THERE'S TREASURE EVERYWHERE
Calvin, of comic strip fame, was once digging in his backyard for hidden treasure. He unearthed such artifacts as rocks and worms, items only a six-year old could truly appreciate.
Calvin, of comic strip fame, was once digging in his backyard for hidden treasure. He unearthed such artifacts as rocks and worms, items only a six-year old could truly appreciate. In excitement over finding such treasures so soon, he exclaimed to his companion, Hobbes, "There's treasure everywhere!" He couldn't have been more right.
Yitro, upon hearing of the miracles that Hashem had done for the Jewish people, packed out of Midian and went to join them in the desert. The Ralbag, a 14th century commentator, points out that the reason why Yitro did this was to look into the truth of what he had heard. By establishing these rumors as true, he would be able to understand Hashem's might on an even deeper level, and this would form an even closer bond between himself and his Creator. We learn from this, continues the Ralbag, that one should push himself and go out of his way to see the wonders of Hashem so as to establish in his own mind the truths that he has heard and personally witness the perfection of Hashem's power and might.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller, one of the great Torah scholars of our generation, gives an enlightening example of this. Take a simple, everyday item such as an apple. At first glance, one will see a small, consumable object which is basically round except for small indentations on top and bottom. This is an extremely normal artifact and is not generally viewed as being a source of awe or inspiration.
Now take a minute and apply to this apple the lesson that we learn from Yitro that by looking into something, you'll see Hashem's might on a deeper level than before. Nowadays, food is packaged in waterproof wrappers to prevent spoilage. But if you think about it, the skin of a single apple is more ingenious than any of these wrappers. The apple peel contains an oil which not only renders it waterproof (like artificial wrappers attempt to do), but also emits an aroma which makes the fruit more desirable. The skin also indicates through color the exact ripeness of the fruit. Furthermore, the color makes the fruit more attractive, arousing the appetite of its observers. (Imagine how successful a product would be if marketers could emulate all this!) So in such an insignificant and mundane item as an apple, we have an example of the wonderful might and greatness of our Creator.
By looking at it this way, a person's entire perception of a fruit can be changed. If everything in life is viewed this way, as they certainly can be, the most normal things can inspire anyone by being clear evidence to the perfection of creation and the Creator. This is what Yitro was doing when he left Midian. He was going out of his way to see the power and perfection of Hashem. This only comes through examining things and understanding the greatness of Hashem from the insights that are found.
A similar idea is expressed by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his fundamental work on Jewish ethics, Mesillat Yesharim. He writes that when a person truly understands the value of the mitzvot and his tremendous obligation to carry them out, he will definitely be awakened to do so. This awakening can be strengthened by examining, in one's own mind, the tremendous goodness that Hashem bestows upon him every single moment of his life.
At first glance, a person will read this line, think for a moment about his lifestyle, his health, his family, and say, "The Mesillat Yesharim is right. I have a great life and Hashem is really good to me." Then he'll go on with his day, and this precious moment of introspection will have absolutely no long-term effect on him whatsoever. This is exactly what must be avoided. We cannot take a superficial glide over the basics of our conscious life and expect to be inspired by it. Only through a much deeper, longer, and more intense evaluation can we anticipate significant returns. So the question becomes: How does one do such an evaluation, and exactly what kinds of goodnesses should one be looking for?
To do this evaluation, all we have to do is think, and we don't have to go very far. A person might try to look for a miraculous event that took place over the course of his lifetime, and that would be what inspires him. In reality, not only does one not have to search that far, but in fact it is usually the smallest, most mundane events that inspire the most.
Rabbi Yaakov Kanievsky, one of the greatest Torah scholars in Israel of the past generation, writes of a few of these "mundane" events that, if given any level of serious thought, cannot avoid being inspirational. For starters, take a look at the human body. The human body comes equipped with five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Each one of these five, aside from being remarkably complicated biological mechanisms, is a tremendous gift from Hashem. Taste, for example, is a sense which is generally taken for granted and is never given much thought. But imagine for a moment, if someone didn't have a sense of taste. He'd still have to eat in order to sustain himself, but wouldn't enjoy it at all. Through the sense of taste, the act of eating is changed from a chore into a pleasure.
Looking away from the senses, the way the human body is designed and the perfect efficiency with which it runs is a tremendous kindness by itself. For example, the mouth is designed in such a way that only the proper movement of the lips, tongue, and palate, together with the right amount of breath and voice modulation will emit the desired sound. If speech is thought about in this way, we can better appreciate every single word we are able to say.
Furthermore, each of the systems in the body are completely controlled and regulated. If we think about the kindness in that alone, and in the way that all those systems compliment each other to produce a functioning human being, we'd be overwhelmed. We should also realize that if any small part of any of these systems was ruptured or sealed, we wouldn't be able to function.
We are granted the capacity to think and remember, while at the same time we are able to forget things that bother or upset us. We are also able to sleep and regain our strength, another tremendous kindness. Within the human body there are so many wonderful things - millions of miracles - that take place every second. If we give them any thought, we will be unable to justify not feeling gratitude for it all. For everything we eat, for everything we do, and for every breath we take, we should feel more indebted to Hashem. This, says the Mesillat Yesharim, will inspire us to do more mitzvot by attempting to show our appreciation to Him in whatever way that we can.
But wait, there is more. The world itself provides certain things that were created for no active purpose in nature other than the pleasure of Man. The wide variety of fruits, gems, and precious metals, and the fact that the world was created in color and not black and white, are just a few examples of this. We see that wherever we are, we are totally encompassed by the everlasting kindness of Hashem.
The bottom line is that there are so many things that are clear demonstrations of Hashem's kindness, but due to the fact that they take place so often and regularly, we take them for granted and are not inspired by them. The way to get around this is by looking into our everyday lives, and stopping to think what it would be like if we were deprived of these blessings. If we stopped to think what our lives would be like if, for example, we didn't have food to eat or we couldn't hear anything, and then realize how fortunate we are that we do have these things, we'll come to appreciate everything that we have, even if they do seem mundane. Through this, we'll have more gratitude to Hashem, which will inspire us to do more mitzvot.
Now we can understand why Calvin's statement of "there's treasure everywhere" is so true. It is because, in reality, there is treasure everywhere. The wonders and kindnesses of Hashem completely enclose us - they're everywhere - and all we have to do is open our eyes and dedicate minimal effort in order to see them. In turn, we will be inspired to draw closer to Hashem and push ourselves to our limits in mitzvah observance.
Mendel Starkman, a native Atlantan, is attending the Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Jerusalem.
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