Parsha Mitzvot-Re’ei-Tzav-Reflections on Mitzvah 460-Eating From An Olah
“In your cities, you may not eat: the tithe of your grain, and your wine, and your oil; the firstborn of your cattle and your flocks; all your vow offerings that you vow and your free-will offerings; and what you raise up with your hands (Deuteronomy 12:17).” [Mitzvot 455-456-457-458-459-460-461-462]
Transcribed and unedited: The first Gerrer Rebbe comments on, zos toras ha’olah, this is the Torah of the sacrifice called olah, and olah is a burnt offering where the entire sacrifice is burned on the altar. Now usually when a mitzvah is given it just says this is … it just tells you what to do, it is rare that a sacrifice is introduced with the phrase, or any commandment is introduced with the commandment, zos toras, this is the torah. When you present something as saying this is the torah it is almost as if you are saying this is the definitive, like this is almost can define your relationship to Torah as a whole.
So the sphas emes is bothered by this and that is what he wants to address, and in fact all the sacrifices mentioned in the portion (Tzav) are introduced with the same phrase, this is the torah of the chatat, this is the torah of the asham, so zot torat haolah this is the torah of the olah, the burnt offering, zot torat hachatat, this is the torah of the sin offering, and then it says the same for asham, there is a handout today leah. V’chazal lamdu mizeh and our sages of blessed memory have learned from this verse ha’oseik betorat olah that one who toils in the laws of olah, k’ilu hikriv olah it is considered as if that person has actually sacrificed the burnt offering. Meaning whatever level of atonement can be achieved through the sacrifice of an olah a burnt offering and whatever of relationship can be developed through the sacrifice of an olah a burnt offering with all the proper intentions, can be achieved through studying the laws of olah, which is why it uses the word torah, in the same way that torah is something to be studied, so this was G-d’s way of hinting to us that the olah can be achieved the burnt offering can be achieved through study as well. Nireh kih hamechuvan meihakorban who halimud v’hato’elet sheyotzei l’adam meihakorban. So the sphas emes says, it seems to me from the fact that this is the way the torah opens and introduces the concept of the burnt offering, that the torah is trying to tell you that that which is the purpose served or that which can be accomplished through the olah is more so through the learning about the sacrifice and what it represents than it is through the actual sacrifice.
And now he elaborates: Ubezohar hakodesh and in the holy zohar, the book of splendor which is the kabbalistic reading of the torah it describes one of the mitzvoth one of the commandments associated with the olah which we will get to probably ten years down the road which is that there has to be a fire burning on the altar at all times, and that mitzvah is associated with the olah. Since olah is burnt offering so all the laws of burning on the altar are associated with the burnt offering. And it says eish tamid tukad that when the verse says an eternal fire should be set up, the zohar says kih aveirah mechabeh mitzvah v’lo torah, that we learn from this that a sin can extinguish a mitzvah, a sin can extinguish a positive deed that I have performed, however a sin cannot extinguish torah that I have learnt. Now that is the Zohar’s way of teaching something. It says something almost in passing, it does not elaborate, and those who are trained in mysticism or in reading this type of literature are able to develop the idea on their own and this is how the sphas emes does it. V’hapiresh ko’ach mitzvah huh hisgashrus v’hisdabekus that the strength of a mitzvah of performing a positive commandment is to tie onself to G-d, to establish a kesher a knot. Or to attach oneself, the shoresh is davak, to attach, shekol mitzvah medavek ha’adam boh yisbarach. Any mitzvah that a person performs attaches that person to the Holy One, Blessed Be He. So therefore it is as if in the same way if I would do a favor for you, constantly perform favors for you and reach out to you, so I establish a connection with you when I do these things for you. If I give you something, I am establishing a connection with you. However, u’lezot because a mitzvah is my way of establishing a relationship with G-d or drawing closer to G-d, aveirah mekalkel umaphsik hachibur a sin, meaning a destructive act can ruin the connection it can break the knot that you have formed with G-d. U’mechabeh aveirah dvekut hamitzvah so the sin can extinguish the attachment formed through the performance of a mitzvah and you will see why we are doing this today. So that is the torah and this is the way it is in relationships. If I am giving giving giving giving something to someone and I am establishing my relationship that way if I do something that is destructive to the relationship, that damages all the positive things that I have done. It may not negate them entirely, but it certainly loosens the bond. And I guess it would depend on the seriousness of the bad thing that I did to my friends. If I have been doing favors for 10 years and then I do a little thing that is not so bad it is going to cause a little distance maybe for an hour, but if I do something that is really destructive, it can break that which was there originally.
Aval torah hih bechinat kaballah however that is only true about a mitzvah. Something an action that I am performing for G-d, but torah is not that which I am doing for G-d, when I study torah it is preparing me or actually receiving something from G-d. G-d is giving me the gift of torah. She’ha’adam lomed a person learns u’mekabel l’atzmo and receives something through that study, she’nichnasim boh divrei torah the words of Torah enter that person and hopefully will change that person, affect him and influence him. V’zeh lo yuchal l’hibatel al yedai aveirah, if it is something that someone has received, and has received from G-d, then that cannot be negated or destroyed through an aveirah, because I have received it, it is not something that I have made or caused to happen through my actions so my actions cannot negate it. It is mine, it has been given to me and it is permanent. Especially since it was given to me by G-d. Kih kvar nidbakim boh divrei torah she’kibel because the words of torah are now attached to that person, k”nal, as we have seen many times. And now he says you can understand the next line of the zohar. The first line of the zohar was that a fire meaning the fire on the altar represents the power of sin to extinguish a mitzvah but it cannot extinguish torah. So he has explained that. Now he says listen to the next line of the zohar. U’mesayem sham bezohar hakodesh, and the zohar concludes this statement, kih talmidei chachamim ha’osin mitzvoth lishma u’mekablim limud v’derech teshuva l’hidabek boh yitbarach mikol mitzvah she’osin im kein gam hamitzvot shelahem torah vein avierah mechabeh. One who studies and is able to perform a mitzvah with the proper intention and therefore even as one is performing a mitzvah it becomes a process of learning, so then the mitzvah is not something I am doing for G-d alone it also becomes a way for me to receive something from G-d because my mitzvah becomes Torah as well so therefore if my mitzvoth have become torah then an aveirah a sin or a destructive act can no longer extinguish that mitzvah that I performed. V’chen retzono yisbarach and this is really the will of G-d, shekol mitzvah yehiyeh nichlal batorah that every mitzvah a person performs should really be included in Torah. Meaning I should learn how to perform mitzvoth in a way that I not only feel that I am doing something for G-d because G-d asked me to do it but that I feel that I am actually receiving something and learning something through the mitzvah that I am performing. V’zeh inyan birchat hamitzvot, and that is why we make a blessing before we perform a mitzvah because she’hahephresh ben talmidei chachamim l’am haratzim be’asiyat hamitzvah huh ba’haberacha uretzon asiyato. The difference between one who studies and one who does not is the way one fulfills a mitzvah and the berachah that one associates with that mitzvah. In other words if I am about to fulfill a mitzvah of lighting shabbos candles (mumble mumble l’hadlik ner shel shabbos) right so I guess you could call it a blessing if you are forced to but it is definitely not a way of learning or preparing myself to learn from the mitzvah that I am performing. It is not a way of attaching myself to the Torah where I am commanded or where the source of the commandment to light shabbos candles. Kih guf ha’ma’asim shavim, they [?] both the person who studies and the person who does not may be doing the same physical action, rak haberachah hih al hatzivui, but when you make a berachah a blessing then you are going back to the commandment of it which is found in the torah v’huh deveikut hamitzvah batorah and that attaches your mitzvah that you are about to fulfill in the torah that you have studied she’harei tzivui hamitzvot heim batorah because where is it that we are commanded to fulfill mitzvoth? In the torah. Vehaberachah mevarer zeh and the berachah is our way of making this clear to ourself, shehashem yisbarach tzivanu batorah kein that G-d commanded us in the torah to do this mitzvah. V’al yedei haberachah and by making a blessing with the proper concentration obviously medeveik hamitzvah beshorashah batorah I am attaching the mitzvah to its root which is in the Torah so that my mitzvah is no longer simply the performance of a mitzvah it is now torah k”nal as we have seen and I can never lose that mitzvah.
So as I was learning this with my parshah class last Tuesday I was thinking that this is very appropriate for the 613 class, the 613 concepts, because the whole purpose of this class is to learn how to use a mitzvah to train ourselves in performing mitzvoth in a way that we can learn from the mitzvoth that we perform and apply them conceptually and also that we think about the mitzvoth that we are doing and why we are doing them. And it makes a very practical difference at least in the spiritual world if you are willing to refer to anything in the spiritual world as being practical.