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Thought for the Day: M'nuval b'R'shus haTorah

Deprive a human being of oxygen for just a few minutes and he will be dead; kicked the bucket, bought the farm, the fat lady has sung, pushing up daisies, expired.  Something that important to life must play a very important role in the living organism.  Oh... it does indeed; it takes out the garbage.  Living cells produce waste, and that waste is toxic to life.  Each cell can produce enough life threatening toxins in just a few minutes to kill itself.  So you breathe oxygen into your lungs and the blood circulates through them picking up fresh oxygen and dropping off carbon dioxide.  Where did the carbon dioxide come from?  The oxygen in in blood combines with the toxins produced by the cells to form carbon dioxide; in the process carrying those toxins away from the cell.  So oxygen is the garbage truck.

Besides the fact that it's very difficult to imagine how evolution would produce a system that is on the verge of killing itself every minute (hint: evolution didn't produce that system), there is a very important lesson to learn from oxygen.  To whit: you have to work just to stay alive, even for just a few moments.  No matter how passive you feel, life is one grand "kum asei" (get up and do) and not at all a "shev v'lo ta'aseh" (sit and let it happen).

We need that introduction to understand the phrase "m'nuval b'rshus haTorah" -- m'nuval with the permission of the Torah; a phrase introduced by the Ramban in explaining the mitzvah of k'doshim t'hi'yu -- you shall be holy.  The word "m'nuval" in modern parlance usually refers to someone involved in z'nus.  How in the world does someone do that with permission of the Torah haK'dosha?!?

Simple... we just need to clarify our understanding of the two words "m'nuval" and "z'nus".  The verb "naval" actually just means "to wither".  A "n'veila" is a carcass; an animal that wasn't killed by sh'chita nor violence, just died.  So "m'nuval" really means someone who just allowed himself to die; he just didn't put the effort into staying alive, ridding himself of toxins.  What about z'nus?  See the second bi'ur halacha, where the Mishna Brura explains that there are six constant mitzvos.  Near the end he explains z'nus as follows: any running to fulfill a desire without any thought for keeping himself healthy to be able to better serve his creator, but just to increase his pleasure.  Doesn't matter whether that activity is eating glatt kosher, chasidishe sh'chita meat, or drinking a fine wine with 18 shtark hechsharim, or just taking a nap.  If it is done simply for the pleasure of it, then it's z'nus.  If it becomes a life ambition, the person is heading toward being a m'nuval.

Removing the spiritual toxins is an active and constant process.  It requires a constant infusion of Torah and mitzvos.  And that means a constant battle with the yeitzer hara.  Just like breathing, that battle is every moment of your life.  Decide to stop the battle and just give in to the pleasure for its own sake is holding your breath.  You can't do that for very long.


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