- The Service of Love
- Rabbi Reuven Mann
- We read in Pirkey Avos: "If you have learned much Torah do not
take credit for yourself because that is what you were created
for". On the surface this idea is difficult to understand and
goes contrary to common perception. It is generally regarded as
fitting to "give credit where credit is due". One who
overcomes the pull of emotions and directs his energies towards the
good certainly deserves praise. Thus, we constantly extol the good
deeds of righteous people, for their example can inspire others to
emulate them. If those who work hard to attain much Torah knowledge
are not deserving of credit then who is?
- I believe we must look at the words carefully. They are addressed to
the Torah scholar himself. "If you have learned much Torah do not
take credit for yourself". Others may and should praise you and
give proper recognition for the achievement. However, the scholar
himself has no right to take credit. Why not? Because "this is
what you were created for". This means that when a person studies
Torah he is fulfilling the purpose of his existence. His psyche was
designed for this particular activity and when he engages in it
properly it affords him the greatest satisfaction and happiness.
People pursue many diverse lifestyles in their frantic search for
fulfillment. "There are many thoughts in the heart of man but
only the plan of G-d will prevail". The one who studies Torah
achieves the highest form of life. He should not feel that he has
sacrificed anything, that he deserves credit for his efforts. Rather,
he is permeated with an intense feeling of happiness and regards
himself as privileged to have partaken of the delights of G-d's Torah.
He feels totally fulfilled and imbued with the special satisfaction of
one who has achieved the mission he was sent to perform. Such a person
loves Torah profusely and wants to share it with others.
- On Shavuot we celebrate the most significant event in human history:
the Revelation of G-d's Torah to mankind. The Jewish people have been
chosen to make the wisdom of Torah available to the nations. However
before we seek to help others, we must perfect ourselves. The mitzvot
are not magical pills which automatically transform us. Effort on our
part is required. It is up to us to rise to the challenge of Sinai. A
complacent attitude toward Judaism is perhaps our greatest problem.
True, we perform mitzvot and even devote some time to study. Yet we
feel as though we are fulfilling an obligation for which we deserve
credit. There is nothing wrong with that attitude. It would be nice if
more Jews felt a greater sense of responsibility about their religious
duties. However, Judaism offers something more beautiful and profound.
When studied properly Torah enlightens the mind and inspires the
heart. It transforms one's observance of mitzvot into a labor of love.
- As we approach the holiday of Shavuot let it be our prayer that the
"words of Torah should be pleasant in our mouths and the mouths
of our children". The experience will help us achieve the
"service of love." It will enable us to become a kingdom of
Priests and a Holy nation.