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Tuesday
Jun282016

WHEN MATERIALISM IS CONDONED

By Rabbi Zalman Goldberg

The knowledge that there is a higher power which controls this world is not just meant to guide our lives in the mundane world of commerce and regular routines; it is also applicable to our observance of Torah and Mitzvos. This is seen clearly in the Mitzvah of tzitzis, a mitzvah that was given to serve as a constant reminder of our obligations to Hashem, even amidst all the distractions provided by the coarse and materialistic world around us.

This is accomplished by remembering that tzitzis contain the number six hundred and thirteen in the following manner. The word Tzitzis – - ציצית has the numerical value of six hundred, and each individual corner of the tzitzis includes eight strings and five knots, which adds up to six hundred and thirteen. Thus, when one wears and sees the tzitzis, it will remind him of his religious and spiritual duties which are connected to the number of 613.

What requires elucidation though is why there is a tallis, a garment from which the tzitzis need to hang? Seemingly, the only thing which provides a reminder for the Mitzvos are the actual tzitzis strings, so why is it necessary for the strings to hang from a tallis?

The answer lies in the understanding that the mitzvah of tzitzis is only a mitzvah when the strings are attached to a garment. A garment is an external component and it surrounds the person wearing it. The garment cannot be ingested internally, neither as a food or intellectually. The tzitzis’ message then is: the strings on their own cannot successfully remind us of our duties unless they are attached to a ‘garment’ which signifies a reality higher than our realm and beyond our understanding.

The true meaning of the Mitzvos is not just a series of rules and regulations for Yidden; Mitzvos are commandments given to us by Hashem. Thus, if tzitzis are viewed as a way to remember a list of dos and don’ts, the main purpose of the Mitzvos and the fact that it is Hashem who gave them, is absent. Tzitzis need to be seen as an emanation of Hashem, and only then will the tzitzis properly serve as a reminder for us to fulfill the Mitzvos.

Essentially, all Mitzvos contain this content, that their emanation from Hashem is of prime importance, and not just their fulfillment.

When one’s approach to Mitzvos is in the abovementioned manner, one will truly remember Hashem while engaged in worldly affairs to the extent that the G-dly approach will eclipse the worldly opinions which oppose Yiddishkait. Being a shomer Shabbos and commencing the day with davening and learning, tearing oneself away from one’s business to go and daven Mincha, and demanding that we should be cautioned from transgressing many different forms of stealing, which are generally encouraged in commerce, can present a serious challenge for a yid to be swayed from focusing on what Hashem wants from us. But this challenge only exists if Mitzvos are viewed as a list of obligations and prohibitions placed upon the Yiddishe nation. When Mitzvos are seen as something G-dly, commands that Hashem conceived and gave us, the Mitzvos are then looked at as part of the infinite, and the result will be that one will not see any difficulty or challenge in fulfilling all of the ‘difficulties’ that Torah poses to the running of a successful business.

This essentially represents Yetzias Mitzrayim. Mitzrayim represents the worldly opinions of what life’s priorities should be (often contrary to Torah), and redemption from Mitzrayim means, not being influenced and thus bogged down by those worldly opinions, and instead striving infinitely higher in spiritual achievements.

Along with this goes the øëåù âãåì – great abundance with which the Yidden left Mitzrayim, an incident which was higher than nature. Those who conduct their Yiddishkait as a G-dly Yiddishkait, and are therefore not distracted by the challenges of the world, will also be entrusted by Hashem with great abundance, that they will not be distracted by the material abundance.

An example of someone who saw Mitzvos as G-dly and not as a burden was Reb Pinchos Reizes; this was especially true with regard to the mitzvah of tz’daka.

It is told that Reb Pinchos once made an accounting of all the money he had and it amounted to a very large sum of money. He then brought all of the money to the Alter Rebbe stating that he intended on handing over the entire sum to the Rebbe to use for whatever he felt was necessary. The Alter Rebbe responded that Reb Pinchos should keep the money. He then blessed Reb Pinchos that he should be very successful, and that he should use his money to do good deeds. When Reb Pinchos passed away it was discovered that he gave a tremendous sum of money to tz’daka throughout his life.

One of his customs in regard to giving tz’daka was that when a pauper would come to him for a donation, after ascertaining the need of the individual, he gave a handful of gold, silver or copper coins. Such was the generosity of Reb Pinchos Reizes.

Before building his mansion, he asked the Alter Rebbe if it was appropriate to build such an extravagant abode. The Alter rebbe probed, “Why do you need an expensive home?” Reb Pinchos replied that when he thought about building a mansion, he cried more tears than there will be bricks in the structure, and he asked himself, Do I really need a mansion? But if I have a mansion then all of the community meetings will take place in Pinchos’ mansion, and in that case Pinchos will have an opinion and this will bring good results for the chassidishe community.

In agreement the Alter Rebbe replied that for Reb Pinchos living in a mansion was indeed a good thing.

From the manner how Reb Pinchos observed the mitzvah of tz’daka it is clear that Reb Pinchos viewed Mitzvos not as a burden but rather as an opportunity to do a G-dly act. Furthermore, he was not distracted by the delights of materialism, as we see that the only reason for wishing to build a big home was to be able to assist other Yidden. The Alter Rebbe apparently agreed with that notion, because if Reb Pinchos really viewed an expensive home as an intrinsic necessity, the Alter Rebbe would have sensed it and prohibited Reb Pinchos from building the home.

This is the Bitachon way of doing Mitzvos and the Bitachon perspective on materialism.

 

Rabbi Zalman Goldberg is a well sought after speaker and lecturer on Chassidic thought. His writings and recordings on the topic of Bitachon can be accessed at http://www.gotbitachon.com. You can also receive his one minute daily Bitachon clip by sending a WhatsApp to 347.546.4402 with the word “Bitachon.”

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