Thursday, September 18, 2008

145 - Ki Savo

Among the many curses which are enumerated in this week's parsha, that could befall those who fail to keep the mitzvos, the Torah tells us, "And your will live your life with uncertaint.. and you will not trust in your life" (Devarim 28, 66). Despite the ominous connotation, Rashi's explanation makes them seem like minor inconveniences: "And you will live your life with uncertainty, refers to one who must buy wheat from the market. And you will not trust in your life, refers to one who relies on the baker [for his bread]." Rav Wolbe (Ma'amerei Yemei Ratzon pg. 314) asks, what is so terrible about one who must shop in the store or bakery for his food? He answers that Chazal understood that the ultimate situation, and life in its truest form, is when one has the ability to be self sustaining: Hashem allows him to personally own land, harvest the wheat and bake bread. If one must be dependant on others, he lives his life with uncertainty - a situation which the Torah considers a curse.

Rav Wolbe writes that the same is true with regard to ruchniyos. A person should not be dependant on those around him to decide what to do and what not to do. One who merely mimics those around him and does things because "that's what everyone does" is not living life in its truest form. The Maharal notes that despite Hashem accepting Hevel's sacrifice, it did not protect him when he quarreled with his brother Kayin, and he was killed. This was because Hevel's act of offering a sacrifice came only after Kayin took the initiative. He mimicked his brother's actions; therefore, the mitzvah was lacking and did not have the ability to protect him in his time of need.

A person must take out some time to contemplate his character. What are his strengths, his weaknesses and his good and bad middos? Each person has their own personal avodah and there is no reason to look at others to see what to do. The Maharal asks why the Mishna in Pirkei Avos says, "Whoever's fear of his sin precedes his wisdom - his wisdom will prevail."

Why is emphasis placed on "his" sin? He explains that every person has his specific sin(s) which he must overcome, and it is when he conquers his yetzer hara for that specific sin that his wisdom will prevail.The way to start really "living life", is to stop imitating others and begin probing into our own traits and aveiros. If we take two minutes to write down our strengths, we will know the course of action we must take, without mimicking the actions of those around us. Likewise, if we write down our weaknesses, we will be able to focus on the areas in which we personally must make an effort to grow, without looking at a friend to observe what not to do.

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