Friday, July 25, 2008

Pens for the Cattle

I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, so you'll excuse me if my Torah Thought is briefer or more meandering than usual.

Parsha Mattos contains an interesting triangle of events:
  1. Moishe, despite knowing that he would leave the world once the war with Midiyan was complete, immediately began preparing to execute the battle.
  2. The tzaddikim who fought in the battle spared the Midiyanite women, including those who had incited the plague against the klal.
  3. The tribes of Gad and Reuven asked to inherit land outside of Eretz Yisroel proper.
The common thread between these three events is keeping a mitzvah in the forefront of one's mind. For Moishe, though he was in effect hurrying his own demise, ran to fulfill Hashem's word precisely as instructed. Conversely, the tzaddikim erred in the performing the mitzvah by sparing the women. They consequently focussed on compassion during the battle, which is a most admirable trait but not what had been called for in this particular instance. Rather, the purpose of this battle was to exact vengeance against Midiyan for the tragedy that the region incited in the klal. In turn, to spare the women ran counter to the intended purpose, and thus the tzaddikim sensed that they needed to offer sacrifices for atonement. Finally, for Gad and Reuven, while they were willing to fight with the other tribes to conquer Eretz Yisroel, they hastened to claim the first land they found suitable for their material needs. With a focus on their material comforts versus their spiritual advancement, they are taken to task by Moishe for valuing possessions over the generations, and indeed become the catalyst for Hashem's retribution against the tribe of Menashe.

To summarize, the differences amongst the three groups then are the degree to which they ran to fulfill the mitzvah and their focus while performing the mitzvah. Those whose focus was on the spiritual were rewarded accordingly. We are consequently reminded that not only should we rush to perform a mitzvah but we should focus solely on fulfilling Hashem's will while executing that mitzvah. In doing so, we can avoid being swayed as in the case of the tzaddikim and the tribes of Gad and Reuven.

On a personal note, this week I found myself davening later and later in the morning, cutting the time closer and closer to chatzot. Then yesterday I IMed with a friend of mine, who commented that it's a good thing chatzot is so late these days. I answered that I felt guilty, because let's face it, my primary focus upon getting up in the morning should not be to "prepare for davening" by having a cup of coffee and checking my email, etc. Rather, I should get up and start davening right away. Since I get up and daven immediately when I am working, what excuse could I possibly have to delay davening now that I'm unemployed. Sure, I'm tired; sure, maybe today my davening might be better if I have a second cup of coffee first. The reality is though, I'm supposed to get up and start davening, because even though I am allowed to daven until chatzot, that doesn't mean I should willfully delay my davening.

So this morning when I got up, I davened without delay. B'H'!

Good Shabbos!

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