Tuesday, May 24, 2016

512 - Yisro

Rav Wolbe (Da'as Shlomo) cites a fascinating statement made by Rav Sadya Goan. He asserts that all the mitzvos in the Torah are alluded to in the aseres ha'dibros (Ten Commandments). Moreover, the aseres ha'dibros are all encapsulated in the first commandment, and not only that, all the words in the first commandment are encapsulated within the first word of that commandment - "Anochi." In other words, all the mitzvos can be condensed into a single mitzvah. In Parshas Mishpatim (24:12) the Torah relates that Hashem said to Moshe, "Ascend the mountain to Me and remain there and I will give you the stone luchos and the Torah and the mitzvah." The Torah refers to all the mitzvos in the singular because all of them together really boil down to a single commandment.

Regarding this idea, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz would cite the Gemara in Sukka (46a) which brings an opinion that one who is about to fulfill several mitzvos in succession should only recite a single bracha, "Asher kideshanu b'mitzvosav v'tzivanu al ha'mitzvos." Although at face value it looks like he is performing many unrelated mitzvos - tefillin, lulav, tzitzis and sukkah - nevertheless, the bottom line of all the mitzvos is the same and a singlebracha suffices for them all. In a similar vein, the Gemara at the end of Makkos tells us that Chavakuk encapsulated the entire Torah in a single commandment.

How are we to understand this? What does it mean that the entire Torah can be found in the word "Anochi?"Rav Wolbe explains as follows. There are many aspects that make up a society, such as its country, government, elections, army, police force and so on. In addition, there are many facets that are included in its culture, such as science, music and the arts. Religion can be thrown in there too.
Let us take for example, a cultured gentleman in such a society, who enjoys a concert once in a while, attends services on Sunday, reads the paper each day and takes an interest in sports and finances. Imagine, that this fine gentleman was present at Har Sinai when Hashem revealed Himself and declared "I [am Hashem your G-d]!" From that moment on, his life would change drastically. His entire value system would crumble with the knowledge that there is a Creator of the world. Religion is no longer a facet of culture; it is life itself. All Hashem had to do was declare, "Anochi" - I exist! The awareness that a Creator exists, in and of itself, is enough to compel a person to do everything in his ability to fulfill the will of the One Who created him.

It is quite possible for a person to fulfill all the commandments - he keeps Shabbos and kashrus, wearstefillin and tzitzis, davens, bentches and even washesmayim achronim - and nevertheless is missing the boat of Yiddishkeit. For him, sports are a more significant part of his life than religion. Although they are both things that he wants to fit into his daily schedule, sports are a more central part of that schedule than his religious obligations. Judaism is not comprised of religious ceremonies that have to be attended similar to the opera and the Super Bowl. Yiddishkeit is life. Chazal assert, "What is a small portion of the Torah upon which all aspects of the Torah are dependant? - 'Know Him in all your ways' - all your actions should be performed for the sake of Heaven"(Brachos 63a).

With the first word of the aseres ha'dibros Hashem revealed Himself and gave us His business card, so to speak. We now know He exists and our life is to be lived accordingly. In addition to the overtly spiritual activities such as davening and learning, we also have to eat, sleep, engage in conversation, work and relax. However, all these activities should be performed with the knowledge that ultimately everything we do is with the purpose of bringing us closer to Hashem. If you think about it for a minute, you might be surprised to discover that most of your daily schedule is subconsciously executed for that very reason. All that is left are just a few actions that have to be fine tuned to sing in harmony with Hashem's solo "Anochi!"

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