Friday, August 22, 2014

Not A Vampire´s Favorite Parsha

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 are related.

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 improperly.
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 else.

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!


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