Parsha Perspectives Class with Rabbi Tiechtel

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How mitzvos interact with and impact our life

It’s no secret that being a Jew is full of do’s and don’ts. What is less known, though, is why

that is.

In this week’s Parsha the Jews are crowned by Hashem as His ‘am segulah’ His treasure,

and we are then given the Torah which of course enjoins us with all the dos and don’ts.

Why does Hashem need us to fulfill so many mitzvos, and with so many details and

particular laws.

Couldn’t He have sufficed with a few general over-arching rules and call it a day?

As it turns it isn’t He who ‘needs’ the mitzvos, but us.

Each mitzvah opens a conduit of blessing into our life, and in some cases it’s very clear

which mitzvah is a segulah for what exact need we might have.

Man is nothing but a mini-cosmo, a little world of its own, and the Torah is the blueprint for

that world. There are corresponding numbers of mitzvos as there are limbs, sinews, and

days of the year.

That’s because they are all profoundly intertwined and enjoined by a common goal to

infuse the entire world, in all its dimensions, with g-dliness.

 

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SOURCE SHEET

 

1. Igros Kodesh vol. 12 Letter 4041

Loose translation

You presumably hear kiddush and havdallah (each week), and you also take a sip

from the Kiddush wine, and – in accordance with the tradition – you dip your fingers

in the wine leftover from the havdallah blessing, then passing those fingers above

the eyes. This final tradition is quoted in the holy books, as being a positive omen

(segulah) for good eyesight.

Ibid. vol. 19 Letter 7127

Loose translation

Since in the Jewish person the spiritual and physical dimensions work in tandem,

and our sages have taught (Pesachim 119a) “and all the sustenance that was at

their feet” (Deuteronomy 11:6). Rabbi Elazar said: This is referring to a person’s

money that stands him upon his own two feet.” I therefore suggest that you give

generously to Tzedakah, in the literal form, and in particular to institutions of Jewish

education al taharat hakodesh, which are also analogous to the feet of the larger

body of the Jewish nation, and thus will certainly contribute to your individual

vitality.

 

2. Tractate Sotah 49a

The mishna states that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says in the name of Rabbi

Yehoshua: From the day that the Temple was destroyed, there is no day that

does not include some form of curse. Rava says: Each and every day is more

cursed than the previous one, as it is stated in the chapter detailing the curses in

the book of Deuteronomy: “In the morning you will say, would that it were

evening, and in the evening you will say, would that it were morning”

(Deuteronomy 28:67). It is unclear which morning the verse means. If we say that

in the evening he will wish it would be the following morning, does he know

what will be the outcome of the next morning, which would cause him to yearn for

its arrival? Rather, it must mean the morning that has passed; that is, in the

evening they will pine for the previous morning, because their situation is

continuously worsening.

The Gemara poses a question: But if everything is deteriorating, why does the

world continue to exist? The Gemara answers: By the sanctification that is said in

the order of prayers, after the passage that begins: And a redeemer shall come to

Israel, which includes the recitation and translation of the sanctification said by the

angels, and by the response: Let His great name be blessed, etc., which is recited

after the study of aggada.

English Summary + Sources- Class by Rabbi Shneor Ashkenazi – Yisro 5783 3

Rashi ad loc.

BY THE SANCTIFICATION THAT IS SAID IN THE ORDER OF PRAYERS – This refers

to the kedusha (in Uva LeTzion), which was instituted so that all of Israel would be

involved in Torah study at least a bit each day. One recites the verse [in the Holy

Tongue] and then its [Aramaic] translation and this counts as Torah study. And

since this tradition is practiced by both the learned and the laymen, and it has a

double advantage in that it mentions the sanctification of G‑d’s name and the

sanctification of the Torah, it is precious.

The same is true for ‘amen yehei shmei rabbah’ that is recited after the study of

aggada, where the lecturer lectures in public.

Conclusion of Pirkei Avos

Said Rabbi Hananiah ben Akashya: It pleased the Holy Blessed One to grant merit to

Israel, that is why He gave them Torah and commandments in abundance, as it is

said, “The Lord was pleased for His righteousness, to make Torah great and

glorious”

Rashi ad loc.

Rabbi Chananya ben Akashia says, etc.: He did not say his statement concerning

Tractate Avot, but rather in Tractate Makkot in [the chapter entitled] Ellu hen

HaLokin. And since there is a nice ending to it, all the people are accustomed to say

it at the end of each and every chapter.

Pirush Hamishnayos, Maimonides – Makos 3:16

It is among the fundamental principles of the Torah that when an individual fulfills

one of the 613 commandments in a fit and proper manner, not combining with it

any aspect of worldly intent but rather doing it for its own sake, out of love, then

they merit the World to Come through this single act. This is what R' Hananya meant

- being that the Holy One have us so many commandments it is impossible that in a

lifetime one not do a single one in a full and proper manner, and in doing so their

soul will live through that act. When R' Hananya ben Tradiyon's asked 'will I merit

to life in the coming world' and received the response 'have you ever done

anything?' this also indicated the same principle. The answer he received meant

'have you ever had the chance to do one of the commandments properly?' His

answer was that he once had the chance to give tzedaka in a wholehearted fashion,

as much as is possible, and it was through this that he merited to life in the World to

Come.

 

3. Olam – World

Devarim Rabbah 6:3

English Summary + Sources- Class by Rabbi Shneor Ashkenazi – Yisro 5783 4

Wherever one goes, mitzvos will follow him there, as it stated: “When you will build

a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof”

If you make a doorway (scripture enjoins you to do a mitzvah, as it is stated), “And

you shall inscribe it upon the doorposts of your home.”

If you wear a new garment (scripture enjoins you to do a mitzvah, as it is stated)

“You shall not wear shatnez.”

If you go to shave (scripture enjoins you to do a mitzvah, as it is stated) “You shall

not round off the corners of your head”.

If you go to plow (scripture enjoins you to do a mitzvah, as it is stated) “You shall

now plow with an ox and a donkey together”

If you harvest (scripture enjoins you to do a mitzvah, as it is stated) “When you reap

your harvest in your field, if you forget a sheaf in the field, do not return to take it”

And even when one is merely walking on his way (scripture enjoins you to do a

mitzvah, as it is stated) “If there chance before you a bird's nest on the way”

Shana – Time

Tractate Makkos 32b

Rabbi Simlai taught: There were 613 mitzvot stated to Moses in the Torah,

consisting of 365 prohibitions corresponding to the number of days in the solar

year, and 248 positive mitzvot corresponding to the number of a person’s limbs.

Nefesh – Mankind

Zohar on Vayishlach

Man has 248 limbs to be able to receive the 248 positive commandments, and 365

sinews corresponding to the 365 negative commandments, and corresponding to

the 365 days of the solar year.

Likkutei Sichos vol. 17 p. 412

Loose translation and synopsis

The Hebrew word zechus, merit, is etymologically related to the word zikuch, or

refinement; this is to say that the divine will of G‑d is not just for man to become

subservient to and absorbed by g-dliness, but also for him to refine himself, so that

beyond abnegating himself before G‑d, he absorbs g-dliness in his form and become

one entity with G‑d.

This is why we say that G‑d gave Torah and Mitzvos in abundance, because each

mitzvah has a specific refining effect on a particular part of the person.

 

4. Igros Kodesh Vol. 7 p. 19

English Summary + Sources- Class by Rabbi Shneor Ashkenazi – Yisro 5783 5

Loose translation

There is a well-known dictum of our sages that teaches that the 248 positive

commandments correspond to man’s 248 limbs and the 365 negative

commandments correspond to his 365 sinews.

This is not mere numeral coincidence or allegory; rather this implies that man’s

limbs nurture their life-force from the observance of the positive commandments,

and mans’ sinews and veins are at their best performance in assuring one’s health

and form by allowing the unobstructed blood flow around the body, when they are

employed in the observance of the 365 negative commandments.

As is self-understood, the spiritual and the physical dimension of the Jewish person

are not two separate entities, rather they are truly one, and interdependent on one

another.

Sefer Hamaamorim 5708 p. 240 footnote 6

Regarding the fact that we find numerous sages who were especially cautious in the

performance of specific mitzvos over others […] this is based on a teaching of the

Eitz Chaim […] that it is related to the spiritual placement of one’s soul within the

larger soul of Adam.