Thursday, July 15, 2010

You Need To Earn What You Were Promised

There is an idea in this week's Parsha, Devarim, which exemplifies what Sefer (book) Devarim is coming to teach us. The idea can be found here (Devarim 1:8)

ח. רְאֵה נָתַתִּי לִפְנֵיכֶם אֶת הָאָרֶץ בֹּאוּ וּרְשׁוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְ־הֹוָ־ה לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק
וּלְיַעֲקֹב לָתֵת לָהֶם וּלְזַרְעָם אַחֲרֵיהֶם:

8. See, I have set the land before you; come and possess the land which the Lord swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them and their descendants after them. 

At first glance, it seems like this pasuk is solely telling the Jewish people to go take the land that G-D promised to our forefathers. However, the Maharal in the introduction to his book "Tiferes Yisroel" reveals how we are to actually read this pasuk by telling us what the phrase נָתַתִּי לִפְנֵיכֶם (set the land before you) really means. He says (here):

"This is the Torah that Moshe PLACED BEFORE the children of Israel (Devarim: 4:44)" (The Maharal says), this verse means that the Torah is an object that is sitting (there), anyone who wants to merit it (learn it) should merit it. This is why the verse does not say "This is the Torah that Moshe gave to the children of Israel," but rather "PLACED BEFORE the children of Israel" because it is like something that is sitting there before them, ALL who want to merit (to take this object) go and take it.

The Maharal makes a very interesting point based on the language of the verse. There is a difference between something that is given and something that is placed before. The Maharal is saying that the Torah is something that, if someone wants it, they have to go and get it. They can not expect to just be given this item placed before them.

Here too, in our verse, the Torah tells us that G-D made a promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That promise was to give them the land of Canaan, Eretz Yisroel. However, the Torah is telling us that even though the land was rightfully under the ownership of the children of Israel, it was only placed before them. What does this mean? The Maharal tells us, placed before means that it is up to the person to put the effort in and go take that object which is placed before them. G-D was not going to give the Jewish people the land of Israel unless they were willing to earn it.

This is a very appropriate introduction to the book of Devarim. Devarim is dedicated to Moshe telling the people of Israel that they must follow the commandments and do what is right, for if they do not they will lose everything. The idea is clear, one must earn that which was promised to them. We, the Jewish people, can not sit back and expect everything to come to our laps, we must go out and earn what we get. The Maharal shows that Torah knowledge is only acquired through effort and hard work based on the verse in (Ibid 4:44). Our verse, however, talks about livelihood and dwelling places. One must work hard to earn their livelihood and thereby G-D will grant them what they deserve.

There is a trend in this generation, the sense of entitlement. Everyone thinks they are entitled to this and that without any hard work. This is not true of all, but a trend that is, sadly, growing. Hopefully people will start to realize that everything must be earned and nothing comes without effort. Someone who just sits back and does not earn what he gets does not deserve what he gets. May we all be motivated to work hard in Torah and in our livelihood.

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