This D’var Torah should be a Zechus L’Ilui Nishmas my mother Chaya Rochel Bas Dovid Tzvi (Hareini Kaparas Mishkavah), my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, my paternal grandmother Channah Freidel Bas Avraham A”H, my uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein,
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmother Shulamis Bas Etta
-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
_R’ Simcha Yitzchak Ben Mirela Yudka
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of HaRav HaGa’on V’Sar HaTorah Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim Ben HaRav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky A”H, Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken by terrorists (Hashem Yikom Damam), COVID-19, and other tragedies.
-It should also be a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
Be”H, I will be translating / transcribing / paraphrasing Divrei Torah of my Rebbi, HaGaon R’ Yonason Avner Sacks Shlita. (Any inaccuracies portrayed and/or added, or due to omission and/or points lost in translation or context should be attributed to me alone.)
Submit Your Whims & Wisdom
Based on the following essays and/or audio Shiurim:
▪︎ “Eizehu Gibor? HaKoveish Es Yitzro” (Chayei Adam B’Midos HaTorah, Pg. 252)
▪︎ “Chukim U’Mishpatim: Positive Law & Natural Law”
▪︎ “Kol SheChochmaso Merubah MiMa’asav”
▪︎ “U’Shloshah Devarim Acheirim Hu MiTalmidav Shel Bil’am HaRasha” (Yimei Temimim, Pirkei Avos 5:22, Pg. 180)
The Torah consists of multiple categories of law. Among the most basic of those categories, we find Chukim and Mishpatim. While Mishpatim refers to “natural” laws of society which would otherwise be self-evident, Chukim refer to decrees whose underlying logic and rationale are unknown to us.
Of course, Parshas Chukas is named for its opening topic, Parah Adumah, which is the prototype “Chukas HaTorah” or the Torah’s model for a “decree” whose logic is beyond our comprehension.
Similarly, in his Hakdamah to Talmud Bavli, Rabbeinu Nissim Ga’on differentiates between Mitzvos Sichliyos, common sense law (or “natural law”), and Mitzvos Shmiyos, laws which must be accepted and obeyed irrespective of our understanding of their basis (“positive law”).
What might we suggest is a Nafka Mina (practical emerging factor) between Mitzvos Sichliyos and Mitzvos Shma’iyos?
“I Would” vs. “I Would Never”
Rambam (Shmonah Perakim 6) raises a question that is subject to debate among the : Who is greater, the unfazed, steadfast Chassid (pious individual) or the Koveish Es Yitzro, he who struggles but conquers his inclination?
The philosophers, explains Rambam, would argue that the Chassid is greater. Certainly, it is more ideal to be unwavering in Avodas Hashem. However, in Sifra, Rabban Ben Gamliel states that a person should not declare, “I would never desire to eat Basar B’Cholov,” or “I would never desire to wear Sha’atneiz”; rather, he should instead say, “I would, but the Torah says, ‘No.'” So, which one is it?
The Nekudah Nifla’ah: Sichliyos vs. Shma’iyos
In what Rambam refers to as a Nekudah Nifla’ah (wondrous concept), he explains that the appropriate mindset depends on the difference between Mitzvos Sichliyos and Mitzvos Shma’iyos, between Mishpatim and Chukim, between common sense laws and decrees beyond our intellect.
For a Mitzvah which one would be expected to maintain even had he not been commanded by Hashem, i.e. not to murder or steal, although one would be commended for controlling himself, it is certainly not an ideal for one to struggle to do so. One should be steadfast; it is greater to be a Chassid when it comes to Mitzvos Sichliyos.
But, when it comes to, for example, Basar B’Cholov and Sha’atneiz, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I would, but the Torah said, ‘No.'” In fact, there is greater virtue in the mere obedience and the Kevishas HaYeitzer, the struggle to overcome one’s tendencies and desires, for such Mitzvos, for these are Mitzvos Shma’iyos, laws dependent not on natural expectation, but our acceptance of Hashem’s decrees which go beyond what is naturally expected of us.
Ma’asim vs. Chochmah
Perhaps this dichotomy is related to another dichotomy portrayed in Pirkei Avos (3:17), between one whose Ma’asim (deeds/observance) exceed his Chochmah (wisdom/intellect) and, vice versa, one whose Chochmah exceeds his Ma’asim.
The former is likened to a tree whose roots are firm. The latter is likened to a tree whose foliage is vast, but whose roots are too weak to support it, and is therefore uprooted due to the vastness of the foliage.
The Chassid Ya’aveitz in his Sefer, Or HaChaim (Perek 2), used this Mashal to explain a tragic phenomenon he observed during the Spanish Inquisition. While the Amei HaAretz (laymen) were quick to be Moser Nefesh (sacrifice the self) and give up their lives for Hashem, those intellectuals who were perceived as more superior due to their Chochmah, managed to somehow justify and be Moreh Heter (rule leniently) not to give up their lives Al Kiddush Hashem, but allowing themselves to give in to the every attempt and temptation (albeit against Hashem).
Chassid Ya’aveitz refers us to the analogy if the Mishnah which implies that a tree can survive with shallow roots, so long as the branches is few as well, in balance with the roots. It is only when the foliage significantly exceeds the depth of the roots that tree is unbalanced. Then, that which was meant to be to one’s betterment, i.e. the foliage, the wisdom, ends up being to one’s detriment; what should have been an asset becomes a liability.
Mitzvos Sichliyos appeal to our intellect. They are readily in agreement with our Chochmah. It is the Chukim or the Shma’iyos that demand Ma’aseh even when our Chochmah cannot follow. And if in the face actions that don’t align with our Chochmah, instead of acting, we submit to Chochmah alone, then again, that which was meant to be to assist us will have failed us. Ma’asim must exceed or at least be at balance with Chochmah.
Despite Bil’am’s Chochmah
The above might also explain another phenomenon, namely, the failure of Bil’am. Tiferes Yisrael writes that Bil’am, despite being a Navi comparable to Moshe Rabbeinu and a Chacham as wise as Achitophel, was a great Rasha because of the toxic Midos which influenced his actions.
R’ Chaim Shmulewitz (Sichos Mussar, Parshas Balak, 5731) explained that the Parsha of Bil’am contains a Yesod Gadol (great foundational point) in Toras Mussar, teachings of improvement. Bil’am lived a life of contradiction, be attuned to Divine knowledge and prophecy on the one hand and being one breaches all boundaries including those against bestiality on the other. R’ Chaim refers to this phenomenon as the Or VaChoshech SheB’Adam, lit., the light and darkness within a person.
What causes a person to struggle and submit his whims to dark, evil acts despite seeing the light? If one’s attributes, deeds, and toil are not balanced with his wisdom, then the wisdom doesn’t benefit him. That is why, explains R’ Chaim, a maidservant at Krias Yam Suf who was privy to greater visions than those of Yechezkeil Ben Buzi, after exiting the sea, remained a lowly maidservant, whereas Yechezkeil himself attained his level of prophecy, through personal preparation, effort and toil, and destruction of his Yeitzer HaRa.
Parshas Chukas reminds us the importance placing matter over mind, engaging in Ma’asim which exceed our Chochmah, how to submit our whims and even our wisdom to the higher Ratzon Hashem, which perhaps, we don’t always understand. Parshas Balak provides a model of someone whose Ma’asim were deplorable and at complete odds with his Chochmah.
We should be Zocheh to be Koveish Yeitzer and dedicate not only our Ma’asim to Hashem when necessary, but to have the readiness to even submit our Chochmah to the Da’as Elyon (Higher Knowledge) and be worthy of the Geulah, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a wonderful Shabbos!