The Torah tells us in this week's parsha, "u'shmartem es mitzvosai,
v'aseesem osum -- watch the mitzvos and do them" (Vayikra 22:31). What
does watch mitzvos mean. If one does a mitzvah he is surely doing more
than watching them. Watching mitzvos seems quite passive. Observant Jew
is a term used for those who actually perfom the and adhere to the laws,
and the curious word observant, perhaps, indeed comes from the Hebrew
word u'shmartem. But doesn't Hashem want us to be more than just
watchers. If He tells us to do mitzvos, then surely we watch them! Why
the double, if not redundant, expression? This past Thursday evening I
went to be Menachem Avel (in the vernacular ¯ pay a shiva call) a
Rabbi Zissel Zelman, who was sitting shiva for his father. He is a
Chicago native whose father, Rabbi Zelman, grew up in Chicago way before
Torah Judaism had flourished there. Reb Zissel related that as a young
man, his father would pass the newsstand every Saturday night after shul
to pick up a paper. As he did not carry money with him, he had made an
arrangement with the vendors to return on Sunday morning to pay the
Rabbi Zelman was not interested in the sports pages nor was he interested
in the headlines. In fact he was not interested in the paper altogether.
Rabbi Zelman bought the paper for his mother. She also was not interested
in the sports or the news. She was interested in the dead.
Every Saturday night she would comb th paper looking for announcements of
tombstone unveilings that were to take place on Sunday at the Jewish
Cemeteries. An unveiling is a time when people are charitable, and the
elderly Mrs. Zelman would go to the cemeteries and raise funds from the
gathered for Yeshivos in Europe in Israel. She would eventually turn the
coins into bills and send the money overseas. A plaque hangs today in
the Slobodka Yeshiva in Israel commemorating her efforts.
Perhaps the Torah is telling us more than just doing mittzvos. It is
telling us to watch for mitzvos. Be on guard. There are hundeds of
opportunities to find mitzvos and to do them. But we must be observant
and vigilant. There are hundreds of mitzvos that pass by our very eyes.
Scores of Good Mornings.
Hudreds of packages we can help lift, as well as spirits. There are
hundreds of hearts we can help heal as well as small acts of charity we
can fulfill. Perhaps the Torah is telling us more than watch the mitzvos
that come our way. Perhaps it may be telling us to be on the lookout for
those that are out there waiting for us to observe them!
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Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Torah.org.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.
Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation