24 Av 5781 / Monday, August 02, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
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HomeFoundations of JudaismJewish Daily Life and HalachaAre You a Descendant of Fools?
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Are You a Descendant of Fools?    

Are You a Descendant of Fools?

Think about it - were your ancestors fools? Were the sages fools? Maybe they knew something we don't?


"Lift up the head of the children of Gershon, they as well, to their Father's House, to their families" (Bamidbar 4:22) 

Some Jews will at times disregard various mitzvot, such as Shabbat, Torah Study, prayer with a minyan - believing that such things will cause them to lose money or waste time, missing out on enjoyment in life. They fail to see any purpose in religious devotions, and they lack the patience to do them, especially if it is difficult. 

When you ask this person why he isn’t observing these mitzvot, he will answer: “I just can’t”. 

The persuasive answer to this is with using example of a doctor. Nobody in need of a surgery or other medical treatment will tell the doctor, “I just can’t do it”. If, chas v’shalom, someone is ill, and the doctor prescribes a difficult treatment to save his life, the patient will be meticulous to do whatever the doctor says, even a painful surgery, even if it means he will have to spend months in an ICU, even if it means to change his entire lifestyle, because he believes that his very life depends on it. We see that this argument of “I just can’t do it” has no merit, because it is possible to do all of the mitzvot, even if this goes against one’s lifestyle, as long as he realizes that his life depends on it! 

Some people incorrectly say that before they can accept a Torah lifestyle, they need to understand how a mitzvah helps their life, or how a sin harms it, and only then will they accept to keep Torah and mitzvot. Other people go further in their folly, including very young people who never even started to learn at all, and say that they have “questions” against the Torah, and because of this they will not keep the mitzvot, as if they are so incredibly wise to have found questions that the sages throughout the generations who did keep the mitzvot never thought of. Especially in this technological age, we find that unfortunately even Jews who keep Torah and mitzvot will stumble into sin, deliberately or accidentally, publicly or privately, and will consider the words of wicked missionaries for the secular cause who try to stand in the way of mitzvah observance. Due to lack of knowledge and lack of study, they might think that  these arguments hold some weight, and they stop taking Torah observance seriously, and think of casting off the yoke of the mitzvot. 

However, this mashal of the doctor can also negate this argument of the yetzer hara. Just as a person will not think twice before following the guidance of a doctor to save his life, and he will never tell the doctor that he needs to know how a cure works before he will agree to take it, so too should we keep the mitzvot through faith in Hashem, who is the “Healer of all flesh”, even if we do not understand the reason yet. Afterwards, we can be diligent in our study of the Holy Torah and start to understand the reason behind each mitzvah, and see that we can find an answer to every question. 

We understand that the Holy Torah is far vaster than all the seas, and far greater than medical science in its scope, and each question has many answers and reasons, and not everyone knows everything. Just as a simple doctor knows that he has to ask his professor, and if the professor lacks the answer he has to go to an even greater scholar, perhaps a specialist in the area in question, or look through many volumes of medical books, but he knows that there is an answer to each question somewhere. Even if it is difficult for the common person to understand quickly, the more one studies the Talmud, the more he comes to understand the foundations of our faith the greatness of the mitzvot, and the concepts behind performing them. Especially when someone studies the Holy Zohar, he can understand deeply the reasons for Creation and the greatness of Hashem, and how a person’s deeds can change and elevate the entire world. Just as a scholar of medical knowledge grasps the hidden powers of the physical world, such as bacteria, viruses, and the likes, so too is it possible to learn the hidden powers of the spiritual world, tuma’ah and taharah. A person just has to remove himself from physical desires which destroy the mind. 

This is how thousands of our ancestors, our Bubbes and Zeides, conducted themselves for over 3,000 years throughout the chain of the generations from Avraham Avinu until our generation, which engaged in mesirus nefesh to keep the mitzvot. These were not imbeciles or fools. Just like nobody is born a doctor, so too nobody in their youth knows the reasons for the mitzvot. Since they saw the older people kept mitzvot and they knew the reasons, they were inspired to study on their own and grasp this same knowledge on their own. All of the millions of Jews throughout the generations who kept mitzvot even if they did not study the entire Torah, were still happy to keep the mitzvot by virtue of the guidance they received from wise rabbis and sages, many of whom lead regal lives with wealth and wisdom, like the Rambam, the Abarbanel, and other luminaries throughout the generations who said they knew the reasons for the mitzvot. Thus, anyone who hasn’t learned much, particularly the youth, need to simply do the mitzvot by faith at first, since they see thousands of older and wiser people who keep the mitzvot, and study and know the reasons for them. After some time, these young people will grow in their wisdom and knowledge as well, and also be privy to this information. 

Those who teach this fundamental concept to our fellow Jewish brothers and sisters lifts up their heads from materialism, because this teaches a person not to conduct himself like an animal, whose nature is to face the ground in search of food and additional materialistic desires. Rather, one should conduct himself like a human being with an upright posture, with the head above the rest of the body. This represents the concept that one can elevate himself spiritually with the power of his mind, and to subdue the desires of his heart in order to fulfill his mission in the world of fulfilling the mitzvot. Then, he can learn and understand more and more, and through this he can come to authentic fulfillment in life, with true and everlasting joy from life. 

This could be hinted to in the verse: "Lift up the head of the children of Gershon", lift up the heads of the children who have divorced themselves ('geresh') from the heritage of Hashem because of the many questions they imagine they have, by telling them "they as well, to their Father's House, to their families", that they are also connected to their ancestry and their families throughout the millennia, and they are not smarter than their ancestors who served Hashem throughout the generations. 



The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at  www.kaalov.org. 


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