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Monday, 5 January 2015

Dedicate your organs to Heaven!

Daf Yomi Yevamos 93

Around a thousand years ago, there lived a great rabbi in Mainz by the name of Rabbi Amnon.  He enjoyed the confidence of the local Duke of Hessen and was able to advocate effectively on behalf of the Jewish community.  One day, however, the duke’s jealous Christian advisors suggested to him that if Rabbi Amnon were truly loyal, he would agree to convert to Christianity.  The duke called in the rabbi and presented the demand.   Shocked and at a loss for words, the rabbi asked for three days to consider. 

No sooner had he left the palace that Rabbi Amnon regretted his response.  ‘How could I have even given him the impression that I would remotely consider the possibility?’ he thought.  He spent the next three days in fasting and prayer and by the end of the consideration period he was so weak that the duke had to send men to bring Rabbi Amnon.

‘Well, what did you decide?’ asked the duke impatiently.
‘I would never accede to such a request!’ cried Rabbi Amnon, ‘May my tongue that suggested that I might consider conversion be cut off!’
‘So be it,’ responded the duke angrily, ‘Your tongue shall indeed be cut off!  And your hands that refuse to perform our service, they too shall be chopped off.  And your legs that did not bring you to me, they too shall be severed.’

Rabbi Amnon was sent back to the Jewish community in a wheelbarrow, just as Rosh Hashanah was being ushered in.  He requested to be placed before the Holy Ark where he poured out his heart to G-d.  And as the congregation recited Musaf, the final words that were heard before Rabbi Amnon passed was the famed Unesaneh Tokef prayer, which has become the climax of the High Holy day service in many communities.

We learned in a Mishnah:  If a woman said to her husband, “I hereby declare my handiwork that I make for you taboo to you,” he need not revoke her vow, since it is ineffective, as her handiwork is his marital entitlement.  Rabbi Akiva says he should revoke the vow for she might produce in excess of his basic entitlement.
The Gemara asks: She has not yet created this handiwork.  How could she legally impact something that does not yet exist?
Rabbi Huna the son of Rabbi Joshua answers: The Mishnah deals with the situation whereby she declared, ‘May my hands be dedicated to their Creator.’  Rashi explains that since her hands do exist, the vow could have legal validity.

Imagine you could wake each morning and declare, ‘May my hands be dedicated to their Creator!  May my eyes be dedicated to their Creator!  May my lips be dedicated to their Creator!  May my legs be dedicated to their Creator!’  Your day would be so amazingly different.  Not only would you appreciate and show gratitude to the Almighty for bestowing you with the power of your limbs, you would constantly ask yourself whether you were utilizing them appropriately in the service of the Creator.  If you’ve dedicated them to His service, you’d better think twice before abusing them by using them in some way that might be contrary to His will.

But if you were to make each of these declarations on a daily basis, the words would become meaningless and useless.  Instead, how about trying one each day?  So on day one, you would declare, ‘May my hands be dedicated to their Creator!’  You thereby commit to going an entire day, from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep at night, to using your hands purely in the service of the Almighty.   So when you feel the urge to click on a web-site that will just be a time-waster or on the remote control of the TV for a silly show, your hands will not allow you to do so.

Let’s say the next day you get up and say, ‘May my eyes be dedicated to their Creator!’  Today you are challenging yourself not only to make sure that you don’t look at anything inappropriate online, but that even when you walk along in the street, you are guarding your eyes for the Almighty.  The following day you dedicate your lips and your tongue and pay extra attention to what you are speaking.  Are you complimenting people?  Are you avoiding lashon hara (gossip)? 

If you choose just one part of your body to dedicate to its Creator each day, you will find yourself transformed!  Your life will be incredibly blessed and you will a shining light of the Divine.   May you merit the strength and courage to hone in on one aspect of your physicality each day and find yourself eternally blessed and transformed!

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