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Shabbat Parashat KI TEITZEI | 5768

The Purpose of an Effective Tefilla - from the Writings of Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, z.t.l

Ein Ayah

1. Stability of the Community (based on Berachot 1:49)

Gemara: How do we know that Hashem is found in batei knesset? It is written: “Hashem is set in the congregation of Hashem” (Tehillim 82:1).

Ein Ayah: The power of the masses is very great; therefore, we were warned not to separate ourselves from the community. The masses’s collective power is not subject to change once it is set on a good path, as change is a phenomenon of individuals. The collective does not diverge from an existing situation of allegiance to Hashem, as the pasuk says: “The spirit that is upon you… will not move from your mouth and your offspring’s mouth from now and forever.”

Indeed, the existence of Hashem is uniquely unchanging, as the pasuk says: “I am Hashem; I have not changed” (Malachi 3:6) It is in a beit knesset, where there is an assembly of the collective, that people also have an element of not changing. However, an individual cannot find himself in such a situation. That is why Hillel (Avot 2:4) gives the following two pieces of advice in succession: “Do not separate yourself from the community, and do not believe in yourself until the day you die.” The implication of being set [see the gemara’s citation from Tehillim 82] relates to the continual existence in one state (Moreh Nevuchim).


2. The Advantages of Learning With Others (based on Berachot 1:50)

Gemara: [The gemara discusses the  existence of the shechina (Divine Presence) when people learn, citing the pasuk: “Then the fearers of Hashem spoke one to the other, and Hashem listened and heard and wrote a book of remembrance before Him for the fearers of Hashem and those who think of His Name” (Malachi 3:16). It brings varying indications as to whether this requires two people learning together or whether the shechina presides for one who learns. The gemara answers:] If there are two, their words are recorded in the book of remembrance. If there is one, his words are not recorded in the book of remembrance.

Ein Ayah:  There is a difference between involvement in self-perfection and involvement in perfecting one’s counterpart. Involvement in Torah study to perfect oneself is judged by fulfillment of what he learns. If the moral teachings can be discerned in him, this is a sign that his study was done with proper intentions, as one who uses Torah to get to the right (i.e., to improve himself). This is what Chazal mean by saying that “Va’asitem otam (you should do them) is written as va’asitem atem (you should make yourselves)” (Sanhedrin 99b). In other words, a person should form his personality through the words of Torah he studies.

This is true regarding that which one learns for himself, where the main reward is for taking that which his intellect grasps from the potential to the actual. One who learns for his counterpart’s sake is different, as he cannot ensure impact on his friend. Therefore, he receives reward from the time of the action of learning. This is what the gemara hints at by saying that one’s learning by himself is not recorded in the book of remembrance. If he deserves reward, it is because he will be his own book of remembrance; the Torah will be evident in all he does. However, learning done with others is recorded according to the degree that his Torah was fit to impact on his friend. The reward is not conditional on whether the contributing factors can be seen in his study partner’s actions. Therefore, the reward of learning with someone else is ensured, even if his friend did not actualize the purpose of the learning, and it is, therefore, recorded in the book of remembrance.

Along these lines, the gemara continues to learn from the pasuk, “those who think of His Name.” One who planned to do a mitzva and was prevented from doing so is credited with the mitzva. This is the same idea as one who wanted his Torah to impact positively on his friend, whose reward is not conditional on his success.     


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