Beit Midrash

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Looking for the Treasure You Are Standing On


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

"The blessing - that you will listen" (Devarim 11:27). The way in which this pasuk is written indicates that the blessing is not something external that comes if we listen to Hashem’s commands of us found in the Torah. Rather, the main blessing is the listening itself. If a person actually realizes this, he is very fortunate, because then his whole life turns into a Garden of Eden.
When a person makes an appraisal of his life, he often finds that that he is missing some sort of satisfaction. He may think that he needs to work hard to acquire something else that will make him happy. But for so many people, it just never happens. It can be like a child who is trying to reach the end of the horizon, with the problem being that as he walks, the horizon keeps on changing and never becomes reachable. The greatest blessing is to understand that we should not be looking for the blessing elsewhere, but that the healthy lifestyle we are leading, "listening to Hashem," is itself the blessing.
The gemara (Gittin 68a) tells of a magician who was looking for a treasure at the edge of the world and did not know that he was standing on the treasure. So many people are searching high and low and working so hard at things that will not bring them the real satisfaction that is readily attainable from within and from nearby: a daf of gemara, a perek of mishna, parashat hashavua with Rashi. It is much easier and less strenuous than one thinks.
The midrash (Kohelet Rabba 6:1) illustrates the idea of the pasuk "and also the soul will not be filled" (Kohelet 6:7) as follows. It is like the simple city dweller who marries a princess. If he brings her all of the things in the world that he has access to, they will not be worth anything to her because she is a princess. Our soul demands nourishment, but we provide it with physical food, which it cannot digest because our soul is spiritual.
This Shabbat we proclaim the coming of the month of Elul, which Chazal connect to the pasuk, "Should the shofar be sounded in the city and the people will not tremble?" (Amos 3:6). Elul is here to shake us out of our complacency regarding our spiritual state. For those who have decided that their path cannot be questioned, it is a matter of raising the question of whether that should really be the case. "Maybe I am not always right." In this way it is a preparation for the Ten Days of Repentance, a preparation that takes three times as long as the repentance itself. We must realize that we can be wrong because if we cannot be wrong, we cannot sin or need repentance. If we can break the wall of complacency, we might be able to see the ugly truth, and then we can know what we have to repent for.
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