By Rabbi Yehudah Prero
If one were to examine the text of the prayers we recite, one would
notice that we oft request from G-d that He assist us in instilling in
ourselves the proper level of fear of heaven and the ability to serve
Him with love. However, in one place in the prayers, this request is
somewhat qualified. In the prayer "Ahava Rabba" that precedes our
recitation of She'ma, we ask that G-d "dedicate our hearts to love and
to fear" His name. We do not merely ask that G-d assist us fear and love
properly; we ask that our hearts be
dedicated to such.
The reason for this special prayer of dedication, Rav Yitzchak Hutner
zt"l said, can be better understood by examining a law in the Talmud. In
the beginning of the tractate Zevachim, we learn that a divorce document
written lacking intent for a specific woman is invalid, but an animal
sanctified without intent for a specific offering is nonetheless
sanctified and may be offered. An animal that is sanctified is merely
awaiting to be used for the holy purpose to which it was dedicated, and
therefore specific intent is not needed. It is self evident what will
occur. However, a woman, so to speak, is not "waiting to be divorced."
If a husband desires to divorce his wife, the divorce document must be
drafted with her in mind. The lack of specific intent invalidates the
document. The only way a man can evidence his desire to divorce is with
the document itself, and therefore the evidence must be clear and
convincing. There is only one way to accomplish this, and that is with
Very often, in our service of G-d, we may go through motions without
thinking what we are doing. We act out of habit and custom. It does not
outwardly appear that our actions are motivated by love or fear of G-d.
Do we deserve credit or acknowledgment that we are devoted servants of
G-d for such
actions? The answer should be no. That is why we ask G-d specifically to
dedicate our hearts to his service. If our hearts are dedicated to Him,
then we are akin to that animal that is sanctified without specific
intent. That specific intent is not necessary as the very nature of our
beings, a heart dedicated to G-d, makes it evident that all we do is
motivated by our love and fear of G-d. Even when no specific motive or
intent is clear from our actions and deeds, if we have a heart dedicated
to G-d, our love and fear of G-d is self-evident.
The concept of self-evident motivation is true as well in a certain
service of G-d that is in focus as the holiday of Shavu'os approaches.
The Talmud states (Sukkah 21b) "The conversation of Torah scholars is
worthy of study, as it states (Tehillim 1:3) "and whose leaves never
wither (meaning that even the conversation of a scholar, which is
compared to a leaf, does not wither, and has Torah content itself).'"
The Talmud is telling us that the Torah scholar, whose life is dedicated
to acquiring more Torah knowledge with a thirst and passion, has
conversations of a sort that differ from the layman. The scholar is
dedicated to Torah, and therefore some Torah lesson can be extracted
from that which he says. Even if the scholar has no clear intent to
impart such a lesson, the very nature of his being makes it self-evident
that there is something to learn from his utterances.
On Shavu'os, we celebrate the anniversary of the nation of Israel being
given the Torah at Sinai.
During the weeks leading up to Shavu'os, we have been preparing
ourselves for our personal re-acceptance of the Torah come Shavu'os. By
seriously dedicating ourselves to Torah, we are imbued with a new
spirit: all we say has some Torah lesson contained within. We are
sanctified to G-d and His Torah, and our devotion becomes self-evident.
This is the goal for which we should all be striving, and one on which
to focus as Shavu'os rapidly approaches.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero and Torah.org.
The author has Rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, NY.