Sunday, May 9, 2010


So the question is…while in exile, without a Temple or sacrifice…how should a Jew respond to such a monumental loss? The evil inclination…with its self preserving tendencies might respond by seeking a replacement for what was taken away. HaShem new that human reason might say… "since offering a sacrifice is such an important spiritual mitzvah… lets replace them by offering our own sacrifice…a sacrifice of our choosing… maybe we will find a so called “better” sacrifice.” However, as we said in our previous discussion, exile is for our benefit... and is for correcting the deficiencies that led to our spiritual decline when the Temple stood. HaShem new that we might think that replacing the sacrificial system is a logical step to take. However, this is why the Torah gives us an additional mitzvah… the mitzvah of NOT offering… or accepting any sacrifice that was offered outside of the Temple (Lev. 17:1-9). A Chassidic story illustrates a resolution to this apparent paradox;

"The two brothers, famed Rabbi Elimelech of Lyzensk and Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, often wandered about together posing as simple beggars. They would mingle with the masses; listening, teaching, speaking, helping and guiding whomever and whenever they could.

Once while traveling with a group of vagabonds, members of the group were accused of being thieves, resulting in the entire bunch being thrown into jail. Confident of their innocence and eventual release, the two brothers sat quietly.

As the afternoon progressed, Rabbi Elimelech stood up to prepare himself to pray the afternoon service. "What are you doing?" his brother asked. "I'm getting ready for afternoon prayers," replied Rabbi Elimelech. Reb Zushe then advised, "HaShem being the same one who commanded you to pray — also commanded you not to pray in a room unfit for prayer!""Dear brother," Reb Zushe continued, "it is forbidden to pray in this cell because there is a pail that serves as a toilet nearby, making the room unfit for prayer." Dejected, the holy Rabbi Elimelech sat down. Soon after, Rabbi Elimelech began to cry. "Why are you crying?" said Rabbi Zushe. "Is it because you are unable to pray?" Reb Elimelech answered affirmatively. "But why weep?" continued Rabbi Zushe. "Don't you know that HaShem being the same one who commanded you to pray, also commanded you not to pray when the room is unfit for prayer? By not praying in this room, you have achieved a connection with HaShem. True, it is not the connection that you had sought. Yet, if you truly want to achieve a connection with HaShem, you would be happy that HaShem has afforded you the opportunity to obey His law at this time, no matter what it is."

"You are right, my brother!" exclaimed Rabbi Elimelech, suddenly smiling. The feelings of dejection banished from his heart and mind, Rabbi Elimelech took his brother's arm and began to dance from joy as a result of performing the commandment of not praying in an inappropriate place. The guards heard the commotion and came running.

Witnessing the two brothers dancing—with their long beards and flowing tzitzit—the guards asked the other prisoners what had happened. "We have no idea!" they answered mystified. "Those two Jews were discussing the pail in the corner when all of a sudden they came to some happy conclusion and began to dance.""Is that right?" sneered the guards. "They're happy because of the pail, are they? We'll show them!" They promptly removed the pail from the cell—The holy brothers then prayed afternoon prayers undisturbed."

In exile a Jew can perceive the spiritual implications of not only DOING what HaShem asks…But also REFRAINING from doing what HaShem sometimes asks. We discover the inner joy of DOING a mitzvah when given the opportunity…as well as the joy of NOT doing a mitzvah when the opportunity is taken away. This is just one important piece of the puzzle that will one day… end our exile.

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