Commitment

  • Harav Yehuda Amital

Sicha for Shabbat from the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion


PARASHAT BEHA'ALOTEKHA

 

SICHA OF HARAV YEHUDA AMITAL SHLIT"A

Commitment

Summarized by Matan Glidai

Translated by Kaeren Fish

 

At the beginning of the parasha, Rashi writes that when Aharon saw the nesi'im bringing their contributions he was dismayed, and the Holy One comforted him with the job of lighting the menora and preparing the lights. The Ramban presents several questions on this (such as, why was it not the offering of the incense, or the Yom Kippur service that was offered as consolation). He tries to explain that what saddened Aharon was the fact that all of his functions were compulsory, in contrast with the sacrifices of the nesi'im, which had been brought voluntarily. The Ramban rejects this explanation, for the lighting of the lamps was also obligatory and so this did not represent any consolation. He suggests a different explanation (having to do with the restoration of the Temple by the Chashmonaim).

We may say that what God was really trying to teach Aharon was that it is specifically those actions that are performed routinely, out of obligation, that are the most important. In the introduction to "Ein Yaakov" there is a midrash of unknown origin that attempts to find a verse that is a synopsis of the entire Torah:

Ben Zoma said, We have found the most all-inclusive verse to be, "Hear O Israel..."

Ben Nanas said, We have found the most all-inclusive verse to be "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Shimon ben Pazi said, We have found the most all-inclusive verse to be, "You shall offer the one ewe in the morning, and the second ewe you shall offer at twilight."

Someone stood up and said, It is ben Pazi who is correct, as it is written, "All that I have shown you, the plan of the mishkan and the plan of all its vessels..."

This midrash does not mean to teach that the sacrifices are the most important part of the Torah, for many other verses could have been cited that relate to the sacrifices. The midrash is emphasizing the importance of commitment to the fundamentals, the routine of mitzvot, rather than trying to find innovations and to institute changes. First and foremost we must take care of the basic framework – the ewe in the morning and the ewe at twilight. It may seem boring, but the routine of mitzvot is the foundation of the Torah.

The modern world seeks to obliterate any commitment to a framework, developing a perception that everyone can do what he pleases, seeking his own innovations and his own way of doing things. This perception is penetrating even the Beit Midrash – people wish to learn what they feel like learning and when they feel like learning, finding difficulty in accepting any orderly framework.

Many people think that an inflexible framework causes stagnation, while freedom from such a framework brings about creativity and originality. The opposite is true – experience demonstrates that it is specifically those who are careful to maintain an orderly framework who eventually achieve innovation and originality, while those who always try to do things their own way and do not see themselves as committed to anything, ultimately remain in the same place where they started and introduce nothing new. The reason for this is that these latter types waste all their creativity in the search for new and different ways of doing everything, such that no creativity is left to build and to innovate. It is specifically the observance of an orderly framework, a fixed timetable, etc., that allows one ultimately to build and to create.

"Like the vision that God showed Moshe, so he made the menora" – "This verse speaks in praise of Aharon, who changed nothing" (Rashi). The Sefat Emet explains that this verse comes to teach us that Aharon did not seek ways of doing everything in an original manner, such that his personal seal would remain on his work. He did exactly what he was commanded to do day after day, and this was his praise.

(Originally delivered on leil Shabbat Parashat Beha'alotekha 5757 [1997].)

 


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