Thursday, September 11, 2014

440 - Re'ei

Rav Wolbe cites the Seforno on the first pasuk of this week's parsha: "See that I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse" (Devarim 11, 26). The Seforno explains, "See to it that your actions are not mediocre like the behavior of most people. For I have placed before you today a blessing and a curse which are the two extremes. Blessing is bounty much greater than what one needs to manage and curse causes a deficiency where one does not have enough to manage. Both of these options are available for you to choose". 

This idea of going to the extreme with one's actions is rooted in the Gemara in Brachos (63a). "Bar Kapara taught, 'What is a small parsha that encapsulates the entire Torah? In all your ways you shall know Him.'" Every single action should be carried out with the aim of "knowing Hashem." If one's decision to follow the path paved by the Torah is halfhearted, his actions will be mediocre. Rather, one's commitment, and hopefully in turn his actions, should be passionate. His mind should be focused on a single path, and all actions should be performed with the intent of doing the will of the Creator. 

Such a directive seems to deny us any possibility for pleasure. However, if we take a look at another pasuk a little later in the parsha, we will find that this notion is totally incorrect. Regarding the mitzvah of ma'aser sheni (the tenth of one's produce which must be eaten in Yerushalayim), the Torah explains part of the rationale behind the mitzvah. "You shall eat before Hashem in the place that He has chosen to reside in, the tithes of your grain, your wine, your oil, your cattle and your sheep so that you will learn to fear Hashem your G-d all the days" (ibid. 14, 23). The Torah "forces" us to eat our produce in the environs of the Bais Hamikdosh, because such a visit has the ability to ingrain yiras Shamayim in a person. 

Yet, a few pesukim later the Torah states that one who does not have the ability to bring all his produce to Yerushalayim, should redeem the produce with money, take the money to Yerushayim and buy produce there. "And you shall eat there before Hashem and rejoice - you and your family." Wasn't the purpose of eating the produce in Yerushlayim to instill fear? How does happiness make its way into the parsha of ma'aser? The answer is the secret of a Torah true existence. Only in Judaism do fear and happiness go hand in hand. The very focus on doing Hashem's will and fearing Him is what brings a person true happiness! Directing all of our thoughts and actions toward one goal is a tall order, but at least we know where we should be heading. Moreover, if we knew how much happiness it could bring us, we would have started heading there a long time ago!

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