Parshas Bo 5776
Candle Lighting Time: 4:41 pm
January 15, 2015
Volume 12 Issue 13
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Dvar Torah


Chometzdike' Mitzvohs

  By Rabbi Yosef Prupas

Most of us are familiar with the concept of "zerizus," generally translated as, "performance of mitzvohs with alacrity." We tend to understand it to mean that beyond the actual obligation to fulfill the mitzva, one would receive "extra points" by immediately performing the mitzva. However the Mechilta, as Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner points out, suggests a deeper meaning. The Mechilta expounds upon a verse in this week's Parsha, "V'shamartem es hamatzos" "And you shall guard the matzos". Our sages tell us that the similar Hebrew lettering of "matzos" to "mitzvohs" in the verse, hints to a loftier concept. "Mi'kan she'ein machmitzin es hamitzvohs" "From here we learn that one should not let his mitzvohs become chometz." By not performing a mitzva right away, it becomes like chometz on Pesach. This comparison of non-immediate fulfillment of a mitzvah to chometz, implies that there is an actual defect in the mitzvah. Why is this?
Rabbi Hutner tells us that to comprehend this concept, we must first discard our pre-conceived notions as to what zerizus is. For if all zerizus means is rushing to do something, the "rushing" to do a mitzvah would be no different then the "rushing" to go to work. We do see a hint of a loftier meaning in an interesting Gemara in Eiruvin (100b).  The Gemara there lists various animals, from whom, we are able to learn certain positive character traits even if the Torah had not been given. Rabbi Hutner asks, why does the Gemara omit learning how not to be lazy from an ant, when a verse in Mishlei clearly advises one to do so? It seems that without Torah knowledge, learning how not to be lazy from an ant would not be possible. What does this mean?
The path to understanding zerizus is through a parable explaining a verse in Koheles. The verse states "Hanefesh lo simalei," "The soul never senses fulfillment." This is comparable to a princess who marries a commoner. The commoner never having been exposed to a royal lifestyle, lacks the ability to fully comprehend and fulfill his wife's wishes. So too one's soul, stemming from an infinite and loftier world, will never be satisfied by the pettiness of our physical world.
The Vilna Gaon writes that the words of our daily prayer "Baruch She'amar" reference two physical creations - the universe and time. That being the case, our souls reject not only the physicality of the universe, but time as well. Coming from a world without time, it is our soul's deepest desire to fulfill its spiritual desires, i.e. mitzvohs, without the limitations of time. Doing a mitzvah with a sense of urgency demonstrates a sincere desire to break the shackles of time and fulfill the mitzvah in its true spiritual element, beyond time. That is the meaning of zerizus.
We can now turn back to the ant. The Medrash tells us that an ant "only lives six months and only requires the total amount of a kernel and a half of wheat to sustain itself during that time. Yet it brings in hundreds of measures of wheat." An ant works much more than what it needs to exist. It lives a life beyond its existence. Only having learned what true zerizus is, can one now look at an ant and comprehend what the verse in Mishlei advises one to learn from the ant. Not to live for something more, traps the mitzvah within time, curtailing its true potential. It ruins the mitzvah.
The Maharal teaches us that the commandment to rush out of Egypt was to convey and internalize at the onset of Jewish Nationhood the eternity of the Jewish People. May we through our zerizus merit that eternity speedily in our day.

Dvar Halacha
Laws of Tzeddakah      
Part 1
  By  Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi
Inperhaps the most moving prayer of the entire year of "U'nasaneh tokef" which we recite on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we proclaim "Repentance, Prayer, and Charity remove the harsh degree."  One could ask: it is understandable how prayerand repentance can change and uproot a harsh decree, but seemingly tzedakah does not belong on this list, for why should charitybe able to accomplish the same result?
Rabbi Baruch Taub, shlit"a,[1] suggests that the common denominator between these three things is they are all transformative. Through proper performance of these mitzvos, one can completely change himself as an individual.  Perhaps this can be better understood based on Sefer Haikrim's explanation that the reason why praying can uproot a bad decree is that when one has davened properly he has changed as a person, and by definition is now a different person than he was before davening.  Therefore, the reason why the harsh decree is removed is not because the decree has changed, but rather because since it was intended for the "original" person, it is not relevant for this "new" person.  Accordingly, one can apply the same concept to one who changed himself through the mitzvah of charity.
It for this reason the commentators[2] stress how it is especially important for one to increase giving of charity during the month of Elul, and that on Erev Rosh Hashanah a person should give even more than one is accustomed to give during the year.[3]
We see from various sources how vital this mitzvah is.  The Navi[4] says, "To Me is the silver and the gold, these are the words of Hashem," which our Sages understood from here that the way one needs to perceive possessions that he has amassed is not as his own, rather, he is merely a guardian of Hashem's wealth.  Hashem entrusted us with His wealth, in order to give us reward, if and when used properly.  Additionally, the Gemara[5] teaches, "tithe - so that you will become rich."  Rav Shimon Shkop, zt"l, explains that Hashem is acting with us "measure for measure," for if a person scrupulously gives charity, he demonstrates that all his money belongs to Hashem, and that he is merely the treasurer.  It is the way of the world that a King continually places more and more wealth in the hands of his loyal treasurer.  Furthermore, the Rambam[6] - who is very careful in the words he chooses to codify the laws - writes, "We are obligated to be more meticulous with regard to the mitzvah of tzedakah than we are with fulfilling any other positive commandment!"  Similarly, we find in the Gemara[7] that the Jewish people will merit the Final Redemption thru the merit of tzedakah.
There are several verses in the Torah that teach about the mitzvah of tzedakah:  fourpositive commandments[8] and one negative commandment.[9]  It is essential to realize that tzedakah is not merely a midah tovah (nice character trait); rather it is Biblical commandment, no different than any other mitzvah. Still, the Sefer Hachinuch[10] explains that one of the reasons behind this commandment is in order to train human beings to become accustomed to kindness and mercy, for these are praiseworthy character traits.  If a person has mastered these good middos, he will be befitting to accept blessings from Hashem.  It is for this reason that Hashem has arranged that certain people are poor, namely, in order to give other people the opportunity to give charity and merit blessings.[11]  The Shulchan Aruch[12] cites a slightly different reason, that whoever has mercy on poor people Hashem will have mercy on him.

[1] In the Forward to his sefer, The Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser
[2] Chayei Adom 138:1
[3] Rema OC 581:4
[4] Chagai [2:8]
[5] Taanis 9a
[6] Hilchos Matnos Aniyim 10:1
[7] Shabbos 139a
[8] Devarim 15:8 & 15:10, Vayikra 25:35-36
[9] Devarim 15:7
[10] Mitzvah 66
[11] See also Gemara Bava Basra 10a
[12] Y.D. 247:3

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