Jerusalem Post October 9, 1999
IN MUSAF OF ROSH HASHANAH, we find a description of G-d’s “remembrance”: “When the remembrance of every created being comes before you — every person’s deeds and mission…” The term “deeds” refers to a person’s observance of the commandments. But what is meant by a person’s “mission?”
There is no Jew without his or her own individual task. That task can be performed by no one else, for no one else was born with precisely the same configuration of strengths and weaknesses, no one else is born into the same family at precisely the same moment or into the same historical situation, and no one else confronts the same challenges and tests in life.
Because each Jew is a world unto himself and absolutely singular so is his task in life unique. That task is the “mission” referred to in the Zichronos section of Musaf.
We might think that so long as we have kept our sins to a minimum that we are destined for a favorable judgment on Rosh Hashanah. But the Midrash makes clear that our fulfillment of our appointed task is no less determinative. The Midrash recounts the story of Navat the Carmelite, who was put to death by Queen Jezebel. Navat was a completely righteous man, who refused to sell his vineyard to Jezebel. How can I sell that which G-d gave to my forefathers? he told her. As a consequence, Jezebel hired false witnesses to testify against Navat, and he was put to death.
The Midrash asks: How could such a righteous man have come to such a terrible end? And the Midrash answers that Navat had a uniquely beautiful voice. Each festival those going up to Jerusalem looked forward to hearing his beautiful prayers. One year, however, Navat did not come thereby disappointing all those who eagerly anticipated listening to his prayers. That year he was put to death by Jezebel. When a person does not use the gifts that G-d has given him in the manner intended, the Midrash teaches us, he or she has no further reason to live.
The Jewish people together constitute a potential symphony orchestra of praise to G-d. No Jew is born without an instrument or the ability to play it.
Commentary of Tiferes Yisrael on Pirkei Avos 2:12
“Rabbi Elazar said:’Be eager to study the Torah. Know what to respond to a heretic. Know before Whom you toil and faithful is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.'” (Pirkei Avos 2:12)
Tiferes Yisrael: Three things are necessary for success in learning.
- Eagerness and Diligence.
If he’s not diligent to review everyday what he learned the previous day, he will lose before he gains. And the subjects will not be firmly grasped in his mind. Therefore ‘Be eager to study the Torah’
- Thoughtfulness and depth in the subjects learned.
One should not move away from anything he learns (!!) until he can answer 7 questions. (see the hebrew for details). When you can answer the 7 questions, all difficulties will be clarified for you. Also, you’ll understand the background well, and if there’s a contradiction to what you already know. You’ll also ask yourself if there are any extra words, and if yes, why this word was written. This way things will become clear like a new shirt (??). Therefore ‘know what to respond to a heretic’. i.e. It’s not enough to know reasons clearly enough to answer a kosher Jew. Rather, contemplate things so thoroughly that you can even answer a heretic who does not buy into the Torah system and uses only his human logic/common sense.
- Removal of worries and all other thoughts when learning. Therefore ‘Know before Whom you toil and who is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.’
1. Know before Whom you toil. Means, be embarassed to think other thoughts while busy doing your Employer’s work.
2. faithful is your Employer etc.. Means due to your efforts in Torah study, you will not need big efforts to obtain your livelihood. (since success in livelihood is also in His hands)
see the original Hebrew for more details.
Comment on 2nd point:Learning a piece of talmud is like going through a labyrinth (maze) at night with a small flashlight. One must focus and keep track of everything as he moves along otherwise he will lose his train of thought and become confused. This requires total concentration and a “nefesh rechava” (a wide mind).
One who trains himself to learn with a “nefesh rechava” will reach clarity of understanding in torah, which brings the greatest joy.
The student did not learn with a “nefesh rechava”. He did not learn to put the pieces together and therefore instead of having a nice complete building in the end, he wound up with a big pile of bricks.
Courtesy of Daf Yomi Review