Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Serving HaShem Out of Love and Out of Fear

Last year, one of my grandsons (along with the rest of his family) moved to  Florida from New York; an aliyah if there ever was one.  They have a different kind of nisayon for Sukkos there.  In Chicago (and apparently in Poland, based on the Rema) we are all worried about how to deal with the cold (layer, is the eitza; suffer is the reality) and bees.  In Florida, on the other hand, it is 90 degrees in the shade, 95% humidity, and mosquitoes as big as your fist.  (I exaggerate, of course, it's only 90% humidity.)  My grandson, all of four, wanted nothing more than to eat in the Sukkah.  They took a family vote; his quivering lower lip won the day and they all donated generously to the Mosquito Red Cross blood drive.

The Rambam (Hilchos T'shuva, Chapter 10, Halacha 1) says that person should not say, "I'll fulfill all the mitzvos of the Torah and to be delve into its wisdom in order to receive all the brachos or so I'll merit the eternal life of Olam HaBah."  Nor should he say, "I won't do any aveiros because I don't want to get punished with all the curses or lose Olam HaBah."  Why not?  It's just not appropriate; a person who serves HaShem that way is only serving out of yirah -- fear.  (I was interested to see that wanting Olam HaBah is an aspect of avodah out of fear, frankly.)  The only people who serve HaShem that way are the unlearned, women, and children.  For people like that, you have to educate (m'chanech) them to serve HaShem from fear until they reach the intellectual maturity to serve Him from love.  Obviously this is not how I picture myself.

In Halacha 2, the Rambam describes serving HaShem from love (the only other option, apparently) as serving HaShem simply because it's the right thing to do; Emes is Emes.  Ok... now we're talking!  The Rambam then notes that this is an extremely exalted level and not something that can be attained by even the greatest sages.  In fact, this is the level at which Avraham Avinu operated.

Hang on, Rabbi Maimonides!  First you tell me what a low thing it is to serve HaShem from yirah, then you tell me that anything else is beyond my reach!

Perhaps there is another option.  The Rambam describes the path to get from yirah to ahava.  The proper Torah way to m'chanech children, women, and the unlearned (pretty clear in which of those categories I fall, isn't it) is to bribe them.  To a four year only, you say, "Yes, we'll eat in the Sukkah so you can feel proud in pre-school."  When he gets a bit older, "Yes, I'll give you $10 for each daf of gemara you learn."  A bit older, "Yes, people will call you rabbi and treat you with respect."  A bit older, "Yes, you can be rosh yeshivah."  (I heard from R' Chaim Dov Keller, shlita, that the motivation of being called rosh yeshiva lasts a long time.)

It's not where you are... we all start at yira; it's where your aspirations are.

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…