Friday, July 24, 2009

185 - Devarim - Tisha B'av

The Nefesh Hachaim (Sha'ar Aleph Chap. 4) has a novel approach to understanding the Beis Hamikdosh and its destruction. He writes that Hashem commanded, "Make for a Me a mikdosh so that I can dwell within them." Chazal note that Hashem did not say, "So that I can dwell within 'it'." Rather, He said, "so that I can dwell within them," since He desires to dwell within each and every person from the Jewish Nation. Every person can become a veritable beis hamikdosh, as we find that the Navi (Yirmiya 7) refers to the righteous as "the sanctuary of Hashem." The commandment to build a Beis Hamikdosh out of stone was to facilitate an understanding of how our personal beis hamikdosh should look. Actions carried out with pure and holy intentions and with the goal of creating an abode for Hashem in this very physical world, mirror the holy vessels of the Beis Hamikdosh, which were prepared with the express objective of creating a place for the Shechinah to reside on Earth. Hence, when the actions of Bnei Yisroel deteriorated to the point that they desecrated their internal beis hamikdosh, the external Beis Hamikdosh automatically lost its viability and was destroyed.

Hence, Rav Wolbe says that the mourning of Tisha B'av and the days leading up to it is not merely mourning the Beis Hamikdosh that once stood in Yerushalayim. We are mourning the destruction of our internal greatness. Is there anyone who truly believes that he has the ability to turn himself into an abode for the Shechina? Bnei Yisroel has always produced great leaders from whom we could get a glimpse of true greatness. One such example is the Chofetz Chaim. Every action of his was measured and every word was weighed. He was a Torah giant, a paradigm of kindness and humility, and his tefillos were one of a kind. Every Jew has the ability to reach a similar level. One of the obstacles in our generation is the mindset that people are small and will always remain small. We must rid ourselves of this mindset, because it destroys our personal beis hamikdosh.

We do not recite tachnun on Tisha B'av because the pasuk refers to it as a mo'ed. We can understand why Sukkos is a mo'ed; but why is Tisha B'av a mo'ed? Rav Yeruchom Levovitz explains that there are moadim of kiruv - closeness, and moadim of richuk - distance. Rav Wolbe elaborates that Tisha B'av is a time for one to contemplate just how far he is from Hashem. How in reality, his every action has the ability to create an atmosphere suitable to house the Shechina, and yet, he doesn't believe for a second that he can achieve such a goal. Recognizing and acknowledging one's distance from Hashem, is the first step in rebuilding our internal beis hamikdosh. Once this is accomplished, the Beis Hamikdosh in Yerushalyim will follow immediately. That is why Chazal said, "All who mourn Yerushalayim will merit seeing its joy."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

184 - Matos - Masai

"And Hashem said to Moshe saying, take revenge on behalf of Bnei Yisroel from the Midyanim and afterward you will pass away. And Moshe spoke to the nation saying, 'Separate from yourselves men for the army so they may inflict the vengeance of Hashem against Midyan" (Bamidbar 31, 1-3). Rashi explains that one who acts against Bnei Yisroel is in affect acting against Hashem. Therefore, Moshe declared that the revenge against Midyan was being carried out as if Midyan had acted against Hashem Himself. Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) adds that Bnei Yisroel are the ambassadors of Hashem in this world. It is they who bring the knowledge of Hashem to the entire world. An assault against a country's ambassador is regarded as an attack against the entire country. Likewise, he who rises up against Bnei Yisroel has risen up against the Creator of the world Himself.

As was mentioned last week, the revenge to which the Torah is referring, is not revenge which is (in the words of the Mesillas Yesharim) "sweeter than honey." Rather it is the act of purging evil from the world, from a nation, or even from a single perpetrator. Truth be told, all of the Torah's punishments are merely a way of cleansing the evil from the transgressor. Other nations claim that all the Torah's punishments are rooted in revenge, as the pasuk states, "an eye for an eye, a hand for a hand." However, as Chazal tell us, "an eye for an eye" means that one must pay monetary reparation for the damage caused. Giving a murderer a lifetime jail sentence is a lot closer to an act of revenge than the Torah's punishment for murder. Those who are killed by the beis din still have a portion in the world to come. They were not put to death because "we'll show him." Rather, their death acts as a cleaning agent which allows them entry into the world to come - the ultimate goal of every Jewish person.

Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. I pg. 260) warns that, so too, a parent must not punish a child with the intention of taking revenge. Sometimes one tells his child to do something, and the child defiantly ignores the parent, or even answers "no!" Another common embarrassing occurrence is when a child acts in front of others in a way that does not live up to his parent's expectations. The parent is personally offended and quickly metes out a "fair" punishment, which is often merely revenge in disguise. In this respect there is no difference between one's friend and one's child; punishment solely for the sake of payback is forbidden. The infraction must be dealt with, but with the desire to correct the misdemeanor and not the desire to heal one's wounded ego.

The Mashgiach related that someone was once talking to Rav Aba Grossbard zt"l and said something which offended Rav Grossbard. Sometime later, the offender needed a letter of recommendation from Rav Grossbard. Rav Grossbard tried avoiding the request with all types of excuses: "Do you really need it?" "I don't write letters," etc. It was obvious that it was difficult for him to say no, but he forced himself so that that the offender would realize that he had acted improperly. This tactic was successful and the offender asked for forgiveness. This is the proper method of "punishment" and it also demonstrates a lesson that every parent must learn.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

183 - Pinchos

"Pinchos the son of Elazar the son of Aharon Hakohein turned back my anger from Bnei Yisroel when he zealously avenged Me" (Bamidbar 25, 10). Rashi explains that when Pinchos killed the transgressors, he avenged that which was appropriate for Hashem Himself to avenge.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) notes that Hashem is actually referred to as a "G-d of vengeance" (Devarim 5, 9). What exactly does it mean that Hashem "takes revenge?" He explains that the vengeance of Hashem manifests itself when He eradicates evil from the world. It is therefore an apt description of Hashem, because He wants nothing more than that all evil be eradicated from the world. Pinchos's act of vengeance paralleled Hashem's attribute of vengeance, since it was carried out with a single intention: ridding Bnei Yisroel of the evil. It wasn't a feeling of "sweet revenge" that galvanized Pinchos into action; it was his purity of heart. Hashem doesn't take revenge in the colloquial sense; rather, he eliminates the evil by destroying the transgressors.

It is for this reason that Chazal tell us, "Any talmid chochom who does not take revenge like a snake is not a true talmid chochom." A talmid chochom is one who cleaves to Hashem and the attributes by which He is defined. "O'havei Hashem sin'u rah" - those who love Hashem despise evil, and those who despise evil do everything in their power to eliminate it from society. One who is apathetic to the evil that is being perpetrated around him, cannot be considered a true talmid chochom.

With this approach we can understand why Hashem is meticulous in meting out punishment to those closest to Him, for the slightest infraction. Since the righteous wish to purify themselves, therefore, Hashem aides them by ridding them of even the minutest amount of evil. Likewise, we find that many of our nation's leaders were strictest when it came to disciplining their closest students. When Hagar became pregnant immediately after her marriage to Avraham, she looked down upon Sarah Imeinu who, after many years of marriage, did not merit having children. Subsequently the Torah tells us that Sarah persecuted Hagar. Rav Wolbe explains, because Hagar was a close disciple of Sarah, Sarah felt the need to rid her of all negative traits, and therefore, was very strict with her. Rav Yeruchom Levovitz once grabbed a student and pulled him out of the Beis Medrash because of a misdemeanor. Sometime after, he took that very bochur as a husband for his own daughter!

Both Sarah Imeinu and Rav Yeruchom (and all the great leaders in between) were not "taking revenge" because they felt slighted on a personal level. They were propelled solely by the desire to rid their disciples of their negative character traits. It is this form of "revenge" that is the hallmark of Hashem and those who follow in His ways.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

182 - Balak

"And Yisroel cleaved [to the idol] Ba'al Pa'or" (Bamidbar 25, 3). Idol worship, in general, is difficult to understand. Although it is comprehendible that people could attribute godly characteristics to celestial beings like the sun, moon and stars; what could people possibly hope to gain from prostrating themselves before a slab of wood? However, the idol worship of Ba'al Pa'or, in particular, is utterly baffling. Rashi explains that the worshipper was to expose himself and defecate before the idol. What could possibly be the logic or philosophy behind such worship?

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) related that he posed this exact question to Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt"l. Rav Hutner answered that this ideology is a manifestation of pessimism. It was their way of declaring that all actions have no real purpose; at the end of the day everything is ruined. Whether one ate a succulent steak or a gorgeous red apple, everything simply turns into excrement.

Rav Wolbe elaborated that such an outlook on life stands diametrically opposed to the Torah's outlook. The Torah teaches us that every action has the ability to build, and nothing goes to waste. Even excrement could be used as fertilizer, as it contains essential life giving nutrients for starting a new crop.

Earlier in the parsha (ibid. 23, 10) Bil'am declared, "Who can count the dirt of Yaakov?" Rashi explains that there is no limit to the amount of mitzvos that Bnei Yisroel perform with dirt. We are prohibited from plowing a field with an ox and a donkey in one yoke, and from planting mixtures of seeds (keliyim). We are commanded to purify those who came in contact with a dead person through the "ashes" of the red heifer, and the examination of the sotah was performed with a mixture that contained dirt. Bnei Yisroel are able to elevate even dirt and use it as a means for the performance of mitzvos, attaining purity, and restoring harmony to the home of the sotah.

This concept is thoroughly discussed in the Messilas Yesharim. He writes that kedusha is the ability to change the physical into the spiritual. Chazal tell us that giving food and drink to a talmid chochom is tantamount to offering a sacrifice and a wine libation, because a talmid chochom channels every action toward the spiritual. Moreover, the Mishna (Mikvaos 9, 5) refers to talmidei chochomim as "ba'naim" - builders, because in essence it is they who are the true builders of the world. Everything has a purpose and nothing is wasted or totally lost.
Although Ba'al Pa'or is no longer around, however, the idea that it represents still resonates. We must remember that this philosophy is the antithesis to the Torah outlook on life, and our actions should reflect this difference.

181 - Chukas

When Moshe Rabbeinu hit the rock instead of speaking to it, he was punished for his error. "Because you did not believe in Me to cause My Name to be sanctified before the eyes of Bnei Yisroel, therefore, you will not lead this nation into the land that I have given them" (Bamidbar 20, 12). Rashi explains that had Moshe spoken to the rock, it would have made for a powerful lesson. "If a rock which cannot speak or hear, nor does it require sustenance, nevertheless heeds the word of Hashem, how much more so is it imperative that I [who speak, hear and need sustenance] heed the word of Hashem."
Rav Wolbe asks why it was crucial that Bnei Yisroel behold this specific miracle; didn't they live within the ananei hakavod and weren't they sustained by mann that fell from the heavens? They lived a life of constant miracles, so what would have been unique about the miracle of the rock that would have stimulated a Kiddush Hashem?
He answers with an important concept. Many people are completely out of touch with what is going on deep inside their souls i.e. their penimius. Much, if not all, of their knowledge has no effect on their internal world. They might know something to be true and even preach it to the masses, and nevertheless, fail to truly internalize it to the point that it makes a difference in their lives. The language that best conveys these messages to the recesses of our hearts and minds is hispa'alus - being intensely stimulated. Hispa'alus is a penetrating realization of a truth that plows through the many layers of our subconscious and strikes our internal chords. Therefore, it is a catalyst for us to change the way we have been doing things prior to this realization.
The chiddush that is attributed to Rav Yisroel Salanter is not that one must study Mussar; that was already a given for many generations. He introduced the concept of studying mussar b'hispa'alus - in a way that he who is studying is stimulated by the truth of what he learns. Mussar study in such a manner penetrates more deeply than the mere knowledge of the material being studied. It was for this reason that the miracle of the rock was so crucial. It would have forced them into a realization that affected them internally. A rock that heeds the word of Hashem obligates a human to act, at the very least, in a similar manner.
Chazal tell us, "One who sees the punishment of a sotah should become a nazir and abstain from wine." Instead of lambasting the society that bred such lewdness, one should redirect his criticism toward himself. He should acknowledge that he too has a yetzer hara that burns inside of him, and therefore, he must take the proper precautions lest he himself be seduced into sinning.
In truth, everything that we see or hear should be integrated into our lives in a way that is conducive to avodas Hashem. In a practical sense, this is best achieved when one studies mussar b'hispa'alus.

180 - Korach

The Torah writes that Dasan and Avirom were among those who Korach succeeded in recruiting to join in his rebellion against Moshe. Rashi tells us that Dasan and Avirom were from the tribe of Reuvein and they resided south of the Mishkan, adjacent to Korach and the sons of Kehos. He explains that it was Dasan and Avirom's close proximity to Korach which caused them to become embroiled in the argument; as Chazal state, "Woe unto the wicked and woe unto his neighbor."

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) makes an interesting observation. Dasan and Avirom are by no means new faces in the Torah. They made their debut in Mitzrayim when they were fist fighting, and in response to Moshe's attempts to end their squabble they challenged him, "Who made you into a leader and judge over us? Will you kill us just as you killed the Egyptian?" From then on they only caused problems. They informed Pharaoh that Moshe killed the Egyptian thereby forcing Moshe to flee for his life. They blamed Moshe when the work in Egypt got more difficult; and they kept some of their mann overnight despite Moshe's explicit command not to leave over any mann till the morning. They were experts at picking fights, but nevertheless, Rashi tells us that if not for the fact that they were neighbors of Korach, they would not have joined Korach's argument with Moshe.

Rav Wolbe quotes the Gr"a, who writes that there are two types of yetzer hara with which every person must contend; one internal and one external. In comparison, the internal yetzer hara can be subdued with more ease than the external yetzer hara. Dasan and Avirom had the potential to instigate an argument, but it was potential that was borne out of their internal yetzer hara. In this instance, since that they had no personal gain they would have had the ability to overcome their yetzer hara. However, due to their close proximity to Korach, they observed his actions (i.e. an external yetzer hara) and the potential became a reality.

With this approach we can explain another pasuk. The Torah (Shelach15, 39) exhorts, "Do not follow your hearts and eyes after which you stray." Rashi explains that the eyes see, the heart covets and then the body sins. Shouldn't the Torah have written "Do not follow your eyes and hearts" since first the eyes see and only then does the heart covet? The answer is that there are definitely desires which materialize internally, but most people have the wherewithal to overcome these temptations. However, once the eyes perceive the temptation externally, this ignites the desires that would have otherwise lain dormant. As the pasuk states, the desires do begin in the heart, but it is only after the eyes see, that the heart covets to the point that it seduces the body to sin.

Overcoming our yetzer hara is not an easy task. Yet, not being careful with what we see, or not being cautious when it comes to friends and neighbors who could be a bad influence, can increase the difficulty many times over.

179 - Shelach

When the spies returned from Eretz Canaan, they described the land in less than glowing terms. "We arrived in the land . . . and indeed it flows with milk and honey . . . however, the natives are mighty, the cities are fortified . . . the land devours its inhabitants and all those who reside there are giants" (Bamidbar 13, 27-32). Being that they wanted to paint a dismal picture, for what reason did they preface their tirade with, "indeed it flows with milk and honey?" Rashi explains that a falsehood which does not contain at least a minimal amount of truth cannot endure. Therefore, the spies purposely mentioned something true about the Promised Land, so that the rest of their lies would be believed.
Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) adds, Chazal say that sheker does not have the ability to stand. Because sheker is not a reality, it cannot become a reality. It might take ten, twenty, or even thirty years before the lie is proven false, but eventually the truth will become clear. Sheker's only chance of survival is if it props itself up with a truth.
Hence, the various ideologies that have surfaced throughout the world are all based upon some aspect of truth. For example, communism was founded to ensure social justice; a truthful concept. However, we are all witness to the terrible oppressiveness and deceit that were the hallmark of communism in Russia and other countries. The sheker feeds off of the truth on which it was founded.
Chazal tell us that Moshiach will arrive in a generation that is either completely righteous or completely wicked. We can understand why a completely righteous generation should merit Moshiach, but why would Moshiach reveal himself to a generation which is full of deceit? Rav Yeruchom Levovitz explains that in a generation which there is not even an iota of truth, the skeker will automatically be proven false and eradicated, thereby heralding Moshiach's arrival.
To a certain extent this concept has become a reality in our days. In the past few generations there has been a large increase in the amount of Jewish People that have found their way back to their roots; a veritable "Teshuva Movement." The falseness that abounds today is almost palpable, and at a certain point it simply exposes itself, and underneath, people have found the truth shining in all its brilliance.
The Torah is what gives the Jewish People their immortality, because it is the very word of Hashem - the eternal truth.

178 - Beha'aloscha

Toward the end of this week's parsha, the Torah recounts how Miriam spoke against her brother Moshe. She questioned Moshe's decision to separate from his wife, declaring, "Does Hashem speak only with Moshe; does He not speak also with us?" To which Hashem responded, "It is through a revelation that Hashem appears to a prophet; in a dream I speak with him. This is not so with regard to my servant Moshe; in My entire house he is the trusted one. I speak to him mouth to mouth, via a vision and not through riddles, and he visualizes the image of Hashem. And why were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moshe?" (Bamidbar 12, 6-8)
Chazal explain (Yevamos 49b) the difference between Moshe's prophecy and the prophecy of all other prophets. While all the prophets perceived Hashem's word through an "aspaklaria sh'eina m'eira" (an indistinct aspaklaria), Moshe received his prophecy through an "aspaklaria ha'meiria" (a clear aspaklaria). The Bartenura (Keilim 30, 2) explains aspaklaria as a mirror.
Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. II pg.76) explains the meaning behind Chazal's words. The Ramchal writes that the makeup of a human parallels the attributes of the Creator. Because Hashem wishes to reveal Himself in a manner that people can comprehend, He therefore formed human beings in a fashion somewhat similar to the image He wishes to convey. For example, one who perfects the middah of chessed will be able to comprehend Hashem's chessed to the greatest degree humanly possible. To the extent that one perfects his character, he will be able to perceive Hashem since his spiritual makeup will reflect Hashem's attributes no different than a mirror reflects one's own image.
Moshe Rabbeinu perfected each and every middah of his to the nth degree, thereby polishing his spiritual mirror in such a way that allowed him to perceive Hashem with the utmost clarity possible i.e. b'aspaklaria ha'meira. In contrast, every other prophet lacked perfection in one or more of his character traits. Each flaw acts as a smudge which clouds the mirror and allows for only an indistinct perception of the Creator - an unclear aspaklaria. Miriam was a great woman and a prophet in her own right. However, she still could not compare with the spiritual perfection and prophetic abilities attained by her brother Moshe.
Chazal's description of Moshe's prophecy gives us a glimpse of the greatness of our leaders. It is also an essential piece of knowledge for every Jew. We strive to connect with Hashem in any way that we can. By emulating His ways and perfecting our character we will be able to perceive His attributes and connect in a way we never thought possible.

177 - Shavuos

Chazal tell us (Avodah Zara 11a) that Unkelos, the nephew of the Roman Caesar, converted to Judaism. In a desperate attempt to get him to renege on his decision, his uncle sent a group of soldiers to forcibly bring Unkelos back to Rome. However, Unkelos piqued their interest by quoting some pesukim from the Torah, and thereby they were inspired to convert. The Caesar sent another group of soldiers, but this time with an explicit warning not to engage in any sort of conversation with Unkelos. As they led Unkelos away, he related that he had made an interesting observation. In an army, a private holds a torch to light the way for the lieutenant; the lieutenant holds the light for the captain, the captain for the general and the general for the king. "Does a king ever hold a torch to light the way for a common citizen?" he asked. The soldiers answered in the negative. "Well, our King," said Unkelos, "lights the way for Bnei Yisroel." As the pasuk states, "And Hashem walked in front of them in the form of a cloud by day, to show them the way, and at night in the form of fire to light the way for them." They too converted.
What was so powerful about the message that Unkelos conveyed that had the ability to sway those hardened soldiers? Rav Wolbe explains (Olam HaYedidus pg. 99) that Unkelos taught them something that gave them an entirely new perspective into the idea of religion and service of Hashem. From the ancient times down to this very day, people believe that they must honor G-d because at the end of the day life and death are in His hands, and a lack of honor could lead to dire consequences. Hence, they feel that religion is merely a means of demonstrating how they honor G-d. One honors G-d hoping that his actions will benefit him in the long run, similar to the reason one honors a king.
In Judaism, it is not the subject who lights the way for the King; rather, it is the King Himself who lights the way for his subjects. The Torah is not a means of honoring Hashem, rather, it is the torch that Hashem has handed us to light our way! Every mitzvah is a candle and the entire Torah is a light. This is not a poetic declaration; it is the reality of Torah for anyone who has toiled in its study and performed its precepts.
A mitzvah that is performed properly causes a radiance that can be felt. Whether it is a mitzvah that purifies our body (e.g. refraining from forbidden foods) or one that perfects our character traits (e.g. do not steal, swindle, gossip). There are mitzvos that illuminate our hearts with lofty feelings (e.g. tefillin, Shabbos, Yomim Tovim and the Days of Awe) and there are mitzvos that brighten our interpersonal relationships (e.g. the laws in Mishpatim). Each mitzvah is a torch that lights up our life with purpose and meaning. Furthermore, the light generated through Torah study is so great that it enters a person's mind and heart and opens them to an entirely different and meaningful outlook on life.
It is not for self-aggrandizement that Hashem asks us to serve Him. Rather, through the performance of mitzvos, it is He, Who is, so to speak, serving us by illuminating our lives. This is an idea that has the power to cause gentiles to convert. All the more so it has the ability to bring those who are already Jewish, closer to the Torah!
Good Yom Tov!

176 - Bamidbar

"And these are the offspring of Moshe and Aharon on the day that Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aharon. . ." (Bamidbar 3, 1-2). Rashi notes that although the first pasuk also mentioned the offspring of Moshe, in the subsequent pesukim only the children of Aharon are enumerated. He explains that one who teaches his friend's children Torah is considered as if he begot them. Therefore, Aharon's children are listed as if they were Moshe's offspring, since he taught them Torah.
Rav Wolbe explains that a teacher must be devoted to a student as if he were the teacher's own child. Likewise, a student should perceive his teacher as a parent, as we find Elisha referred to his Rebbi, Eliyahu Hanavi, as "Avi, Avi" - my father, my father. Chazal tell us that he repeated "Avi" a second time because he felt that Eliyahu was not only like a father but also like a mother.
Rav Wolbe related that his Rebbi, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, once showed Reb Dovid Povarsky a bloody tissue. Rav Yeruchom explained that he had coughed up blood because he was so worried about his son. He had never worried about a student to the extent that he had coughed up blood, and he was therefore concerned that he had not properly fulfilled his obligation as a Rebbi. Despite such a comment, Rav Yeruchom was known to worry greatly about his student's welfare. When one of his students was accused of spying and in great danger, Rav Yeruchom worried so much that when he woke up the next morning his beard had turned white!
Not only did Rav Yeruchom care for his disciples as he cared for his children, his disciples felt as if he was their father. When Rav Wolbe arrived at the Yeshiva in Mir, Poland, he met a student who had been learning in the yeshiva for a few years. The student told Rav Wolbe that he was two years and three months old, because exactly two years and three months ago he met Rav Yeruchom for the first time and was "reborn!"
To be able to positively impact a disciple, one must care for him as he would care for his own flesh and blood. And if one wishes to gain from a mentor, he must trust that his Rebbi or teacher has the best of intentions, just like a father or mother.

175 - Behar / Bechukosai

Rashi explains, "Im bechokosai teileichu" (If you walk in my chukim) as an exhortation to toil in the study of Torah. Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) asks why the Torah refers to Torah study in the form of walking - "teileichu." Shouldn't the Torah have written, "Im bechukosai tilmidu" - if you study my chukim?
He explains that the study of Torah is unique since it is always possible to delve deeper and deeper into its wisdom. The more one toils over a ma'amer Chazal, the more insightful it becomes. Moreover, as one grows older, the very same statement that he might have already studied in his youth can take on a whole new meaning. As one continues to age and become wiser, he will be amazed when he once again studies the same passage and perceives newfound profundity within the Torah's timeless words. It is for this reason that Hashem termed the toil of Torah as "walking", for one can constantly tread deeper and deeper into the Torah, all the while gaining greater clarity of its infinite wisdom.
In parshas Achrei Mos (Vayikra 18, 4) the Torah writes a similar pasuk. "And you should guard my statutes to walk in them." Rashi explains that one should not say, "I have already studied the Torah and therefore I will now go study the wisdom of the nations." For if one constantly "walks" and delves deeper into the wisdom of the Torah, he will never claim that he has already concluded with Torah study.
Even with regard to chukim the Torah writes that one should "walk" and toil. Though we cannot understand the reason for these mitzvos in their entirety, there are aspects that we can comprehend. The more we apply ourselves, the more we will succeed in tapping into the vast wisdom contained within each word of the Torah.

174 - Emor

The Ramban (Vayikra 23, 28) points out that in the portion of the Torah dealing with Shabbos and Yom Tov, the terminology of "b'etzem hayom hazeh" (in the midst of this very day)is used only with regard to the Yamim Tovim of Yom Kippur and Shavuos. The Ramban explains with regard to Yom Kippur, that Chazal tell us this terminology reflects the fact that the day itself has the ability to bring about atonement.
Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) elaborates that Yom Kippur is a Yom Tov which is unique in the aspect that there is no mitzvah that requires a physical action accompanying the day. On Rosh Hashana we blow the shofar, on Sukkos we shake the arba'a minim and sit in the Sukkah, and on Pesach we eat matzah. In contrast Yom Kippur is a day which depends a great deal on the way one feels in his heart. Repentance, which is made up of feelings of regret and a genuine commitment to depart from one's misdeeds, is effective to the degree one truly feels these feelings inside his heart. The day itself has a special potency, but we must also do teshuva in our hearts. To some extent, this helps us define the difficulty that some may have with properly connecting to this holiest day of the year.
This same idea holds true for the Yom Tov of Shavuos: there is no physical mitzvah pertaining to the day. Rather, we are to renew our commitment to study Torah and keep the mitzvos - a task that cannot be accomplished with our hands but rather with our hearts. It is a special day as long as we take its theme to heart.
As Chazal tell us, "Rachmana leeba ba'ee." Hashem desires sincere service; service that includes feelings deep within one's heart. Yom Kippur and Shavuos are two days that, if utilized properly, can significantly change a person for the better. Incidentally, acknowledging that sincere repentance and a serious commitment to Torah can only be accomplished with a heartfelt decision, will aid us in our performance of all mitzvos. We will realize that they too, to a great extent, depend upon the amount of "heart" we put into them.

173 - Acharei Mos / Kedoshim

If we were to take a poll of how people describe "yiras shamayim" (fear of Heaven) we would probably receive various different answers. Some would claim that, "Yirah is being meticulous in the performance of mitzvos." Others would opine that, "Yirah is the performance of mitzvos with the proper intentions," or maybe, "Yirah is the fear of Gehinom." Rav Wolbe writes (Alei Shur pg. 500) that although each of these answers touch on some aspect of yirah, however, none have truly revealed the depth of this concept. Rashi in this week's parsha enlightens us with a deeper understanding of yirah.

"Do not curse a deaf man and before a blind man do not place a stumbling block, and you shall fear your G-d - I am Hashem" (Vayikra 19, 14). Rashi explains that the pasuk is referring to a figurative stumbling block. Do not give bad advice (which is to your own benefit) to someone who is "blind" i.e. unsuspecting with regard to the issue at hand. Because it is only the one who is offering the advice who knows his true intentions, therefore, the Torah writes, "And you shall fear your G-d" - for He can distinguish the real intent behind one's actions.

Similarly, further on in the parsha, the Torah commands us, "Rise before the aged and give respect to the elderly and you shall fear your G-d - I am Hashem" (Vayikra 19, 32). Rashi explains that a person might think that no one will know if he chooses to simply close his eyes and pretend not to see the elderly man, thereby obviating the need to stand up. Therefore, the Torah writes, "And you shall fear your G-d" because Hashem knows the true basis for one's actions.

Rav Wolbe points out that there are three more places in Parshas Behar that the Torah writes in conjunction with specific mitzvos, "And you shall fear your G-d." Despite the fact that Rashi was careful with every word he wrote, nevertheless, each and every time he explains that because it is something that only the person himself can discern - the reason that lies behind his action - therefore the Torah felt the need to write, "And you shall fear your G-d."

With this in mind, we can gain a deeper understanding of the concept of yirah. Yirah can be found in the recesses of the mind and in the rationale behind one's actions. The gauge to measure one's yiras shamayim is specifically those mitzvos that no one will know about except He Who is in the heavens. Moreover, most amazingly, all five of the above mitzvos are between man and his fellow man. It is possible to give a pious impression to the world, while deep down one has ulterior motives tainted by his personal desires. These mitzvos are the true test to see if one feels yiras shamayim in his interpersonal relationships.

The Mashgiach writes that such thoughts are possible even with regard to mitzvos between man and Hashem. One might buy a beautiful esrog so others will think that he is meticulous in his performance of mitzvos, while he might spend substantially lower than he could afford when it comes to the performance of mitzvos that no one will know about. In truth, mitzvos must be performed objectively without taking into consideration one's personal interests or other people's favorable comments.