What is the one word advertisers always try to use? At the beginning of Sefer Devarim 1:1, we find:
“Eileh hadevarim,” – “These are the words that Moshe delivered to the nation immediately prior to his death,”
and most of his message included words of tochacha, through which he denounced the inappropriate behaviour of the people. In this opening verse, we find that a number of places are mentioned where Moshe delivered his message and two of those places are,
This is intriguing because nowhere else do we find a reference to these two places! Where is Tofel? Where is Lavan?
Rashi brings a peirush from the Talmud indicating that in fact there were no such places, but rather these two words are an allusion to the sin of the people with regard to their attitude to the manna which fell from heaven.
It was absolutely miraculous – there was enough for them every day. The taste of the manna was whatever the person wanted, and there was never any waste in the body from it! So what was wrong with it? It was tofel velavan, you see, the appearance was the same every day. The manna was always white (‘lavan’). It looked the same, and as a result, it was ‘tofel’ – it was of secondary importance in their eyes.
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik would teach that in the world of advertising, the one word that advertisers would want to use is the word ‘new’ and also where possible ‘improved.’ They recognise that appearances count. When something looks new, fresh, an improved model – we’ll go for it.
That, he said, is because people can easily become bored. As parents and as educators we know that the one word we just don’t want to hear from our children or our pupils is, “I’m bored.” So too, our boredom with a product can prompt us to want to change it for something different, for something new. The manna from Heaven was the greatest possible gift from Hashem over 40 years in the Wilderness, but because it always looked the same, we became bored of it.
But what is the greatest antidote to boredom? In Psalm 119 verse 77 we say,
“Ki toratcha sha’ashuai,” – Hashem, “Your Torah is my delight.”
If something is delightful or if a person is delightful we’ll never become bored of them. The Torah is the greatest possible delight in our eyes, because there are always fresh ways of looking at a verse; always greater depth to our previous understanding; new elements of knowledge which come our way. In addition the Torah provides us with the greatest possible delight in life through the mitzvot which we can follow as a result of our study of Torah.
So therefore let us learn such a powerful and relevant lesson from the opening words of Sefer Devarim from the names of two places which have never existed! First of all, let’s not just judge a person or a situation on appearances alone. Let’s look at the substance and then we’ll really appreciate the gifts of life and in addition let’s recognise the greatest gift of them all which is the Torah through which our entire lives can be a continuous delightful experience.