Mind and Will -- Body and Soul
We have often discussed the Rabbis' statement, that the Jews were
coerced into receiving the Torah, and that, only in the days of Esther
did the Jews willingly accept it.
Rav Yerucham Halevi questioned the simple understanding of these words.
The implication is that the generation of Esther was "greater" than
the people who stood at Mt. Sinai. This is certainly difficult to say.
The generation which received the Torah was the most intellectually
fit of all, and is referred to as "dor deyah" -- the generation of
knowledge. There is no question about their desire to receive the
Torah. Rather, say the following: Precisely because of their great
knowledge, it was considered as if they were forced into receiving the
Torah. Their intellectual awareness was so keen, that their minds
allowed them no other choice than to accept the Torah.
The generation of Esther, however, was quite different. They were far
removed from such intellectual ecstasy. They walked blindly in the
darkness, but, nonetheless, willingly accepted the Torah.
Rambam, in the "Sh'mona Perakim" (The Seven Chapters) quoted the
Philosophers. One who controls himself, forcing himself to act
properly, is not as great as the chasid -- one who desires to act
Imagine two people who perform the same mitzvos identically, to such a
degree that you cannot praise one's performance over the over.
Nonetheless, one of them has coerced himself to act, and the other
spontaneously desired to act. The second one is better off.
Years go by, and we are unfulfilled -- because we are acting under
We think that we must be unhappy, but it is not so. Nothing could be
farther from the truth. If only we would train ourselves so that the
mind does not have to force the body to act, but the body itself acts
with spontaneous energy, knowing that to do so is in its own best
This is the main service -- to train the body... (From Da'as Torah,
The Yismach Moshe noted that the Yomim Tovim are each called "zecher
l'yitzias mitzraim" -- a reminder of the exodus from Egypt. Yet, it is
difficult to describe how Rosh Hashanah is reminiscent of the exodus.
In Parshas Behar, the Torah describes how the shofar shall be sounded
on Yom Kippur of the Yoveil (fiftieth year). At that point, servants
are set free. Here is the connection between Rosh Hashanah and the
departure from Egypt. The Shofar sound at Rosh Hashanah beckons us to
set ourselves free from the tyranny of our own personalities. This was
the true meaning of the exodus -- the freedom of the spirit.
Torah gives us our freedom
In Parshas Emor, we are taught that a Kohein must not be involved with
the burial of the dead under normal circumstances. Burial of the dead
is one of the greatest mitzvos; yet, the important level of the Kohein
does not allow him to profane himself in this way.
Similarly, one who is involved in Torah learning, does not interrupt in
order to perform a mitzva (that someone else can perform in his place).
Even though performing a mitzva is important, Torah affects the soul.
We must not profane the power of the soul, even for the performance of
a mitzva... (See Da'as Torah, Parshas Emor)
Just as the selection of the Kohein over other people seems arbitrary
-- yet must be respected -- so, too, the selection of Shabbos and Yom
Tov over the other days seems arbitrary. What is intrinsically
different between one day and another? Yet, Shabbos and Yom Tov must
be respected. In a similar manner, the moments of Torah study must be
respected, and not profaned. (Ibid.)
Rav Yerucham said that the honor given the Kohein teaches us regarding
the honor that must be given to each person. Do not profane your
The counting of the Omer teaches us about time. Each day is an
accomplishment, if we make it so. Respect the significance of time --
do not profane time...