|Eikev-Know Your Place|
|Written by Rabbi Joshua "The Hoffer" Hoffman|
Last week we mentioned that there is a verse in Shema from which the rabbis in the Sifrei derive that the main place to do the mitzvos is in Eretz Yisroel. Actually, this verse is in this week's parsha, in what is known as the second paragraph of the Shema (Devorim 11:13-22). In speaking of the tefillin, the verse says, "and you shall place ('vesamtem') these words of mine upon your hearts and souls (verse 18). The word 'vesamtem' 'is understood by the Sifrei to mean that these mitzvos should serve as a signpost, and you should do them while in exile so that they should not be new to you when you return to the land.
The Ramban says that this means that the mitzvos were meant to be observed, primarly , in Eretz Yisroel, and that there is a very deep principle involved here, which he does not discuss. Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch, who was the Rosh Yeshiva of the Telshe Yeshiva in Lithuania, explained that God gives the mitzvos in two capacities, as a king and as a doctor. As far as His role as the king, the commandment of tefillin is the same in exile as in Yerusholayim. However, in terms of God's role as a doctor in prescribing the mitzvos, meaning, in terms of the therapeutic effect of the mitzvos on the person who performs them, the main therapeutic effect is in Eretz Yisroel. The reason for this, as we explained last week, is because that is where the shechina, the divine presence, dwells. However, as Rabbi Moshe Wernick, zt"l, who served as mashgiach ruchani, or spiritual guidance counselor, of Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, IL, in the USA for many years, and later moved to Eretz Yisroel to serve as mashgiach at Yeshiva La Metzuyanim of Yerusholayim, points out, in a collection of his writings recently published under the title of Lev Moshe, a simple reading of the Ramban would seem to indicate that, in fact, the main place in which the mitzvos are obligatory is in Eretz Yisroel. How, asks Rav Wernick, could this be, especially in regard to the mitzvoh of tefilillin, which is clearly not dependent on Eretz Yisroel, but is termed 'chovas ha-guf,' a mitzvoh that is incumbent on the person to perform on/with his body, without regard to where he lives?
Rav Wernik, in a lengthy essay on the subject, says that the Talmud tells us that a person should involve himself in Torah and mitzvos lishmah - for their own sake - but still, if he cannot do it lishmah, he should do it shelo lishma, not for their own sake, but, rather, for some personal gain, and this will lead him to do so lishmah, in time. The Rambam, in Hilchos Teshuvah, chapter ten, writes that a person should do mitzvos out of love of God, rather than out of fear of punishment, or some other worldly gain. Rabbi Wernik, citing Rav Chaim of Volozhin in his Nefesh HaChaim, points out that a person fulfills his basic obligation as long as he performs the details of the halacha, even if he does so out of fear. Still, the level that one should strive for is serving out of love. Moreover, the Rambam writes at the end of Hilchos Melachim, chapter twelve, that the sages did not look forward to the days of moshiach simply in order to partake of delicacies and enjoy themselves, but in order to be free to learn Torah and to have a relationship with God. This seems to indicate, says Rabbi Wernik, that part of the mitzvah of waiting for moshiach is to have time and thoughts with its pursuit. In those days, we will be able to dedicate ourselves in a full way to learning Torah and doing mitzvos lishmah, and it is obligatory for us to eagerly anticipate the time when we will be able to do so. This, says Rabbi Wernik, is the meaning of what the Ramban says, that the main place to do the mitzvos is in Eretz Yisroel, meaning, in the days of moshiach, and in Eretz Yisroel, the place of the divine presence, at which time and place we will be most able to carry out our obligations out of love for God. The Shulchan Aruch, in Orach Chaim (98:1), in discussing the proper way to pray, mentions the practice of the early chassidim, or pious men, as brought in the Talmud, who would prepare for prayer by divesting themselves of their physical desires, and reaching a level close to prophecy. Rav Wernik writes that if this is recorded in the Shulchan Aruch, it means that it is something that we should strive for, as well, and this is included in what the Rambam means when he writes about the reason that the chachomim, the wise men, desired that the days of moshiach would arrive. Again, as Rabbi Wernik says, this is also the meaning behind the Ramban's statement that the mitzvos were meant to be fulfilled mainly in Eretz Yisroel, meaning, on the level of lishmah, which is the level that we all need to strive for.
Perhaps we may add to Rabbi Wernik's analysis that the Sifrei, from which the Ramban draws his statement,mentions, specificaly, the mitzvos of tefillin and mezuzah to illustrate the fact that the mitzvos were meant to be kept primarily in Eretz Yisroel, because intention plays a major role in them. In regard to tefillin, Rav Yoel Sirkes, known as the Bach, points out in his commentary to the Tur that tefillin is one of the few mitzvos for which we are bidden to have in mind, when performing it, the reason behind it, including the unity of God and the fact that He redeemed us from slavery in Egypt. The Aruch HaShulchan, in fact, writes that one who does not have these intentions in mind when putting on his tefillin has performed a monkey- like act. Athough most halachic decisors do not rule this way, intention is certainly a major factor in the mitzvoh of tefillin. In regard to mezuzah, we may say that the mezuzah on the doorpost serves to remind us of the sanctity of the Jewish home, which guides our orientation towards everything we do in the course of the day, reminding us of God's presence in our lives, which is what, as the Rambam describes in Hilchos Melachim, should be our ultimate goal, and the reason behind our anticipating the coming of moshiach.