Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25) Unnecessary Reminders

 Consider the following:“Clean up the mess you made” (i.e., you made the mess, now clean it up).   “Go find the keys that you lost” (i.e., you lost the keys, now go and find them). “Fix the window you broke.” (i.e., you broke the window, now go and fix it).   “Throw out the food you burned.” (i.e., you burned the food, now throw it out).Although we don’t have any context or information about the remarks above, it is clear they reflect genuine resentment, harbored by an individual who makes no effort to conceal the grudges that (s)he bears. Instead of just asking the person to clean, find, or fix the thing in question, (s)he felt the need to mention the lamentable deed done by the person being rebuked.
It is remarkable therefore to consider the following. When G-d informs Moses to prepare a second set of tablets, as a replacement for those Moses had broken, He says, “Inscribe these tablets with the very words inscribed on the first tablets –the ones you broke.” (Ex. 34:2 and Deut.10:2) Rather than merely communicating His instructions, G-d takes the opportunity to remind him that when Moses resolved to break the tablets, it was his own personal and autonomous decision. Surprisingly, however, rather than interpret this expression as one of resentment and disappointment, our rabbis come to the exact opposite conclusion; they regard this statement as an explicit endorsement, the Almighty’s clear declaration of approval of Moses’ bold choice to break the tablets. This interpretation however, seems quite surprising. Would it not be more reasonable to conclude that G-d’s reminder to Moses of his actions was nothing more than an expression of disapproval and denunciation?
Rav Baruch Epstein (1860-1941) offers an extraordinary insight, with profound and relevant implications. Most often people cannot resist the temptation to remind another of their missteps and indiscretions. Stating the blatant and obvious failures of another affords one a momentary sense of satisfaction and superiority. While this may very well be human nature, doing so is both insensitive and improper. It is unnecessary to remind a child that it was (s)he who made the mess. It is unproductive to remind one’s wife that it was she who lost the car keys. It is pointless to remind one’s husband that it was he who forgot to remove the food from the oven. Yet, many of us are guilty of doing just this. Why do we feel the need to remind people of their (sometimes accidental) misdeeds? One simple answer is because we are human and because, at times, we lack the resolve to exercise self-control, particularly at moments when our patience is being tested. Not so with G-d Who is perfect in all His ways; His words are precise and they are a template for refinement. Therefore, argues Rav Epstein, the very fact that G-d reminds Moses that it was he who had destroyed tablets shows that Moses’ decision was met with divine consent and approval. Had destroying the tablets been, in fact, the wrong decision, there would have been no need to remind Moses of that which he already knew. This presents a profound example of proper behavior for each of us to emulate. For most of us, moments of disappointment and frustration with other individuals, particularly with those with whom we are close, are not uncommon. How we handle ourselves in these situations will likely determine the extent to which we succeed in inspiring others to genuinely reflect and motivate sincere change. We are enjoined to emulate the ways of G-d (Deut.11:22). While we can never achieve perfection, we carefully study His ways and strive to model His precise and deliberate instructive behaviors.The next time someone disappoints you, even if it’s a big mess up, and you feel let down, resist the temptation to tell them what they already know. It won’t help you; it might even work against you because you will be distancing yourself from someone you truly care for but who has momentarily let you down. We are meant to create possibilities, not destroy them; every relationship is another opportunity to give, receive, and connect with someone else. The way to maximize our happiness is to do our utmost to learn to control our knee-jerk reactions, and doing our best to make sure we are creators, not destroyers. Good Shabbos    (Sources: Talmud, Bava Basra 14aTosefes Bracha, Devarim 10:2)