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Thought for the Day: The Contradiction of Earned Reward Vs It's All a Gift

I try to have my learning organized and scheduled; things work more efficiently that way.  I also hate to be bored; I get all antsy and stuff.  Given that I strive to get to shul at least a few minutes before davening (running in, panting "ashrei" on the inhale, "yoshvei" on the exhale, "veisecha" on the inhale, "od" on the exhale, etc... is just not my idea of setting the right tone to greet the Creator).  That means I need to get there a few minutes early, and that means that I need something to do in those few minutes.  It has to be something I can start and finish in a (variable number of) few minutes.  During the week I often work on shnayim mikra v'echad targum, but on erev Shabbos (when I have a bit more time, typically) my "go to" sefer is Ta'alei Oros, which contains beautiful, succinct gems on the parsha.  The gem I saw last Friday night is still putting extra bounce in my step and sparkle in my eyes.

Rashi brings a medrash at the beginning of parshas Vayikra that has bothered me for years.  Every time I open a sefer that even might explain this Rashi, I go there first.  I have seen lots of p'shatim.  The best are good enough to explain the words, but left me feeling the real essence was just out of reach.  The Torah says, "adam ki yakriv"/when a person will bring an offering (vayikra 1:2).  The medrash comments on the unusual choice of word "adam" (as opposed to "ish", or just "ki yakriv"):
Just as Adam haRishon did not bring offerings from stolen property, since everything was his, you should also not bring from stolen property.
It's not bad enough that my first thought was "umm... Adam didn't couldn't bring stolen property; there was no one else from whom to steal!"... oh no, the medrash feels it actually needs to point that painfully obvious fact out to me!  Of course, the medrash said "because everything was his", whereas I would have said "because there was no one from whom to steal"; but what difference could that make?  All the difference in the world, as it turns out.

Let's take a step back.  How likely is it that a penitent is going to steal an animal to bring as a korban.  Does seem a bit counter-productive, no?  So where are you going to get a case of stolen goods being brought on the mizbei'ach that the Torah has to tell you not to do?  Chazal assured gambling (stay with me on this) because of "asmachta lo kanya" -- even though a person has agreed to give up his money if he loses the bet, he didn't really expect to lose and so his agreement is not genuine; hence, the one who takes the money has essentially stolen money in his hands.  The better, after all, as worked hard for his money and feels that it is his money.  He might use it to trade for something he wants more (a blender, for example), but if he doesn't get anything back, he feels he has been robbed.

Our medrash doesn't mean that someone will bring a stolen animal as a korban, it means that he will feel he has been robbed of his animal... and the mizbei'ach is the thief!  (cf. Sukkah 56b, last shtikle).  Adam haRishon -- davka because everything belonged to him and had been given to him; ie, he had not worked hard for it and there was plenty more where that came from -- didn't feel the slightest twinge of losing something when he brought a korban.  That's the attitude with which someone needs to bring a korban; he got it for free and there is plenty more where that came from.

Our constant avodah in this world is to put in full hishtadlus, all the while knowing that results are independent of that hishtadlus.


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