Redefinition of Repetition
I don’t think there is one Jew in the world who has not heard of the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments. Ask any of them and they will tell you something to the effect of it being a moral code which is the basis of the Torah we know.
Okay, so we’ll take a crash course on these ten statements, memorize them all and we’re good to go, perfect Jews, right?
Even the sage and scholar cannot be proficient in what the Aseret HaDibrot, and by extension, the entire Torah entails if they lack one thing: sensitivity. Without sensitivity, the Torah is powder in our hands; even if you collect grains and grains of information and mount them in your palm, it can all be blown away at once if there is no sensitivity acting as the liquid solution that will stick all the powder together.
Sounds nice but let’s give concrete applications.
It is known that towards the end of his life, Yisshak Avinu lost his ability to see. Why is that? Say the Hakhamim that the smoke from the sacrifices that Esav and his wives brought to foreign gods affected Yisshak Avinu’s eyes and caused him to lose his vision. This is a famous midrash. But wait a minute. Wasn’t Rivka Imenu there as well? The smoke didn’t reach her eyes?? Why is it that she didn’t lose her vision?!
Sefer Hinukh LeBanim answers this question as a HALAKHA. We must understand, Yisshak Avinu was brought up in a completely Kadosh environment, he was sensitive to things like idol worship and therefore it affected him greatly when he was exposed to it to a point where he even lost his eyesight. However, Rivka Imenu grew up in a home with Lavan as father, understandably not as Kadosh an environment. Rivka Imenu was therefore more tolerant to this idol worship and lost that special sensitivity that Yisshak Avinu had, and thus the smoke did not affect her.
In Parashat Yitro, Yitro offers Moshe Rabbenu advice so great that he had the zekhut of having an entire Parasha named after him. What was his advice? Yitro notices that for every single little legal problem, all of Benei Yisrael continuously come to Moshe Rabbenu to seek his council, and this became somewhat overbearing. Yitro suggests to appoint a court for smaller issues, then a step up for larger appeals, and others higher until only the issues that were unable to be solved would reach Moshe Rabbenu himself. What Yitro saw was a tolerance on the part of Benei Yisrael to such quarrels. People would really bring their friends to court for such trivial things?? It was not fair for Moshe Rabbenu to have to deal with this every moment of the day. Had Benei Yisrael been more sensitive to each other, they would keep the missvot more perfectly and these issues wouldn’t even exist in the first place.
Sometimes, we don’t realize how tolerant we become to impure and profane things. We might see an ad with an undressed person in it and even though we know not to look, it doesn’t really bother us that it is there. Other times we brush off a sentence of lashon hara spoken. Sometimes it doesn’t affect us so much if we missed minha that day. WHY SHOULD IT BE THIS WAY? The first time something like this happens, we become really affected and try very hard to maintain our Kedusha despite what just happened and begin to do teshuva for it. The second time too, and maybe even the third time, but by the fourth time, and the fifth, and the fiftieth, we have already become too tolerant to such things and it doesn’t even bother us anymore.
Just because something happens repetitively, it should not have to lose its effect. Rav Waus explains with such passion the phenomena of rain. Just for a second, pretend you have never seen rain before. Good. You look outside your window and all you see is literally millions and millions of little drops of water falling from the sky. What a wonder! Did you ever stop to think what an amazing event is taking place here? When it rains, not only do we ignore it, but we also complain about it! But just think about the beauty of what is happening. Just because we have seen rain so many times before, it shouldn’t have to lose its charm. Likewise, says Rav Waus, as well as Rav Avigdor Miller zt’’l, did you ever stop to consider the beauty of fruits? HaKadosh Barukh Hu could have created the world with dull, tasteless spheres hanging from trees for us to eat. But He didn’t! HaShem made fresh, succulent and vibrant fruits for us to enjoy with fragrance and color! Don’t you see the wonder in that? Just because we have eaten them so many times, it doesn’t take away for one second the value of a beautiful fruit in our hands.
If we look at life and the missvot with fresh new eyes, we will acquire a hibba, love for doing them and we will have no problems keeping the missvot. But if it feels like a chore, then what is the point?
This is why the advice of Yitro is the prelude to the Aseret HaDibrot. If we become tolerant to negative influences, the Torah can easily slip through our fingers. When we develop a passion and sensitivity for what HaKadosh Barukh Hu in his Mercy teaches us in His Torah HaKedosha, the Missvot will solidify in our hands. Then we can be sure that not only will we keep the Missvot impeccably, but that they will come from our own initiative and we won’t have to feel forced (I know, worst feeling). Not only that, we will never be susceptible to the negative influences around us either and we can live our lives in the highest levels of Kedusha!
Be’Ezrat HaShem Yitbarakh, may we all develop the sensitivity to realize the beauty of this world the more we experience it instead of become tolerant to its wonders. May we apply this sensitivity to the way we keep the missvot and further, to the way we treat the people around us (especially our family members whom we are so used to seeing but may sometimes forget to treat specially). In this zekhut, may we be zokhim to feel HaKadosh Barukh Hu with at least the same level of awe and love Benei Yisrael felt for Him at Matan Torah when we stood at Har Sinai.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh! Remember, just because Shabbat Kodesh comes every week, it does not for a second lose its Kedusha and inherent beauty!! Enjoy it like it’s new J
Based on the teachings of the wonderful Rav Waus, Rav Avigdor Miller zt’’l, Rebbetzin Kalazan, Rebbetzin Marcus, Sefer Hinukh HaBanim