Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…