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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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DEUTERONOMY — 26:11 enjoy

The Mishnah (Bikkurim iii) which glowingly records the joyous procession of those bringing the first-fruits between Shavuot and Sukkot into the Temple where they recited the prayer of gratitude (Deuteronomy xxvi. 1-11), stipulates that if the first-fruits were tardily brought after the termination of Sukkot, no such recitation was allowed. Why? One should not wait for the last moment before discharging dues. Man must give according to his means, not according to his meanness. The classic Biblical example of such meanness in giving is to be found in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis iv. 1-15). There we are told that Cain brought some "fruit of the ground as an offering unto the L-rd", but Abel "brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof". (Genesis iv. 3-4). "The L-rd had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and his offering, He had not respect". (Genesis iv. 4-5). Had mankind learned the moral of this story from the beginning, it would have been spared much suffering. It would seem, however, that though man is gradually making the earth yield its secret weapons of destruction, such as the atomic and hydrogen bomb, he has not yet learned the elementary truths of the sanctity of life and the need for kindliness. Mankind has climbed the mountains of scientific discoveries but its soul it has left in the valley below. For it spends most of its energies in acquiring goods but not the good. When will mankind learn that there are no pockets in the shrouds in which we are clothed when our eyes are closed?

DEUTERONOMY — 26:11 enjoy

To speak of a realistic and practical approach to G-d may seem to the uninitiated to use wrong terms when applied to the eternal verities of life. Yet realism and tangibility are not associated only with those things which can be touched or handled. Judaism has one grand purpose: to extract from life the beauty inherent in all things created by G-d. (Hence the blessings to be recited on all occasions.) To do so, it has pictured the world not as a torture chamber, in which our food is mixed with tears and our blessings with delusion; but as a field made glorious by opportunities ever before us, or by misery and pain which prove often the gateways to a better life. "That thou mayest live and rejoice with all the good things that G-d has given thee" [this verse] is the incentive behind many a command made by the Torah.

DEUTERONOMY — 27:1 all

[Among the fundamentals of repentance]: (13) The regarding of the lesser transgressions as severe ones, such as gazing at women or over-engaging in conversation with them, idle talk, idling, or mentioning G-d's name in vain. All of these and many others like these, which are considered minor in the eyes of many – even in the eyes of the great men of this generation--all of these should be regarded by the penitent as extremely severe, for four reasons: First, one should consider not the smallness of the transgression, but the greatness of Him who warned against it. This is an analogous to a king's commanding two of his subjects – – one to bring him something to drink to slake his great thirst, and the other to do something that he is not greatly in need of, exhorting each one upon his life to fulfill his respective task. It goes without saying that either of them who transgressed would incur the death penalty – – the stealer of one dinar being hanged just as one who has stolen a thousand dinars, each one having transgressed the king's command. So, in respect to all of the Torah, we have been commanded [this verse]: "Observe all the mitzvah that I command you today," and (ibid:26): "Cursed is he who does not fulfill the words of this Torah to do them." Second, if one commits a minor transgression many times it comes to be regarded as major, the punishment accumulating for each violation. Third, when one is accustomed to certain transgressions, he comes to see them as permissible and does not guard against them, then he comes to be numbered among those who cast from themselves the yoke of Heaven and are considered apostates in a particular respect. Fourth, it is the way of the evil inclination that if it is victorious in a minor matter, it will likewise be victorious in a grave one. Our Sages have, therefore, said (Avos 2:1): "Be as hateful of a lesser mitzvah as of a greater one," and (ibid.4:2): "For a mitzvah draws a mitzvah in its wake, and a transgression draws a transgression."

DEUTERONOMY — 27:15 secret

The ethics of the halachah denounce a sin committed in secret as they do one which is perpetrated in public. According to Rabbi Isaac (Kidd. 31A): "He who commits a sin in secrecy, it is as if he had thrust aside the feet (the Presence) of the Shechinah. For it is said: 'Thus sayeth the L-rd, the heaven is My Throne, and the earth is My footstool; where is the house that ye may build unto Me? And where is the place that may be My resting-place?'" (Isa. lxvi. 6). Helpful, as usual, is the comment of Rashi ad locum: "For him who sins in private G-d is not omnipresent, otherwise he would not have transgressed. Accordingly, it is as if he thrusts aside the Presence of G-d from his immediate circle, leaving part of the world devoid of His existence." The well-known statement of Rav (Bezah 9a) that: "Wherever the Rabbis prohibited an action for the sake of appearances, such an action is also forbidden in the intimate secrecy of one's innermost chamber" may have been inspired from a Biblical passage. From a study of the eleven sins, cursed in Deuteronomy xxvii. 15-25, it would appear that although the words "in secret" are mentioned in reference to the first (Cursed be the man that maketh a graven or molten image, an abomination unto the L-rd, the work of the hands of the craftsmen, and setteth it up in secret), and in one other instance (v. 24) they are to be implied likewise in the case of the remaining ten sins. Since G-d fills the whole world with His glory, there can be no distinction between wrongs done publicly or privately.

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