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Simcha Groffman

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Parashas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim

What Are Your Intentions?

"And you shall guard my chukim (decrees) and my mishpatim (laws). You shall carry them out and live by them. I am Hashem." (Vayikra 18:5). This verse is a bit puzzling. What type of living is it referring to? Many people live diligently by Hashem's decrees and laws; and in the end, they die and leave this world. What life do they have after that? The Sifra informs us that the keeping the mitzvos gives us eternal life in Olam Habbo - the World to Come. That is why the verse ends with the words, "I am Hashem." I am faithful to pay the deserved reward for the mitzvos performed. When? In Olam Habbo.

The Ramban adds a compelling explanation of the rewards of Olam Habbo. He details the method of how the reward for the mitzvos is calculated. The eternal life that a person receives for his mitzvos is dependent upon how well he prepared for them. There are four levels of preparation, beginning from doing mitzvos only to receive reward, and going all the way up to thinking only about the Creator and fulfilling His Will. Along these lines, the more that his intentions are li'shaim Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven) the more reward he will receive.

A person may go through the day and perform many, many mitzvos. He prays by saying the words of the siddur with kavannah (intention). Does he have in mind that he is talking to his Creator? He gives tsedaka to a poor person. Does he realize that he is easing that person's suffering? A person learns Torah. Does he think that he is learning the Devar Hashem - the Almighty's words and thoughts? All these are part of a person's kavannah when doing a mitzvah. Every mitzvah can forge a close connection between us and our Father in Heaven. Some mitzvos - prayers and blessings - give us the privilege of speaking to Him. Others - learning and teaching Torah - allow us to listen to His Word. We also have the merit of helping Hashem's chosen people - our fellow Jews - with mitzvos of gemilus chassodim (acts of kindness). When we carry out justice according to Torah law, we bring peace into the world. Every mitzvah is a wonderful opportunity to get closer to Hashem.

Rav Avigdor Miller zt"l expands upon this point. If we think about what we are doing all of the time, we can find a way to get closer to Hashem in all of our daily activities. A person who has a business and employs twenty people can think, "I am working to make money." If so, he will make the money, but nothing more. However, he can think, "I am working to provide a parnassa (livelihood) to twenty families. They all have food, shelter, health care, tuition, and all of their needs supplied from the salary that I give them." He then receives the mitzvah of supporting these families from his work. Their Torah and mitzvos are in his merit. What a difference a little kavannah can make! When a person sits down to eat, he can think, "I am hungry and need to eat." When he eats, he does nothing more than satisfy his desires. Alternatively, he can have a much higher intention, "I am eating to strengthen my body to serve Hashem better." Eating then becomes a mitzvah. When a person lies his head down to sleep, he can think that he must sleep because he is tired. However, if he thinks that he is resting his body to have the strength to serve the Creator, he gets a mitzvah! With the proper intention, a person's life can be fulfilled with mitzvos every minute of every day! What a wonderful life! What a paradise of being close to Hashem! "In all of your ways know Him" (Mishlei 3:6). It all depends upon your intention.

Kinderlach . . .

Think about what you are doing! Are you just walking to school? Or, are you getting fresh air, exercise, and taking in the beauty of the wonders of Hashem's world? It all depends on your intention. Are you learning for a test to get a good mark, which will get you honor and recognition? This is important; however, do not forget that the Torah that you are learning is the Devar Hashem. It was given at Har Sinai and is our privilege to learn and fulfill. As we said, eating, drinking, sleeping, and other activities that strengthen our bodies all help us to serve the Almighty. Honoring and helping other people makes their life easier, more pleasant, and elevates their spirit. What a mitzvah! Kinderlach, think about your activities, and turn everything into a mitzvah!

Body and Soul

Do not eat meat and milk. Do not eat unkosher animals. Do not wear shaatnez (mixtures of linen and wool). Purify yourselves with the Parah Adumah (Red Cow). Do we understand these mitzvos? Hardly. They are described in the Torah as chukim. Other mitzvos make more sense to us. Do not steal, do not murder, do not take revenge, pay for damages that you caused. These mitzvos are called mishpatim. Hashem instructs us to guard both types of mitzvos. "And you shall guard my chukim and my mishpatim. You shall carry them out and live by them. I am Hashem." (Vayikra 18:5).

The Malbim illuminates the relationship between these two types of mitzvos. A person is composed of a body and a soul. The secrets of the soul are very deep and hidden from us. The chukim are mitzvos that we do not understand. They are given to us to purify and perfect our souls in a manner that we do not fully understand. The mishpatim, on the other hand, relate to the body. These common sense laws allow us to live together. The verse instructs us to guard both types of mitzvos. We perform the chukim with our bodies. Thus, the body helps to perfect the soul and prepare it for eternal life. Similarly, the main observance of the mishpatim is with the seichel (intelligence). The soul works to understand these laws, whose observance will protect the body. And so, the two halves of the person help each other to live. This is the meaning of the verse, "You shall carry them out and live by them." Two lives - the physical life in this world, and the spiritual life in the next world. When the person sheds the external garb of his body, he then lives the true eternal life of the world to come.

Kinderlach . . .

The mitzvos were given to us for life. Performing them gives us life. Both in this world, and the next. We do not understand some mitzvos. They give us no less life than the ones that we do understand. Don't ever think that you lose anything by performing a mitzvah. You only gain. Life itself.

Parasha Questions:

What is the procedure for purification after eating a neveilah or treifah? (17:15)

What is the difference between mishpatim and chukim? (Rashi 18:4)

Why are honoring parents and observing Shabbos mentioned in the same verse? (Rashi 19:3)

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