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לימוד תורה

Afula and the 613 Mitzvot

Parsha and its Implementation – Ekev - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5779

Our Parasha is named after its opening Pasuk: "

וְהָיָ֣ה ׀ עֵ֣קֶב תִּשְׁמְע֗וּן אֵ֤ת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֥ם וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם וְשָׁמַר֩ ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ לְךָ֗ אֶֽת־הַבְּרִית֙ וְאֶת־הַחֶ֔סֶד אֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֖ע לַאֲבֹתֶֽיךָ׃

“And if you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, Hashem your G-d will maintain faithfully for you the covenant that He made on oath with your fathers” (Dvarim 7:12).

In the verse, there is a promise to receive Divine rewards for keeping the Torah laws:

והיה סיבת שומעכם המשפטים ועשותכם אותם שישמור השם לכם בריתו.

"The meaning of our verse then would be: “in compensation for your observing My social commandments on account of My maintaining the terms of My covenant, I will indeed respond generously.” (Tur HaAroch Dvarim ibid).

However, sages learned from this a general and important principle related to understanding the total of the 613 Mitzvot. These are not separate mitzvot that have no connection to one another, but are one system of Divine and moral orders. Because it is a Divine system and not a human set of norms, it is a complete organized system whose components are not selectable. And if it detracts from one of its components, the entire system will be damaged.

Rashi interpreted from here, according to the Sages, that the covenant would be precisely with the observance of those Mitzvot that people did not regard as important:

והיה עקב תשמעון. אִם הַמִּצְווֹת קַלּוֹת שֶׁאָדָם דָּשׁ בַּעֲקֵבָיו תשמעון.

ושמר ה' וגו'. יִשְׁמֹר לְךָ הַבְטָחָתוֹ (עי' תנחומא):

"AND THE CONSEQUENCE WILL BE, IF YE HEARKEN (The Hebrew text may be taken to signify if you will hear the heel, עקב) — If, even the lighter commands which a person usually treads on with his heels (i.e. which a person is inclined to treat lightly), ye will hearken to”

THEN THE LORD [THY GOD] WILL KEEP FOR THEE His promise (Midrash Tanchuma, Eikev 1).

The disregard damages the entire unit.

אמר ר' חייא משל למה הדבר דומה, למלך שהיה לו פרדס, והכניס בו פועלים, ולא גילה להם המלך שכר נטיעותיו, כי אילו גילה להם שכר נטיעותיו רואה איזה נטיעה שכרה מרובה ונוטעין אותה, נמצאת מלאכת הפרדס מקצתה בטילה ומקצתה קיימת, כך לא גילה הקב"ה בתורה שכר כל מצוה ומצוה, שאילו גילה נמצאו המצות מקצתן קיימות ומקצתן בטילות, ור' אחא בשם ר' אבא בר כהנא טילטל הקב"ה שכר עושה מצות בעולם הזה, כדי שיהו ישראל עושין אותם משלם (תנחומא עקב סימן ג’).

“R. Hiyya said: A parable: To what is the matter comparable? To a king who had an orchard and introduced workers into it, but the king did not disclose to them the reward (i.e., the payment) for his seedlings, because if he revealed the reward for his <various> seedlings, one would see which seedling increased <their> reward, and plant that one. The work in the orchard would end up with some of it suspended and some of it carried out. Similarly, the Holy One did not reveal the reward for each and every commandment in the Torah; for if he had revealed it, the commandments would have been found with some of them carried out and some of them suspended. R. Aha also <said> in the name of R. Abba bar Kahana: The Holy One has made the reward for fulfilling commandments irregular in this world, so that Israel would totally fulfill them”. )Midrash Tanchuma Buber Eikev 3).

Like in the orchard, these are not separate works, each one does not stand on its own, all of the orchard's work is for one general purpose - the fruit growth, and they complement of each other. If you miss one of the actions because it is not considered sufficiently important by the workers, the entire orchard will be damaged. The moral is the totality of the 613 Divine commandment system: The total of the 613 has one Divine purpose, and only with the fulfillment of them all, it is fulfilled.

The Kabbalists even made a comparison between the Mitzvot and the human body, which has 613 parts: רמ"ח איברים ושס"ה גידים

248 limbs + 365 tendons; 365 negative commandments and 248 positive commandments. (Sha'arei Kedusha, part 1).

The human body is one creation and the lack of one component, hurts the whole body: "

ולתכלית זה נברא האדם לקיים אלו תרי"ג מצות כי המצות הם קשר אחד אי אפשר להיות לאחת בלתי האחרות כדמות בגד הנארג שכל חוט וחוט דבק בחבירו ועוזר בקיומו שהרי המה באדם אחד רמ"ח אברים ושס"ה גידים ואם חסר אחד הרי הוא פגום

“Man was created for this purpose, to keep these Mitzvot. Because these MItzvot are one connection, it is impossible to be without the other as a weaving garment in which every thread and thread adheres to the others and helps to maintain it in one piece; so that in one person, the 248 organs and the 365 tendons and if one is missing it is defective". (Shevet Musar 30).

Recently, a singing performance for the religious and ultra-Orthodox public in Afula, with gender separation became the basis of a struggle that reached even the gates of the court. Women's organizations petitioned the court to prevent the show alleging women exclusion and discrimination in the public sphere.

On the other hand, the organizers claimed that it was a separation of choice that resulted from a religious outlook and lifestyle, whereas in the intervention and attempt to prevent the performance there was anti-religious coercion against their way of life.

The way in which the petitioners presented their claim was to the point and not against the principle (in retrospect, it turned out to be based on an incorrect interpretation of the original government decision).

However, it is clear to everyone that the debate between the two parties is not a debate about the status and rights of women in the public sphere, but rather a debate about worldview general principles. Nor is it an argument between progressive liberalism and conservatism. Because true liberalism is supposed to contain different and contradicting opinions and give them legitimacy, even when there is no agreement or coercion, but to fight for the right of others to act as their best understanding and worldview.

This argument is very similar to the ongoing debate about, “religious influence” and "religious coercion” and the attitude toward the LGBT. This is not a point debate! There is a fundamental argument here between the approach that sees Torah and Judaism as a comprehensive and complete worldview that comes from a Divine source and seeks to live by it, and the approach that does not accept it and seeks to ground the society's conduct only on liberal western values ​​based on human conveniences as it is currently accepted, and anything that does not fit its values ​​is illegitimate, 'homophobic', 'racist' and doesn't fit with the 2019 “Progress”.

Also, at this event, the public discourse on media and social media was like a deaf- dialogue, aggressive and divisive. The speakers who represented the religious orthodox position in the media found themselves attacked and in a defensive situation. Defense does not look good. In such cases, it is imperative to go down to the roots of the debate and not to focus on the branches.

It is time to take down the flames of controversy by a discourse that exposes the roots of the argument, and puts the positions of these principles one against the other.

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