Beit Midrash

  • Series
  • Ein Ayah
To dedicate this lesson

Focusing on the Proper Goals


Various Rabbis

Why was the section of the Torah that discusses tzitzit set within Kri’at Shema? Rav Yehuda bar Chaviva said: Because it contains six concepts: the mitzva of tzitzit, the exodus from Egypt, the yoke of mitzvot, [rejection of:] heretical ideas, thoughts of sins, and thoughts of idol worship.

Ein Ayah: Man’s shleimut (completeness) depends on his having a serious intellectual goal that guides his direction and actions in life. This lofty intellectual purpose is included in what the holy Rabbis said: "All of your actions should be for the sake of Heaven" (Avot 2:12). The Rambam noted that the philosophers wrote entire books about the question of purpose but did not complete the task, whereas the Rabbis were able to capture all in the above short statement.
When a person has an intellectual goal, the emotions of his heart and his aspirations will also follow along this important path, and he will arrange all of his actions for this great purpose. Then the person will be complete in all elements: his intellect, his emotions, and his actions; they will all proceed in straightness toward the goal of human shleimut.
However, there is also the side of failure. When one loses his way and his intellect is uprooted from its main goal, then his soul’s emotions will work upon him. Instead of working toward a good goal, they will go to waste and will bring him to perform actions that are pointless but follow the urgings of his physical side, which are based only on that which is pleasant to the senses at the moment.
That is why these six ideas found in the section on tzitzit are included in Kri’at Shema - to complete the purpose of accepting the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom. The mitzva of tzitzit awakens one to the idea that all of his actions should be for the sake of Heaven, as the Rabbis said that the techelet (the blue color of the strings, which has been lost for centuries) is reminiscent of the sea, the sea of the sky, and the sky of the Seat of Glory. The exodus from Egypt is there because the lowliness of the soul when one is a slave lowers all of the moral emotions. Thus when Hashem took us out from slavery to freedom with a "strong hand," He elevated us with lofty emotions. After all, a slave does not have his own goals in his life and actions, which lowers his moral powers, but a free man’s spirit can reach the heights of intellectual goals, the pillar of the world. The yoke of mitzvot is that which connects all the specific actions to the goal. These concepts, then, cover a person’s shleimut regarding his intellect, his emotions, and his actions.
Correspondingly, one must avoid things that could lower him to utter destruction. One is heresy, which removes one’s mind from any lofty goal and morality. Still, even though the "leadership" of the evil person’s powers is uprooted from his heart, his spirit still does not rest but is dynamic, and thus without a goal, it will move aimlessly. That is the element of thoughts of sin, which are thoughts without a real goal, like reeds in the water, which follow any external or internal stimulus. However, when the spirit will be disgusted and will feel horrible emptiness that opposes his nature, which strives for a purpose, and when the light of its intellect will grow distant from the light of the truth, it will look for a goal. In that state, it may find the broken wells that are the basis of idol worship.
Thus, it is very appropriate that this section of the Torah, which includes the worth of a person and his guarding from elements that are destructive from beginning to end, should be close to the recitation of the matter of accepting the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom.
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