MAY 30-31, 2014 2 SIVAN 5774
"Death will separate me from you."(Ruth 1:17)
The custom is to read Megilat Ruth on Shabuot. The reason for this custom is that just as the Jewish nation accepted the Torah, so too Ruth accepted the Torah and converted to Judaism. From Ruth's attitude, we learn what our approach to the Torah should be.
Naomi had two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. Both of them longed to return with Naomi and convert to Judaism. However, there came a point that Orpah gave in and returned home, while Ruth remained and continued to press Naomi to allow her to accompany her to the Land of Israel. What was the difference between Ruth and Orpah's attitudes that eventually divided them?
Rabbi David A. Gross explains that the difference lies in a statement that Ruth made to Naomi. She declared, "Death shall separate me from you." Ruth and Orpah both understood that entering the nation of Israel required various changes to their lifestyles. Orpah was ready to sacrifice her past ways and customs for a life of Torah. The key word in her outlook was "sacrifice." She felt she was depriving herself of luxuries and pastimes and yet she was still willing to forgo everything to become Jewish. However, like most personal sacrifices that require long-term commitment, there comes a breaking point where one says that he had enough deprivation. Orpah was willing to sacrifice things, but her resolve was only able to withstand the sacrifice for a certain period of time. After Naomi's cajoling that she should return home, Orpah finally gave in.
Imagine a class is going on a trip to Niagara Falls. The bus ride is long; it requires everyone to wake up at 5:30 a.m. so they can leave on time and enjoy a full day. The trip costs a lot of money. They return late at night exhausted with school starting on time the next morning. Does anyone feel bad for all the "sacrifice" the class made for the trip? The answer is simple; no one sacrificed anything. Everyone understands that in order to have a great time there are costs. Costs are not sacrifices.
Ruth also knew that her life must change. However, she was not sacrificing a thing. She understood that without Torah she had no life. Torah would give her life in this world and the next. "Death will separate us," she declared; she understood that to leave Naomi at this point was tantamount to giving up her life. She could not do that. If there were costs along the way for this life, they were a small price to pay for her reward.
This is the mindset that every Jew must have. There are many things in this world that we may not "benefit" from as a result of our abiding by the Torah. However, our attitude should never be that we are deprived or must sacrifice. Rather, we should realize that we live the richest and fullest lives with our Torah observance. We have life in this world and in the next world. The various prohibitions and restrictions within our lives are small costs to pay. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
The Talmud relates a fascinating episode. When Moshe went up to the heavens to receive the Torah, the heavenly angels didn't want to let the Torah go down to earth. Moshe was afraid to tackle the angels but Hashem told him to answer them. Moshe then told the angels, "Why do you want the Torah? Did you go out of Egypt? Do you have parents to honor? Do you steal, murder, etc.?" At that point they agreed with Moshe and let the Torah come down to the Jewish people and even gave Moshe "gifts." The question is obvious. What was the angels' point and how did Moshe convince them otherwise?
The Rabbis tell us that of course the angels knew they could not fulfill the Torah. However, they wanted to be the ones to decide the laws of the Torah. If ever there is a controversy or a question, the Heavenly Academy should be the decider. Moshe told them, you have to be involved and obligated in order to decide the laws of the Torah. The Torah is not just a subject to voice our opinions on; it is a way of life. If we live a life of Torah and study thoroughly, we have the ability to expound upon it and indeed even be one of the deciders of the Torah. All of our great scholars were indeed permeated with Torah through and through and were able to decide the halachah. It's amazing that although no one would ever contradict a brain surgeon as to his field of expertise, many people venture an opinion in halachah without even studying the subject. Let us recommit ourselves this Shabuot holiday to study, to learn, to understand and indeed to live a life of Torah. Tizku Leshanim Rabot.
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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