Beit Midrash

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  • Ein Ayah
To dedicate this lesson

Doing Mitzvot Willingly


Various Rabbis

Come and see the difference between the earlier generations and the later generations. The earlier generations would bring their produce into the house through the main gate in order that they should be obligated in ma’asrot (tithes). The later generations would bring the produce in through roofs and side courtyards to exempt them from ma’asrot.

Ein Ayah: The following is a way to distinguish between those who recognize the lofty level of mitzvot and those who perform them as a matter of rote. Regarding many mitzvot of the Torah, there are effective steps that one can take to extricate himself from the obligation. It is in this regard that one can show whether he serves Hashem with love, namely, by forgoing the exemption and performing the mitzva because of its value.
The gemara demonstrates this idea in the context of a very appropriate mitzva. Ma’asrot is the main mitzva that strengthens the good fortune of the greater community, as it is at the heart of the covenant between the Tribe of Levi, which is set aside for the service of Hashem, and the nation as a whole. Therefore, the Divine Wisdom saw to it that it be fulfilled with a spirit of volunteerism by those who see its great value. That is why the Torah allowed a way to exempt oneself by bringing in the produce through side entrances so that the specialness of the mitzva is felt through volunteerism. This enables the whole community to be completed spiritually as Hashem desired.

A Land With Everything
(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 6:15)

Gemara: [The words, "a tree of eating," teach us that orlah (the prohibition of eating fruits during the tree’s first three years) applies to peppercorn, whose branches taste like its fruit.] This also teaches us that Eretz Yisrael is not missing anything, as the pasuk says: "A land where you will not eat bread out of deprivation, nothing will be missing from it" (Devarim 8:9).

Ein Ayah: This gemara shows the special level of shleimut (completeness) that Eretz Yisrael helps Bnei Yisrael reach. That is that not only will the acquisition of wealth and luxuries not damage their true spiritual shleimut, but it will actually add strength to their shleimut in the path of Hashem.
We are able to extrapolate the spiritual special quality of the Land from its physical uniqueness. Based on the natural makeup of peppercorns, we would expect them to be cultivable only in extreme climates, as the Midrash Tanchuma (Kedoshim 10) identifies Ethiopia as the classic place for them. Even so, Eretz Yisrael, which is in the middle of the inhabited world, does not lack even produce like that. We find a similar thing regarding the spiritual goodness that stems from all the wisdom of the world. We would expect some of that knowledge to be possessed only by certain other nations. However, these skills can also be found among the Jews of Eretz Yisrael (see Eicha Rabba 1:4).
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