Coming Ever Closer
By Rabbi Pinchas Avruch
G-d gave us the mitzvos (Divine commandments) as a means of emulating His
ways and, thereby, becoming closer to Him. When we choose to follow His
path, He facilitates the accomplishment of our goal by blessing us with
bounty and protecting us from enemy threats. "If you will go in My statutes
and observe My commandments and perform them..." (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:3)
There is a maxim that the Torah contains no extra words; there are no poetic
repetitions for stylistic purposes. Why, then, if observance and performance
of commandments are clearly stated, does the Torah need to state, "go in My
statutes"? What does it add that the others did not?
Rashi explains that the "going" connotes toiling in Torah study. The
exercise of delving into the depths of insight and progressing to more
sophisticated levels of understanding is akin to a journey.
The Talmud (Tractate Berachos 28b) relates the concept that we toil and the
nations of the world toil: we toil and receive remuneration while the
nations of the world toil and go uncompensated. But is that so? Does not a
gentile tailor receive payment for his garment or a shoemaker get paid for
The Chofetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan of Radin; 1838-1933;
author of basic works in Jewish law, philosophy and ethics and renowned for
his saintly qualities) expounds that were a tailor to toil and labor but not
produce a garment, there would be not compensation for his efforts; the
shoemaker can sweat as he struggles with the leather, but without a pair of
shoes, his efforts will go unrewarded. They are not paid for their toil and
effort; they are paid for results.
Not so one who toils in the profundity of Torah. The command is to expend
genuine effort, to toil and work and delve and try. Success in understanding
is the desired goal, but not a requisite result. No matter the intensity of
insight at the end of the exercise, the compensation is received for the
But why is this so? Why does G-d need to be so free spending in doling out
reward for the mitzvah of toiling in Torah?
Our Sages teach (Pirkei Avos/Ethics of the Fathers 4:2) that the reward for
a mitzvah is the opportunity to fulfill another mitzvah. We must understand
that the fulfillment of mitzvos is not about accruing "brownie points" but
rather rising another rung on the ladder in our journey to elevate ourselves
in coming closer to G-d. Thus, we comprehend the maxim, "G-d wanted to
benefit the Jewish nation, therefore, He increased for them Torah and
mitzvos." Mitzvos and Torah learning are the opportunity for growth and
connection with the Divine, a chance to further forge a loving relationship
with G-d. When a seven-year-old draws a picture of pretty flowers "for
Mommy", with little hearts dotting the background, the mother does not even
see that the work is obviously that of a seven-year-old. The child put all
of his heart and soul into that picture and that expression of love from the
child fosters the endearment of the mother. When we toil to understand the
Divine wisdom of Torah, no matter how complete or "pretty" the result, the
relationship is built in the effort, for which we are rewarded with more
opportunities to grow ever closer to our Father in heaven.
Have a Good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel ≠ Center for Jewish
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