Kenneth Cohen

Diligent Observance

The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat lists several reasons as to why the Temple was destroyed. One of the reasons given, is that they did not recite the Shema prayer, in the morning.

The implication was that the masses were partying regularly. They often got drunk and slept late, way past the appropriate time to recite the Shema. It also reflects on a generation that was more concerned about self gratification, rather than acquiring knowledge of Judaism. This yielded a generation of incredible ignorance. This, painfully, sounds like our generation.

Contrast this to Parshat Ki Tavo, where we are taught about a ceremony known as, וידוי מעשרות״.“ This refers to a ceremony done twice in the seven year cycle. This took place on Pesach in the fourth and seventh year of the Shmitta cycle.
Every Jews was expected to make a confession regarding the handling of his crops, and proper tithing. And since the tithe for the poor (מעשר עני), was given in the third and sixth year of the cycle, these confessions were made on the year following.

Every land owner made a declaration that he meticulously observed all of the laws related to all of the tithes he was expected to separate, down to the last detail.
The declaration ended with an amazing statement, as he stood before Hashem. He says, “I have not transgressed your Mitzvot, and I have not forgotten.”

How many Jews today would be able to make such a declaration? We must pray that we return to that time when every Jew studied the holy books, and the Torah represented the law of the land. Optimistically, I can say that in spite of all of the chaos, we are getting closer to that time when, “We will renew our days, as of old.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at