title.jpg (23972 bytes) subscribe

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues


"The entire word that I command you, that shall you observe to do; you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it" (Devarim 13:1).

The question is often asked, while we surely understand that one should not subtract from the Torah, what is wrong with adding to it? If someone wants to do more mitzvahs than the Torah commanded him, more power to him.

The famous Dubner Maggid zt"l (Rabbi Ya'akov of Dubna, who was beloved by all of his listeners, including the Gaon of Vilna ztvk"l) always had a fitting parable to answer the questions he was asked or asked himself. The following is no exception.

Reuvain was a wealthy man with expensive artifacts in his home. Shim'on, his neighbor, was less fortunate but got along through life in his own, conniving way. One day, he knocked on Reuvain's door and asked if he could borrow a silver spoon for a few days. Reuvain was a bit apprehensive but decided to do the mitzvah properly and loaned it to him with a smile. Three days later, Shim'on returned the spoon together with another, similar, small one. "What is this?" asked Reuvain incredulously. "Mazel tov," declared Shim'on jubilantly. "Your silver spoon had a baby boy!"

Reuvain looked at his neighbor suspiciously, but when he saw that he was serious, he put on a straight face and accepted his spoon together with its "newborn."

The next week, Shim'on was at the door again. This time, he asked if he could borrow a silver cup for a week. Reuvain was skeptical but decided to go for it again, especially when he remembered how things worked out the last time. Sure enough, one week later Shim'on returned a silver cup together with a smaller, similar one. "What happened now?" asked Reuvain startled. "Mazel tov," Shim'on roared elatedly. "Your silver cup had a baby girl!" Reuvain thought to himself that this guy is really nuts, but what do I care. He happily accepted his silver cup along with its "baby."

By the time the next week came along, Reuvain was waiting for Shim'on and hoping that he would borrow something even more expensive which would "propagate" by him. Sure enough, Shim'on did not disappoint him and he didn't have to wait long. "What can I do for you today?" asked Reuvain, in a jovial mood. "I would like to borrow your diamond studded gold watch for one day," replied Shim'on. "Sure, no problem," responded Reuvain, immediately handing over his most expensive timepiece. "You can even have it for two days if need be." Shim'on took the watch and Reuvain waited for him to return it with another one.

One day passed, and Shim'on did not return. Reuvain remembered that he had offered the watch for up to two days and did not worry much. However, when two more days passed with no word from Shim'on, he began to get nervous. He called Shim'on several times but there was no answer. Finally, he went over to his house and knocked on the door. Shim'on answered and asked what he wanted. Quite surprised at the question, Reuvain replied that he came to get his watch back. "Oh that," said Shim'on sadly. "Baruch Dayan Ha'emes (Blessed is the True Judge, a prayer recited upon hearing evil tidings). I'm very sorry to inform you that it passed away last night."

Reuvain was beside himself and didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this insane statement. "What kind of an idiot do you take me for?" he shouted. "How can a watch die? Who ever heard of such a thing? Are you crazy?"

Calmly, Shim'on stared Reuvain straight in the eye. "My dear neighbor," he said in mock cordiality. "I didn't hear you questioning my sanity the last two times we had dealings with each other. Believe me, if a spoon and a cup can give birth, then a watch can die!"v The same thing, says the Maggid, applies to the Torah. One day, a person will add a mitzvah to the Torah. The next day he'll add several more. Then, one day he'll decide that he doesn't like a certain mitzvah in the Torah and wants to remove it from the list. If someone will chastise him and ask how he has the audacity to tamper with the Torah which was written by Hashem Himself, he will surely answer, "No one complained when I added some mitzvahs. If I can make the list longer, then I can make it shorter too!"

Therefore Hashem admonished us not to dare touch His Holy Torah. "You shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it." He wants us to keep all of His mitzvahs religiously and not meddle with them. If we do this, we will surely be happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel