On Tuesday evening, April 6, Rabbi Eliezer Krohn, well-known speaker, mohel, and author, shared a virtual shiur hosted by Chazaq for Tuesday’s Timely Torah Talks. Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, Operations Manager of Chazaq, introduced Rabbi Krohn and shared that during this time between Pesach and Shavuos, we want to improve our middos to become a kli to receive the Torah.
Rabbi Krohn shared that the Torah was given after 26 generations, but derech eretz was given from the beginning. Sefer B’reishis is called Sefer Y’sharim. The Avos teach us proper derech eretz. We need a foundation of proper derech eretz in order to be able to accept the Torah. Hashem taught Moshe that first you have to have derech eretz before you learn Torah.
“Derech eretz is the foundation, and Torah is built upon it.” Someone once asked Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, who was known for focusing on musar and on mitzvos between man and his fellow man: Why do you focus so much on bein adam l’chaveiro?
Rabbi Salanter responded that we have in Hilchos Brachos that if you have two cookies and one is whole and one is broken and the broken one is larger, you still say the brachah on the one that is whole. We see that to be complete is more important than gadlus. The Chazon Ish taught that if a person wants to be successful, then he should not hurt someone’s feelings.
Rabbi Eliezer Krohn taught that we are in the time of S’firas HaOmer, when 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died because they were not kind to each other. Hashem is teaching us that it’s great to be a talmid chacham, but this must come along with honoring each other.
Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked how he merited such a long life. He said that as long as he could remember, he never hurt anyone’s feelings.
Rabbi Krohn taught: “Derech eretz is the key that makes wheels turn. He pointed out: Just imagine if you walked into a room and no one said hello to you. You would feel like you were not alive. If you cannot act in a kind manner to another, then you are taking away his or her life. This is why it was midah k’neged midah that Rabbi Akiva’s students died.
Rabbi Krohn taught that in Pirkei Avos we have 48 ways to acquire Torah. Each day we work on a different midah. Many of these 48 ways are between man and man.
He pointed out that a lot of wisdom exists in the world. There is mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, etc. However learning these things will not change you. “When you learn Torah, it changes a person. A person changes from it.”
When you go to a shiur before work, you are a different person. You see the day through the lens of Torah. The Gemara says that the purpose of Torah is t’shuvah and good deeds. When a person makes a siyum, we say Hashem’s beauty is on us.
When a person behaves with derech eretz, he trains himself to think of others. So it’s not about “me, me, me.” “If you can put yourself second, then you’ll put Hashem first.”
Rabbi Krohn taught that each of the Shalosh Regalim is connected to one of the Avos. Pesach is connected to Avraham, Shavuos to Yitzchak, and Sukkos to Yaakov. The ram at the Akeidah had two horns. The smaller one was blown at the giving of the Torah and the larger one will be blown when Mashiach comes. Yitzchak agreed to be offered as a korban because he was not thinking about himself but rather about what Hashem wanted.
Many times we do not think and we talk or act before we think, and we do not put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Rabbi Krohn emphasized that it’s important not to do to someone else what you would not want them to do to you. The Chofetz Chaim taught that we have to think about what someone else wouldn’t want if we were in his shoes.
Lashon ha’ra happens so fact. Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro shared the following: “Anyone whom you hear say lashon ha’ra to you probably says it about you.” Everyone has positive and negative qualities. In the same way that we want people to focus on our positive qualities, we should focus on the positive qualities of others.
To teach our children derech eretz, we have to lead by example. We should always speak respectfully to our children. We can tell them to go to sleep, but we should say, “Please go to sleep.” Do not scream at your children. Be firm but kind. We are teaching them that when we are frustrated or angry, there is no excuse not to speak politely and respectfully.
Rabbi Eliezer Krohn concluded that Hashem wants to see both. If there is no Torah, there is no derech eretz. If there is no derech eretz, there is no Torah.
By Susie Garber