I. Servant of HaShem*
1. ‘And you shall serve HaShem your G-d’ (Shemos* 23.25) I have heard the following teaching from my teacher (the Baal Shem Tov). The verse says, “And you will return and see the difference between the Tzaddik* and the wicked man, between the one who serves HaShem and the one who does not serve HaShem. (Malachi* 3.18).” The Talmud* asks, ‘Is not the Tzaddik the one who serves HaShem and the wicked man the one who does not serve HaShem?’ It then answers, there is a difference between the one who learns a passage 100 times and the one who learns it 101 times. We have to understand why it is that a person who learns only one time less is called wicked and is not considered as if he is serving HaShem. The answer is that with the person whose whole purpose of learning Torah and serving HaShem is for show, whenever he serves HaShem it is not worth anything. That is because the One is missing. i.e. he is missing the intention to serve HaShem, who is the true One. [What he is doing is not because it is the will of HaShem, but for his own purposes.] >From this we can understand the verse. Even if this person serves HaShem, he is still called one who doesn’t serve HaShem. The reason is that there is a difference between the one who learns 100 times and the one who learns 101 [i.e. 100 times with the One.] But if he does it without the One, what use is there in his learning 100 times? (p. 367 sefer Baal Shem Tov. Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.) * * * II. Doing tshuva* when you are young 2. ‘The first of the first fruits of your land you should bring to the house of HaShem your G-d, and you shall not cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk.’ (Shemos 23.19) We need to understand the relationship between the first half of the verse [about the first fruits] and the second half [about cooking the kid.] We see that the main thing which causes people to put off doing tshuva is that they think they have a long time left in their lives in which to do tshuva. They feel that they have many long years, and because of that they don’t need to rush and do tshuva. And even more the person whose father and mother lived for a long time, will think that he also has a long time in which to live. [It seems obvious to him that he will also live as long as his parents.] However this is only the advice of his Yetzer*. The truth is that a person needs to do tshuva while he is still young, as it says in all the holy seforim*. Likewise a person doesn’t know how many days are allotted to him, and hence the Mishnah* says in Pirkei Avos*, ‘you should do tshuva one day before you die.’ [And since he doesn’t know when this is, all his days should be spent in tshuva.] In this verse we see that the Torah* forbids the cooking of the kid in it’s mother’s milk. But the verse doesn’t tell us anything about how the mother was slaughtered. We have to say that the milk was from the mother while she was still alive. From this we should learn the lesson that we should not consider that just because one’s parents lived for a long time that it means that he will also have many long years. This verse actually teaches this lesson since we see that the kid has been slaughtered while the mother is still alive. If he considers this he will certainly not hold himself back from doing tshuva while he is still young. This is then the explanation of the verse. ‘The first of the first fruits of your land you should bring to the house of HaShem your G-d.’ While you are still young you should bring everything to the house of HaShem and do a complete tshuva. He shouldn’t say that because the day is long [and there is still time for him to do tshuva] he will sin now and later do tshuva. Even though his parents are alive no one knows when he will leave this world. The proof of that is: ‘and you shall not cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk.’ Just like the kid has already been slaughtered, and it’s mother is still alive [he likewise doesn’t know when his end will be.] He shouldn’t wait to do tshuva, but immediately when he is in his youth he has to do tshuva. (p. 17 sefer Avir HaRo’im, teachings and stories of Rebbe* Yitzchok Isaac of Kaliv.) * * * III. The war with your Yetzer HaRah* 3. ‘If you will see the donkey of your enemy bowed down under its burden, and you would withhold yourself from unloading it, you shall surely unload it with him.’ (Shemos 23.5) Chazal* explain that this verse means that you are required to help your enemy unload the burden only when he is there with you helping to do it. But if he walks away and says that you have a mitzvah* to help him and he doesn’t need to do anything. Then there is no longer any mitzvah to help him. [You are only required to help him and not to do it for him.] We can explain this verse in this manner. There are those who wage a war against their Yetzer because it tries to trip them up in the delights of this world and with physical enjoyment. They do this by breaking their bodies through self mortification in order to kill any desires for this world. And by doing this they destroy their bodies. All this is done in order to free themselves from the Yetzer HaRah that has hold of them and is attached to their bodies. However, afterwards when they try to serve HaShem they are not able to do it without their bodies [which have been greatly weakened.] This is not the way of serving HaShem as I have written previously on the verse , ‘I will not remove them [your enemies] from you quickly because it would cause the wild beasts to multiply in your fields.’ The true way is for the person to fight against his Yetzer HaRah little by little, with intelligence, and not to destroy his body. He should use the strength of the Yetzer itself to serve HaShem. And by so doing he is turning his Yetzer HaRah into the Yetzer Tov* as I have said in another place. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘If you will see the donkey [Heb chamor] of your enemy.’ That means your material being. [Heb Chomrious] The physical nature of your enemy is the Yetzer HaRah who attaches itself to you and rules over your body. [When you will see the power of the Yetzer HaRah come against you and controlling your physical nature.] [The verse continues:] ‘Bowed down under its burden.’ i.e. that you have placed upon your body many types of mortification which has made it difficult for yourself. You are bowed down completely and are not able to do either evil or good. [This being caused by your trying to destroy the Yetzer HaRah.] ‘And you would withhold yourself from unloading it.’ This is not the way for you to act. But ‘you shall surely unload it with him.’ You should unload from your body these mortifications and ease your burden from them. You should only do a little at a time and under supervision. You should progress from level to level so that you do not destroy your body. And with time HaShem will help you and he will make your Yetzer HaRah to a Yetzer Tov. And the strength and fire of the Yetzer HaRah will be used to serve HaShem. That is the meaning of, ‘unload it with him.’ You should unload the body from it’s burdens from self mortification so that it should not become destroyed by you. And from this you will take the strength of the Yetzer HaRah and serve HaShem. [You will work together with the Yetzer HaRah to serve HaShem.] (p. 176 sefer Orach LeChaim teachings of Rebbe Avraham Chaim of Zlotchov.) * * * IV. Approaching HaShem 4. ‘And the master of the house shall cause him to be brought before the judges [Heb. elohim] to swear that he has not put his hand to his neighbors goods.’ (Shemos 22.7) It appears clear to me that the Talmud Chocham* and those who can learn Torah are able to approach HaShem through their learning of Torah and their prayers. But what shall the simple person who cannot learn do? How can he approach HaShem and ask Him to bestow upon him holiness? To this the verse answers: ‘he has not put his hand to his neighbors goods.’ i.e. if he has done his work honestly with faith in HaShem. He has not destroyed his neighbors livelihood, and he has been careful in the laws between a man and his fellow men that are commanded in the Torah. With that he is able to perfect his soul and approach to HaShem. We can also explain it: ‘he has not put his hand to his neighbors goods.’ Who is his neighbor? That is HaShem. A person has to accept everything that comes to him from HaShem with love. This is true even if it means that he experiences suffering. He should not question the actions of HaShem but accept all that happens with love. With that he can come close to HaShem. This is if ‘he has not put his hand’, i.e. has not complained regarding ‘his neighbors goods’. Those things that HaShem has done he has not complained about but he has accepted them with love. (p. 42 sefer Meori Or teachings of the Rebbes of the Chernobler dynasty. This one was from Rebbe Yakov Yisroel from Tcherkasa the son of Rebbe Mordechai of Chernoble) * * * V. Serving HaShem together with all of Israel 5. ‘And you shall serve HaShem your G-d and He will bless your bread, and he will remove all sickness from amongst you.’ (Shemos 23.25) There is a well known question on this verse. It starts off plural ‘and you [pl.] shall serve’, and then it goes to the singular, ‘and he will bless your [sing.] bread.’ This can be understood as a remez* for what is well known [from the holy seforim] that before one prays he should intend to join himself together with all of the Jewish people in order to fulfil the verse, ‘and you should love your neighbor as yourself.’ The same is the case before he starts to learn, he should likewise have in mind his love of all the Jewish people. From this HaShem will bless his bread, i.e. the bread of Torah. ‘And He will remove any sickness from amongst you’, i.e. you will be able to stand firm in your war with your Yetzer HaRah. ‘And the number of your days he will fulfil’, i.e. you will be able to rectify everyday of your life according to the purpose that HaShem has for you. As it says of the verse, ‘Avraham was old and he came with his days.’ He came with all of his days. [He was able to fulfil his purpose in each of his days according to what Hashem desired of him.] (p.55 sefer Avodas Yissachar, teachings of Rebbe Yissachar Dov Berish of Valbruz) ———————————————————————
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY’D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mitzvah (mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe.
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at ‘war’ to see which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT’L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik – Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY’A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
Issur Hasugas Givilv