ha'azinu: our national blundering and perfidy has HaShem declaring "Af'eihim ashbisa m'enosh zichram lulai kaas o'yev agor" - I scattered the Jews into exile and would have exterminated them from human memory, but I was concerned about the vicious nations." If we stop and think about this hypothetical, something seems wrong. What does it mean that HaShem would have exterminated us except that He was concerned about the nations and their viciousness? If there would be no more Jews, what harm could their viciousness do to us? ibn Shu'aib revels a deeper truth. Jew hatred is actually G-d hatred. The oppression which the nations spew against us is an effort to rid the world of any trace of Holiness. The wars against the Jews have always been wars against What or Who we Jews represent. If there were no Jews left, HaShem's morality and His standards for human purity would still be under attack. It is reminiscent of the Tower of Bavel, which began as a vain attempt to ascend to the Heavens in order to "kill G-d." That battle has never ended. There is still a war being raged against Heaven. This is why the subsequent verses have HaShem asserting "vengeance is Mine." We might assume that this means that HaShem will avenge our suffering at the hands of the nations. ibn Shu'aib clarifies that it really means that HaShem takes His revenge against those who seek to obscure His Presence in the world. Vengeance is His. Good Shabbos. D Fox

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

A Thought on Parshas Nitzavim

"...v'lo Ya'az'vecha..." (31:6) "...and HaShem will never forsake you..." As we move from Nitzavim to VaYelech, two parshios which are often read together but on years such as 5777 are separated, ibn Shu'aib continues on last week's theme of teshuva. He actually has a long essay on Rosh HaShanna, but I will focus here on his parsha commentary alone. The Torah reminds us that HaShem gave us His Torah and mitzvos and that they are within our reach. They are "in your mouth and in your heart to do." He cites a Midrash Tanchuma that we are expected to serve HaShem with our entire physical being, which includes our utilizing our physical selves to correct and remedy our errors. This can become a means of kapparah, atonement. ibn Shu'aib offers a recipe for such physically-sourced atonement procedures. Some of us fantasize about improper acts, hirhurei aveira. The mind's straying can be corrected, he writes, by our having fantasy or ideational preoccupation about personal prayers which we long to say, and we can have remedial fantasies in developing self-guided images of HaShem's creations and manifest actions. Imagine what you would pray for if you had the patience, the time and the incentive. Imagine what Matan Torah would have been like had you been there. Those tasks represent sacred use of fantasy. When one has strayed with his eyes, his eyes should be directed to increased efforts at personal Torah study. Read Torah with your eyes. When one has misused his ears, he should make more efforts to listen to others who share words of Torah. Listen and be inspired.The improper use of one's hands should be remedied through putting on Tefillin, or other constructive forms of serving HaShem, such as writing down words of Torah, and performance of "manual" mitzvos. Put those hands to work in serving HaShem. When one has used his legs incorrectly (we have an al chait for "ritzas raglayim l'hara"), let him walk to shul. Let him walk to study Torah. He can also walk to help bury the dead, to comfort the bereaved, to visit the infirm, to attend a bris. Let the mind's repentant stirrings and the soul's longings for closeness to Heaven translate into activities which use the entire self. Kol atzmosai. He offers a metaphor: when a person is not well, the doctor tries to determine whether it is because he has too much, or too little, of something in his body. If he has too much, the body needs emptying out and he has to void or reject that troublesome ingredient or substance. If his Illness is because his body has too little of a substance or nutrient, the doctor must instruct him to replenish the deficiency. With our efforts to do teshuva, he says, we also need to determine where our soul suffers from excess, and where from insufficiency. The failure to perform positive commandments when we have the opportunity is like an internal deficiency and requires that we feed this emptiness by increasing our performance and engagement in proper, sacred conduct. If our spiritual malady stems from excessive involvement with the forbidden, then we need to "void" ourselves. How is that done? ibn Shu'aib says that fasting, sitting out opportunities to pursue unnecessary stimulation of one's mortal comforts, and expelling our wealth to help others are ways in which we get rid of the excesses through which we often over-stimulate ourselves. May our efforts during these Ten Days of Repentance be acceptable and may this first Shabbos of 5777 be a good one. D Fox

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Thought on Parshas Nitavim

"...v'atah tashuv..." "...and you will return to HaShem..." (30:8) As we have seen in the last few parshios, ibn Shu'aib has taken a far more homiletic approach as we near the close of Sefer Devarim. He makes note of this as he references the upcoming Days of Repentance and the New Year season. The concept of teshuva is an important one. It is hinted at in a few places within our Torah reading, and it is a topic which requires analysis and understanding. It is relevant to us, and is also of conceptual complexity as a theological and a psychological process. How is it that people err, regret, repent and then seem to propel themselves in an inspired direction to make spiritual and interpersonal changes? How does that work? What are the internal dynamics as well as the cosmic mechanisms that allow motivated change to reverse Divine decrees and alter personal status? ibn Shu'aib addresses a number of these matters, and we will explore one of his ideas. He cites the adage made familiar by Chazal, "in the place where the penitent stands, the thoroughly righteous cannot stand." (Brachos 34b). Generally, this is interpreted as meaning that the ba'al teshuva can attain heights which even those who have led a lifetime of loyal devotion can never reach. However, we have other sources which depict the value of, say, the prayers of the life-long observant as exceeding those of the recently-returned Jew. ibn Shu'aib reviews some different views about this adage, some of which he finds in the writings of the Rambam. He asserts that there are two major approaches, that of the philosophers, and that of the Sages. He suggests that one can find scriptural support for both views. The philosophers contend that righteous people are of a different breed. By dedicating themselves to a life of piety for the sake of serving HaShem, they integrate their human urges and conflicts within their spiritual character and are no longer plagued by "the yetzer" which challenges the average person. These philosophers disagree with the adage and believe that the highest spiritual attainment is made by the life-long pious, not by the struggling penitent who is haunted by the temptation of past experience and lurking passion. The Sages, who coined the adage, view this very differently. They posit that the more one struggles, and emerges victorious, the greater is his or her reward. The more victorious one is, the more he must struggle with "yetzer." Hence, the yetzer grows in concert with our victories, and the struggles of the successful penitent increase with each stride. This is in contrast with the pious-for-life who may have much less passion because they have tasted far less temptation. Hence, the growth-bound ba'al teshuva surpasses the "sheltered" ones by virtue of his exponential rewards and accomplishments. ibn Shu'aib notes that the Rambam has written that of the two approaches, he actually favors the mechanistic view of the philosophers. The greatest people are those who have avoided sin, and their attainments are far beyond those who have not led fuller lives of spiritual fulfillment. So, what did our Sages mean about "the place where the penitent stands is beyond that of the fully righteous"? ibn Shu'aib explains that the adage is not about the penitent himself; a tzadik's spiritual achievements are loftier than those of the ba'al teshuva. The adage is about "the place." A ba'al teshuva may have subdued his yetzer, but above, there are accounts to be settled because of his prior misdeeds and errors. He has "spiritual adversaries" whose plan is to take his soul to task for the things which he committed before "becoming religious." From the standpoint of "middas ha'din" - the Divine attribute of Justice, he is really in trouble! So what happens to the ba'al teshuva? What is his fate? ibn Shu'aib writes that the middas ha'rachamim, the Divine attribute of Mercy, protects this person's soul by beckoning him to the very Kisae HaKavod - the Throne of Glory. It is as if he is a commoner who once defied the king. The palace guards and the king's servants despise the person, and are actually out to get him. He runs to the king, admitting his error, pledges his loyalty henceforth, and moves so close to the throne that no one can get him, and no one will make a move against him in that he is positioning himself so close to the king. This is what our Sages intend when they observe that "the place" where the penitent stands is out of reach when the pious ones look at his past with judgmental disapproval. They are not necessarily wrong in this stance. But, they cannot condemn him once HaShem Himself has accepted the person's teshuva. May the coming Shabbos and the Days of Din, and Teshuva, beckon to us and welcome our decision to return. D Fox

Thursday, September 08, 2016

A Thought on Parshas Shoftim

"...el nachal eisan..." " a harsh valley..." " a rushing stream..." (21:4) The Torah introduces the ritual of Egla Arufa - the red heifer - which is brought in the aftermath of discovering a human corpse but having no suspect or culprit. After a number of steps, the heifer is killed in the harsh valley (or rushing stream). You may have noticed that I have offered two English translations for the expression nachal eisan. In the Holy Tongue of Hebrew, a nachal can be either a valley, or a stream. The adjective eisan usually means something strong, so if it is modifying the noun "valley", it becomes 'harsh valley', since the term strong valley would not make much sense. If it is modifying the noun stream, then a 'strong' stream would be a 'rushing stream'. There is actually a disagreement among the Rishonim as to what this Biblical nachal eisan was. Rashi and virtually all of the other Rishonim view it as a harsh valley where nothing flourishes. That is where the heifer is axed and placed. However, the Rambam stands alone among almost everyone else and translates the term "a mighty or rushing stream." It is quite intriguing that they argue about a historical fact, albeit one which has been obscured over the many centuries. Other than philological grounds, what might be the basis for this significant debate? The first image is one of a dry, barren plot of land, whereas the second image is one of a wet, wild river. ibn Shu'aib helps us here. He suggests that both approaches actually agree to a degree, namely, that this is a valley, or arroyo, which at times has a stream coursing through it. We do know that once the egla arufa is killed in that place, the area may no longer be used for anything. It cannot be farmed or settled. It becomes an off-limits memorial to the tragedy which happened nearby. Now, we understand from our Sages that the Torah orders the entire surrounding community to prepare for the egla arufa ceremony, in the hope that everyone who might know facts will come forth and help find the killer (and thus avoid having to do the ritual). Part of the motivation to help find that killer is to protect that valley from becoming off limits. Now, if it is a harsh, barren area, per Rashi, it cannot be used for anything anyway, so what kind of motivation is there to save it? The answer is that sometimes that valley is flooded by a rushing river (which we know can happen in dry desert gullies), at which point the valley becomes a temporary water source to help irrigate local farms. So, nobody wants to risk loosing a potential reservoir, so they will all come forth to hunt for the killer and spare the valley. The failure to do so means that the ritual will go ahead, the area will be taboo, and the message will be driven home that the potential of leading a good life was forever taken from the victim, just as the potential to ever use this area has now been ruined. This is the deeper meaning of doing the ritual in a dry valley close to a river. ibn Shu'aib then suggests that the Rambam views the deeper meaning here not from the standpoint of the valley, but from the standpoint of the actual river that sometimes flows through it. The egla arufa is axed not in the ground of the valley, but in the water flowing nearby. This way, there will be no trace left of the atoning ritual, as the waters sweep the remains away. ibn Shu'aib suggests that a reason for this is to show that those people who sought symbolic atonement for the death of that unknown stranger, who had passed through their midst, needed to feel that whatever error of negligence might have led to his murder would now be corrected forevermore. No more would they overlook the lonesome stranger and no more would they become implicated in tragic wrongdoings. An earlier example of this, writes ibn Shu'aib, is when Moshe (Shmos 32:20) pulverized the egel ha'zahav and then scattered its remains over the waters - al panei ha'mayim. When that episode is reviewed in Devarim (9:20), instead of using the word "mayim", Moshe says nachal, just as does our verse. This supports the view of the Rambam that the nachal eisan is the rushing stream. Water is a medium for removing filth and refuse. So, according to the "valley" approach, the death of the stranger will be remembered forever as we avoid using the land. According to the "stream" approach, our erroneous ways will be forgotten, as the waters wash away all trace of past iniquity Good Shabbos. D Fox

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Thought on Parshas Ra'eh

"...u'Bo tid'ba'kun..." "...and you shall cling to Him..." (13:5) Verses instructing us to cling to HaShem appear in a number of places in the Torah. The notion of "clinging" to HaShem, Who has no form, no limits, no substance, and no single location, is a challenging one in our theology. It seems to run contrary to some of our most essential principles, such as G-d having neither dimension nor matter. How can a person be commanded, then, to cling to Him? It is for this reason that Chazal provide us with a means of understanding the scope of the concept. They explain to us that since it is entirely impossible to actually cling to Him, we fulfill the verse by clinging to those who serve Him. We help support Torah scholars, we interact with them, and we associate with them and with their families. This is regarded as a way of clinging to "HaShem". ibn Shu'aib reviews a number of other interpretations. He cites the Ramban, who understood the verse to mean that we can actually cling to HaShem with our minds. If our thoughts are on His teachings, and on pondering His Presence in our lives "every moment, every hour, every occasion", then He will seem 'attached' to us. This can be manifest as our viewing every life experience as an intimate encounter with His Divine Presence, so that nothing seems to us like chance or happenstance. The Ramban emphasizes that this too is a way of clinging "to HaShem." ibn Shu'aib then cites the Rambam, who has written that the concept here is to apply oneself constantly to the quest of knowing and understanding HaShem's majesty and might throughout the entire universe. Knowledge of HaShem is a way of "clinging", too. He then notes the view of ibn Ezra who suggests that clinging is not a mental process nor a behavioral process. Rather, we cannot cling to HaShem at all, so the Torah is not commanding us to attempt any facsimile of doing so. Rather, the verse means that if in fact we spend our lives learning and fulfilling the Torah and its mitzvos, then as mundane life ends, our souls will ascend into the realm of pure spirit, and will live on after mortal death within the "Tzror HaChaim" - the supernal source of all life.The verse is not commanding us to do anything. It is forecasting the consequence of living by His word.The eternity of the spirit will be the means through which we shall, ultimately, cling "to" HaShem. ibn Shu'aib then cites Rabbeinu Chananel who views the clinging not as a commandment to act or to think in a particular way, but as a promise from HaShem that there is an afterlife. The process is that by our being focused on following the Word of HaShem, we draw Divine personal hashgacha - monitoring of our lives - which in turn leads to ultimate hashgacha - the reality of a world to come. When we will merit reward in the ultimate as a result of living our lives with ultimate devotion, we will then cling to HaShem forever. Good Shabbos. Rosh Chodesh Elul Sameach. D Fox

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Thought on Parshas Ekev

"...Hi'shamer lecha pen tishkach es HaShem..." (8:11) "...Be careful not to forget HaShem by not keeping His mitzvos..." Chazal have reminded us that "all things are in the 'hands of Heaven' except the fear of Heaven." This adage is well known in Torah circles yet has been given many varied interpretations and understandings. ibn Shu'aib quotes the Ra'A'Vad (Rabbeinu Avraham Ben Dovid, a very famous scholar of 12th century Provence, whom Ibn Shu'aib has already told us was purported to have had ruach ha'kodesh - see A Thought on Parshas Ekev). The Ra'A'Vad's take on the saying is that it means that all mitzvah fulfillment is determined by HaShem: if HaShem does not bless me with a house, then I cannot place a ma'akeh or a mezuzah on it. If HaShem has not blessed me with the means to acquire a garment, then I cannot place tzitzis on it. If He has not blessed me with wealth, then I cannot purchase a lulav, or a shofar, or give charity. What is the exception to this general principle? Fear of heaven, in contrast with all other commandments, can and must be attainable by a person whether or not he has material goods. The task is given over to each person, and it is thus not in the hands of heaven whether or not I will actualize myself by developing true fear of G-d. Aleinu l'sha'bae'ach - it is up to each of us to work on our reverence for G-d. Although ibn Shu'aib declares that he prefers a different interpretation than this approach of the Ra'A'Vad, he does develop the theme of how intimate our bond is with HaShem through our readiness to perform His mitzvos. He stresses that this is particularly important in galus - when we live in the diaspora - where our hope can fade and our consciousness of HaShem can diminish as our Jewish identity falters. He cites an allegorical tale of a a prince who was ordered by the king to leave the palace for travel. The son worried and asked his father what would happen to him, and to the king, when people saw him far away from home. They might say that the king had forgotten him, or that he had been sold into captivity, never to return, all of which would affect the king's own reputation and grandeur. The king consoled the son, saying that "wherever you might travel, my royal seal is with you." You will never forget who you are, I shall never forget you, and the people whom you encounter will always know that you are my son. ibn Shu'aib observes that we Jews still do stand out. We don tzitzis, we bind tefillin, we place a mezuzah, we reside in a sukkah, we blow shofar, wave lulav, we arise and we later return, day and night, to our houses of worship and our houses of Torah study. All of that allegiance to Torah and to Halacha constitutes our "wearing the royal uniform" of our King. This is our Divinely designated seal which indicates that we remain His children, and are not forsaken or forgotten. It also is visible and apparent to the nations around us that we are still different, and remain loyal to Avinu Malkeinu. This helps remind us not to forget or forsake Him, which is the key to reviving Divine compassion so that we will return, speedily, to the palace of our King. Good Shabbos. D Fox