Sunday, 11 May 2014

Study Torah - Perform Mitzvot

Our Parsha this week - Parshat Bechukotai starts off no holds barred! The Torah - life - is all about the study of Torah and the fulfillment of Mitzvot. It is these things that bring blessing into our lives - in so many ways.

The Parsha (Leviticus 26:3) begins, "If you will follow My laws, and observe My commandments and perform them...". Rashi points out that if the Torah were to simply have stated 'following My laws," one would have to come to have thought that this refers to fulfilling the Mitzvot only. Now since the verse also indicates 'observing My commandments," - surely this part is teaching us to fulfill the Mitzvot. If so, why the need for the first part of the verse? What differentiates the following of the laws to the observing of the commandments and performing them? Since every word is there for a reason - there must surely be a difference between the two.

Rashi points out that the first part of the verse indicates that we are commanded to toil in Torah. After all - if we don't toil - we will not know what to do! What Mitzvot can we ever perform, if we never know what the Mitzvot are really all about?!

Therefore, Rashi points out - toil in the Torah so that you will be able to practise the Mitzvot in reality. He then brings another proof from the book of Deuteronomy (5:1): "And you shall learn them (i.e. the commandments,) and guard them to do them." Here again - the important point that before one can actually do - one must spend time learning.

We live in times where knowledge seems to be everywhere we look. Due to this, we often think we already know everything. There are many of us who keep fully Kosher, observe the Shabbat day, fulfill the laws of Family Purity, give charity, never speak any gossip about others and a host of other vital Mitzvot we fulfill every single day. With all this - we wonder why the world still seems to be so topsy-turvy. Are we not already observing the Divine Will? Is this not enough?

One verse is all that is needed to tell us there is more involved. Learning the laws of Shabbat can take years. Two out of the six volumes of the Mishnah Berurah written by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan - the Chafetz Chaim - are devoted exclusively to the laws of Shabbat. Chapters 242-407 of the Shulchan Aruch's first section of Orach Chaim, that's 165 chapters out of 697 are devoted to the laws that every Jew must be fluent in - in order to observe the Shabbat day. Chapters 408-417, another 10 chapters are devoted to the laws of Eiruvei Techumin. This is a huge portion of the first section of the basic standard code of Jewish law. We need to ask ourselves, do we keep the Shabbat day because of a Shiur we attended - or because we have studied these laws in depth?

If this is so for the laws of Shabbat, we need to ask ourselves if we have studied the laws of Kashrut sufficiently too. Are we making mistakes? Do we keep the laws because we think we are keeping them - or because we really are keeping them correctly? What can we say about the laws of speaking Lashon Hara? Have we actually studied the laws from the original text - the Chafetz Chaim? So too we can ask ourselves these questions with regards to all the laws of the Torah. Have we actually sat down and studied what needs to be done?

Our mission - according to this week's Parsha - is to get heavily involved in Torah study. We must devote sufficient time each day to labour and toil over the Torah so that we actually know what must be done. When we do this and then practise these Mitzvot, the real blessings of life will flow, in ways we simply cannot imagine!

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