One of my most beloved teachers from my time in Israel would implore to his students about the importance of learning Torah on Shabbos. How could we squander the holiest day of the week by sleeping through it? I’m grateful for Shabbos not only because of the time that it gives me to recharge and focus on my loved ones, it also is the day of my week when I am able to learn the most. It’s often frustrating, while studying the parsha over the course of the day, that I find unbelievably inspiring morsels pertaining to the Torah portion that we already read over Shabbos, not giving me any time to share these ideas before we’re reading the next parsha at Mincha. This relegates me to try and write down where I saw these ideas after Shabbos and hopefully remember to use them in my Divrei Torah for the next year. Here, throwing caution to the wind, I will share thoughts that I saw on Parshas Shelach which I found to be very meaningful, regardless of whether or not we’ve moved on from the sedrah.
At the end of the parsha, we read about the mitzvah of tzitzis, something we remind ourselves about a few times over the course of our day. Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus writes how although in Pirkei Avos we are told not to measure the importance of the mitzvos we’ve been commanded to keep, as we do not know which are more important, it is clear that the mitzvah of tzitzis is dear. The mitzvah of tzitzis reminds us of every mitzvah in the Torah. The numerical value of the word tzitzis is 600, and with the 5 knots and 8 strings, that is equivalent to 613, the number of commandments we as a people have been given. Additionally, in regard to this mitzvah, there is an extra note about adding a string of techeles in our tzitzis. The Gemara in Menachos tells us this blue thread is important because the blue will remind us of the (vastness of the) sea, which will remind us of the (vastness of the) sky, which will remind us of the Heavenly Throne and the vastness of the Almighty. Yet, the next two words of the pasuk are just as important as the mitzvah tzitzis being there to remind us of the rest of the commandments. V’Asisem Osam – Not only will we remember the mitzvos, but we must do them! Once we are mindful perform these mitzvos, it’s written “velo sasuru acharei levavchem v’eineichem” that we are not to be lead astray by our own wants or things we see.
Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk explains that to merely “do” the mitzvos is not enough. Noam Elimelech says that even though we follow this pattern of seeing the putting techeles on our tzitzis, seeing them, and remembering the sky, ocean, and Kisei HaKavod, and then doing the mitzvos, what happens after that? We do them again! One may think that after following the commandments of Hashem, they are exempt from doing all of them, or any of them again, yet they are sorely mistaken. Just as the ocean and sky are “ein sof”, they have no end, so too does our responsibility to God.
While this adage of the Noam Elimelech makes sense at face value, it’s often hard to find meaning in mitzvos we do over and over again. When I was younger and I would play any video game, my ultimate goal would be to “beat” the game itself. Once I accomplished that feat, the game was no longer interesting to me. Similarly, when I finish a book, more often than not, I will not pick it up again to being reading it cover to cover as I did before. Same with a movie. Not only is it important in finding meaning in everything that we do, the Noam Elimelech continues and implores us that it’s our responsibility to keep ourselves inspired and excited to perform mitzvos. That’s specifically why it says “velo sasuro” that we shall stray, immediately following “v’asisem osam” that we will observe the mitzvos, meaning that even if we feel as if we’re in a rut and do not want to do these mitzvos, we must be mechadesh and find new meaning and significance to what we do.
If one is in the middle of the ocean with water surrounding you for miles, you can feel just how all-encompassing the water truly is. If one stares up at the sky and looks as far as they can in any direction, the sky will keep going even farther than their gaze will grant them. Just like the yam and the rakia are “ein sof,” the Almighty, His Torah and mitzvos are great in their vastness. There is no end to them. As such, explains Rav Elimelech, we must continue to elevate ourselves higher and higher in shemiras hamitzvos. We don’t have to do it alone! There are countless resources, in print and online, that can help us in this endeavor. There are rabbis, teachers, and mentors for each of us. May we all be able to find meaning in every mitzvah.