Thursday, September 03, 2009

Differering Torah Opinions

Despite the arguments that abound in Talmud, our sages say, "All opinions are the words of the Living G-d." That is, all differing opinions brought in Gemorrah and Poskim are truth, even though the law bases itself according to only one of them. E.g., today we usually defer to the opinion of Bet Hillel, but in the future, the law will revert to that of Bet Shamai. Therefore, even while studying that which today is not established law, we do not waste our time, because, in fact, we are studying G-d's Torah.

The mitzvah of bringing the first fruits of The Land starts out, "And it will be when you come to the land..." (Dev. 26, 1). According to Midrash Sifri, the first-fruit offering must be brought immediately upon entry into The Land. The law, however, was to have brought it only after the 14 years it took to occupy and distribute The Land.

The mitzvah entails thanking G-d for the good He's done giving us The Land of Israel. One opinion would then be to thank G-d immediately for His gift, as soon as he's got his portion in the land. On the other hand, you might say it's better to offer thanks once everybody is settled in and and happy for their neighbors, at which time your thanks would be more profound.

Similarly, when a Jew awakes from a night's sleep. He immediately says the "Modeh Ani", thanking G-d for the return of his soul, which he says even before he washes his hands and gets up. Thereafter, during prayer, the Jew again thanks G-d, as when he says "Hodu". At the end of prayer he thanks G-d by saying, "Ach tzadikim yodu ...". Why all these thanks? Because each reflects a renewed appreciation.

Apparently both views of the first-fruit offering are right. There's the immediate thanks we give, as we offer spontaneous appreciation to G-d. But later, as we marvel and reflect on G-d's greatness, and share our friends' joy, it becomes a happier, more profound sort of thanks.

The 18th of Elul is the birthday of two tzadikim whose life-works coincide with the heart of the above matter. The Ba'al Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe worked two different ways to thank G-d. The Ba'al Shem Tov worked to instill simple faith in G-d, as in teaching Jews to say "Thank G-d" for everything they can be grateful for. The Alter Rebbe founded the Chabad movement of Chassidus, wherein one internalizes Torah, so much so that it penetrates and reflects in thought, speech and action, so that thanking G-d comes from the person's very essence; Not just from spontaneity.

Despite their different approaches, however, "All ways are the ways of the Living G-d." (Adapted from Moshe Hendy in Lod, Israel)

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