August 13, 2014

In this week’s parsha we have one of the most central mitzvot in the Torah: “loving and serving God.” Rashi gives us insight into this ultimate mitzva. Deut. 11:13 “to love the Lord” Rashi: You should not say: “I will learn in order to become rich,” [or] “in order to be referred to as ‘Rabbi,’” [or] “in order that I receive a reward.” Rather, whatever you do, do out of love [for God], and ultimately, the honour will come.- [Sifrei] לאהבה את ה’: שלא תאמר הרי אני לומד בשביל שאהיה עשיר, בשביל שאקרא רב, בשביל שאקבל שכר. אלא כל מה שתעשו עשו מאהבה וסוף הכבוד לבא: The command to love God is problematic on several points. How can we be commanded to love; love is a spontaneous emotion, how can it be commanded? Can it be ordered on will? And, even if it were possible, how is one to love God, a spiritual Being, who cannot be seen or approached? Rashi’s comment is meant to show us how this “love of God” can be practically accomplished. His answer is that we do God’s mitzvot for the love of Hashem and for no other ulterior purpose. Such a request can indeed be expected of man, for it is an act for which one can willfully strive. That said, there are several questions that can be asked on Rashi’s comment. Why does Rashi (the Midrash actually) choose learning as the example of a mitzva that a person should not do for ulterior motives? Why not any of the other 612 mitzvot? Also, why does Rashi say “in order to be rich” but when it comes to being a Rabbi he says “in order to be called Rabbi”? Why doesn’t he use parallel wording “in order to be a Rabbi”? A third question. Why does Rashi add at the end of this comment “and in the end, the honour will come”? Are we not talking about learning for the love of Hashem – “for its own sake”? Why the need to tack on the surprise ending of receiving the reward of “honour”? It seems that Rashi chose learning Torah as the mitzvah because our verse begins with “And it will be if you hear diligently” – this seems to mean learning. On this basis Rashi speaks of studying the Torah, more so than any other mitzvah. Rashi is pointing out life goals which are of questionable value. Being a Rabbi is a not a goal of questionable value; being a teacher in Israel is an admirable occupation. But if one does this mainly for the honor he is given as a Rabbi, being “called” a Rabbi, then he has missed the point and has exploited Torah for personal gain. 0ne should be a rabbi not just be called “rabbi”. Serving God for love would seem to be its own reward. But the Torah itself suggests rewards here. See the following verse (14) “And I will give the rains in their time” etc. So rewards are promised even though we are enjoined to serve God out of love. This is similar to the lesson from the Sayings of the Fathers (1:3) “Don’t be like servants who serve their master in order to receive reward; rather, be like servants who serve their master not in order to receive reward.” Note that it does not say “in order not to receive reward”; that would mean that we relinquish all consideration of reward. If we do a mitzva we are entitled to reward, but that should not be our primary motivation for doing it in the first place. “And in the end, honor will come.” We should note a nuance of Rashi’s phrasing. He says: “And in the end, honor will come.” He does not say: “And honor will come in the end.” These two versions say essentially the same thing. But there is a subtle difference. “And honour will come in the end,” implies that honour (the first word in the phrase is the emphasized word) is uppermost in his mind. He is waiting patiently. When will it come? In other words, he still has the mindset of receiving something for his mitzva – he looks forward to the honour he will gain, albeit after a while. Whereas the phrase “And in the end, honor will come,” has a different emphasis. Honour is almost an afterthought. It comes after “the end,” after the mitzva has been completed and the person is ready to move on to something else. The implication is that the honour he receives at the end is anticlimactic; it is something he has neither expected nor striven for. If a Rabbi has done his job faithfully, then, like Moses the first rabbi, honour might come posthumously, “in the end!” Shabbat shalom Rabbi Meir Wise


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