The Beginning and End

Shalom Aleichem!

Just a few days ago, while studying the Talmud (Sotah 14a), I came across a passage that I would like to share:

Rabbi Simlai expounded: The beginning and end of Torah consist of acts of kindness. In the beginning, G-d clothes Adam & Eve. In the end, He buries Moses. 

Looking for a bit of elucidation, I turned to one of my favorite commentators, Rabbi Yehudah Loew of Prague, usually referred to by the initials of his name as Maharal (1525-1609).Maharal Grave Close Up

My paraphrase of his words follows:

The Maharal explains that the dominant aspect of the Torah is kindness, and it is only because people need guidance, that it contains a system of checks and balances (i.e., reward and punishment).

Since the purpose of Torah is goodness and kindness, it begins with an act of kindness, as if it is the thesis statement of an essay.

After this introduction, we begin to delve into the laws and narratives of the Torah. We read of sacrifices which are intended to bring atonement for one’s sins and various kinds of punishment along the way.

Then, at the conclusion of the Torah, we once again read of an act of kindness. This is meant to tell us that even though there may be some “bumps” along the way, everything in the Torah — even punishment — is meant to bring one to a higher level. These “bumps” are all part of the “acts of kindness” of the Torah.

To present my own analogy: If I want my garden to grow, I will need to remove the weeds. While the very act of weeding is a destructive act, it will ultimately allow the garden to flourish.

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And on a different subject: Today, the 2nd of the Hebrew month of Iyar, marks the birth of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Schneerson, in 1834.

It also marks the birth of my son Shmuel, three years ago.

Rabbi Shmuel was wont to say:

People commonly say that when you encounter an obstacle, you should first attempt to clamber under it. Only if this is not possible, should you leap over it. I say: From the outset, just leap over it!

Just as parents want what is best for their child, so too, G-d wants what is best for His children. The obstacles along the way are placed there to help us gain traction. Removing the “weeds” from our life will help us flourish!

Perhaps this is why Rabbi Shmuel says that when you encounter an obstacle, from the outset, just leap over it! Why waste time trying to strike a deal with my challenges? I am meant to recognize that the obstacles are there to assist me, and I can and should just hop right over them!

Shabbat Shalom,