Friday, November 4, 2011

Parshas Lech lechah - Doing mitzvos lishmah

The passuk says in this week's sedrah;
וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל אַבְרָם לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ
"And Hashem said to Avraham, go for yourself from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house to the land that I will show you."

Rashi explains;
"לך לך" - להנאתך ולטובתך ושם אעשך לגוי גדול כאן אי אתה זוכה לבנים ועוד שאודיע טבעך בעולם
"Go for yourself: For your benefit and for your good and there I will make you into a great nation [but] here you will do not merit children and furthermore I will make your nature known in the world."
-          Why did Hashem tell Avraham to go for his benefit, surely Avraham would have gone even had this not been for his benefit?
The mishna says in Pirkei Avos (3:1);
אַנְטִיגְנוֹס אִישׁ סוֹכוֹ קִבֵּל מִשִּׁמְעוֹן הַצַּדִּיק. הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אַל תִּהְיוּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁין אֶת הָרַב עַל מְנָת לְקַבֵּל פְּרָס, אֶלָּא הֱווּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁין אֶת הָרַב שֶׁלֹּא עַל מְנָת לְקַבֵּל פְּרָס, וִיהִי מוֹרָא שָׁמַיִם עֲלֵיכֶם
"Antigonos from Socho received the Torah from Shimon ha'Tzaddik. He used to say, 'Do not be like slaves who serve their master in order to receive reward, rather be like slaves who serve their master not because they want to receive reward, and the fear of Hashem should be on you."
-          If we should not serve Hashem in order to receive reward, why did Hashem specifically tell Avraham to travel to Eretz Yisrael in order that he should be rewarded?

The passuk says in Vayera (Bereishis 18:19);
כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ ה' לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט לְמַעַן הָבִיא ה' עַל אַבְרָהָם אֵת אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר עָלָיו
“Because I know him because he commands his children and his household after him that they should guard the way of Hashem to do charity and justice in order that Hashem should bring on Avraham that which he spoke about him.”
Rashi explains;
"לְמַעַן הָבִיא" - כך הוא מצוה לבניו שמרו דרך ה' כדי שיביא ה' על אברהם וגו'...
This is what he commands his children; Guard the way of Hashem in order that Hashem should bring on [the house of] Avraham [that which he spoke about him]…”
-          This also seems to contradict the mishna in Avos which says that we should not do mitzvos in order to receive reward?

The gemara in Sotah (14a) says;
דרש רבי שמלאי - מפני מה נתאוה משה רבינו ליכנס לא"י, וכי לאכול מפריה הוא צריך או לשבוע מטובה הוא צריך? אלא כך אמר משה הרבה מצות נצטוו ישראל ואין מתקיימין אלא בא"י אכנס אני לארץ כדי שיתקיימו כולן על ידי. אמר לו הקב"ה כלום אתה מבקש אלא לקבל שכר, מעלה אני עליך כאילו עשיתם שנאמר (ישעיהו נג, יב) ' לָכֵן אֲחַלֶּק לוֹ בָרַבִּים וְאֶת עֲצוּמִים יְחַלֵּק שָׁלָל תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱרָה לַמָּוֶת נַפְשׁוֹ...' ... שמסר עצמו למיתה שנאמר (שמות לב, לב) ואם אין מחני נא וגו'
"Rebbi Simlai explained; Why did Moshe want to enter Eretz Yisrael? Did he need to eat its fruit or be satiated from its goodness? Rather this is what Moshe said; 'There are many mitzvos that the benei yisrael were commanded that can only be kept in Eretz Yisrael – I will enter Eretz Yisrael so that I will be able to observe them.' Hashem said to him, 'The only reason that you want to keep these mitzvos is in order to receive reward, I will consider it as if you did them. As the passuk says (Yeshaya 53:12): "Therefore I will give him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the mighty; because he poured out his soul to death..." This refers to Moshe who handed himself over to death as the passuk says '...and if you will not forgive the benei yisrael (for making the egel ha’zahav) then wipe me out from Your book.’"

-          Why did Moshe only want to keep the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz in order to receive reward, surely this also contradicts the mishna in Avos that says this should not be our motivation?

-          Why did Hashem consider it as if Moshe entered Eretz Yisrael and kept the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz specifically in the merit that he said mecheni na misiphrechah?

Rb Chaim Volozhin z”l (Ruach Chaim, Pirkei Avos 3:1) explains as follows;

Hashem gave us the Torah in order that we should receive reward. Therefore the best kavanah we can have when keeping the mitzvos is that Hashem will reward us, because this fulfills the will of Hashem. However, we can not be sure that our intention to be rewarded is to fulfill the will of Hashem to reward us or if it is really to receive personal benefit.

The purity of a person’s intentions can be determined if they are told that they will not be rewarded for keeping the mitzvos but someone else will be rewarded instead. If they continue to keep the Torah then this shows that they really are keeping the Torah in order that someone, regardless of if this will be them or someone else, will receive reward - which was Hashem’s intention in giving the Torah. However, if when told that someone else will receive the reward for their mitzvos and not them, they stop keeping the Torah – then this shows that their observance of the Torah is for themselves and not lishmah.

Moshe said “mecheini na misiphrechah” – “please erase me from the Torah”. This means that he was prepared to give away his own portion in the Torah for the sake of the benei yisrael. Therefore we can see that his intention in keeping the mitzvos was entirely selfless and therefore it was appropriate for him to do the mitzvos in order to receive reward.  Because Moshe was ready to give away the reward for the mitzvos that he had done, middah keneged middah he received the reward even for the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz that he was unable to do because he never entered Eretz Yisrael.

Avraham Avinu was also on this level of selflessness and therefore he also kept the Torah for this reason, as Rashi explains;
"לך לך" - להנאתך ולטובתך
 ‘Go for yourself – for your benefit and for your welfare.’

 Most people are not on this level however, so for them mishna advises;
אַל תִּהְיוּ כַעֲבָדִים הַמְשַׁמְּשִׁין אֶת הָרַב עַל מְנָת לְקַבֵּל פְּרָס       
"Do not be like slaves who serve the master in order to receive reward…"

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