Sunday, August 21, 2011

putting the pieces together

The Midrash opens Parshas Eikev:
הלכה אדם מישראל שיש לו מנורה שעשויה פרקים פרקים מהו לטלטלה בשבת. כך שנו חכמים המרכיב קני מנורה בשבת חייב חטאת ומשום מה מחייב א"ר אבהו בשם רבי יוחנן המרכיב את המנורה בשבת כאדם שבונה בשבת ומי שהוא בונה בשבת חייב א"ר יוסי ברבי חנינא אימתי שמרו ישראל את השבת כשם שראוי לה. תחלה כשניתנה להן באלוש מנין שנאמר (שמות יז) וישבתו העם ביום השביעי ואת סבור שמא לרעתך נתתי לך את השבת לא נתתי לך אלא לטובתך כיצד א"ר חייא ברבי אבא את מקדש את השבת במאכל ובמשתה ובכסות נקיה ומהנה את נפשך ואני נותן לך שכר מנין (ישעיה נח) וקראת לשבת עונג וגו' מה כתיב אחריו (שם) אז תתענג על ה' ויתן לך משאלות לבך אמרו לו ישראל ואימתי את נותן לנו שכר המצות שאנו עושים אמר להם הקב"ה מצות שאתם עושים מפירותיהן אתם אוכלים עכשיו אבל שכרו בעקב אני נותן לכם מנין ממה שקרינו בענינינו והיה עקב תשמעון:
What does the halachic question of whether one may put together or move a menorah made of snap together parts on Shabbos have to do with our parsha?

The meforshim explain that the Midrash is answering an implicit question by way of analogy. Why is it that the reward for mitzvos is collected only "eikev," at the end of days, as the Midrash concludes? I did a good deed today -- why can't I collect my reward today? The answer is that each good deed is but one "perek," one bolt, one small piece, of the larger menorah that you and I are supposed to build and become.

At my place of work we had a staff meeting on Friday and one of the topics mentioned in passing was thinking about one's career. Aside from the performing the day in and day out drudgery of work, employers like to think you are planning and aspiring and working toward the greater goal of becoming a better, more efficient worker bee to better server the collective hive. L'havdil, aside from our daily job of Torah and mitzvos, we need to think about the bigger picture -- where is my Torah or avodah career going? How does this individual mitzvah serve not just as an end in itself (certainly important!), but as a part, a piece that helps build towards a larger accomplishment for myself and/or for the klal? How do the pieces fit together to make the menorah that will shine our light into the world?

The hava amina of the Midrash, "shema l'ra'ascha nasati es haShabbos," that perhaps Shabbos was given to our detriment, is hard to fathom, but in light of the analogy above I think we can make sense of it. Thinking about the larger picture takes time, but we are all so busy with the little tasks that make up every day -- there is always so much to do! The Torah provided a solution -- Shabbos. When you are so caught up in the cycle of running from one emergency to the next, one chore to the next, putting out one fire after another, the idea of just sitting back and pushing all that aside to take stock seems like a waste of time -- "shema l'ra'asecha." But the truth is that without that break to look at the bigger picture, all you will have is a pile of "perakim" and you will never be able to build the menorah.

Finally, the conclusion of the Midrash seems to distinguish between the reward for oneg Shabbos, which Hashem pays up front, and the reward for all mitzvos, which comes later. Why the distinction?

Sefas Emes explains that reward comes when we achieve shleimus, tikun -- when the menorah is finished. You can't have shleimus while you are still busy building and fixing the world. However, Shabbos is a m'ein olam ha'ba. Halacha says that when Shabbos comes we have to feel like all the work of the week has been finished and put it aside. On Shabbos we borrow a little bit of the shleimus we will ultimately attain, and can enjoy its reward even while in this world.


  1. Anonymous2:32 PM

    who must be paid by the day? he
    who's hired by the day (vayikra
    19:13); but we've been hired for
    life! one's lifetime is his/her single pay-period...
    o.t.o.h., Hashem has gone on record as 6 times taking interim satisfaction in (reward for) His work of "building...the world"*, prior to Shabbos...

    *when He finds it "tov"

  2. Anonymous2:30 PM

    thus we read this week (15:12-14)
    that an eved ivri, after 6 years of subjegation, should enjoy in the 7th his hakanah, enjoy "a little bit of the shleimus" he "will ultimately attain",
    G-d willing, as a free man...

  3. Anonymous11:15 AM

    of comment 2--
    "hakanah" = ha'anakah, pursuant to

  4. worker bee?!? I hope that one day you'll be looking down at the swarming drones.