Gem of the Week from Rav Hirsch zt”l: Spiritual Growth


A gift denotes an act motivated entirely out of choice. Hence, devoting ourselves and our possessions to Hashem is an action that emanates from the deepest wellsprings of our free will.

On the other hand, this giving of ourselves must not be guided by personal whim. It must meet strict standards; it must be nothing less than obedience in freedom, a free act of dedication to the fulfillment of life’s purpose as set down in the Torah.

We must keep in mind not only that our possessions are in fact Hashem’s, so we are merely giving back what we have received, but also that the nature of our gift is the fulfillment of Hashem’s command. Thus, in truth, our matana is a nesina from Hashem, an act that realizes the ratzon Hashem through the medium of our free-willed obedience.

Free-willed obedience to Hashem is the basis of Judaism. It rejects the impulse for piety that seeks to gratify itself through practices devised on one’s own, that one assumes are appreciated by Hashem. That cannot be called Divine service. Hashem has told us what He requires, and the Jew’s avodah consists of serving G-d in obedience, faithfully doing what He says.

The most sacred object in the Kodesh Hakedashim is the Torah, with its laws and rules. Actions that symbolize devotion to it are also regulated by these laws, and the people who carry them out are the Torah’s servants, appointed to this position by Hashem. Thekohanim, and no one else, were appointed to perform the avodah, and their service is for the sake of fulfilling the Torah. Thus, the Torah and the Mishkan are stamped with the mark of their Divine origin. At the same time, they show that the fulfillment of our lives must be identical with the fulfillment of the ratzon Hashem.

When we follow our own individual inner stirrings of holiness, thinking this will attain Hashem’s closeness and approval, we are following in the footsteps of Korach: “Kol ha’eida kulam kedoshim.” We proclaim rebellion against the decrees of Hashem; deny the Divine origin of Moshe’s Torah. Like Korach, we seek to replace the Torah with the subjectivity of the individual.

Subjectivism undermines the whole of Judaism. “Avodas matana etein es kehunas’chem,” the pasuk tells us, “v’hazar hakareiv yumas.”The lines of our spiritual boundaries are drawn by Hashem, and seeking to cross them does no one good.

Have a wonderful Shabbos,                 

Moshe Pogrow, Director, Ani Maamin Foundation

Please note: The “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s commentary on Chumash, with permission from the publisher.



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