The Rebbe Reb Bunim M’Pshichsa would learn Sefer Devarim every day of the year as a mussar sefer because what better mussar sefer could there be than to learn from the mussar of Moshe Rabbeinu. In the beginning of the Parshah, we find two references to יציאת מצרים. They are both two ways of living life and it’s the constant balance that must be kept throughout a person’s life. The Psukim first begin as follows: כי תאמר בלבבך רבים הגוים האלה ממני איכה אוכל להורישם לא תירא מהם זכר תזכר את אשר עשה יקוק אלהיך לפרעה ולכל מצרים המסת הגדלת אשר ראו עיניך והאתת והמפתים והיד החזקה והזרע הנטויה אשר הוצאך יקוק אלהיך כן יעשה יקוק אלהיך לכל העמים אשר אתה ירא מפניהם (ז, יז-יט) The first message a person should take from these Psukim is that a person shouldn’t feel like he is inadequate, unworthy, and incapable of accomplishing. But rather he should remember that which Hashem did for us when he took us out of Mitzrayim even though we were in the state that we were in. But then later on, the Psukim say as follows: השמר לך פן תשכח את יקוק אלהיך וכו' ורם לבבך ושכחת את יקוק אלהיך המוציאך מארץ מצרים מבית עבדים המוליכך במדבר הגדל והנורא נחש שרף ועקרב וצמאון אשר אין מים המוציא לך מים מצור החלמיש (פרק ח, פסוק יא, יד, טו) These Psukim are also referencing יציאת מצרים but it’s in a different context. Here the purpose of the remembrance is to remind you when you’re feeling good about yourself and on top of the world that you are a nobody, a nothing, and not worthy and it’s only because Hashem took you out of Mitzrayim and it had nothing to do with you. The message from these two זכר ליציאת מצרים is that a person needs to tap into the right mindset depending on the situation. When a person is feeling down about himself and that he is unworthy, then the remembrance of יציאת מצרים must remind him that anything is possible with Hashem helping you out. But when the person is feeling good and confident about himself, and he thinks all his success is from himself, then the remembrance of יציאת מצרים must remind him that it is not to his credit because he is really not worthy on his own, but rather that it all comes from Hashem like when he took us out of Mitzrayim. The obligation is to remember יציאת מצרים by day and by night. By day, everything is clear and a person can get distracted thinking his success is because of himself. Therefore he needs to remember יציאת מצרים by day to remind him that he’s really unworthy and it’s all because of Hashem. But in the night when its dark and unclear, as ערב is from the word עירוב that everything is mixed up, a person still must remember יציאת מצרים but the aspect of it that a person is never lost no matter how unworthy and inadequate he thinks he is because of what we see Hashem did for the Jews at יציאת מצרים. There is a third message based on the following Psukim: אל תאמר בלבבך בהדף יקוק אלהיך אתם מלפניך לאמר בצדקתי הביאני יקוק לרשת את הארץ הזאת וברשעת הגוים האלה יקוק מורישם מפניך, לא בצדקתך ובישר לבבך אתה בא לרשת את ארצם כי ברשעת הגוים האלה יקוק אלהיך מורישם מפניך ולמען הקים את הדבר אשר נשבע יקוק לאבתיך לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב, וידעת כי לא בצדקתך יקוק אלהיך נתן לך את הארץ הטובה הזאת לרשתה כי עם קשה ערף אתה, זכר אל תשכח את אשר הקצפת את יקוק אלהיך במדבר למן היום אשר יצאת מארץ מצרים עד באכם עד המקום הזה ממרים הייתם עם יקוק (ט, ד-ז) Just like there is a danger when people take credit for their accomplishments based on their talent physical abilities, there is also a danger when people will attribute their spiritual success to themselves. Even while they include Hashem, they still take credit for the success. These Psukim are addressing that danger that a person should realize nothing he’s done has made it worth it for Hashem to help him, and it was only because of Hashem’s mercy that allowed him to get to where he got. Therefore, a person can’t take credit even for his level in the spiritual sphere.
This idea that is mentioned in the Psukim above that לא בצדקתך וכו' is said every day in the beginning of Korbanos as follows: לעולם יהא אדם ירא שמים בסתר ובגלוי ומודה על האמת ודובר אמת בלבבו וישכם ויאמר רבון כל העולמים לא על צדקותינו אנחנו מפילים תחנונינו לפניך כי על רחמיך הרבים מה אנחנו מה חיינו וכו' It’s a statement announcing that we don’t expect anything for what we’ve done and we know that we don’t deserve it. If one thinks about this, it’s quite amazing. There is an expectation on such a person that feels this way, to get up in the morning and think that he is a nothing and unworthy. Not only in the morning but early in the morning he is to get up and proclaim that he is unworthy and inadequate. How does a ירא שמים muster up the strength to wake up early in the morning and proclaim that he is a nothing, inadequate, and unworthy? The answer is because when a person is relying on himself and he thinks he is worthy. Then one day he will wake up and realize that he isn’t and that will be his end. However, if a person tells himself from the beginning that it’s only because of Hashem’s mercy and that he is chosen because he is זרע אברהם ויצחק ויעקב that gives a person the strength to go forward. Knowing and recognizing that we were chosen to carry out Hashem’s mission and that it is our responsibility to do will give a person the strength to continue. The next Psukim say: וזכרת את יקוק אלהיך כי הוא הנתן לך כח לעשות חיל למען הקים את בריתו אשר נשבע לאבתיך כיום הזה (ח, יח) The word חיל means money as the Targum translates it as נכסין. Contrary to how אשת חיל is commonly translated as a woman of valor. Really it means an industrious woman and the different verses describe various business opportunities for example היתה כאניות סוחר. (This is surprising because historically, it doesn’t seem like women were so industrious in those days. But maybe that’s what Shlomo HaMelech mean when he said אשת חיל מי ימצא because it was a rarity.) The ר"ןin דרשות י asks why does the Pasuk say that Hashem is נתן לך כח לעשות חיל, rather it should just say that Hashem is נתן לך חיל? He explains that Hashem gives a person the talent to make the money but he is not to take credit for it because he was only able to make the money because Hashem provided him with the talent and ability. Sometimes people push for an exaggerated sense of Emunah, like it says פתי יאמין לכל דבר-a fool believes everything. They think it’s a chumrah in Emunah to believe that no matter what a person does or doesn’t do, he will send up with the same result regarding his financial status. But really its חומרא דאתי לידי קולא because by being so machmir, it turns off many intelligent people from the concept of Emunah. They think that if they can’t reach that level of Emunah, then they are failures and not believers. However, the Ran is saying that that’s not the requirement and people are born with different talents and abilities and if they put them to use, then they will be successful. The Torah is saying that none of those talents and abilities can be attributed to oneself but rather that it’s all attributed to Hashem.
The Pasuk says as follows: ועתה ישראל מה יקוק אלהיך שאל מעמך כי אם ליראה את יקוק אלהיך ללכת בכל דרכיו ולאהבה אתו ולעבד את יקוק אלהיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך (י,יב) What is the significance of the ועתה-and now? Rashi says that even though you have done all this (referring to sins), עודנו רחמיו וחבתו עליו and from all the sins the only request is for יראת שמים. The מדרש רבה in בראשית by the עץ הדעת says as follows: ועתה פן ישלח ידו, א"ר אבא בר כהנא מלמד שפתח לו הקדוש ברוך הוא פתח של תשובה, ועתה, אין ועתה אלא תשובה, שנאמר (דברים י) ועתה ישראל מה ה' אלהיך וגו' People mistakenly think that Teshuva is harping on the past. But really the first step of Teshuva is to live in the now and make a fresh and new beginning. To live today as if it’s the first day of your life, and to not be enslaved and held back by one’s past. Only after he does all this can he then deal with the past in terms of repenting for the past and learning from the mistakes of the past. But as long as he doesn’t establish the now first, then he will just be repeating the past over again. A person must first tear himself away from the past and establish a new now and only then can he reflect on the past. The idea of ועתה being a לשון of תשובה, even though it seems ironic because Teshuva is about the past and ועתה is about the now, is because the first step is to tear the now away from the past. Only once a person establishes the now could he then reflect on the past.
The Gemara in Ksubos says הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים. It’s unfortunate that we think it’s the opposite. When it comes to a person’s success, he thinks it’s all because of him. But when it comes to a person’s growth in ruchniyus, a person will say what do you want for me, it’s not for me, I wasn’t made for that. But really his growth in ruchniyus and יראת שמים is the only thing that is up to him. The Pasuk in Tehillim says as follows: כי הלל רשע על תאות נפשו (י, ג) The simple explanation of this Pasuk is that the Rasha thanks and praises Hashem for fulfilling his תאות נפשו. The Rebbe Reb Zusha wanted to explain this Pasuk as follows. Hillel was the ultimate עניו as The Gemara in Shabbos on 30b says לעולם יהא אדם ענוותן כהלל. Anivus is a big level but sometimes, even a Rasha is willing to be a Hillel. The Rasha is willing to be an Anav like Hillel when his conscious tells him how could you do such a thing? It’s unethical and immoral? He responds to it but I’m a nobody and a nothing and what I do doesn’t matter. I am not capable of living up to such standards. The Rasha puts himself down to do the תאות נפשו. That’s the meaning of כי הלל רשע על תאות נפשו that the Rasha puts himself down like Hillel did, but in order to fulfil his תאות נפשו.
The ייטב לב based on this explains the Pasuk ועתה ישראל מה יקוק אלהיך שאל מעמך as follows. מה is a לשון of עניוות as we see in Parshas B’Shalach that Moshe said ואנחנו מה. Therefore, Hashem is asking of you the Midah of Anivus, however its כי אם ליראה. Hashem only asks for עניות if it will lead to יראית שמים. But if it will lead to less יראת שמים, then Hashem doesn’t want you to be a עניו to say who am I? That’s the meaning of the Pasuk מה ה' אלוקך שאל ממך כי אם ליראה that Hashem only requests of you the Anivus if it enhances your יראת שמים but not if it undermines it. A similar idea can be seen from the Mishnah in Avos that says ואל תהי רשע בפני עצמך (ב, יג). A person shouldn’t think lowly of himself, that he is a רשע. Rabbeinu Yonah asks that there is a contradiction to a ברייתא in נדה ל ע"ב that says אפילו כל העולם אומרים שאתה צדיק תהיה בעיניך כרשע? The Alexander Rebbe in his sefer ישמח ישראל answered that it depends. If people are telling you that you are great and amazing, than you should think of yourself as a רשע. But if you are alone, lonely, and by yourself – בפני עצמך, and you think you are a רשע, then can you shouldn’t consider yourself a Rasha. On the contrary, you have to lift yourself up and tell yourself that you are a somebody. This is similar to the idea about מה and to what was written in the beginning regarding the messages from יציאת מצרים that a person must plug the right solution into the right problem. He must emphasize the right feeling and though to counteract the negative thought. This idea is also seen in the Maharsha in Brachos 17a. The Gemara says גלוי וידוע לפניך שרצוננו לעשות רצונך ומי מעכב שאור שבעיסה ושעבוד מלכיות. The Maharsha explains that שאור שבעיסה refers to גאוה because dough rises and שעבוד מלכיות refers to the Goyim putting us down. There are two things that negatively affect a persons עבודת ה'. One is that he feels to up and the other that he feels to down. These two feelings are dealt with by the זכר ליציאת מצרים, the מה, and the Mishna in Avos that it’s all about applying the right thought to the appropriate situation.
The Haftorah starts off as follows: ותאמר ציון עזבני יקוק ואדני שכחני התשכח אשה עולה מרחם בן בטנה גם אלה תשכחנה ואנכי לא אשכחך(ישעיה מט, יד-טו) The Gemara in Brachos on לב ע"ב learns these Psukim as a conversation between Knesses Yisrael and Hashem. The Gemara says as follows: התשכח אשה עולה אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא כלום אשכח עולות אילים ופטרי רחמים שהקרבת לפני במדבר אמרה לפניו רבונו של עולם הואיל ואין שכחה לפני כסא כבודך שמא לא תשכח לי מעשה העגל אמר לה גם אלה תשכחנה אמרה לפניו רבונו של עולם הואיל ויש שכחה לפני כסא כבודך שמא תשכח לי מעשה סיני אמר לה ואנכי לא אשכחך From this back and forth, it seems like Hashem has selective memory, that he remembers only the Korbanos and the אנכי but that he forgets the עגל. Also what is זכירה and שכחה when talking about Hashem? It’s generally assumed that a person is the sum total of his memory. But the truth is that a person’s memory depends on who he is. If a person puts himself in a different place, than certain parts of his memory become irrelevant because he is in a different place. Those memories will fade away and he will forget them because people only remember that which is relevant. Our minds delete what is irrelevant. Therefore, all people really have selective memory and what we remember depends on what’s relevant to us. When a person does Teshuva and brings himself to a different place where only the positive memories have relevance only that is remembered and plays a role in his life. Hashem remembers us as we remember ourselves. Therefore, when the Jews do Teshuva and are living a life with the אנכי being relevant and the אלה תשכחנה referring to the עגל being irrelevant, that’s how Hashem will remember us as well.