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Parshas Vaeschanan

Fear and Reward
by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

This week's Parsha contains the mitzva of Yiras Hashem, Fear of G-d. This is one of the six constant mitzvos; one is obliged to fear Him every second of the day. If one is tempted to sin, he must arouse himself and reflect that Hashem observes our every action and metes out punishment for any wrong doing ( Sefer HaChinuch mitzva 432).

Included in this commandment is the obligation to fear talmidei chachamim. One may not sit or stand in a talmid chacham's place. Nor can one contradict him (see Kiddushin 31b). The source of this teaching is the following Gemara.

The Gemara (Pesachim 22b) relates that Shimon HaEmsoni (others say Nechamia HaEmsoni) expounded every passuk, verse, which contained the word 'es'. However when he reached the passuk 'es Hashem Elochecha tira, you should fear Hashem (Devarim 6:13), he ceased to expound the Torah in this manner. The Torah is consistent. If there is even one place where the word 'es' appears that cannot include something then that proves that the word ''es'' was not written to expound for the His students asked if all his eforts were in vain? Shimon HaEmsoni responded "K'shem shekabalti s'char al hadrisha kach ani mekabel s'char al haprisha- Just as I received reward for expounding the Torah, I will also receive s'char for retracting what I previously taught."

The Gemara continues that Rabbi Akiva said that we may include talmidei chachamim; we should fear our teachers as we fear Hashem (Rashi). The Maharal explains the word 'es' comes to include something that is connected to the main source. How then can something be included with the fear of Hashem as everything is so far removed from Him? To this R' Akiva responded that by immersing themselves in the Torah, talmidei chachamim become attached to the Ribbono Shel Olam and can be included in this mitzva.

The Ben Yehoyada asks why didn't Shimon HaEmsoni merit to expound this passuk? He answers that Hashem deprived him of this teaching so that He may reward him for retracting his earlier teachings. We might speculate that it was Shimon HaEmsoni's words that inspired R' Akiva to include talmidei chachamim in this passuk.

R' Akiva saw that despite all the years that Shimon HaEmsoni invested in expounding every 'es' in the Torah, nevertheless he was prepared to retract all his teachings because of just one inconsistency. Only one who has reached a level that he is attached to Hashem can so easily admit that he was wrong. Furthermore, Shimon HaEmsoni did not say that just as I will receive reward for expounding the Torah, I will receive reward for retracting my previous expositions. Rather, he said, just as I received reward for expounding the Torah, I will receive reward for retracting my previous expositions. But did he receive his reward yet (see Ben Yehoyada)? Rather, Simon HaEmsoni understood that when one toils in Torah l'shma for the sake of Torah, then whatever he expounds is considered Torah, even if it is not halachicaly correct.

The Nefesh HaChaim (4:6) elaborates on this theme. He explains that when we toil in Torah, Hashem is echoing each word that we utter at the same time. As we find in Gittin (6b), R'Avisar and R'Yonason had a disagreement regarding the p'legesh b'givaa. When R'Avisar met Eliyahu Hanavi he asked "What was Hashem doing at the time of our disagreement?". Eliyahu answered, "He was studying the subject of p'legesh b'givaa, and saying 'My son Avisar said this and my son Yonason said that.'"

This is the meaning of David HaMelech's words, "Tov li Toras picha mei'alfei zahav vakesef" - "The Torah of Your mouth is better for me than thousands in gold and silver" (Tehillim 119:12). David rejoiced when he toiled in Torah for he appreciated the meaning of the Torah of "Your mouth". Each and every word that he was presently learning was not just said by Hashem in the past at Har Sinai, it was also being repeated by Him here and now.

From here R' Akiva was inspired. Since through toiling in Torah, one becomes attached to Hashem, they can be included in fear of Hashem.Shimon HaEmsoni was the living embodiment of this concept This is a consolation for our loss of the Beis hamikdash. Although we do not have the Beis Hamikdash, and cannot offer Karbonos at present, nevertheless we can be close to Hashem through learning His Torah. Let us appreciate this wonderful opportunity that Hashem has granted us.

Please daven and learn for Chizkiyahu ben Devorah Mindel for a refua sheleima.

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper, provided that this notice is included intact.

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