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The Dangerous Reward

By Rabbi Adam Mather
August 22, 2019

A school teacher asked a student, “John, will you please conjugate the verb ‘to go’ for the class?” The kid began, “I go… um… you go… ehmm… he goes…” “How about a little faster?” asks the teacher.

“Sure!” answered John. “I run, you run, she runs…”

Movement is important. It’s always good to being going forward.

Yet there is another type of going that’s important – Going in G-ds path.

What does that mean, and how can we achieve this?

Our Parasha teaches us the importance of Going in Hashem’s ways.

The Chafetz Chaim ztsl in his introduction to Ahavat Chesed, notes that there are three times within this Parsha that we are commanded to go in Hashem’s Ways.

Let’s have a look at the Pesukim.

1: (8:6)You shall observe the commandments of Hashem, to go in His ways and fear Him.

2: (10:12)VeAta Yisrael – And Now Israel….. to fear (Hashem)… go in all His Ways and Love Him.

3: (11:22) Ki Im Shamor – To love Hashem your G-d, to go in his ways and to attach to him.

Why does the Torah go out of its way to seemingly repeat the same command?

What does it actually mean to ‘go’ in Hashem’s Ways?

The Chafetz Chaim explains that there are three levels in serving Hashem.

  1. Yirah – Fear.
  2. Ahava – Love.
  3. Devekut – Attachment

The difference between love and attachment is that attachment represents love that is constantly fixated in the heart.  Through that kind of strong love, we are able to attach ourselves to Hashem.

Love on its own, can come under pressure and only show itself at certain times. With Dvekut (attachment) love exists constantly in the heart.

The Torah stresses these three Pesukim in order to teach us the secret of gaining the final and top level – Devekut.

First we are to start to work on ourselves to imitate Hashem’s Ways.

Just as He is merciful, we should be merciful to others. Just as He is kind hearted and has provided us with abundance, so to should we be with others.

We are to ‘go’ in His ways, by imitating His Midot (Characteristics).

The Torah teaches us that in order to go up a level in spirituality, we first need to concentrate on our character with others.

Thus the Torah states in the first Pasuk above – first go in his ways, only then can you reach fear of G-d.

What happens once we have reached that level of Yirah (fear of G-d) – is it all spiritual concentration from here on?

No, says the Chafetz Chaim. The Torah in the 2nd Pasuk states – on your way up the spiritual ladder from Yirah to Ahava – again you must ‘go’ in Hashem’s Ways, by improving on your social and caring character traits. Hence the Torah places ‘go’ in His Ways, between the words Yirah and Ahava.

And once you have reached the second level and are on your way to the final level, can you then only concentrate on spirituality?

No! The final Pasuk states, between Ahava and Devekut, again we need to work on our social and caring character traits to imitate Hashem.

What a powerful lesson!

No matter how high we are heading spiritually, we must always imitate the Ways of Hashem and look around us. Especially concentrating on those commandments that we were given Ben Adam Lechavero. Only through concentrating on giving to others, are we able to advance in our connection with Hashem.

This brings new meaning to the famous comment of our Sages Derech Erets Kadma LaTorah. If we are to improve on our standing in front of Hashem we must concentrate on our standing with fellow human beings.

The sages throughout the generations have concentrated and worked hard on themselves to support every fellow Jew.

There is a famous story of a student who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. He came to his Rabbi, the Chafetz Chaim, for a Beracha, blessing. According to the medical authorities, there was no cure for his ailment. The Chafetz Chaim listened carefully to the broken-hearted young man and told him that he would advise him, provided that he never reveal the advice to anyone. The student immediately agreed. The Chafetz Chaim then instructed the student to go to a certain Torah scholar in a small village to ask for his blessing. “He will give you a Beracha and you will recover,” said the Chafetz Chaim. The young man, followed his Rabbi’s advice, and received the blessing. In a short while, he recovered. He eventually married and raised a family, all the while never revealing to anyone the events surrounding his illness and miraculous recovery.

Twenty years later, this man’s sister-in-law became ill with an illness similar to the one sustained by him many years earlier. He kept his word to the Chafetz Chaim and revealed nothing about his recovery. His wife, however, remembered that he had once spoken about a mysterious illness that had afflicted him many years before they had met. When she questioned him about it, he suddenly became evasive and quiet. The more vague he tried to be, the more she pressed on, demanding an answer that might save her sister’s life.

He could take it no longer; both his wife and sister-in-law pleaded with him to reveal what had occurred many years earlier and how he had been cured. He tried to keep the secret, but to no avail. He finally gave in, rationalizing that the Chafetz Chaim did not really mean forever. He told his wife and sister-in-law about his visit with the Chafetz Chaim and his instruction that he go see a certain Talmid Chacham to ask for a Beracha. When they heard this, they became hopeful for a cure.

After a short while, the man himself became ill with symptoms similar to those of his previous illness. His worst fears had been realized. He had broken his word, and he was now being punished. He decided that he could do nothing else, but go to his Rabbi.

He made the long journey to the Chafetz Chaim’s home and entered his Rabbi’s home to find a frail old man. After listening to his student’s heart-rending pleas, the Chafetz Chaim turned to his student and said, “My son, I wish I could help you, but I am no longer physically able. When you came to me last time, I was much younger and stronger. I was then able to fast forty days on your behalf, so that you would be cured. Today, I can no longer do that.”

This remarkable narrative teaches us the love and devotion a Rabbi had for his student. To fast forty days on behalf of a student indicates the overwhelming loyalty and love the Chafetz Chaim manifest for him. That is probably secondary to the Chafetz Chaim’s humility in creating the ruse. Telling the Bachur to seek a Brachah from a Tsadik in order to conceal the real reason for the miraculous recovery. This is but a glimpse of the character of this outstanding Tsadik.

Want to go in G-ds path – look around, help others, smile and take the next step up in your spiritual connection to G-d.

Shabbat Shalom

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