A BEACON FOR ALL NATIONS
Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).
Walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).
If you would take the sum total of all the joy you experience in your life and focus it into a single moment, and then take the sum total of all the joy that happened to each member of your immediate family and focus it into that same moment, what a joyous moment it would be. All the simchas (joyous occasions) - births, brit milahs, Bar Mitzvahs, graduations, weddings, grandchildren, etc. How happy would we be! Now, take all the joy that every individual in your neighborhood, in your city, in your country, in the world from the beginning of Mankind until today, and focus it all into that same moment. What a power! Ecstasy of the highest level! This joy, the rabbis teach, pales in comparison to even a moment of exposure to a mere whiff experienced from standing outside the entrance of the World to Come. (Imagine being in the World to Come itself!)
The closer we are to Hashem, the more good we experience. The best would be to be a god, because G-d by definition is the source of all good. However, such a state of being is impossible to achieve. We are created with the next best opportunity - Man, a synthesis between the physical (body) and the spiritual (soul), and we are given freedom of choice. The greatest choice we can make is to be like Hashem, and the result of such a decision is to be as close to "perfect good" as possible. This choice is an ongoing test facing us every minute of our existence.
The rabbis teach us, "All your deeds should be for the sake of heaven." This means that every action, even the most mundane, can be used and channeled to serve Hashem. Eating - to have strength to serve Hashem; sleeping - to be revitalized to serve Hashem; exercising - to have a healthy body to serve Hashem. Each physical action, when approached with the right frame of mind and thought preparation, can be a vehicle to becoming more like and closer to Hashem. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, is a guide for every action of our day, from rising in the morning to going to sleep at night, and even for sleeping itself. >From birth to death and after. By choosing to follow these ways, we are acting like Hashem. (To see how all encompassing Jewish law is, see the table of contents of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch - the Concise Book of Jewish Law.)
Furthermore, our emotions should emulate what we perceive of Hashem's "emotions" - i.e. His manner of dealing with us. The rabbis say, "Just as Hashem is compassionate, so too must we be compassionate. Just as Hashem is merciful, so too must we be merciful" (Talmud Tractate Shabbat 133b). It must also be stressed that the objective is not merely to do actions that show compassion; rather the individual should be a true source and living example of a compassionate person to the point that every act reflects compassion and mercy.
All of the aforementioned ideas are lofty expectations. But just as we would run for the million dollar deal with zest and vigor, equal enthusiasm should be shown in pursuit of this ultimate expression of good, especially since it is to our benefit. (It is not a coincidence that "good" and "G-d" are etymologically quite similar.)
When we internalize and live these lessons, then we become a holy nation about which the Torah reveals in this week's portion, "Hashem will confirm you for Himself as a holy people, as He swore to you - if you observe the commandments of Hashem and you go in His ways. Then all the peoples of the earth will see that the Name of Hashem is proclaimed over you, and they will revere you" (Deuteronomy 28:9-10).
Yonoson Blumenthal, who hails from Atlanta, is presently studying in Baltimore at Ner Israel Rabbinical College.
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