Portrait of Hacham Shimon Agassi

Portrait of Hacham Shimon Agassi
Portrait of Hacham Agassi painted by Mrs Ruth Gila, Beit Meir , Israel

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spiritual Health

בריאות רוחנית

A Jew’s spiritual health is dependent on his performance of Torah and Mitzvoth. This performance leads to a growth in spirituality and a sense of closeness to the source of life itself. By arriving at this mid-point and ascending the ladder one becomes “in tune” with his maker and one is aligned with Him. This is why Hashem gave the Jewish People His Torah and Mitzvoth so they could achieve affinity with Him.

Thus we read the famous saying of the Tanna Rabbi Chanania ben Akashia- חנניה בן עקשיא in Makkot (Perek 3 Mishna 16):

Chanania ben Akashia

חנניה בן עקשיא

656=17=8 or 1306=10=1

The Blessed Holy One wished to maximize Israel’s merit; He therefore made the Torah voluminous and gave them many commandments

רצה הקדוש ברוך הוא לזכות את ישראל לפיכך הרבה להם תורה ומצוות

5481=18 (final letters)

And as it written (Isaiah 42.21):

21.’ Hashem desired, for the sake of his [Israel’s] righteousness, to amplify Torah and increase it’ - יהוה חָפֵץ לְמַעַן צִדְקוֹ יַגְדִּיל תּוֹרָה וְיַאְדִּיר (1493=17=8).
The Rambam comments on this Mishna that it would be sufficient for a person to perform only one commandment in its entirety in order to reward that person to enter the World to Come. Thus the preponderance and array of commandments make it possible for every person to find one commandment that he can perform as required.
My Rabbi and Teacher Rabbi Avraham Sutton comments on this verse:

“Ratza HaKadosh Barukh Hu lezakot et Yisrael—the Blessed Holy One wished to maximize Israel’s merit; He therefore made the Torah voluminous and gave them many commandments, as it is said, ‘Hashem chafetz lemaan tzidko yagdil Torah veyaadir—Hashem desired, for the sake of his [Israel’s] righteousness, to amplify Torah and increase it’ (Isaiah 42:21).”
The key to this Mishnah (from Makkot 3:16 and Avot 6:13) is Isaiah’s enigmatic lemaan tzidko, which we have translated “for the sake of his [i.e., Israel’s] righteousness,” but which may also be understood as, “for the sake of His [i.e., Hashem’s] attribute of justice.” Paralleling this, Rabbi Chanania coins the phrase, lezakot et Yisrael, which also carries a double connotation: zekhut is merit, but zakhut is also refinement (from zakh, pure, refined). The obvious connection is that Hashem desired to create the world in such a way that we would achieve merit by engaging in the lifelong struggle to refine ourselves. In other words, as our heavenly Parent, Hashem’s desire is to bestow upon us, His children, the greatest good possible. In order to ensure that we will be worthy of receiving the ultimate good that He wishes to give us, He sent our souls down into this world where we would have to struggle to refine ourselves to attain our own perfection, acquire our own eternity, as opposed to receiving it for free, in which case, as Ramchal states, it would then never really be ours (see Derekh Hashem 1:2:1-2).
This now becomes the key to the double meaning of lemaan tzidko in Isaiah 42:21. According to Radak, lemaan tzidko refers to Hashem’s tzedek (righteous justice), and comes to exclude lemaankhem (for Israel’s sake). This is similar, he says, to Hashem’s promise to bring the final redemption, “Lemaani lemaani—for My own sake, for My own sake I [Hashem] shall do it [i.e., redeem you], for how can I allow My honor to be profaned” (Isaiah 48:11). Again according to Radak, Isaiah is telling us why Hashem amplified the Torah and increased it, i.e., made it voluminous and gave Israel many commandments. He did it, lemaan tzidko, for the sake of His righteous justice, i.e., to satisfy His attribute of justice that Israel could earn the reward that He wishes to give them.
But this is exactly what Rambam and Bartenora (Makkot 3:16), and Targum and Malbim (on Isaiah 42:21) say even though they interpret Isaiah’s lemaan tzidko as “for the sake of his [i.e., Israel’s] righteousness.” Malbim states explicitly that lemaan tzidko means that Hashem increased Torah and mitzvot “lemaan hatzdikam ulezakotam—in order to give them a chance to become righteous and to refine them (or to give them the opportunity to become meritorious through their own efforts).”
Thus whichever way we translate lemaan tzidko, the same idea emerges. Why did Hashem make the Torah so voluminous? It was and is in order to give us every possible chance in every possible life circumstance to refine ourselves, to become meritorious, to strive for and attain righteousness, so that the gift of eternal life that He wants to give us will truly be ours. In the words of Ramchal, ”The purpose of creation was to bring into existence a creature who could derive pleasure from God’s own goodness...God’s wisdom decreed, however, that for the bestowal of such goodness to be perfect, the one enjoying it must be its master. He must be one who has earned it for himself” (Derekh Hashem 1:2:1-2).

Thus it would appear that the giving of the Torah and many Mitzvoth enable a Jew’s soul to attain affinity to Hashem, rectify his soul, enter the World to Come and receive as a reward eternal life.

No comments:

Post a Comment