The second Parasha we read this Shabbat is Parashat 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” (VaYikra 26:3-4).
Rashi explains that Hashem promises these blessings if we are Ameilim, if we work 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 of 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 if he does this will he be able to influence others to see that the Torah and Mitzvot are so important and that one must expend great effort in their performance. One who sees such intensity will understand that studying Torah 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 Mavet, 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 even if one’s finances are exactly balanced, he should still 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 as saying, “The previous generation, that 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 through the trial of serving Hashem, ‘with all your wealth’ (ibid).” We must stand up to our challenge by doing the Mitzvah of Tzedakah properly and with great effort.
Ameilut, toil, is only mentioned in connection with Torah study because it is one’s efforts that 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 what he does. 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.
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.”
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.