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ב"ה

Rambam's Surprise Exhortation

Sunday, 26 December, 2021 - 5:55 pm

tanya (1).pngWith Hashem's help, we finished the Rambam's Sefer Avodah this evening between Mincha and Maariv. At the very end Rambam surprises us with a lengthy and urgent exhortation about fidelity in mitzvah observance. 

Check it out:

It is appropriate for a person to meditate on the judgments of the holy Torah and know their ultimate purpose according to his capacity. If he cannot find a reason or a motivating rationale for a practice, he should not regard it lightly. Nor should he break through to ascend to God, lest God burst forth against him. One's thoughts concerning them should not be like his thoughts concerning other ordinary matters.

See how severe the Torah rules concerning misappropriating sacred property. Now if wood, stones, earth, and ash become holy because the name of the Lord of the world was called upon them through speech alone and anyone who treats them as ordinary articles violates the prohibition against me'ilah and even if he acted unknowingly, he is required to secure atonement, how much more so with regard to the mitzvot which God ordained for us should a person not treat them derisively, because he does not understand their rationale. He should not conjure up matters that are not true concerning God, nor should he think about them with his mind as he would ordinary matters. For Leviticus 19:37 states: "And you shall guard all My decrees and all My judgments and perform them." Our Sages commented: This adjures us to guard and perform both the decrees and the judgments. The meaning of "performing" is well known, i.e,. that one should observe the decrees. "Guarding" means to treat them with caution and not think that they are any less than the judgments.

The judgments are those mitzvot whose motivating rationale is openly revealed and the benefit of their observance in this world is known, e.g., the prohibitions against robbery and bloodshed and honoring one's father and mother. The decrees are the mitzvot whose motivating rationales are not known. Our Sages said: "I ordained decrees and you have no license to question them." A person's natural inclination confronts him concerning them and the nations of the world challenge them, e.g., the prohibition of the meat of a pig, milk and meat, the calf whose neck is broken, the red heifer, and the goat sent to Azazel. To what degree did King David suffer because of the heretics and the idolaters who would issue challenges concerning the decrees! As long as they would pursue him with false retorts that they would arrange according to man's limited knowledge, he would increase his clinging to the Torah, as Psalms 119:69 states: "Willful transgressors have stacked falsehoods against me, but I guard Your precepts with a full heart." And states concerning this matter: "All of Your mitzvot are faithful". All of the sacrifices are in the category of decrees. Our Sages said: "The world exists for the sake of the service of the sacrifices." For through the performance of the decrees and the judgments the righteous merit the life of the world to come. And between the two of them, the Torah gave precedence to the command for the decrees, as Leviticus 18:5 states: "And you shall heed My decrees and judgments which a person will perform and live through them."

Strong and important words!

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