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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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And you shall offer peace offerings; and shall eat there, and rejoice before the L-rd, your G-d.
A student at the Radin Yeshivah become ill with epilepsy. With a broken heart, he came to the Chofetz Chaim and said, "Our Rabbi, help me. The doctors have no cure for my illness. What should I do?"
The Chofetz Chaim answered quietly, "I will give you advice on one condition that you never tell this to anyone in the world. Go to a certain town, and ask for a blessing from the local rabbi, and then you will be cured."
The student went to the town, sought out the local rabbi and told him of his problem. The rabbi blessed him with a speedy recovery. As soon as he had left the Rabbi's house, the illness disappeared entirely and did not return. Later, the student married and had a family.
Years went by, and suddenly his wife's sister became will with epilepsy. His wife had found out that her husband had suffered from the very same illness in his youth, and she asked him to reveal how he had been cured. Although he tried to give her a roundabout answer, she nevertheless persisted, and both his wife and sister-in-law did not leave him alone, but nudged him constantly. After begging him to reveal his cure had not succeeded, they started threatening him. Finally, he could not take it any longer and revealed the secret. As soon as he finished speaking, he collapsed with an epileptic attack.
He travelled to the Chofetz Chaim, who was by this time very old. He shamefacedly explained what had happened and asked once again for a cure for himself. The Chofetz Chaim answered, "My dear one, what can I do to help you? I don't have the strength I once had. You should know that at the time of your previous illness, I fasted 30 (some say 40) days! I prayed and prayed for you to have a recovery. But now in my old age, my strength is gone, and I am unable to repeat that feat." Only then did the student appreciate that his being sent to the small town to be "cured" by the local rabbi was only a ploy devised by the Chofetz Chaim disguising the fact that he himself was saving his student. His obvious reason was to conceal his own greatness. OLAM CHESED YIBANEH, p. 161)
When Rav Huna got to the following verse he would cry: "And you will sacrifice peace offerings (Shlomim), and you will eat (them) there (in the chosen city where the Temple will be)." (Rav Huna use to say to himself) "A slave whose master is waiting to eat a meal with him at his table (it is quite unusual to invite a slave to eat at his master's table) and that slave will stay away (not accept the master's invitation)? And so is it written, "Why do I need your many sacrifices?"
Since Rav Huna cried when he arrived at this verse, there must be a special meaning behind it, but what is it? Why does the slave not come to eat the meal with his master when he is invited? What does the concluding verse, "Why do I need your many sacrifices?" have to do with what Rav Huna had said?
Rav Huna's crying when he recited this verse shows that this verse teaches us an important lesson about something which we are lacking. This is the great love that G-d has for us and our lack of recognition of that love. This love is symbolized by G-d's invitation to us to eat a meal with him. Imagine receiving an invitation from a worldly king! That he would, of his own accord, invite someone to share a meal with him, shows that the king has great affection for his guest. Here too, G-d's telling us to come to His Temple to eat our sacrifices is an invitation to eat with Him, in that place of the greatest manifestation of His presence.
But our reaction to G-d's invitation is most ungracious. We don't arrive for dinner. Rather, we prepare to be elsewhere at the time that He has invited us to be with Him, as if we were arrogantly saying that we do not appreciate His invitation.
This ungrateful reaction of the Jewish people is what cause Rav Huna to cry. He felt the tragedy of our refusing the most precious thing in the world: closeness to G-d. By disregarding this opportunity, we were showing that we do not appreciate His greatness nor realize how awesome it is to have the chance to serve Him. And so, Rav Huna cried, just as a person cries when something is terribly sad or when something precious is lost.
The only reason a slave would turn down an inivitation by his master would be if he does not appreciate his master's greatness, and does not realize that he is obligated to love and fear him. Rav Huna deeply felt our lack of recognition of the fear and love that we owe to the Almighty.
The midrash's concluding verse, "Why do I need your many sacrifices?" implies that if a person brings a sacrifice without the proper fear and love of G-d, then it is worthless. The whole concept of bringing a sacrifice signifies that we are eating with G-d, and if it is not done with the proper awe, than it might as well not be done at all. It is the quality and not the quantity of the sacrifices which is important.
This also teaches us a lesson about the precious relationship between a man and his wife. Often a man does not appreciate the greatness of his wife's love for him. She is willing to give anything that her husband needs. She is prepared to work for him, cook, sew, shop, clean, look after his children, and she does everything to the utmost limits of her strength and capabilities. But does the husband really appreciate all these efforts, or does he take them for granted? The love that his wife shows him deserves reciprocity the wife feels keen disappointment, since she is giving something so precious as her love.
You cannot fool your wife. She knows exactly how you feel about her, and therefore a husband must work on loving his wife in his heart. But that love must not remain only in his heart. He must also show her that affection in acts of kindness and love. If a husband does not show his love, then his wife thinks he does not care enough about her to show his love. Thus, a husband must always be careful about this matter, since it is of utmost importance to his wife.
A husband can be compared to the slave whose master is waiting for him to eat at his table. Since a wife longs to receive affection from her husband, it is as if she is inviting her husband to "a meal", meaning that she wants to share her love with him. It would be cruel not to accept that love and show your appreciation for it.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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