Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicatedin the memory of

Refael ben Yosef

39. For the Sake of God's Honor

While performing any religious act a person must intend to bring pleasure and honor to God. He must pray for Israel's redemption and the restoration of the Holy Temple, for these matters bring pleasure to God and vest him with the most supreme honor.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Shvat 5767
Some people serve God in order to purify their souls so that they will merit to see the pleasantness of God, dwell within His Sanctuary and receive reward in the World to Come. We cannot say that such intention is bad; however, we likewise cannot say that such intention is good. This sort of person seeks out his own benefit, and he is in fact serving himself.

The most praiseworthy intention a person can have when serving God is to bring honor to His name. This is the sort of intention sought by the pious, a truly unique class of people. It is achieved after the heart becomes filled with love for God, when a person sincerely desires that God's honor be magnified, when a person is pained by any belittlement of God's honor.

One who reaches this level will also want other people to magnify God's honor. He will greatly desire that all other people magnify the honor of Heaven, and he will suffer when others diminish God's honor. He will be all the more pained when he himself diminishes the honor of heaven, intentionally or inadvertently, or because of a weakness of character which prevents him from eschewing all sin, as it is written (Ecclesiastes 7:20), "A man is not righteous in the land, who will do good and not sin."

And so, the most perfect type of intention is when a person desires nothing else but to bring honor to God and to completely distance himself from any sort of personal pleasure, to serve God entirely for God's own honor.

It has thus been set forth in Tanna d'bei Eiliyahu (Chapter 4): "Every sage in Israel who possesses the words of Torah according to their true significance and grieves for the honor of the Holy One Blessed be He and for the honor of Israel all his days, and lusts and feels pain for the honor of Jerusalem and of the Temple and for the swift flowering of salvation and the ingathering of the exiles, attains to the infusion of the Divine spirit in his words... "

And so, such a pious person, in addition to performing God's commandments with the praiseworthy intention of honoring Him, is constantly anguished because of the Temple's ruined state and the exile of the Jewish people. He is tormented because these matters diminish God's honor, and he longs for the redemption of Israel because this will bring honor to God's blessed name.

A person should not say, "Who am I that I should pray for the ingathering of exiles and the restoration of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple? My prayer certainly is not capable of causing such an ingathering or prompting Israel's salvation." It is important to realize that such prayer itself brings pleasure to God; He is happy that His children make such requests.

The sages, in order to prevent people from saying such things, tell us that this is why God created all of humanity from an individual person - to teach us the value of every single individual, for each of us is capable of producing an entire world.

And when Israel does not awaken to pray for the redemption and for the magnification of God's honor, the prophet storms (Isaiah 59:16), "And he saw that there was no man and he was amazed that there was no contender" and (Ibid. 63:5), "And I looked and there was no helper, and I was amazed and there was no supporter" and (Jeremiah 30:17), "It is Zion; no one inquires after it."

And the sages say that from here we learn that one must inquire after Zion, for God's glory will not be magnified if Israel is not redeemed. These two matters are interdependent, as Tanna d'bei Eliyahu says, "And he grieves over the honor of the Holy One Blessed be He and over the honor of Israel." Regarding a person who performs commandments without such intention, the verse states (Isaaih 40:6), "All flesh is grass and all of his kindness is as the blossoming of the field" and the sages interpret this to mean that "all of their kindnesses are performed for their own sake, for their own good and pleasure."

In sum, perfect intention contains two ingredients: 1) a person must, while performing any religious act, have the intention to bring pleasure, and thus honor, to God. 2) a person must request that God's honor be wholly reestablished, and this is achieved when Israel attains honor and tranquility, for this brings pleasure to God and vests him with the most supreme honor.
Some of the material in the above article was taken from Feldheim's translation of Mesillat Yesharim, "The Path of the Just."
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