Daf Yomi Nazir 24
I met Samuel while I was learning in yeshiva in Israel. We happened to be sitting next to one another at a Shabbos table, when the conversation took an interesting turn. Samuel had been learning in a Baal Teshuvah (newly religious) yeshiva for the previous eight months but had not yet ever put on tefillin.
“Why not?” I asked in shock.
“I don’t feel ready,” he replied. “You know, tefillin are so holy. I wouldn’t want to mess up and put them on wrong, or to think improper thoughts whilst wearing them. One day soon I hope to be on the level to start putting them on. Meanwhile, I’m just not there yet.”
The prophet Hoshea declared, “For straight are the ways of Hashem, and the righteous walk in them but sinners stumble in them.”
This verse may be understood in light of the story of Lot and his two daughters. Following the destruction of Sodom, they believed that they were only the survivors left in the world and it was incumbent upon them to repopulate the world by illicitly engaging with their father.
The daughters who acted with the intent to do a mitzvah are in the category of “the righteous walk in them.” Lot who acted with the intent to sin is in the category of “sinners stumble in them.”
Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak taught: Doing a sin for the sake of Heaven (as in the case of Lot’s daughters) is greater than the performance of a mitzvah for the wrong reasons!
Rav Chiya bar Avin quoted Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha: A person should always strive to be the first to do a mitzvah, for in the merit of the one night that the elder daughter of Lot preceded her younger sister, she merited to precede her with four generations of Jewish kings.
Tosfos explains: The elder daughter gave birth to Moab, from whom descended Ruth the mother of Oved, Yishai, David and Shlomo. The younger daughter gave birth to Amon, from whom descended Naama the Amonite, mother of Rechavam the son of Shlomo.
G-d desires passion! You might not be doing everything right, but if you’re doing it passionately for the sake of Heaven, the Almighty rejoices! Lot’s daughters acted improperly but they sincerely believed they were serving G-d. And so they were rewarded with Kings of Israel. What’s more, the daughter who rushed to do the ‘mitzvah’ first was rewarded four-fold!
When it comes to doing a mitzvah, you might not be 100% sure of yourself. Maybe you haven’t quite mastered all the kavanos ha’Ari – the esoteric meaning – behind tefillin. That mustn’t stop you doing the mitzvah. The Almighty wants your alacrity. He wants your enthusiasm. He desires your passion. That’s the most important thing to Him. Hopefully, you’ll also get the performance right – if not, you’ll get it perfect with time – but the main thing is to engage and give it your all today!
The conclusion of the Gemara is that sinning for the sake of Heaven is actually not better than doing a mitzvah for the wrong reasons – in fact, they’re equal. But still, can you imagine that?! If you’re just going through the motions of the mitzvah without putting any energy into it, our Sages say you might as well be sinning with excitement! That’s how powerful passion for Heaven is.
Infuse your spiritual life with passion. If you’re not passionate about the way you’re serving G-d right now, find another route to get to him. Hopefully you’ll choose one of the ‘seventy faces of the Torah’ – there’s no shortage of traditionally-acceptable ways to serve Heaven. May you merit serving G-d faithfully with passion and ultimately doing the right things for the right reasons!