Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parsha Ki Tavo- Between us and Hshem

This weeks parsha contains an interesting statement

17. You have selected the Lord this day, to be your God, and to walk in His ways, and to observe His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and to obey Him.   יז. אֶת יְ־הֹוָ־ה הֶאֱמַרְתָּ הַיּוֹם לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹהִים וְלָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו וְלִשְׁמֹר חֻקָּיו וּמִצְוֹתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו וְלִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקֹלוֹ:

Aside from the obvious statement that this makes, that we chose to sever Hashem, that we are to obey the written Torah (statutes), Oral Torah i.e. Mishnah (commandments) and Rabbinical gezeirot (ordinances) equally (they are all stated as coming from Hashem as the laws of the Rabbis are derived from the Torah utilising the rules Hashem gave to Moshe), HaRav Moshe Feinstein brings an interesting lesson from here as well.  Rav Moshe points out that there are three ways to serve Hashem stated in this verse:

1) to be your God = you should have pure faith in Hashem.  We selected him as such and should not doubt his existence 2) to walk in His ways= we should emulate the attributes of Hashem.  We should show mercy, kindness, understanding towards others.   3) to obey Him= to serve Hashem with love and happiness.

We are told in the Torah that we should noth love and fear Hashem- yet this teaching of Rav Moshe emphasies the fact that serving Hashem with love is superior to serving him from fear or for the reward.  The same concept is found in Pirkei Avot Chapter 1 3. Antignos of Socho received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He would say: Do not be as slaves, who serve their master for the sake of reward. Rather, be as slaves who serve their master not for the sake of reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.

Here Antigonus Ish Socho states that we should serve Hasham purely for the sake of it, not for expectation of reward.  But he also states that we should fear Hashem.  Is this a two edged sword?  How do we balance love with fear?  what are the limits to happiness?  In masechta Bava Basra it states that Iyov received his share of the world to come in this world and thus he did not know true happiness.  There is a concept that the chachamim bring that the fires of Gehinnom are 60 times hotter than the fires of this world (all figurative of course- Gehinnom does not have real fires but the metaphorical burning the soul feels when it is faced the its wrong doings in this world).  Howver, we do not find the chachamim describing the pleasures of Olam HaBa.  Why not?  The opinion is offered that since the Olam haBa is so sublime that it cannot be described- merely standing outside it for an hour is equal to all the pleasures of this world- and if nearly being near it is such a leasure to the soul, how much more so would it be to be within its confines!

Considering that, how could we help but rejoice in serving Hashem?  The ultimate reward is something beyond description and superlatives.  Yet we find reminders to fear Hashem while being told how we should love him.  similar to the relationship between a father and his children- the father occasionally needs to discipline his children, an activity no child enjoys and fears, but at the same time there is an immense love between the two and the child will generally do what the father wants, not because he fears the discipline of the father- but because he loves his father and wants that approval and recipricocity of feeling.

Thus it is between us and hashem.  we should be serving him b’simcha.  We should serve Hashem b’ahava, but we should aslo serve hashem b’yira.

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September 4, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , ,

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