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Thought for the Day: There Are 613 Independent Mitzvos

The first mishna in Chulin discusses what it takes to make sh'chita kosher.  Basically, a Jew who is chayiv in mitzvos must have intent to shecht, then the meat will be kosher.  If a goy shechts, the animal is n'veila; ie, just dead, but not kosher.  See there for more details.  The one that really surprised me, however, was the last case of the mishna: a Jew who shechts on Shabbos -- even though he has incurred the death penalty -- the animal is kosher.

To have incurred the death penalty means that there was nothing accidental about the act.  Two kosher witnesses warned him that today is Shabbos and that slaughtering an animal in Shabbos is a capital crime.  He responded, "I understand.  I know it is Shabbos, I know that to slaughter and animal is a capital crime.  Even so, I am choosing to violate Shabbos with full knowledge and intent."  Then he slaughters the animal toch k'dei dibur (within 3 or 4 seconds).  Even so, the meat is kosher.

For the meat to be kosher, however, he must have also had intent to fulfill the Will of his Creator by fulfilling the mitzvah of sh'chita.  With one and the same act, this Jew is rebelling against his Creator and also fulfilling the Will of his Creator!  Not only is this an act of rebellion, it is among the worst kind of rebellions: he got nothing out of it.  He has no excuse.  He certainly can't claim that he made a reckless mistake, or that his worldly desires (ta'avos) got the better of him; he can't even plead temporary insanity.  All that, and his sh'chita is still good; his intent to perform a mitzvah is untarnished.

This is a powerful reminder that even though we are not living up to the high ideals of a complete Torah lifestyle, there is still value in doing mitzvos -- big value.  If that's true during an act of rebellion, it is all the more so when my failure is not due to rebellion at all.  I believe in HaShem and that He created both me and the entire world.  I know the Torah is true.  But I am human and have human failings.  I am not proud of all my doings, but I don't feel them as acts of rebellion at all.  Even so, I can feel that if I am violating A, B, and even C, what' the point in doing X, Y, or even Z.  That's wrong.  There is value beyond human understanding in the the smallest acts.

kol ha'omer HaShem vatran, m'vater al chayav -- anyone who thinks that HaShem will let aveiros slide by unnoticed is tragically fooling himself.  But anyone who thinks that HaShem doesn't take all extenuating circumstances into account and will not reward even the smallest gestures must never have felt a father's love.

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