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12 Adar II 5765 - March 23, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Accepting Torah Willingly

by HaRav Dovid Povarsky zt"l

This shmuess is an excerpt from Mussar VoDaas—Sichos Maran HaGrid zt'l

Part II

In the first part, HaRav Povarsky explained the important principle that one's ma'asim have fruits that benefit the doer himself, namely that the feedback from his good deeds, in turn, causes him to become a better person. His deeds are his fruits, and then these fruits have further fruits from which he himself benefits. In this way, HaRav Povarsky explained how the Jews in the generation of Purim accepted the Torah willingly when the great Dor Hamidbar did not. In the time of Mordechai and Esther, the acceptance was the fruit of deeds: "fasting, crying, and lamenting." The feedback of these acts made the doers great and led them to fully and willingly accept the Torah.


This is the process: from the heart springs an act. The heart is where that act is sown — "Just as the mountains are capable of being sown." And from this sowing grow a person's acts, which also sow the most important and greatest fruit: the acts' influence on his heart. Undoubtedly from such a heart will now spring forth even greater acts that will afresh influence the heart beneficially. This is the continuous [feedback loop] process.

Every type of ma'aseh has its own influence. Chesed breeds "love of chesed," and studying Torah breeds "love of Torah." So it is with every act.

The Dor Hamidbar lived in a different atmosphere. After rising so high in their spiritual level and beholding the whole truth, they understood that no other way of life exists except for that of the Torah. Without observing the Torah we simply cannot exist—this is what is meant by, "You will be buried there"— so therefore they understood that they must accept the Torah.

Nonetheless, the free will to accept the Torah was lacking. The Dor Hamidbar was forced to accept the Torah. Real desire to do something can originate only from deeds, when the will and love are the "fruit of their doings." This is the pearl that someone who does a virtuous act is zocheh to attain.

Moreover, the Tomer Devorah (1:8) writes, "HaKodosh Boruch Hu acts with Am Yisroel according to this middoh, and that is the secret of Hashem's kevishas he'ovon (quashing iniquity). A mitzvah, however, flourishes (and splits the heavens) immeasurably so as to rise before Hashem."

(The Tomer Devorah does not mean that the mitzvah itself actually grows. He means, as we have written before, that the mitzvah a person does influences his heart, each mitzvah with its particular influence. This assists one to do more virtuous deeds that again influence his heart beneficially. This is an endless loop process, until his deeds appear before Hashem Himself.)

Acting virtuously does not literally subdue iniquity. A person's ma'asim flourish enormously and add on to his previous mitzvos until they build an illustrious edifice and garment.

The Zohar (I, 224a) explains what the garment formed by mitzvos is. "These tzaddikim, eternally concealed behind the Divine King, merit having made for themselves a precious garment to wear in this world." A person's acts join together and become a single, complete garment.

Although individual acts are distinct from each other, the result of doing these acts is their impact on the heart. An act that emanates from the heart will have a return [feedback] effect on the heart which in a way resembles what the act was. In the person's heart all these influences become one—which is an immeasurably pure and perfect heart. This is what is meant by a garment being created by one's mitzvos. Only when the different impressions that are made on a heart unite is there a complete garment formed.

Actually the Zohar is stressing an additional point. Besides a good heart being an outcome of doing a mitzvah, that outcome does not remain as it is initially. Hashem does not quash mitzvos. He allows them to flourish until "they appear before Hashem Himself."

Where does the mitzvah grow and rise? Can it do that in Shomayim? All growing and elevating is internal, within the heart, until these mitzvos cling and attach themselves to the Ruler of the World. This is the power of ma'asim: limitless growth until they unite with Hashem.

This process happens only with mitzvos. It would seem that the same should happen with aveiros: from every aveiroh a harmful fruit should be created that will be an injurious influence on the heart. Chazal (Kiddushin 40a) indeed inform us that after a person has committed an aveiroh and has repeated it, that aveiroh is considered by him as if permitted.

Rabbenu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuvoh 1:5) writes that HaKodosh Boruch Hu does not usually consider an evil thought of doing an aveiroh as actually doing an aveiroh. But for someone who has committed an aveiroh and has repeated it, even when he only intends to do that aveiroh, HaKodosh Boruch Hu already reckons it as if he actually did it.

After a person has done an aveiroh and repeated it, his heart becomes an "evil heart." With such a heart the thought of committing an aveiroh is a finished act, since it is anyway seen by him as permitted.

Nonetheless, aveiros are not like mitzvos that unite with each other and become one single garment. Aveiros do not "flourish." The Ruler of the World quashes them so that they will not grow and become a "garment."

The above conforms with how the Tomer Devorah (1:2) explains the matter of "forgiver of iniquity." This middoh is greater than the previous one of Hashem's joining all of man's mitzvos together.

When a person does an aveiroh, a destructive Heavenly force is formed. (This is undoubtedly true, since destructive forces are created in Heaven by our doing aveiros. We must realize that such a force is created within man himself by his doing aveiros. Just as through a mitzvah a person obtains a "good heart," so through an aveiroh he obtains an "evil heart.")

"R' Eliezer ben Yaakov said: He who fulfills even a single mitzvah gains himself a single advocate, and he who commits even a single transgression gains himself a single accuser" (Ovos 4:11). The accuser referred to is the "evil heart" created within man. That accuser stands before HaKodosh Boruch Hu and incriminates that person for committing an aveiroh.

Since all creatures exist only because Hashem sustains them, how can that accuser itself continue to survive? (A good mal'ach created from the mitzvah grows and ascends before the Ruler of the World. Its clinging to Hashem sustains it.) It would be just for HaKodosh Boruch Hu to tell the heavenly accuser, "I will not sustain you. Go to the person who created you and request parnossoh from him."

The accuser-creature, as a result, would descend immediately and remove the sinner's neshomoh or sever it, or the person would be punished until that accuser was nullified.

But Hashem "forgives iniquity" and does not allow it to develop. Without that middoh, the sin would attempt to take away the life of the one who made it.

Hashem does chesed for both mitzvos and aveiros. The mitzvah becomes a single garment along with other mitzvos since in the heart they are all one, while aveiros are prevented from doing that and do not grow at all.


We now understand the secret of an "act" and the greatness of a person who is "a doer of acts." Chazal (Taanis 25b, Bovo Metzia 85a) write, ". . . not because this person is greater than the other but because . . . ." (We dare not even discuss this topic.) Even if an act is done superficially, since it emanates from a person's inner self and from the depths of his heart, the act becomes a part of his essence and perfects the heart and middos of the person as far as concerns that specific act.

A ma'aseh that is not done because of internal conviction, one that does not come into existence because studying Torah motivated him to do it — even if that act is tremendous, even if those are like the deeds and tests of the holy Ovos — if they are done without internal feeling, if they are only done as if one was compelled to do them, or when one was embittered, like when a mountain is being held over one like a barrel — these acts would not have the value that the Chovos Halevovos speaks of.

On the other hand, even when a person makes all his inner preparations, if his plans do not actually materialize they will not have the segulah, the unique power, of illuminating the neshomoh that is achieved by him who succeeds in doing the act. After the act, the neshomoh becomes illuminated with a radiance similar to what is found in the act itself.

The Ovos, despite all of their colossal inner preparation, also needed to do ma'asim since without ma'asim everything remains only potential.

The Dor Hamidbar too — though their level was lofty and all of the spiritual worlds were revealed to them to such a degree that they realized that without Torah they were lost and could not exist — were still missing something. They did not reach the level of willingly accepting the Torah. The Dor Hamidbar only accepted the Torah because they were forced. The will to do something can be attained only through ma'asim, and in absolutely no other way.

This is the level of the Ovos, of which Chazal (Sanhedrin 96a) wrote that they were like horses running before Him between the breaks of the water. The water would spray in their faces but the horse would continue to gallop ahead regardless. Such a level can be attained by someone who does ma'asim and only through ma'asim.

Although Moshe Rabbenu thoroughly humbled himself—"What are we?"—he raised a complaint to Hashem when he had a question about how Hashem acted (see Rashi, Shemos 6:9). The Ovos never had any objections to what Hashem did, since their level, attained through acts, was altogether different. This is because ma'asim directly influence one's source.


We must make an effort to attain spiritual elevation from our Purim. From Purim we must extract a strong desire to do avodas Hashem. Surely there are lofty levels in avodas Hashem with an ardent rotzon, but we have Purim too [to help us].

Chazal say that the kuf of Yom HaKippurim means it is compared to Purim. We now understand this well, since Purim gives rise to a strong desire to do avodas Hashem. Such a day is surely sublime and holy and is equal to Yom Kippur, but chas vesholom that from Purim the opposite should result!

The Mashgiach of Yeshivas Mir, HaRav Yeruchom Levovitz zt'l, once explained Chazal's statement (Megilloh 7b) that "a person is obligated to drink on Purim until he cannot discern between `cursed is Haman' and `blessed is Mordechai.' " (Various interpretations have been offered for this Chazal.) The Mashgiach explained that this Chazal is teaching us the secret of accepting the Torah willingly: that we should not accept the Torah because of fear or because we are being forced to accept it when we see that we have no other choice. We must forget and not be aware at all of "cursed is Haman." Our acceptance should be only motivated by our free will and love—"blessed is Mordechai."


I want to conclude with another explanation that I heard from the Mashgiach zt'l. Dovid Hamelech says (Tehillim 78:38), "He, the Merciful One, is forgiving of iniquity and does not destroy." If Hashem did not forgive iniquity then He would have to destroy. Nothing would remain of the sinner and evil would immediately swallow him. (Azoi bitter iz geven . . .).

The Mashgiach concludes that this forgiveness happens only here in Olam Hazeh but there, in Olam Habo, HaKodosh Boruch Hu allows evil to destroy. In Olam Habo Hashem is not "forgiving of iniquity" and does not quash sin. In Olam Habo everything is as it is in reality: from the heart of a sinner grow rotten grapes, and the evil that emerges from his inner soul ascends and surrounds him.

We see how careful we must be in two matters. First, that our good deeds should have a neshomoh and not only a body: that they should grow from our heart, just like a fruit grows from a tree. In that way they will grow and forever bear fruit, and fruit of fruit.

The second matter is that we must beware of bad deeds. Although HaKodosh Boruch Hu does chesed and quashes the evil and this consoles us, surely bad deeds harm the heart. It is simply terrible that we do not feel what we are losing. We are always trampling on jewels and pearls underneath our feet. Every act of mitzvah is a pearl. Someone who does chesed becomes a person who loves chesed and someone who honors others becomes honored.

Someone who studies Torah becomes a shtikel Torah, a part of the Torah itself! Let alone if he studies Torah for its own sake; then how great he becomes!

If we do all our acts in such a way, we will be indeed fortunate.

HaRav Dovid Povarsky zt'l was the rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas Ponovezh of Bnei Braki

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