[Ed. Note] Out of the respect and recognition of the impact made by longtime BJL friend and contributor, Reb Shaya Gross, z’l, we will maintain a living memoriam to Shaya through the sweet words and thoughtful insights of his Divrei Torah. BJL readers will remember his weekly column on the Parsha and on various Torah ideas and concepts. These meaningful words will help us remember this special young man who will be sorely missed and for those who did not merit to know him, this will be the most appropriate way for them to become familiar with who he was.
Parshas VaYeira describes the events leading up to Yitzchak's birth as well as his birth. Yitzchak's birth is the solidifying act in ensuring the continuation of our people. In fact, Yitzchak himself is the solidifier par excellence; taking all the inspiration of his father Avraham, and being that crucial link in the chain for the perpetuation of our people. What is it that makes our people so great and special?
The Mishna in Avos asks ‘what is the proper path to take in life?' The Mishna answers, 'it is the path that is tiferes [glorifying] to the doer and to the viewer.' The Mishna continues ‘we should be careful with light/small Mitzvos like strict/important ones.’ What is the connection between these two seemingly disparate statements?
I would like to suggest the following relationship. The key to living and exuding a truly special lifestyle is to treat ‘small’ Mitzvos as we do ‘big’ Mitzvos. Why? If you think about it, what is it that makes us dislike a certain person, even if that person keeps many Mitzvos? It is that he isn’t scrupulous with his adherence to ALL Mitzvos. He performs the Mitzvos he considers important, but is lax in his observance of mitzvos he deems unimportant. That makes him be despised by people who are wholesome, who deem important the Mitzva that he is lacking in. For example, if a person considers learning Torah an extremely important mitzvah but doesn’t consider Midos Tovos and being a Mentch as important Mitzvos, then he is going to be despised by many people who are seeking the genuine Torah path. Alternatively, if a person has good midos outwardly but doesn’t consider it important to refrain from talking bad about the people he interacts with, then he is going to be despised by insightful people who realize he is putting on a show.
Most of us unfortunately have what we think are the most important Mitzvos, and then the Mitzvos that we think aren’t as important. If we treat the Mitzvos like that, then we will be lax in the ‘small’ Mitzvos and will not be living a 'tiferes' lifestyle, and it will be noticeable to others. Hence, right after the Mishna tells us that the proper path in life is the path that is glorifying to the doer and the viewer, the Mishna tells us to be careful in what we consider small mitzvos, as that is the trick to truly living a glorifying lifestyle, both for ourselves and for all of the people that view us.
This, I believe, is what makes us truly great and special. Innately embedded into the mitzvos by Hashem is the ability to live a balanced, healthy, rich, and beautiful life. When we observe ALL the Mitzvos properly, we tap into that richness and beauty, and thus become a special and beautiful people.
May we all take this lesson to heart, to realize that each and every Mitzva is an important part of what together makes up a beautiful symphony, but without all of it, it is just noise that will not be appreciated.
[Reb Baruch Gross's note: I think this lesson can even be taken a step further, which is to understand the significance of each and every Jew. We have to realize that each and every Jew is an important part of what together makes up a beautiful symphony and that without every Jew doing the will of Hashem, there is a lack in the symphony. Baruch Hashem, this week, many of us will merit to be part of the Shabbos Project, which will hopefully be a start in the right direction for many people to become closer to Hashem. May it be a catalyst for all of us to become closer to Hashem and merit the ultimate Geulah.