SALT - Monday, 23 Tammuz 5777 - July 17, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

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This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of my grandfather 
Rav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l, whose yahrzeit is
22 Tamuz, July 16.

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Refua sheleima to
Malka Sarel bat Batya
and
Yosef ben Gracia,
the 450th! kidney donor/recipient team
arranged by Matnat Chaim.
May they be an inspiration to us all!

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            We read in Parashat Matot of God’s command to Moshe to wage war against the nation of Midyan, a command which is followed by God’s pronouncement that Moshe would die: “Take the Israelites’ revenge from the Midyanites; afterward, you will be gathered unto your nation” (31:2). 

Rashi (31:3), citing the Sifrei, understands this to mean that Moshe’s death depended on the successful waging of this war; meaning, Moshe was guaranteed that he would not leave this world before this battle of revenge was fought.  As such, Moshe could have delayed his passing by delaying the fulfillment of this command, and waiting before dispatching soldiers to fight against Midyan.  Nevertheless, Rashi observes, Moshe acted promptly to organize the military campaign, without any delay whatsoever, eager as he was to fulfill the Almighty’s wish – even at the cost of hastening his death.

            We generally make our decisions in life based on considerations of personal gain.  Whether it’s the major decisions we need to make, such as choosing a career, or smaller decisions like how to spend an hour of free time, we tend to base our choices on what suits our personal preferences and what would yield profitable gain and enjoyment.  Chazal here teach us, in an especially dramatic way, that we must be prepared to sacrifice and compromise our own personal interests for the sake of doing the right thing and fulfilling the will of God.  Of course, we are entitled and expected to care for our own basic necessities, and should not endanger our personal wellbeing or basic stability in life for lofty, idealistic causes.  However, we must learn from Chazal’s depiction of Moshe that we must be prepared to undertake worthwhile and important tasks even when this does not serve our personal interests, even when this entails a degree of personal sacrifice.  The question of how much we stand to gain by the endeavor should not be the sole factor that we take into account when considering whether or not to pursue it.  At times we need to set aside our own interests and wishes for the sake of an important cause, and we must live our lives with a readiness to make these sacrifices when necessary in order to embark upon meaningful and worthwhile goals.