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.


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: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…