By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
In this week’s parashah, Ki Savo, it says, “On this day Hashem commanded you to do the statutes and the laws, to guard and keep them with all your heart and soul.” The Tanchuma says that when the Torah tells us to keep the commandments with all our soul, it means that even if we have to give up our lives for the sake of keeping the commandments, we are obligated to do so.
When the Romans decreed that the Jews could not learn Torah, Rabbi Akiva and his friends continued learning. Papus ben Yehudah came to them and said that they were putting themselves in danger by going against the king’s decrees. R’ Akiva told him the parable of the fox walking along the river that saw fish swimming to and fro to escape the nets of the fishermen.
The fox told the fish to come onto the shore and it would hide them between the rocks, where they’d be safe from the men. The fish responded, “If we are in trouble in the water, how much more trouble we will be in if we go onto the land!” R’ Akiva explained how Torah is what keeps us alive, and stopping our source of life is a bigger risk than the risk we take by learning Torah. At a later point, both R’ Akiva and Papus ben Yehudah were arrested. Papus said to R’ Akiva, “How worthy are you for being arrested for learning Torah, and woe unto me for being arrested for mundane matters.”
The amazing thing about this story is that when placed in the most awful of situations, Roman captivity, Papus ben Yehudah was able to admit his error and state that he was wrong and R’ Akiva’s words had been true. Now that we are in the month of Elul, it is a time for us to also examine what false opinions and ideologies we may have ascribed to until now, where we have erred and where we must change our perspective. We should merit to have the ability to recognize where we have gone wrong, between ourselves and Hashem, between ourselves and our spouse, and all other people with whom we interact. We should have the strength to act on that recognition, to apologize and to achieve complete repentance. v
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org.