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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.


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