Parashas Acharei Mos
The Source of Blessing
"A man must ask three questions to his household members on Erev Shabbos. 'Did you take maaser? Did you make an eiruv? Did you light the candles?'" (Mishna Shabbos 2:7). The Meshech Chochma, in his commentary on this week's parasha, explains that within these three simple questions may be contained the deep secrets of the hashpah (influence) of Shabbos onto the remaining six days of the week.
"Did you take maaser?" Maaser is the portion of the crop that is set aside either for Leviim, for poor people, or for eating in Yerushalayim. Without this hafrasha (separation) of maaser, the food is forbidden to eat. Maaser may not be taken on Shabbos. Regarding maaser the Torah states, "aaser ta'aser" (Devarim 14:22). The Gemora (Taanis 9a) elaborates, "vi'aaser (and you shall separate maaser) bishvil she'teetasher (in order to become rich)". Giving maaser brings wealth to a person. What is the connection to Shabbos? A person eats three meals on Shabbos. The food has had maaser taken from it. By eating this food, he can come to the realization that all food and indeed all parnassa (livelihood) comes from Hashem. He can only come to this madrayga (spiritual level) on Shabbos, because that is the day which he cannot prepare the food himself, rather he is totally dependent upon The Holy One. This realization brings him great wealth, by allowing Shabbos to bestow blessing to the weekly parnassa.
"Did you make an eiruv?" The Mishna speaks about two types of eiruvin - eiruv chatzeros, which allows a person to carry his possessions outside of his home, and eiruv techumim, which allows him to travel farther distances on Shabbos. The eiruv chatzeros gives a person more mobility with his possessions on Shabbos. The eiruv techumim limits his mobility to the techum (boundary) of Shabbos. This mobility is what distinguishes living things from inanimate objects: living things move. A person, when he walks around on Shabbos, limited by the Eiruvin, can come to the realization that Hashem is the one who gives life to his limbs, allowing them to take him where he wants to go. He can only come to this madrayga on Shabbos, because that is the day which he is limited by the eiruvin. Therefore, Shabbos can bestow life onto the rest of the week. We leave Shabbos refreshed and invigorated to begin the week's endeavors.
"Did you light the candles?" Candles bring light into the house. This light promotes shalom bayis (peace in the home). It also symbolizes the light of Torah. As the verse states, "For the mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah is light" (Mishlei 6:23). Enjoying the lights on Shabbos brings the light of Torah into our homes and hearts throughout the whole week.
These three mitzvos: maaser, eiruvin, and lights demonstrate the greatness of Shabbos. Let us all heighten our Shabbos observance, coming to a greater recognition of Hashem, and thereby feel the impact of the bracha into our lives.
Kinderlach . . .
Every one of us enjoys Shabbos. The Meshech Chochma gives us a way to make Shabbos even more delightful! When you eat your Shabbos meals, remember that the food is from Hashem. This will bring the blessing of parnassa into the week. When you carry or walk within the eiruv, recall that Hashem put the life into those arms and legs, which enable you to use the eiruv. This will bring the blessing of life into the week. When you enjoy the light from the Shabbos lamps, keep in mind that the spiritual light of Torah illuminates your life. You will receive the blessing of wisdom during the week. Kinderlach, take advantage of the blessings that Shabbos brings into the week. As we sing in Lecha Dodi, "Let us go to greet the Shabbos, for she is the source of blessing." Enjoy Shabbos! Enjoy the blessing!
The Best Motivation
"Do not act like the people of Mitzraim … and the people of Canaan…" (Vayikra 18:3). The Kesav Sofer has a novel explanation of this verse. We are being cautioned against performing mitzvos in the same manner as the Mitzrim and Canaanim. They also have their governments, which lay down commands for the good of society. They follow them in order to be able to live together in peace and pursue their desires. Our commandments were given to us by Hashem. We must observe them for one reason alone - because they are the Will of The Almighty.
The Ramban elaborates on this point. He lists four levels of motivation for doing a mitzvah, and the reward of each one. He bases this on the verse, "You shall keep My statutes and laws…and thereby live" (Vayikra 18:5). The Medrash Toras Kohanim relates that the verse is referring to eternal life in Olam Habbo (the World to Come). The quality of life that a person receives from his mitzvos depends upon the amount of preparation that he has invested. One who performs a mitzvah shelo lishma (not for Hashem's sake); rather for the sake of receiving a prize, will receive his prize. He will live a long life in this world, with wealth, possessions, and honor. The next higher level, is one who toils in mitzvos in order to receive a good portion in Olam Habbo. He is serving Hashem from fear, and in that merit, he will be saved from the harsh judgment of gehennom. Level number three, are those who serve Hashem from love. They toil in mitzvos in this world out of a pure desire to come close to The Holy One. They will live a good life in this world, and their reward will be complete in the next world. The highest level are the ones who abandon all of the temptations of this world. They conduct themselves as completely spiritual beings, without a body. All of their thoughts are about Hashem. They are like Eliyahu HaNovi, who lives forever in his body. Therefore, the Torah, when mentioning the reward for mitzvos, mentions "life" several times, and in various forms. The type of life that you will receive depends upon your motivation and preparation for the mitzvah.
Kinderlach . . .
We all want to do our mitzvos in the best way possible with the highest motivations. Hashem promises great rewards for mitzvos, and that is a good reason to do them. Fear of Heavenly punishment is an even better motivation. Loving Hashem, wanting to please Him and get close to Him is even more praiseworthy. Finally, we have those holy beings like Eliyahu HaNovi who achieve total unity with The Creator. Strive for the highest level that you can, kinderlach. Mitzvos give us life. Choose the best quality of life.
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