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Shabbat Parashat Shemini 5774

Ein Ayah: Details Prove Sanctity

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Maaser Sheni 17)

Gemara: [In the declaration upon fulfilling the mitzvot of ma’aser, one says] “… I did not stray from the mitzvot that You commanded me” – this means that “I did not take off ma’aser from one species onto another species, and not from the detached from the ground onto the attached to it or from the attached onto the detached, and not from the new onto the old or from the old onto the new.”  


Ein Ayah: Mitzvot have impact in two ways. One is through each mitzva’s specific purpose. The other, even greater, impact is by virtue of their being G-dly commandments, and this sanctifies and purifies the heart. It also provides the mitzva with the character of sanctity that befits it and operates within the depths of the soul so that the impact will last forever, as the pasuk says: “The word of our G-d will stand forever” (Yeshaya 40:8).

How does one clearly stress that mitzvot are G-dly [and not a humanly motivated moral act]? This is done by fulfilling the mitzva in great detail and with many conditions. If the only purpose of mitzvot related to the revealed moral elements, there would not be grounds for such extensive requirements. These wonderful minutiae infuse the mitzva and the one who performs it with the spirit of Hashem by reminding the person that he is involved in the mitzva of Hashem. Although the mitzva’s evident purpose exists, he is made aware that Hashem, whose wisdom is beyond comprehension, commanded it.

Therefore, we should look deeply into the meaning of the words and letters of the Torah along with the reliable traditions about the details of the mitzva, which complete the internal message that we do not claim to understand everything about the mitzva. Actively fulfilling the mitzvot with all their details has an even more profound impact. One perceives that there is more than the pleasant mitzva based on its known reason, for example, the idea of strengthening the Torah by giving presents to the kohanim and levi’im. It teaches him that we, with our very limited intellect and emotion, are not capable of imagining all the glory and significance of the general benefit to the nation and to the world for all generations as the Master of all Actions knows. Therefore, the intricacies show that we are drawn by “ropes of love” to the purpose of mitzvot, not just according to our limited perception but based on Hashem’s broad wisdom.

The Torah’s wording of the declaration, “I did not stray from Your mitzvot,” teaches the idea of not passing over the boundary of the fulfillment of the mitzvot as divine mitzvot. Therefore, there are divine limitations on how the mitzva can be fulfilled, even though according to the human outlook on them, the details should not be important. Thus, the intricacies provide the mitzvot with their full aura, grandeur and permanence.

This idea is particularly appropriate regarding the declaration that accompanies a G-dly mitzva that has reasons that are clear to man, e.g., giving tithes. The message is to try to fulfill the mitzva without missing its specifically divine elements which are noticeable specifically by virtue of the details that can only be due to their godliness. It is reminiscent of the world of nature, where being careful about something’s specific physical attributes shows the great breadth of the wisdom of the rules of nature. These intricacies of nature exist throughout the physical and spiritual world, as set up by divine omniscience.

“I did not stray from Your mitzvot” and was careful to keep them within their character and fulfill them to their fullest without allowing intellectualism to claim to encompass the entire mitzva. It is not enough that I gave to the levi, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. I also put the divine light into the mitzva and showed that I am involved in the service of Hashem and in lofty rules that do not allow passing over boundaries.

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