Sent: Friday, August 15, 2008 12:33 AM
Subject: Netvort:parshas Vaeschanan
By Rabbi Joshua (insatiably known as The Hoffer) Hoffman
Before his oration to the people about the mitzvos that God had commanded them,Moshe set aside three cities of refuge on the eastern side of the Yardein , or Jordan River ( Devarim 4:41).Even though these cities would not provide refuge until after the nation entered Eretz Yisroel proper and set aside the other three cities of refuge there , Moshe ,in his great desire to perform the mitzvos,was eager to perform even what the Rambam, in his commentary to the Mishneh in Makkos,describes as 'part of a mitzvah.' (' chatzi mitzvah').The Talmud ( Makkos,10a),in describing this attitude of Moshe towards the fulfillment of mitzvos, cites the verse in Koheles(5:9),'one who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver,' and paraphrases it to say that one who loves mitzvos will not be satiated with mitzvos.On its face,this comparison is very difficult to understand.What does the desire for something so material as money have to do with something so spiritual as a desire for mitzvos,and,by ,extension,for a relationship with God? Rav Mordechai Gifter,in his Pirkei Torah to parshas Vaeschanan,offers an interpretation of the message of this comparison I would like to present this interpretation,as well as a different one,which is based on a thought I heard from Rav Gifter (on a tape) but which he does not utilize to explain this Talmudic passage..
Rav Gifter explains that it is very difficult for man to conceive that he can have an overwhelming love for the mitzvos. Therefore, King Shlomo, the wisest of all men, taught us,in Koheles, that man has,implanted in his psyche, an overwhelming desire for money,and that, in fact,the more he feeds this desire,the more it grows.Once man realizes this, he will have some sense of the powers that exist within him. The intention behind this teaching is that man will then transfer those powers over into something more meaningful than money,,namely,a desire for mitzvos. Moreover,says Rabbi Gifter,when one thinks deeper into this phenomenon of an insatiable desire for material goods,he must ask himself why this is so, i.e.,why is it that man is not able to satisfy his desire for the material? He must come to the conclusion that this desire was implanted in him in order to be used for a higher,spiritual purpose.In fact,this inner power is really a spiritual one,but man generally uses it for material strivings.In essence,this power derives from a spiritual source,and that, in fact,is why it cannot be satisfied,because,by definition,there is no limit to spirituality.We can never reach the level of holiness of God,and,so,the quest for heightened spirituality never ends..Although Rabbi Gifter then goes on to encourage people to use this power in endless striving for its intended purpose,to attain greater spirituality through the avenues of Torah and mitzvos,rather than through the attainment of the material,whose value he minimizes. Although he does not mention this, Rabbi Gifter's presentation here is very similar to that of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in the first chapter of his classic work Mesillas Yesharim,or Path of the Just, where he attaches this teaching to a different verse in Koheles (6:7),"and the soul ( nefesh) is not satisfied." The interested reader is directed to that work.
I would like to suggest a different approach to man's striving for the material and its relationship with the underlying striving for the spiritual, based on another teaching of Rav Gifter. Tosafos to Berachos,11b,raises the question,why one does not need to repeat the blessings for learning Torah after a full day's interruption of his learning while engaged in his work.The answer given by Tosafos is that one does not remove his mind from learning over the course of the day. Although the simple meaning of this answer is that one is constantly thinking of the moment when he will be able to return to his learning, Rav Gifter offered a differed explanation.He said that,in the course of one's day, he should apply his learning to whatever activity he is engaged in .If he engages in business,he should consider how the civil laws of the Torah,as found in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat and its commentaries,,apply to him.If he is a doctor, he applies the halachos relevant to his work. Torah has application to all areas of life,and,ideally,after one closes his text and goes out to engage the world, he will apply what he learned in the text to the area in life in which he is engaged.In this way,he never removes his mind from his learning,and threfore there is no interruption which would necessitate a repetition of the blessings overlearningTorah.
Based on Rav Gifter's explanation of Tosafos,we can offer a different approach to man's constant striving for the material.This striving,as Rav Gifter points out,has its roots in the spiritual, but is commonly used for the pure material. However, if a person realizes the source of this striving,he can utilize its spiritual root to apply it to the material striving as well,but for the purpose of applying the spiritual content of the Torah to the material world in which he is engaged,so that the material and spiritual striving will coalesce.When a person does this,he is likely to find increasingly numerous applications of the Torah to his material life. Perhaps this was the deeper message of Moshe as he prepared the nation for their entry into Eretz Yisroel,where each of the tribes would be engaged in its respective activity,striving, together, to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
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