The second Parsha we read this Shabbat is Parshat Bechukotai. It begins with the Pesukim, “If you follow My decrees and My Mitzvot you watch and fulfill, I will give rain in the proper time, and the crops will grow, and I will give peace in the land, and you will recline without fear.”
Rashi explains that Hashem promises these blessings if we are Ameilim, working hard, in intensive Torah study. Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Sefer Darash Moshe, writes that not only does Torah study require intensive effort, but every Mitzvah one is required to perform should be done with all one’s power. Whether one is learning Torah, performing Mitzvot or attempting to influence others to be Torah-practicing Jews, one must put great effort into his pursuits. Only in that situation will he be able to influence others to see that the Torah and Mitzvot are so important and that one expends great effort in their performance. One who sees such intensity will understand that Torah study and fulfilling Mitzvot are worth the effort that his friend expends on them.
The same applies to giving charity, into which one must put great effort by giving generously. Rav Moshe said, “When many people are called to the Torah, they donate Chai, eighteen dollars.” He continued, “The Shuls and Yeshivot will be much better off if the people would donate Mot, 446 dollars.” He did not only mean the amounts, but he also meant that we should, so to speak, die for the Torah. The Talmud in Masechet Megillah says that only someone who is willing to die for the Torah is successful in Torah. Also, the effort to give must reflect the importance of the Mitzvah. The Gemara in Masechet Gittin teaches us that if one’s finances are exactly leveled, he still should give charity, and should not think that this Mitzvah doesn’t apply to him. For this, Hashem will justly reward his effort.
Rabbi Yissocher Frand quotes Rav Avraham Pam who said, “The previous generation, who lived through the Holocaust, was put to the trial of serving Hashem, ‘with all your hearts and with all your souls’ (Devarim 6:5). Our generation, the Jews of America, is being put to the trial of serving Hashem, ‘with all your wealth.’” How do we relate to money? What do we do with it?
This week, two of our students at Torah Academy, Tzvi Solomon and Zachary Rabbenou, were in the local bagel store and found a large sum of money on the floor. Instead of just putting the money in their pockets, they asked each patron of the store if he or she had lost any money, and they even ran out to the street to ask the person who was in front of them on line. After everyone said they were missing nothing, they left the money with the workers of the store to see if anyone would return and claim it. Later in the day, a woman did return and the four hundred dollars were returned to her.
In the Shemonah Esrei of Shabbat Minchah, we say, “Mi KeAmecha Yisrael, Goy Echad BaAretz,” “Who is like your people, Israel, they are one nation in this land.” The Gemara in Yoma (86a) says that if one learns Torah and acts properly, people will say, “Praiseworthy are his parents who taught him Torah. Praiseworthy are their Rebbeim who taught them Torah.” We are privileged to have such wonderful students who invested so much effort into the Mitzvah of returning this lost item, doing even more than they were required to do.
Ameilut, toil, is only mentioned in connection with Torah study because only one’s efforts illustrate if his intentions are merely to pursue wisdom or actually to fulfill a Mitzvah. To this end, one must devote all of his strength and time to it. Therefore, one factor governs both Torah study and the performance of Mitzvot; both must be done with the greatest effort. Only with that will we demonstrate that our intent is to fulfill the will of Hashem and not to satisfy our own personal interests.
May Hashem see our efforts and bestow all the blessing of rain in the proper time, prosperous crops and peace in Israel and throughout the world.