Sunday, October 19, 2008

Unbending Pride

The general rule that blessings are to be said before performing mitzvos, and not afterward. The brochah is our expression of gratitude to Hashem for His kindness in giving us the mitzvah. Making a blessing is the natural outgrowth of taking joy and pride in the mitzvos that we do.
The Rambam, zt”l, was born in Cordoba, Spain. Before his bar mitzvah, the city was conquered by the “Almohadim,” a fanatically religious Moslem sect that believed in proselytizing by the sword and eventually ruled over Spain and North Africa. The Rambam’s family fled their onslaught and embarked on a long exile, finally finding refuge in Fez, Morocco. Although the Almohadim also controlled this city, in Fez they allowed Jews to remain without official recognition.
One Sukkos, the Rambam was proudly walking with his arba minim to synagogue and his unusually buoyant demeanor attracted the notice of a passing Moslem officer.
“Why are you walking with leaves and branches like a crazy man?” he asked.
The Rambam immediately responded, “You could call a person who throws stones crazy, but there is nothing outlandish about fulfilling the Creator’s will by taking the four species on Sukkos.” With that, the Rambam continued on his way.
A passing Moslem overheard his words and chided the officer, “How can you have missed his impudent reference to our own religious practices? He was obviously alluding to our custom of throwing stones in the holy city of Mecca! That infidel ought to be punished!”
The officer was so enraged that he ordered the Rambam captured and killed. As soon as the search began, the Rambam heard that he was a wanted man and fled to Eretz Yisrael. From there, he went down to Egypt and settled outside of Cairo, where he became the gadol ha’dor.
Like the Rambam, we should be so filled with pride when we go to make our blessing on the arba minim that it is noticeable to any passerby on the street!

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