Thursday, February 11, 2016
Terumah 5631 Second Ma'amar
How to Succeed in Torah and Mitzvos
Advice from the Sfas Emes
In this week’s parasha, God describes the Mishkan and its vessels to Moshe Rabbeinu. The Midrash tells us that because Moshe Rabbeinu had difficulty understanding the intricacies of the Menorah, God showed him a virtual Menorah. Even so, Moshe Rabbeinu found it too difficult to make so God told him to throw a talent of gold into the fire and God Himself would fashion it.
The Sfas Emes asks that if Moshe Rabbeinu could not make the Menorah why did God bother showing it to him in the first place? God, after all, certainly knew the limits of Moshe Rabbeinu’s capabilities. The Sfas Emes explains that it was crucial for Moshe Rabbeinu to desire to make the Menorah, even if he could not. But if Moshe Rabbeinu had trouble picturing the Menorah from God’s description of it, then he was not able to properly desire it. So, God showed Moshe Rabbeinu a virtual Menorah so that he would know what he must desire. Moshe Rabbeinu then did whatever he could to the best of his ability. Because of Moshe Rabbeinu’s desire to see the completed Menorah, God helped and finished the job.
The Sfas Emes says that this is an important lesson that applies to every Jew and to every mitzvah for we certainly do not have the power to achieve the will of God. How could we? God is infinite and we are finite. However, we are required to yearn to achieve the will of God and to work towards that goal to the best of our abilities. According to the intensity of our desire, we can achieve the will of God with His help even if it is beyond our capabilities.
Along these same lines the Chiddushei HaRim explains a Gemara in Maseches Megillah (6b). Rebbi Yitzchak says that if someone tells you that he worked hard in Torah and he found success, believe him – יָגַעְתִּי וּמָצָאתִי תַּאֲמִין. The Chiddushei HaRim points out the incongruity in Rebbi Yitzchak’s words. Rebbi Yitzchak’s choice of words connotes a found item. Chazal tell us that items are found unintentionally – ג' בָּאִין בְּהֵיסֶח הַדָעַת ... מְצִיאָה – the exact opposite of focused work towards a goal. Conventionally, if a person works hard and says that he succeeded and realized his goal, then we can believe him because we believe that his hard work caused his success. Why does Rebbi Yitzchak say that if a person works hard to attain Torah and succeeds, he “found” success, implying an unintentional find not directly resulting from his hard work?
The Chiddushei HaRim answers that Rebbi Yitzchak is teaching us a profound lesson about success in Torah. The reality is that an understanding of the ultimate truth in the Torah is beyond our capabilities. The only way to reach this understanding is for it to be given to us. Rebbi Yitzchak is teaching us that God gives the gift of understanding and connecting with Truth to those who try hard to acquire it.
We see this clearly when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. He worked hard. He did not eat or drink for forty days. At the end of the forty days the pasuk relates, “וַיִּתֵּן אֶל־מֹשֶׁה ... שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת/He gave Moshe … the two tablets of testimony …” (Shmos 31:18) The Midrash says that the Torah was given to Moshe Rabbeinu as a gift.
When it comes to serving God, He helps us to attain goals that are beyond our abilities. The key to success is to cultivate a strong desire for it.