Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Parashat Kedoshim: So Many Mitzvot!

"Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel" (Lev. 19:1).

"This teaches us that this passage was stated in the assembly [of the entire congregation of Israel], because most of the fundamental teachings of the Torah are dependent on it [are mentioned in this section] " (Rashi, from Torat Kohanim 19:1).

The Maggid of Dubno used the following parable to explain the well-known statement of the Sages:

God wished to bestow merit upon Israel, so He gave them an abundance of Torah and mitzvot." (Makkot 23b).

Wouldn't the Jewish people have more merits if they had fewer commandments to keep?

The Young Merchant

Daniel had been so excited that he barely slept all night. The young man was on his first business trip, his first visit to the famous trade fair in Leipzig. Daniel kept a watchful eye on the purse of money that his father-in-law had lent him to invest in worthwhile merchandise.

The young man arrived safely at Leipzig and was pleased to come across his uncle. He proudly explained that this was his first trip to the fair and went off to find suitable lodgings for his stay.

In the meanwhile, Daniel's uncle went to various local merchants, informing them that his nephew had just arrived and would be a good person to conduct business with.

Several busy days later, Daniel visited his uncle one last time before starting his journey home. He had spent all of the money purchasing goods on sale from the many merchants whom he had met, and his luggage was filled with valuable merchandise he hoped to sell for a good profit.

"How was your first visit here in Leipzig?" asked his uncle.

Daniel groaned. "I'm exhausted! Merchants and businessmen visited me all hours of the day. I barely had time to sleep the entire week!"

His uncle smiled broadly. "Who do you think sent all of those merchants to you? I knew this was your first visit at the fair, and I wanted to make sure that you would use your time and money wisely, and not waste them on the card games, shows, and other attractions that could steal the attention of a young man."

Keep Them Busy!

We are like the young merchant in the parable. We find ourselves in an exciting world full of attractions and pitfalls. And like the caring uncle, God wanted to make sure that we would be occupied with Torah and mitzvot, so that we would not be led astray by the world's many distractions.

This is what the Sages meant that "God wished to bestow merit upon Israel, so He gave them an abundance of Torah and mitzvot." He gave us many mitzvot, to keep us focused on the important things in life - good deeds and spiritual aspirations.

(Adapted from Mishlei Ya'akov, pp. 249-250)