Friday, November 23, 2007

Parshas Lech Lecha - "Can you feel it?!"

Wow!, What a week. This was definitely a packed one. I figured that I would send you guys a Dvar Torah just in case you feel an itch for a vort.

This week in YU we were fortunate to have The Rishon LiZion, Sfardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Amar Shlita come and speak to us on the topic of the intricacies of the Shmitta year.

Before the much anticipated shiur, Rabbi Zevulun Charlap, Dean of RIETS gave a brief but powerful introduction for Rabbi Amar. He began the introduction with the following Dvar Torah.

The first Pasuk of לֶךְ-לְךָ states,

א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ.

1 And Hashem said to Avram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you.

Rashi , Commenting on the first pasuk says, 1. Go forth.לֶךְ-לְךָ, for your benefit and for your good, and there I will make you into a great nation, but here, you will not merit to have children. Moreover, I will make your character known in the world. — [from Rosh Hashanah 16b.]

Therefore, when Hashem tells Avram to "Go Forth…to the land that I will show you [Eretz Yisrael]" Hashem is telling Avram that it is for his own personal benefit. The reason for his leaving was for his enjoyment.

Within this context the Gemara Messeches Rosh Hashana (28b) quotes Rav Yehuda as saying, "You should not blow the Shofar of an Olah, if you did however you are still Yotzeh. You should not blow the Shofar of a Shlamim, if you did however you are still Yotzeh." The Gemara follows this statement with a question.

If an Olah and Shlamim are Hekdesh(designated for use in the Temple) then how are we allowed to use these Shofars for blowing on Rosh HaShana?! The usage of these Shofars should most definitely be prohibited on all accounts?!

The Gemara answers that it is permissible to blow these Shofars because Mitzvos Lav Lehenos Nitnu, The Mitzvos were not given for our pleasure. Therefore we have not desecrated the property of the Temple.

In conjunction with this Gemara in Rosh Hashana we now have a great question on our Rashi here in לֶךְ-לְךָ. If Mitzvos were not given for our benefit than how can Hashem say that the mitzvah of going to Eretz Yisrael was for Avram's benefit? Avram has to leave because Hashem told him to, not because it was for his pleasure?!

Rabbi Charlap's father offers the following answer; there are two different kinds of enjoyment. There is a physical enjoyment which can be received from doing mitzvos. Hashem gives us mitzvos and although we may inadvertently derive benefit from performing a mitzvah, this isn't why were given the mitzvah because Mitzvos Lav Lehenos Nitnu. Then there is the physical enjoyment that one gets from doing Kiyum Hamitzvos (inherently performing the mitzvah) which we are supposed to derive benefit from.

Rabbi Charlap explained that it wasn't that a physical enjoyment was derived from Avram's travel to the land of Canaan and this is why he went; on the contrary, it was a tenuous journey.Rashi is telling us that Avram derived an immense amount of pleasure and benefit from the Kiyum Hamitzvah itself. By the fact that he was given the opportunity to do the mitzvah of listening to G-d he derived benefit.

On this note, the Gemarah in Messeches Sanhedrin states that everyone has a portion in the world to come. So the question that one must ask is, than what makes one person's plot bigger or more enjoyable the next? The Nisivos Shalom (Slonim) answers, that it is the difference between an animate and an inanimate object. If we don't pro actively derive enjoyment in the Kiyumey Hamitzvos, then we will get reward, but we only have minimal enjoyment out of it because we won't know how to appreciate the glory of the next world. But, if we enjoy ourselves and truly wholeheartedly accept the mitzvos upon ourselves then our experiences in Olam Haba will be riveted with excitement.

Often times we look at our obligation to perform the mitzvos as burdensome. After taking into account all that our busy lives have to offer, the mitzvos seem like a trouble. The truth is however, that our perspectives are skewed by the numerous responsibilities that have been thrown in our direction. Having the ability to perform the mitzvos is really an opportunity. Like in the case of Avram, Hashem always gives us the opportunity to enhance our experiences in the next world but in the end it all comes down to how we play our cards.

Have a Fantastic Shabbos!

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