Torah Insights for Shabbat
Parashat Achrei-Mot/Kedoshim 5758
May 2, 1998 - Israel
May 9, 1998 - Diaspora
A similar concept is introduced in the story of the Akeidah. On the morning that he was to offer his son, Yitzchak, as a sacrifice to G-d, Avraham, the pasuk tells us, rose early and saddled his donkey for the journey. This is notable because Avraham had many servants who could have done this for him, yet he chose to saddle his own donkey in order to personally tend to every detail of his Divinely ordained mission.
Under normal circumstances, Avraham ought not to have occupied himself with the animal, for it was beneath his stature to do so. But our sages deemed Avrahams love and enthusiasm for the mitzvah great and praiseworthy. "Love [of G-d] rescinds the rules of dignified conduct."
Nonetheless, such unchecked emotion is sometimes inappropriate. If we overlook the fine, yet important, halachic details in our quest for spirituality, no matter how genuine our intentions, our behavior is unacceptable.
Though some may argue that only the goal is important, and how one gets there is secondary (for example, encouraging people to come to shul on Shabbos even if it means condoning their driving there), the Torah does not approve of such priorities.
In Nadav and Avihus noble quest to reach the heavens, their service went up in smoke. In their desire to come very close to G-d, they overstepped their bounds. By not consulting Moshe and Aharon to see whether, in fact, their exuberance was acceptable, they brought about death and destruction.
Though Pinchas is praised in the Torah for upholding
G-ds honor by slaying publicly two individuals who compromised the sanctity of the Jewish people, Shimon and Levi are criticized for a similar action, killing the people of Shechem after the rape of their sister. The difference? Shimon and Levi reacted without consulting their father, Yaakov, to determine if their actions were acceptable before G-d. Pinchas, on the other hand, did consult with Moshe, his teacher.
Even fighting for G-ds glory requires deliberation.
The story is told that Rav Chaim Volozhiner received a dubious response from his teacher, the Vilna Gaon, when he proposed opening a yeshiva in Volozhin. Consequently, Rav Chaim did not move ahead with the project.
The next time Rav Chaim visited, the Vilna Gaon asked him if the yeshiva had opened. Rav Chaim told the Gaon that it had not, since his impression was that the Gaon was not in favor of the idea.
The Vilna Gaon responded, "When you came to me the first time, you were so excited about the idea that I wasnt certain as to the motive and origin of your fervor. Now that I see that you have harnessed your fire in anticipation of your Rebbes approval, I know that your exuberance is authentic. You have my blessings for a successful venture."
Emotional highs are acceptable only if they are unadulterated, only if ones feelings are tempered by a total commitment to tradition in all its detail. We must strive every day to come closer and closer to
G-d--by following the time-tested methods of the Torah.
Rabbi Moshe Frank
Rabbi Frank is rabbi of Congregation Ezrath Israel Ellenville, NY
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