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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Just Righteous or a Servant of Heaven?


Daf Yomi Chagigah 9

Bill and Ted are brothers.  But any similarity between them ends there.  Bill loves to learn, he could sit in front of a sefer (holy book) all day long.  Ted hates learning – although not officially diagnosed as such he’s decided that he has some sort of attention deficit disorder.  He’d rather play video games all day.   Conversely, Ted loves people; he’s always there to lend a helping hand.  By contrast, Bill would rather dig his head deeper into the books than offer his assistance.

Which brother is serving G-d better?

The prophet Malachi writes, “You shall return and distinguish between the righteous and wicked, between he who serves G-d and he who does not serve Him.”
Bar Hay-Hay asked Hillel: Why does the verse repeat itself?  A righteous man is the same as one who serves G-d and a wicked man is the same as one who does not serve Him!
He replied: In the verse, both the one who serves G-d and the one who does not serve Him refer to a person who is completely righteous.  Nevertheless, you cannot compare one who reviews his learning one hundred times (the regular righteous individual) to one who reviews one hundred and one times (the righteous person who actually serves G-d). 
Bar Hay-Hay responded:  Seriously, for one time less, he is called one who does not serve Him?
Hillel said: Yes. Go and learn from the donkey-rental.  The cost is one zuz for ten miles, but two zuz for eleven! 

In the days before the printing press, if you wanted to remember study material, you would have to review it and review it.  Standard practice was to review the material one hundred times.  Hillel teaches that one who goes the extra mile and reviews it one hundred and one times is truly serving the Almighty, because he has broken the mold.

You can be perfectly righteous and still not actively serving G-d.  Some people are naturally studious.  Others are natural volunteers.  Serving Heaven means breaking yourself and going beyond your natural tendencies and proclivities.   Bill’s one act of crossing a senior across the road may be more of an effort than Ted’s constant volunteerism.  And if Ted were to sit and learn for half an hour, that might be considered a greater service of G-d than Bill’s entire day of learning!

Nobody knows your natural inclination other than you; it’s between you and G-d.  Righteousness is the baseline that you must strive for, but beyond that you need to constantly ask yourself, ‘Am I truly serving the Almighty or am I just finding the path of least resistance and staying within my comfort zone?’  And it goes without saying that you can’t judge someone else’s effort – his ten minutes of service may be greater than your whole day’s contribution!

G-d desires your righteousness.  But he also wants your service.  Only you know the effort required to promote yourself from being a mere Tzaddik (righteous person) to becoming an Oved Elokim - a servant of Heaven!