Thursday, May 29, 2008

For the Sake of Heaven

The Divrei Yisrael of Modzhitz, zt”l, once said: “There is a well known parable regarding a tightrope performer. True, he takes money for his work, but clearly has his mind only on what he is doing while on the tightrope. We all know that if he is distracted he will surely fall. Similarly, although chazzanim take money, while they sing their mind is on the davening, not the money. It is possible to apply this to the famous gemara which states that one should learn Torah even not lishmah, for it’s own sake, since, “mitoch shelo lishma ba lishmah”—although the underlying intention is not lishmah, from doing it for not lishmah reasons one learns lishmah, because he is only thinking about what he is learning as he learns.”

This is similar to the following recollection of the Michtav M’Eliyahu, zt”l: “Every Shabbos night my father and uncle would wake up around midnight and learn until davening Shabbos morning. During the long winter months, the nights were so long their weekly seder often lasted a total of nine hours.

“As a boy, I would also wake up several hours before davening to learn. My mother, the daughter of the Alter of Kelm, zt”l, would also be up to study Midrash, Ramban, and Malbim on the weekly sedrah. When my mother woke up it was the greatest pleasure for me since she would serve us coffee and very tasty baked goods.

Rav Dessler concluded, “Although I woke up for the learning, I must admit that the savory cakes were a big part of my zeal to spring out of bed as soon as I woke up!”

The Divrei Shmuel warns that the opposite is also true regarding physical things. “Even one who for a certain period eats more than they need ‘lishmah,’ for example at many seudos mitzvah or to get energy to do a certain task, will often come to overeat shelo lishmah. In physical matters: mitoch lishmah ba lishelo l’shmah!”

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