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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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The Impact of Your Deeds
Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: If any one of you brings an offering to G-d, you shall bring your animal from your cattle and sheep.. (VAYIKRA 1:2)
A non-religious Jew used to travel to the baths in Karlsbad /\every year for his health. The time he would go coincided 1 with the time when the famous Rabbi Yisrael Hagar, the Vishnitzer Rebbe, would be there. Because the Jew was not religious, he had no contact with the Rebbe.
Once during his yearly visit, he received a telegram with the news that he had been accused of a serious crime, and would soon be put on trial. He found out that if he lost his case he would be put in prison for many years. To prevent this, he would need expert lawyers who would cost him a fortune, and he would have to pay them within two weeks.
He had no way of raising so much money, and so he wandered around listlessly and in despair, thinking that his life was at an end. His friends encouraged him to bring his problem to the Rebbe. At first he refused, but when he saw that he had no other choice, he decided to go to him.
During his audience with the Rabbi, he was so brokenhearted/hat he cried as he told of his plight. The Rebbe gave him the amount he needed as a loan, in spite of the fact that they had never met before, and the Rebbe also blessed him with success in his forthcoming trial. Sure enough, the trial took place and the case was decided in his favor.
A few months later he came to the Rebbe to repay his debt and also to thank the Rebbe, but the Rebbe refused to accept his thanks. Explaining why, he said, "It is G-d that has helped me and given me the means to help other Jews, so why thank me?"
The man was so impressed by the Rebbe, that he changed his entire lifestyle, and began to keep Shabbos and mitzvos as his grandfather had done, even though his father had not been religious and had not taught him anything about Judaism. (OLAM CHESED YIBANEH, p. 179)
Rabbi Yisrael Hagar exemplified in his own life the ideal that your relationship with other people is always an opportunity to do chesed. This ideal also applies to marriage where our ongoing relationship with our spouses affords us endless opportunities to do chesed.
Rabbi Yossi said, "If you wish to know the reward of tzaddikim in the World to Come, come and learn from Adam, who was only commanded in one negative mitzvah lo ta'ase], and he trangressed it. See how many deaths he caused, his own and that of his generations, and the generations of the generations, until the end of the world. What middah has the greater effect, the good middah or the middah of punishment? The answer is: the good middah. 1 The effect of the middah of punishment is less; nevertheless his sin caused several deaths, his own and that of his generations, and the generations of the generations, until the end of the world. If someone repents and refrains from eating pigul [having the intention to eat the sacrifice outside its prescribed time limit], or refrains from eating nosar [eating a sacrifice after its prescribed time limit has passed], or fasts on Yom Kippur, how much more so is he benefitting himself and his generations, and the generations of the generations, until the end of all the generations. (YALKUT 479)
Why does the midrash ask about the reward of tzaddikim when everyone who performs a mitzvah will receive this tremendous reward? Why does the midrash mention the mitzvos of refraining from eating pigul or nosar when other sins are more common and more tempting? Why is refraining from eating on Yom Kippur singled out from all the other mitzvos? What is the midrash trying to teach us about keeping mitzvos?
The midrash mentions tzaddikim to show that every person who keeps a mitzvah is entitled to the great reward mentioned by our Sages, and when he does the mitzvah he is considered at that moment to be a tzaddik. Even though he may have other sins that need reckoning with, yet for performing this particular mitzvah he has the status of a tzaddik. This teaches us how much we should treasure every mitzva, and we should not give up hope because of our sins.
Pigul and nosar are two sins that lack temptation. If a person is prepared to go to the bother and expense of bringing a sacrifice to the Temple, why should he ruin it by saying that he intends to eat it outside its prescribed time limit? He has nothing to gain and much to lose from saying such a thing. The same applies to the prohibition of nosar. Since there is plenty of meat from each sacrifice, there is no temptation to eat meat that has passed its time limit.
The midrash purposely brings these two examples to impress upon us the great reward of mitzvos. The reward of even the easiest mitzvos which one is not tempted to transgress (like piggul and nosar) extends throughout all the generations. From this we can learn how much greater must be the reward for more difficult mitzvos where temptation is involved.
Fasting on Yom Kippur also fits into this category of mitzvos which have no temptation attached to them. For on Yom Kippur people are entirely engrossed in the holiness of the day and forget or are too awed to think about eating and drinking. Nevertheless, this mitzvah of fasting also receives the great reward mentioned above.
The lesson of this midrash is clear. The impact of our deeds is much greater than we realize. Adam's one sin caused death to come into the world and affected all the generations to the end of days. We see the impact of his sin constantly, since no one can escape from death.
But if this results from a single sin, imagine how many times greater is the impact of refraining from sin, or doing a mitzva. Our Sages tell us that the influence of a good middah is five hundred times greater than that of a bad middah. If the results of such a sin were felt by every one of us for so many generations, the reward for a positive mitzvah is also felt universally. In the case of Rabbi Yisrael Hagar the impact of his mitzvah was so great that it caused a person to begin observing mitzvos because of it. Even though we may not see such a dramatic impact, it nevertheless has an effect in one way or another. If we realize this and take great care not to sin, we will reap the great reward that awaits us and those who will come after us.
Our Sages say, "G-d wanted to give Israel merit, therefore
He multiplied for them the Torah and the mitzvos."2 Since
we have learned from Adam the impact of one single mitzva, we
can now appreciate why G-d wanted to multiply this reward. G-d
in His great kindness wanted to benefit us, so He gave us many
opportunities to gain that reward.
Marriage is a Gold Mine
Marriage provides endless opportunities to gain reward through mitzvos. Whenever you interact with another person, you have the choice of either speaking softly with a smile, or speaking with arrogance and severity. You can choose either to have patience or to be short tempered. You can be forgiving or relentless in looking for shortcomings and failures.
When we see marriage as an opportunity to acquire mitzvos, it takes on a new dimension. Just treating one's spouse with kindness and consideration brings with it great rewards, which will be felt for generations to come. Remind yourself of this repeatedly throughout the day, so that when you meet your spouse, you will be prepared for the challenge.
Some people are kind and polite away from home, but rude and unpleasant at home. Their public actions are for the sake of display and are not motivated by true chesed. One must learn that the most appropriate place to practice chesed is at home, where you can do so much good and gain so much reward, if you only keep your eyes open to the many opportunities that arise.
In this light, marriage is a gold mine. So many times during the
day we can obtain mitzvos so easily, right in the midst of ordinary,
mundane activities. When we understand this principle, our outlook
on marriage can only be positive. Any negative thoughts we had
in the past will be replaced by newly inspired patience for all
the trials of marriage, since we now understand that this is for
our own benefit and that of our children and grandchildren for
generations to come.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network