SALT - I Rosh Chodesh - Sunday, 30 Shevat 5777 - February 26, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Midrash (Shemot Rabba 33:1), commenting on the beginning of Parashat Teruma, cites the famous verse in Mishlei (4:2), “Ki lekach tov natati lakhem Torati al ta’azovu” – “For I have given you good merchandise; do not abandon My Torah.”  God “sold” us the Torah, the Midrash explains, relinquishing ownership over it and handing it into our possession, as it were.  However, unlike in other transactions, the Midrash comments, which results in the seller’s complete detachment from the merchandise, in the case of the Torah God sold Himself, so-to-speak, with the Torah.  The command to construct a Mishkan after Benei Yisrael received the Torah expresses the fact that God wishes to reside with us after having giving us the Torah.  He did not want to detach Himself entirely from the Torah, and so He instructed Benei Yisrael to build a place where He would “reside” among us and be close, as it were, to the Torah.  The Midrash thus interprets the phrase, “…do not abandon My Torah” to mean, “Do not abandon the merchandise I have given you.”  This merchandise is so valuable that God did not want to leave it after having “sold” it to Benei Yisrael.  We therefore should never abandon this precious commodity, just as God Himself refused to abandon it.

            The Kotzker Rebbe develops this comparison drawn by the Midrash between Torah and commerce, and suggests an explanation for the admonition to never “abandon” this enterprise.  When a merchant finds that his endeavors are not succeeding, he does not simply despair.  Earning a livelihood is too important for a person to simply give up after experiencing failure.  When a person’s professional or commercial undertakings are unsuccessful, he will, in all likelihood, redouble his efforts and rethink his approach in order to increase his chances of success.  As he needs to support himself and his family, he will not simply despair.  He will do all he can to succeed.

            This, the Kotzker Rebbe suggests, is the Midrash’s intent when it instructs, “Do not abandon the merchandise I have given you.”  If our efforts in Torah study and observance prove unsuccessful, when we experience spiritual decline or moments of failure and shame, we must not despair.  Our Torah endeavors must be afforded no less importance than our professional or entrepreneurial efforts, and thus when we find ourselves struggling or even failing, the only acceptable response is to keep on trying.  As in a profession or business, we will likely have to make significant changes and pursue other avenues of success, but we cannot despair.  Rather than feel discouraged, we must recognize that in all areas of life, we will experience both periods of success and periods of decline, and our job is to constantly invest effort and achieve to the best of our ability.