Jun 5, 2014

More Examples of Exertion

continued from two posts ago about Exertion

1) In "Once Upon a Chassid" on parshas Naso, there is the story of an old Chassid who refused to drive to Lubavitch but walked despite the difficulty, figuring this is the only zechus he will have, and he doesn't want to share it with a horse. He brings the story on the pasuk which describes Kehas carrying the keilim for the Mishkan on his shoulder rather than on wagons like Gershon and Merari, as Rashi says - because they were carrying holy things, it had to be carried on their shoulder.

2) Rashi parshas Bo 12:34 – they put the remaining pieces of matza and maror on their shoulders even though they had many animals, because they cherished the mitzva.

3) R' Ben-tzion Yadler, a well-known maggid in Yerushalayim, told this story:

I once went with the Rav [Kook] to pay a sick call to one of the founders of the Mussar movement, the brilliant and righteous R' Yitzchok Blazer of Petersburg who lived in Yerushalayim at the end of his life.

Since it was a long walk, I offered to take him by coach.  He refused, saying, "To perform the mitzva of bikur cholim for the sake of a great Torah scholar, I want to go by foot."

4) R' Moshe Alshich comments on the pasuk that tells us to wear tzitzis and assures us that by doing so, we will, "See it and recall all the mitzvos of G-d and perform them." He points out that the reality would appear to be otherwise. Many people wear tzitzis and yet ignore mitzvos on a regular basis?

The Alshich explains that, indeed, merely donning a four-cornered garment that happens to have strings hanging from its corners, will do little to prevent against sin. After all, what special power does such a garment possess to enable us to fend off the overtures of the yetzer hara? Rather, what the Torah intended is for a person to first recognize that he is in the midst of a fierce battle with his yetzer hara and that he needs all the weapons he can muster in this battle. He then must decide that one of the weapons he'll employ in the battle will be a garment that will serve as constant reminder of the need to be vigilant and fight off the yetzer harrah. He then must set about creating such a garment by tying tassels to the four corners of his garment and then, each time he wears the garment and sees the tassels, he'll be reminded of his objective. One who approaches the mitzvah of tzitzis in this manner, will certainly be reminded constantly of the mitzvos and find it a very effective tool against the persistent onslaught of the yetzer hara.

In this comment, Alshich teaches us an important rule about mitzvos and their intended effect. In order to fully experience the benefits of a mitzvah, one must fully engage himself in the performance of the mitzvah. Merely "fulfilling" the mitzvah through an expedited process utilizing off-the-shelf components that have little personal meaning to the individual, will fail to inspire the person or elevate him spiritually. Creating a pair of tzitzis from scratch with the understanding that it is meant to achieve a specific goal, is the only way to reap the benefits from the tzitzis; not by donning a manufactured garment that happens to meet the halachic specifications.

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