If you often find yourself craving a slurpee or frapp made from unmodified beast blood, I´d suggest developing a taste for mocha or strawberry instead. Because, this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, includes a prohibition against eating the blood of any animal. Along with this prohibition, the verse states: “You shall not eat it, in order that it be well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the eyes of God”
A close examination of the verse reveals an apparent contradiction: The
commandment requires us NOT to do something – namely, to refrain from
eating blood. Yet, the reward of a good life for oneself and one’s
children is predicated on DOING what is right in the eyes of God, even
though there is no actual deed associated with fulfilling this mitzvah.
The question, then, is whether the reward in this case is granted for
doing the right thing, or for not doing the wrong thing, and how the two
There is a statement in the Talmud (Kiddushin, 39B), which says that
when someone refrains from doing the wrong thing, his spiritual reward
is on par with having actually performed a positive commandment.
When someone holds back from delivering a really exciting piece of
gossip, her reward for not speaking is equal to her reward for actually doing a positive mitzvah.
If only some aspects of physical reward worked the same way as spiritual
reward. Imagine if, by refraining from eating a custard doughnut I´d
actually burn as many calories as if I had a full work out! I do try my best, though. I may order two slices of pizza and a whole serving of cajun
fries...but I get it with a Diet Coke, so it sorta cancels out, right?
So, Rashi takes this concept a step further: If the Torah
rewards a person for not doing something most people find repulsive in
the first place, such as eating blood, we can imagine how much more
merit a person would receive when overcoming a temptation that is
powerful and readily available.
Of course, each individual is unique. One person’s challenge is another
person’s child’s play. As such, the reward we receive is measured
according to our own personal struggle. This is the meaning of the
Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, “According to the effort, so is the reward.”
The determining factor is not just actions, but also the sacrifice and
struggle involved in doing the right thing or refraining from acting
As a side note, this is also why it´s unfair to place judgement on or to
examine and determine the actions of others. It may seem obvious or
easy to us, but it might be a very difficult challenge for them. And the
opposite is true, as well. Something difficult for us may be a breeze for someone
So, not doing something, is equal to doing something.
We spend much of our lives focusing on doing things. What am I doing
today? What am I doing this summer? What am I doing with my life? What
am I doing with my talents?
These are all super- powerful questions that must be addressed in order
to accomplish our tasks in life.
But, there´s another equally significant
side to this that many of us don´t recognize.
What am I not doing today? What have I not done this summer? What am I not doing with my life? What am I not doing with my talents?
Super- powerful questions. With super- powerful answers.
In order to accomplish our goals, and in order to reach our full
potential in life, we need to turn our focus from what I´m doing, to
include what I´m not doing. How many opportunities are passing me by?
How many people am I not helping? How many of my gifts am I not using?
How many lives have I not changed? By recognizing what I´m not doing,
I´ll be able to do a whole lot more.
Oh, and I totally recommend mocha, anyway.
Have a great Shabbos!