Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hekdesh, Chametz and Freedom

A mark of greatness is learning not only for the sake of understanding, but in order to apply the learning to one’s own life. The Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, noted that few people even learn Seder Nezikin with the attitude that this study is a means to develop respect for the property and money of others. In addition to searching for the simple application of their Torah study, many greats, such as the Vilna Gaon, zt”l, and the Baal Shem Tov, zt”l, sought how to apply their learning to everyday life. This is in keeping with the Maharal and Ramchal’s teachings; both emphasized that there is a much deeper meaning to every gemara that one learns.
When someone asked Rav Yosef Lieberman, shlit”a, to impart some mussar from Bava Kama 90, the Rav extemporized, “On the beginning of the daf we find that hekdesh, chometz, and freedom have the ability to uproot liens. We can learn a tremendous amount of mussar from this one statement. Firstly, one must realize that he is mostly ‘meshubad’ to his yetzer hara who always waits to ensnare him in sin. As the verse states, צופה רשע לצדיק ומבקש להמיתו—‘The wicked one scouts out for the tzaddik and seeks to kill him.’
Here, the gemara offers hints as to how we can overcome this ‘shibud’. The first is through hekdesh. This means that one should sanctify himself even in that which is permitted to him. One must be careful not to become a menuval b’reshus Hatorah, as the Ramban explains in the beginning of parshas Kedoshim. The second way is through being careful about chometz. Based on the Zohar, the Arizal taught that one who is careful not to have any chometz for the entire duration of Pesach will not sin the entire year. Of course this refers not only to physical chometz but also to the spiritual chometz of anger and arrogance. The third means, ‘shichrur,’ refers to learning Torah, since we find in Avos, "אין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתורה"—‘The only free person is one who occupies himself with Torah study.’ This is because the only cure for the yetzer is limud haTorah, as taught in Kiddushin.
“So here is your mussar: One who is careful in these three matters will remove the yoke of the yetzer from around his neck and will attain true holiness!”

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