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Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Secret of Eternal Joy

Taanis 15

There are two types of Jews in this world, those who love G-d and those who love humanity.  You see it all the time.   On the one hand, you’ve got people who are so pious when it comes to serving G-d and yet when it comes to interpersonal relations, they fail miserably.  And on the other hand, some people dedicate their lives to helping others, but are lax in their service of G-d.  Are the two sides of the Tablets – that separate our Divine relationship from our human relationships – mutually exclusive?

King David writes in Psalms, “A light is planted for the righteous; and for the upright-hearted, there is joy.”

Rabbi Nachman the son of Isaac explains: Not everyone is rewarded with Heavenly light nor is everyone rewarded with Heavenly joy.  The righteous are rewarded with light and the upright-hearted are rewarded with joy.  Rashi explains: Only the upright-hearted receive Heavenly joy, because being upright-hearted is better than being righteous.

Elsewhere, the Talmud gives the definition of ‘righteous’ as one who follows the strict letter of the law.  He does no more, because he is not obligated to do any more than the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) tells him to do.  

By contrast, one who is ‘pious’ or ‘upright’ understands that there is the letter of the law but there is also the spirit of the law.  If you love G-d, why would you just want to do the bare minimum for Him?  One who is upright looks for ways to serve Him even more devoutly.

What is the meaning of King David’s term ‘upright-hearted’?   It’s a combination of ‘upright’ and ‘goodhearted.’  We have two general types of mitzvos – those between us and G-d, and those between us and our fellow man.   Upright is the term applied to one who goes above and beyond the letter of the law in the service of G-d.  Goodhearted is the appellation granted to one who goes above and beyond the letter of the law in the service of man.

Very few people achieve the level of ‘upright-hearted.’  We either excel in one service or the other.  Not to say that we don’t do the basics in the other area.  But we end up being merely ‘righteous’ – doing the bare minimum we are obligated to do. 

The Almighty wants you to be excellent in your performance of mitzvos!  He wants to grant you Eternal Joy!  In order to get that, you must strive to be upright-hearted.  Most people do not achieve such a level – hey, most people probably couldn’t even call themselves ‘righteous.’  But we all have the propensity to achieve greatness.  

Shoot for upright-heartedness!  You deserve Eternal Heavenly Joy!  It takes a real commitment to G-d and man.  It takes thinking about how you can go beyond the letter of the law and not just do the basic minimum to get by.   But you are destined for excellence, why settle for just getting by?   Strive for love of G-d and man today!

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