Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reward of the Righteous Women:
Chapter Two - Selfless Love of Hashem

To explain this, let us begin with the following Gemara:
“You must love Hashem your God.” We must endear the Name of God to others through our actions by learning the Torah, attending to its scholars and interacting in a pleasant manner with those around us. Such a person causes others to remark, “Fortunate is this person’s father for having taught him Torah. Fortunate is his rebbe. Woe is to those who do not learn Torah. This person studied Torah. Behold how pleasant are his ways, how proper are his actions.” To such a person we can apply the possuk, “Yisroel, in whom I (Hashem) take pride.”
However, when one learns Torah and attends to its scholars yet does not deal honestly in business, nor interact with others in a pleasant manner, this causes others to remark, “Woe is to this person who learnt Torah. Woe is to his father who taught him Torah. Woe is to his rebbe who taught him Torah. This person has studied Torah and behold how corrupt are his actions and how disgusting are his ways. To such a person we can apply the possuk, “You will disgrace My Name, as the nations wonder, ‘Is this not Hashem’s nation, exiled from their Land?’”
The simple meaning of the possuk is quite clear, that we must love Hashem, yet our Sages saw fit to explain it to mean that through our behaviour we must also bring others to love Hashem. The Rambam in his halachic compilation, Sefer Hamitzvos, cites this Gemara:
We are commanded to love His exalted Name. We can come to this by contemplating His mitzvos, His teachings and His wondrous acts until we begin to understand them and through this, enjoy the greatest of all possible pleasures. This love is a binding obligation.
Our Sages teach, “‘You must love Hashem your God.’ It is unclear how we are meant to attain this love, therefore the possuk continues, ‘Place these words that I command you today upon your heart.’ Thus we come to recognise ‘The One Who Spoke and the World Came into Being.’” We see that through contemplation comes understanding, and consequently joy and love necessarily follow.
Another aspect of this mitzvah is that it obligates us to invite others to His exalted service and faith. Just as when we love another person we praise him and invite others to befriend him, we are similarly required to love Hashem and realise His existence. When we begin to fathom His greatness, we will certainly call out to others, sharing what we have discovered.

This was the way of Avraham Avinu who truly loved Hashem, as the possuk testifies, “Avraham, My beloved friend.” Since he had a tremendous awareness of Hashem and a great love for Him, he called out to all those around him, drawing them towards His faith.
We see that an integral part of our obligation to love Hashem is to endear people to Him and involve them in His service. This is indeed a great merit. The Chasam Sofer quotes the Gemara which states that one who causes another to be punished will not be invited within the ‘Partition of Hashem.’ Thus we can imagine the extent of the reward for one who causes another to be rewarded by bringing him to fulfil mitzvos. He will surely be invited to enter the ‘Partition of Hashem.’ If this is the reward for someone who encourages his friend to perform even a single mitzvah, how much greater is the reward for bringing a person close to Hashem, thus giving him the great opportunity to return in teshuva and live a life of Torah and mitzvos. Not only will he be invited into the Partition, but he will also be drawn close to Hashem in the greatest possible way. Even within the Partition itself, there will be different levels of reward for each one according to his merit.

With this in mind, let us return to consider the standing of women in the World-to-Come. Their role is not simply to offer their husbands an opportunity to perform a mitzvah, like a shaliach tzibur (prayer leader) who offers the congregation an opportunity to answer, ‘Amen’. Rather they are in fact the driving force behind their husbands’ Torah observance, enabling them to learn and perform the mitzvos with peace of mind.

The main factor that uplifts the status of one who assists another to perform a mitzvah, as opposed to he who actually performs it, is the crucial aspect of motivation. One who performs a mitzvah, even if he were to risk his life for it, must still be scrutinised as to the purity of his intentions in fulfilling Hashem’s will. It is quite possible that he has nothing more in mind than his own personal benefit. Just as we find in the realm of material acquisition, that people dedicate their lives to amassing wealth, so too in the realm of spirituality and the service of Hashem, a selfish person may dedicate his life to hoarding his own private treasure of spiritual wealth. This may be the true motivation behind all his sacrifice and hard work in Torah and mitzvos. There is no proof from his actions that his motivations are for the sake of Hashem and His honour. Perhaps his true concern is with his own honour, to carve for himself a position of importance within his community.

The only true gauge of a person’s concern for the honour of Hashem is his concern in helping others perform mitzvos and bringing them to love Hashem. When a person sanctifies Hashem’s Name through his mitzvah observance, pleasant interaction with others and honest business practice, this elevates and endears Hashem’s name to others. This is a clear sign that his spirituality is of noble and selfless intent.

“You must love Hashem your God.” Only when we have dedicated ourselves to endearing Hashem to others is it clear that our actions stem from a true love of Him.

A person’s concern must not be that he himself be the one to sanctify Hashem’s Name, but rather that Hashem’s Name be exalted through any means possible. Therefore he encourages others to work together with him until Hashem’s Name is glorified through the actions of all.

The principle of selfish motivation in mitzvah observance and the Torah’s disdain for it, is clearly demonstrated in the following Gemara:

Our Sages taught that once, two Kohanim were racing towards the mizbeach (altar) vying for the privilege of performing the mitzvah of terumas hadeshen (removing the ashes). When one saw his rival begin to edge ahead, he took a knife and stabbed him in the heart.
Rebbe Tzaddok then stood on the steps of the Beis Hamikdash and declared, “My brothers, the House of Israel, the Torah says that when a dead body is found, the people of the closest city must slaughter a calf as an atonement. Who shall now bring the calf, the city of Yerushalayim or the Beis Hamikdash?” With that, all those present began to cry.
This story highlights an extraordinary phenomenon. It is within the realm of possibility, that in the frantic race to perform a mitzvah, a Kohen may reach such a state of fervour as to render him capable of killing his colleague, in order to merit the privilege. The intentions of this particular Kohen, despite his undoubted alacrity and diligence, were wholly perverse, designed to serve nothing other than his own selfishness.

If the Kohen had truly been concerned for Hashem’s honour, this grim episode would have been avoided. It is impossible that such an incident could have stemmed from noble intentions. Otherwise, he would have reasoned to himself, “Whether from me or from him, the Highest One will be praised.”

Selfless service of Hashem is contingent on the ability of a person to nullify his ego. Furthermore, true concern for the honour of Heaven requires a person to enjoy the realisation that Hashem’s Name is being sanctified, regardless of whether the credit is his or not.

In Pirkei Avos, our Sages list four categories of those who give tzedakah. One category includes those who wish to give but do not wish others to give; they begrudge others the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of tzedakah. They wish to claim the glory of being celebrated philanthropists for themselves, and therefore resent those who would detract from their honour by also giving. If they truly cared for the poor or for Hashem’s mitzvos, they would rejoice to see others also giving.

Such spiritual selfishness was even found at the dawn of creation. “It was at the end of the harvest season and Kayin brought from the fruits of the earth as an offering to Hashem. Hevel too brought from the best of his flock. Hashem favoured Hevel and his offering, but did not accept Kayin’s. Kayin was angered and his face fell.” Kayin then arose and killed his brother. Kayin’s anger was not caused simply by the fact that Hashem did not accept his offering. Rather, he was jealous that Hevel’s offering was accepted over his own. If both of their offerings had been rejected, he would not have been quite so upset.

We see from here a startling insight into human nature. A person can bring a korban to Hashem with the intention that if another’s korban would prove to be preferable, he would kill in order to remain unsurpassed.

It is quite clear therefore, that the dedication of women to the studies of their husbands and children is in actuality the most exalted form of avodah (Divine service). They rejoice to see others performing mitzvos. Not only do they not begrudge their families the opportunity to engage in Torah study, they even devote themselves wholeheartedly to assisting them. This is the highest of all levels, the pinnacle of true, selfless service of Hashem. For those women who devote themselves to others, sacrificing themselves to offer their husbands the opportunity to perform Hashem’s mitzvos, truly the greatest reward awaits.

Selfless dedication to sanctifying Hashem’s Name is the form of avodah ascribed to the greatest of the tzaddikim, who rejoice in the knowledge that there are others who equal them. The Mishna states, “In the future, Hashem will reward every tzaddik and tzaddik with three hundred and ten worlds.” The Chozeh of Lublin zt”l explained the unusual repetition of the word ‘tzaddik’ to mean that this reward waits specifically for those tzaddikim who serve Hashem with love. They are not satisfied with merely fulfilling their own obligations but also encourage others to become tzaddikim, further sanctifying Hashem’s Name. When a person enjoys seeing another surpass him in avodas Hashem, this is the sign of a true servant, whose concern is solely for the honour of his Master.

In contrast, a selfish person who resents having another surpass him, will not enjoy the reward of the World-to-Come. My grandfather, the Divrei Binah zt”l, writes:

“They will merit great reward, all those who rejoice in the Shabbos, with the coming of the Redeemer and the life of the World-to-Come.” We can explain this zemirah based on the following teaching of Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev zt”l. One whose love of Hashem is pure, will rejoice with the levels of avodah that another has reached, although he knows that he will never reach that level.
Not so was Korach, who envied and despised Moshe Rabbeinu for surpassing him. If Korach had been inspired by true love of Hashem, he would have reasoned, “Whether from me or from him, the Highest One will be praised.”
So too is the joy of Shabbos. It is contingent on ahavas Yisroel (love of the Jewish people). Each person must rejoice with the avodah of his friend, binding himself to the love of Hashem and rejoicing that He has servants. He sees that his friend has surpassed him, yet this itself brings him joy.
Our Sages teach that we are obligated to visit our rebbe on Yom Tov. Such is the custom on Shabbos as well, to rejoice by watching a person who truly serves Hashem. My father (Rebbe Nosson Dovid of Shidlovtza) zt”l taught that the primary purpose of travelling to the tzaddik is in order to observe how one truly serves Hashem.
So will it be with the coming of Moshiach. Our Sages teach that each person will be burned by the holy fire surrounding his friend’s canopy, due to the envy of seeing the great reward his friend received. One whose intention in serving Hashem was selfish, will truly suffer from this. However, one who rejoiced in the Shabbos, that is to say, he rejoiced with the love of Hashem and the knowledge that He has servants, whoever they may be, will be able to benefit from the greatest of rewards with the coming of the Redeemer, may it be speedily, and in our days, Amen.

The reward of the World-to-Come is purely spiritual. “There will be no eating and drinking, no intimate relations, no monetary acquisition, no strife, hatred nor competition. Rather the tzaddikim will sit with their crowns upon their heads, joyously gazing at the Divine Presence, as the possuk says, ‘They gazed upon Hashem and it was to them a pleasure like eating and drinking.’ ”

The degree of this spiritual reward will depend upon the level of love of Hashem that a person has reached in this world. However, one afflicted with the trait of spiritual jealousy will suffer from the knowledge of how much his friend has achieved, and thus will be unable to enjoy the pleasures of his own portion in the World-to-Come. The joyous light of the Divine presence will be clouded by the pain of knowing how much more light his neighbour is receiving.

From the sources we have examined above, the conclusion is quite clear: loving Hashem requires one to utterly nullify his self-interests to the will of the Creator. This takes the form of a yearning for the honour of Heaven to be sanctified, in any fashion and by any person, and not necessarily through one’s self. To subjugate oneself entirely to the honour of Heaven is truly a most difficult task.

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