Harold Klein

On Va-et’hanan – Heschel Centered Commentary


On Va-et’hanan – A prescription for success.

A Speech at My Son Sam’s Auf Ruf


I have had the great opportunity to interview many dozens of wildly successful entrepreneurs in developing entrepreneurial educational videos. I’ll never forget one of my first interviews was with Frank Carney a founder of Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. When I worked with him it was 1986, he had sold Pizza Hut to PepsiCo and had started a venture capital fund. Two things stuck with me; He took us to the site in Witchita of the first Pizza Hut which was now a working store and the prototype for the rest of the country. At the time they were testing the selling results of garlic sticks. They tried showing customers 3 thick ones to some, 4 thinner ones to others. Whatever offer had the greatest result in sales, was then imitated exactly around the country. The Mitzvah (commandment) of selling sticks was created and followed in thousands of stores nationwide, exactly as created. The other experience was his response to my question“what do you look for when a prospective entrepreneur approaches you?” He told me beyond business plans, the idea, the amount needed, profit potential, the key ingredient to him was a clear fire in the belly.” With that fire in the belly, he knew that individual could accomplish anything.


When I asked Robert Johnson the Founder of Black Entertainment Television, also now an investor, what does he look for in a presentation when someone comes calling? His response was, not a fancy media show, nor powerpoint, nor an elaborate business plan package, merely the ability of that person to clearly, concisely and passionately express what is inside of them relevant to the idea . If there is passion, confidence and clarity he knew that person is connected to that idea.


John Koten former publisher and editor in chief of Inc. Magazine said one’s business is an expression of the creator of that business. It becomes a world in itself, culture, branding, personality, drive , people, the very Image of that founder.


I always felt that G-d’s most unique and awesome characteristic was his ability to create, The Creator.

An individual that creates from nothing an enterprise no matter how small, with all it’s workings, interactions, people and life is in someway imitating the Creator. To start something out of nothing, that will last and prosper given the challenges, does start with that fire. How much life one’s accomplishments takes on is related to his or her. potential. Isaac Arama in his Akedat Yitzak shares that everyone is given potential by G-d when they are born, one’s effort toward that potential determines G-d’s assistance– if one gives it his or her all, G-d assists and magnificent things happen.


Sam through the years was an exciting basketball player. When he was in second grade while sitting in the back seat on the way to a Solomon Schechter game, he said “Dad, I feel I have a Power in me.” I felt related to bball, he did.


He certainly gave us thrills through the years including setting the record for three’s in the Yeshiva league, high scorer in the All Star game winning close games & getting to many post season runs. Then came the playoffs against Frisch with Hanc (Sam’s team) down by 2. He was the man to have on the foul line, rarely missed. I trusted that “Power”. He makes one, misses the next, he and I break down. I Guess G-d didn’t see fit to assist, even though Sam played his heart out. How could it be, he had the potential, the fire, but missed? No assist from Hashem.


The Parasha (Portion of the Torah) tells us “ye that cleave/attach unto the Lord your G-d are alive today..” What does that mean, how do we cleave or attach to G-d? Rav Kook brings up the summary from our sages such as by clothing the naked G-d did with Adam and Eve, visiting the sick as HE did with Abraham, consoling the mourners as HE did with Isaac when Abraham passed and burying the dead as HE did with Moses.” All ways he points out, imitate G-d. Putting what to me appears to be a consistent Heschellian theology forward, I would like to take this further.


Keep these posukim in mind found later in the Parasha; “only take heed to yourself….” “keep your soul diligently….”


Threading together some Heschel ideas from various writings; In “The Prophets” he points out a Nabi (Prophet) is a man who held concern for G-d and man in one thought. In analyzing the word Nabi he records that scholars early on suggested it came from a stem of Naba’a—which could mean to bubble up, to flow. The Hebrew Prophets did not seek out a communication with the almighty, prophesy came to them.

In focusing on a few lines from Jeremiah he cites “There is in my heart a burning FIRE. Shut up in my bones and I am weary of holding it in and I cannot.”


Heschel writes elsewhere “We live in a universe of His knowing, in the glory of His ATTACHMENT.”

There is no self understanding without G-d understanding. Man sees the things that surround him long before he becomes aware of his own self. Few sense the mystery of his own self.”


What is that mystery?My thought, that is what we are told to cleave to, to attach to. That is the essence or the reality of, that G-d is within us. And per the posuk of “ye that cleaved unto the Lord your G-d are alive today…” it means, those that imitated G-d in our good deeds, performed mitzvot which are expressions of G-d’s desire and need, have a true awareness of our inner self are destined to go on, to live and prosper in a thriving Jewish world that we create.

Heschel also writes “in Man turning to G-d, Man experiences G-d turning to him”

Once Sam found his Bashert Jordy. something turned on in him. While recognizing she was the one, he got passionate about something more than basketball and the fire in his belly was lit, he was going to create something for their future lives together. The power was back. He sought out while still a sophmore in College a meaningful internship on his own. He found a great company and competed with 80 people to gain one of the two slots available. “The Kid from Yeshiva” as they called him excelled and they offered him a full time job while a Junior. He cleaved, he attached himself as he turned to Hashem after receiving his first but modest commission check. With a large percentage of it he bought backpacks for a school of underprivileged boys in Israel. It was truly fulfilling when he showed me the pictures of the happy students carrying his backpacks to school. In turn, G-d turned to him aiding his potential as he continued as a rising star at his young age in a most competitive firm and industry. His fire raged more-so, with his attachment to his soon to be Kallah, Jordy. Using a Heschel phrase to cap this off, it was with radical amazement and spiritual wonder that while I was writing this very piece, Sam came to me and told me, with proceeds from other commission checks he is today !funding a Wedding in Israel for a couple that could not afford it. Is this not full support of the Arama statement shared earlier.


Heschel tells us “Prophesy in Israel was not an episode in the life of an individual, but an illumination in the history of a people.”Sam, missing that shot was just an episode in your history. This next Shabbat watch in wonder and appreciation as Jordana will light the Shabbat candles for the first time. They say that the Neshama is the candle of G-d. Look at that light and know that it is a light for both of you to passionately cleave to, that will nurture your potential, and you will illuminate the world that you touch and the world you create.

Love Dad

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Co-founded with Nan Klein in 1976 one of the country's first video companies. We produce programming for the top organizations in the world. We live a fully Shomer Shabbat life in Woodmere, NY.