Parshas Yisro – Naaseh V’nishma


פרשת יתרו


This week, we finally arrive at that momentous occasion of Matan Torah, that great rendezvous between us and Hakodosh Boruch Hu that took place at Har Sinai. However, besides for that great subject of Matan Torah, there is also the very important subject of Kabolas Hatorah. It’s two separate subjects. There is the Giving the Torah and the Accepting of the Torah.

When we study Kabalas Hatorah, the Accepting of the Torah, one of the outstanding features that we notice is the willingness and alacrity of the Am Yisroel. They shouted out in one voice נעשה ונשמע – “We shall do and we shall listen.” (Shemos 24:7). Now, they didn’t receive the whole Torah at one time. All they accepted was the yoke of Torah; they didn’t know what they were getting. Only that Moshe Rabbeinu in the course of the years went into the ohel moed and וישמע את הקול מדבר אליו – “And he heard the voice of Hashem speaking to him” (Bamidbar 7:89). Moshe Rabeinu heard Hashem speaking from between the two keruvim and gradually they began to discover what they had accepted. And so, what they did at Har Sinai was considered an act of great loyalty and devotion to Hashem. That without knowing what they were committing themselves to, without knowing what they were agreeing to, they accepted everything beforehand.


And we’ll begin our subject tonight of kabalas hatorah with a mishna in Avos. כל שמעשיו מרובין מחכמתו, חכמתו מתקיימת – “Anyone whose good deeds exceeds his wisdom, his wisdom will endure” (Avos 3:12). If a person does more than he knows about, more than he learned, that’s a man whose wisdom endures and has eternal value. So the question is, how is it possible for a man to fulfill more than knows? If you know ten halachos, you can fulfill ten halachos. And if you learn one more halacha, then you’ll be able to do that one as well, and you’ll have eleven. But you won’t be able to fulfill twenty. You can’t fulfill what you don’t know about. Halevai that your deeds should be as much as your learning! But that your deeds should be more than what you know, how could that be?!

So we’ll study what Rabeinu Yonah has to say. He tells us that this mishna is providing us with a good piece of advice, especially for ambitious people who want to succeed in life, so let’s pay attention to what he has to say. He tells us that person should not get discouraged when he sees that there’s so much he doesn’t know. Even though he’s lacking in knowledge, he still has great opportunities to accomplish everything. And how could a person do that? Even if you know very little, you should resolve in your heart that you’re going to do whatever you end up learning in the future. Whatever you’ll learn in the seforim, whatever the chachmei hatorah will tell you is necessary to do – right now, even before you heard their words – you accept upon yourself to do it. And if in ten years you’ll hear about another mitzvah that you didn’t know about, you’ll immediately fulfill it, without any hesitation. And when Hakodosh Boruch Hu hears that, He says, “That man is marked by Me as a man of success. He’s a man who I consider to have already fulfilled these mitzvos that he doesn’t even yet know about. And even the mitzvos that he will never hear about.” Now, that’s not a shortcut to avoid learning, and to avoid doing and accomplishing. Because such a person, the one who sincerely wants to do the will of Hashem, will certainly be eager to learn. But suppose he didn’t have the opportunity – suppose for some reason beyond his control he didn’t learn. But he already accepted to do it. And so he is given full credit as if he had learned and accomplished it.

And that’s what it means מעשיו מרובין מחכמתו. If a person will say with sincerity, “I know there’s much to learn still and a lot of things that I’m not doing correctly. But I’m making up my mind that I want to fulfill everything, without any hesitation,” then all of the Torah laws and details that he has accepted upon himself – everything – are considered his ma’asim already. And now, his ma’asim are much more numerous than his actual chochma, which is limited to what he has already learned and became aware of. And that’s the מעשיו מרובין מחכמתו that our mishna is praising as being a wisdom that is eternal.


Now this chiddush of Rabeinu Yonah offers us an understanding of a brief and cryptic comment that we find on this mishna. The Avos D’Rabbi Nosson in explanation of this mishna states the following: שנאמר נעשה ונשמע. The secret of how a man can achieve even more than he knows lies in these words that the Am Yisroel accepted the Torah with: “We shall do, and we shall listen” (Shemos 24:7).

On that glorious day when the Am Yisroel stood at the foot of Har Sinai and accepted the Torah, they proclaimed the two words that would forever change the history of the world. נעשה ונשמע – “We will do and we will hear” (Shemos 24:7). Those two words were such a great achievement that the gemara tells us the following אמר רבי אלעזר : בשעה שהקדימו ישראל נעשה לנשמע יצתה בת קול ואמרה להן, מי גילה לבני רז זה – “When the Bnei Yisroel preceeded ‘We will do’ to ‘We will hear,’ a heavenly voice emanated and said to them, ‘Who revealed to My children this secret?!’” (Shabbos 88b).


Now what is this great secret of נעשה ונשמע that Hashem was praising so dearly. And the answer is this. “נעשה – We will do,” and then,  “ונשמע – We will listen to what you will tell us to do.” So they accepted beforehand, before they even knew what would be expected of them. If Hashem would tell them to stand on their heads every morning for ten minutes, they’d do it. They were so full of love of Hashem that they were willing to do anything. And Hakodosh Boruch Hu looked into their hearts and He saw that they really intended to do whatever He would tell them, whatever He would ask of them no matter what. And so Hashem said, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s as if it was already fulfilled by you.” It was considered as if they had already learned everything and had done everything. They said נעשה, and it was like they actually did it already.


This is a tremendous lesson and it pays to study it well. Because if we follow it to its conclusion, we can acquire merit, we can get zchusim, beyond our actual abilities. We would like to bring karbonos in the Beis Hamikdash. We would like to being bikkurim. There are so many mitzvos, not only ones that are dependent on living in Eretz Yisroel, or during the time of the Beis Hamikdash, but even others that are inaccessible to us. Shiluach Hakein, when you don’t have a mother bird available. What could you do; you didn’t happen upon a nest. Or פטר חמור; if your donkey gives birth to a first born you have a mitzvah of פטר חמור. But you don’t have a donkey. Your wife won’t let you bring a donkey into the back yard. You’re an אנוס. But if you take advantage of your כח המחשבה, of your ability to have a fiery enthusiasm for the word of Hashem, then you can be mikabel the Torah, in all of its details. And even though you didn’t learn it, you didn’t do it, but you’ll get reward as if you did it. You’re doing your own little נעשה ונשמע in your backyard.


Now, a person will never know be able to know everything! Certainly, all your lives you should have an ambition to continue learning new things; new mitzvos, new hanhagos, new ideals and new attitudes. Because no matter how old you are, you’ll always discover new things to do, new paths in the service of Hashem, that you never knew about. Even Rabbi Yochanan, the great amorah, Rabbi Yochanan, when he was told about a certain statement that Reish Lakish had made, he was surprised because he had never heard it. So he said, “Where do you get that from?” And Reish Lakish told him, “I got it from the Sifra.” The Sifra?! Rabbi Yochanan hadn’t learned the whole Sifra. So he got busy for three days memorizing the Sifra. So you see that even great men have certain vacuums, certain spaces that are not yet filled with information.

And therefore, it’s not possible for a man to actually fulfill every detail that Hakodosh Boruch Hu desires of him. But a person must work on himself to acquire the middah – it’s a middah of character called kabalas hatorah, it’s actually a quality of character. You have to work on that middah of accepting the Torah. It’s not like you think, that it is something that was done already, that our forefathers did the job for us and now we can lean back and relax. We’ll just sit back and listen as the ba’al korei reads the words. And maybe we’ll stand up for the aseres hadibros. No! That’s nothing! We have to continue to perform kabolas hatorah. We have to work on being more and more willing, more and more ready. And as we do, we get more and more reward for the future deeds that we may never learn about and never do.

Now, do you know how many things there are like that, details that we are not fulfilling, but that we can be mikabel in our minds. There are hundreds and thousands of things like that! Life is full of opportunity. And this secret of נעשה ונשמע is the gateway to a life of achievement. Because you’re not limited anymore by what you can’t accomplish; as long as you want it, as long as you sincerely desire it and are mikabel to do it, that’s already the achievement of having done it.


And that’s what the gemara in Brachos (6a) teaches us: חישב אדם לעשות מצוה ונאנס ולא עשאה מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאה – “If a person intended to do a mitzvah, and for some reason that is beyond his control, he couldn’t do it, the Torah credits him as if he had fulfilled it.” Let’s say, this man wanted to be mivakeir choleh, so he bought a basket of fruit to bring to the hospital to visit this sick person. ונאנס ולא עשאה. But some accident happened that prevented him from doing the mitzvah. When he came there, they told him that the patient had recovered and had gone home already. He did what he could, but it was an oiness. So מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאה. It’s considered by the Torah as if he had done the mitzvah. So we see that Hakodosh Boruch Hu measures by the kavanah. This is a very important principle. Because we go through life with the assumption that we are judged primarily on what we do, what we accomplish. But that’s a tragic error. You must understand that your greatness, and your station in the next world, will primarily derive from your desires and yearnings that you create in the recesses of your mind.

Now, it could be that there is a certain degree of shleimus, of perfection, that is gained by doing the action. That could be. You achieve more perfection when you go and you actually stand by the bed of the choleh, and you hand the food to him, and speak to him. Your body is involved in the mitzvah, together with the thoughts of your mind, so it could be that there is more shleimus. But the mitzvah is accomplished either way. There is no question that the mitzvah is accomplished even if the choleh is not there anymore. Because מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאה. It’s as if you have done it. And that’s what happened at Har Sinai. The Am Yisroel was so full of enthusiasm when they heard the voice of Hashem, they said נעשה ונשמע – “We will do and we will listen.” But what could they do already? They didn’t yet know what had to be done. It was נאנס ולא עשאה. And that’s why Hashem accepted it as if it was already done. Hakodosh Boruch Hu said,  “Who told you this secret?! It’s a great secret! Because you get great reward for such an attitude!” On that day we learned the great principle of desiring to serve Hashem, desiring to do good deeds, even when they appear out of reach.


And this opens up a gateway to a great world of opportunities that await us. It may seem unreal to us, almost silly, but that’s because we have not yet thoroughly assimilated this idea into our minds. But once you think about the yesod that we just learned, you begin to see that life is like a place full of diamonds, and all you need to do is bend down and pick them up. There are diamonds all over. Life is so precious because the opportunities are everywhere and in abundance – opportunities for greatness. Because we are learning here, that wherever you are, whatever your place in life is, you can be achieving great things, remarkable accomplishments, with your mind. The fact that your situation doesn’t allow you to accomplish these many things has no bearing at all on your ability to achieve this greatness. אין דבר העומד בפני הרצון – Nothing stands between you and your will. It could be that you will be held back by the circumstances of life from doing the mitzvah. You’re an אונס, but nothing could stop you from having the ratzon, the desire to do the mitzvah.


We find Dovid Hamelech using an expression, אחלי – “I hope!” אחלי יכונו דרכי לשמור חקיך – “I hope, I desire, that my ways should be correctly established to guard Your commandments” (Tehillim 119:5). Dovid is not merely saying, “Hashem, help me, guide me.” אחלי means, “That’s my deepest hope, my sincerest wish.” יחול means to hope, which means that Dovid was hoping, desiring that Hashem would guide him.

If you want to succeed in this world, it’s not enough to just get by. You have to feel a yearning, a desire, that Hakodosh Boruch Hu should lead you in the right way. And you should be crying out in your heart. It has to be coming from your heart! אחלי, “I hope to You Hashem, that I should be able to do those things.” “Ohhh,” says Hashem, “You’re hoping to Me. You’re not just going through the motions and trying to get by. You’re really hoping in your heart. If so, then I consider that as if you are actually participating in those things that you desire to do.”


So I’ll tell you the following story. Once, the talmidim of Rav Yisroel Salanter, zichrono l’vracha, saw him speaking for a long time to an old man. He was haranguing and exhorting this old man for a long time! About what? He was speaking to this man about the importance of supporting a kollel, of putting his כוחות into supporting married men who would sit all day plumbing the depths of the Talmud. You know that Rav Yisroel Salanter zatzal was the one who conceived of the whole idea of the Kollel. And to accomplish his goals, he would have to find the people who would help him forment this important Torah revolution. It was a revolution, by the way, and every revolution needs dedicated soldiers. And Rav Yisroel spent his life finding the right soldiers to help bring his dreams to life. And so, when his talmidim saw him talking to this old man for a long time about his plans for building a Kollel, and the importance of supporting such an endeavor, everybody understood that this old man was a rich man. And Rav Yisroel was expecting him to help establish and support a kollel with his money.

So when the conversation concluded, the talmidim approached their Rebbi, and they said, “Who was that man?” And Rav Yisroel said, “He’s a poor old man.” “A poor old man?!” they said. “Why are you spending so much time – wasting so much time – with him, convincing him about the significance of a kollel, and the importance of establishing and supporting such a venture? ” It was a good question the talmidim asked. Rav Yisroel wasn’t a man who wasted time, you know.

Now listen to the words of a gadol: Rav Yisroel said – I’ll say it in Yiddish the way he said it, and then I’ll translate it for you. Un er darf nit vellen a kollel?! “Does he not have to want a kollel?!” Just because he can’t afford to support a kollel, does that free him from the great achievement of wanting to support a kollel. The poor old man, with no money in his pocket, has to want to support a kollel! He has to want to found a kollel of men learning Torah all day long. And therefore, it pays to spend a lot of time explaining to him the necessity of establishing a kollel, and supporting the yeshivas. In order that he should gain the ratzon, the desire, to do it. Because as soon as he gets the desire to do it, the sincere desire to help support a kollel, then the rest is called נאנס ולא עשאה. It’s an oiness, something against his will. He can’t help himself; it’s external conditions that are preventing him from translating his desire into action. So he gets the merit as if he did it! מעלה הכתוב כאילו עשאה. As far as Hakodosh Boruch Hu is concerned, it’s as if he did it already!

What we’re seeing here is that a person must never give up hope of doing good. Even the things that you’ve long forgotten about, that you’ve long given up hope of ever achieving, all of these ideals should be brought back into your daily life. And that is the function of your thoughts. Instead of the small-mindedness of focusing only on the things you are actually busy with, you are capable of dreaming of much more – and in doing so, accomplishing much more.


And this is what we learn in the Chovos Halevavos (Sha’ar Cheshbon Hanefesh Perek 3: Cheshbon 21). First, he says that a person should try to do as much as he can. He should be diligent and persistent in doing as much as he can in the service of Hashem. He should always be looking to increase his capacity to do, because that’s the method of perfection in this world, to do whatever you can. But that’s not enough, continues the Chovos Halevavos. Those things that you cannot achieve – deeds that are beyond your capacity, ideas and ideals that are too exalted for you right now – are not to be ignored, pushed out of your mind and forgotten about.

The great Torah ideals of loving Hashem, of giving tzedakah, learning Torah, perfection of character, of loving the Am Yisroel, building Torah communities, and so many other great ideas, can’t be ignored just because you are not capable of fulfilling them at this moment. Even though you can’t fulfill them, you are not patur from desiring these great ideals. It’s your responsibility to achieve a sincere desire, an actual cheishek, for all of these ideals.


And it takes hard work. You’ll have to labor to get these good intentions because they won’t come on their own. You have to work hard to get the desire to fulfill these good things. I’ll give you a mashal. If you have money and you have a lot of roshei yeshiva coming every day to your house, it’s easy to be trained in the desire to help the yeshivos. They’re explaining to you all the time how much you are accomplishing with your money, and how great is the merit of one who supports talmidei chachomim. But if you’re a poor fellow, then no roshei yeshiva are coming to your house to explain to you the importance of supporting the yeshivos. They can’t spend their time with you; they have to pay the bills. Even the offices of the yeshivos have finally given up on you. They’ve been sending you letters and envelopes year after year and no results. Finally they take you off the mailing list. You’re not worth the twenty-two cents! And now there’s nobody to remind you, to help inflame your desire to support the lomdei Torah. And your tzedakah muscles are getting flabby.

And so you have to be very careful not to lose sight of all the great ideals of supporting and spreading the dvar Hashem, even when you can’t do it. Because the recognition of the important things in life gives you the desire to fulfill them, and that alone, the sincere ratzon, is a shleimus, a perfection of the mind.


I’ll give you an example. Suppose you would like to fulfill the mitzvah of founding a great yeshiva, maybe in New York or Yerushalayim. You want to bring many people there and support them while they’re learning. It’s dreams, you’re just dreaming. To us, it’s so unreal that it even seems silly. But now we’re learning that it’s very far from silly. If a person can generate in his heart a sincere desire to do this, to create a new makom Torah, a big makom Torah, that itself is a perfection. Boruch Hashem, we have big places, but you want to build a still bigger place. You’d like to bring people from England, from America, from Argentina, from wherever people are willing to come, and settle them in a new Torah community in Eretz Yisroel or to your Yeshiva in New York, and to support them and their families. And you want to make a great Torah center, even bigger than Lakewood, let’s say. Bigger than Lakewood! But what are you, who are you?! You’re nobody; you have no money at all. You’re just dreaming.

But to Hashem, it’s not a dream at all! מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאה – It’s as if you actually did it.  אחלי means my hope. “My dream is to build this Torah center!” “Oh,” Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “Here is a Jew, he’s hoping to do great things for me. He can’t do a thing, but at least he’s hoping. And if that’s the case, then this man will be rewarded as if he built a great Torah center in the world. Yes!! To me, it’s like he did it already!”

The question is however: How does one come to this? How could you achieve this sincere desire? And the answer is that you have to fill your mind with Torah ideals, with the proper perspective of what a Torah community means. You have to learn what it means to have Torah in the world. Some people think it’s good to make a big community, all Shomrei Shabbos, all frum Jews. So what if they don’t learn Torah, what of it? It’s still a place of the frummeh. No! You have to know that there’s a very big difference between a community of frum Jews, and a Torah community. A tremendous difference. A Torah community is mamash a revolution in the world. Lakewood is a revolution! Any big yeshiva is a tremendous achievement. And a small yeshiva is a big achievement as well. Any place where young men come and are brought up with the ideals of Torah, that place is the center of Hashem’s attention. מיום שחרב בית המקדש אין לו להקדוש ברוך הוא אלא  ארבע אמות של הלכה בלבד. If you’re looking nowadays, after the churban beis hamikdosh, for a place where the shechina is concentrated, you’ll find the shechina in those places where they learn Torah, where they learn gemara and halacha (Brachos 8a).To make a Torah community means that you’re establishing the shechina in this world. You know what that means?! It’s a tremendous achievement!


And just by thinking about these tremendous achievements that a Torah community is, you will inflame your desire. Forget about it that you’ll never actually be invited as the guest of honor to the groundbreaking ceremony of this new community. Because it’s all a dream! It may never happen! But who cares? Because the desire alone is a remarkable success. Most people never think about these things, and that’s because they can’t do them. If I can’t do them, why waste time with silly daydreams? But we see now that these daydreams are actually the dreams that make you great! Only that you don’t realize what you’re capable of. You think that all of these great ideals, these great functions of life, have no relevance to you at all. Are you even going to think about how much you desire to bring all of the lost souls among our people back to Hashem? Why should I think about ideals that are so far away from my capabilities? But that’s a tragic error! You’re thinking with a gashmiyusdigeh head and you’re walking right past all the diamonds laying on the ground. You’re missing the great opportunities that life offers.

But once you understand the secret of נעשה ונשמע, you’ll realize the importance of filling your head with Torah ideals. And you’ll actually believe in these ideals. You will be full of enthusiasm, fiery enthusiasm, for them. And so now you have the desire, the grand dreams in your head, and you’re ready to build a new Torah center. “I’d like to do it. I really want to to do it.” Only that you don’t have the resources to even begin.

Now suppose Hakodosh Boruch Hu would suddenly test you, you did a foolish thing one day and you bought a lottery ticket – a waste of money. Now, all of a sudden you got a telegram from Albany that knocks you over. You won! You’re wealthy! So will you build the yeshiva with your money now? Are you going to bring those dreams to life? A nechtiger tug! And therefore, that shows that it’s not so easy to make a sincere decision. Because you can fool others, and you can fool yourself, but Hakodosh Boruch Hu looks into a person’s heart. And it’s only when He sees that if this man would suddenly become wealthy, that he would absolutely do what he claims he wants to do, then he gets credit right now as if he did it.

So tonight, on the way home, start thinking about it. “Ah! If I had the money to open up a kollel, I’d build a kollel. And what a makom Torah would I build!” Now it has to be sincere, so sincere that when you get home and you find the whole house is lit up, and everybody’s singing and your wife comes to the door, and she’s crying with happiness, “You know what happened?! A telegram came from Albany; we won the million dollar lottery!” And it hits you like a thunderbolt over the head! Because you just said you’re going to build a yeshiva with the money. So you say, “I’ll think about the yeshiva a little later. Right now, I have more important things to do.”


No; it has to be such a sincere desire that when you get home and your wife tells you the news, you say, “Is that so?! We won the lottery?!” And you tell her, “Forget about ordering anything from the furrier or the jeweler. Forget about that, because this money is already spent.” Now your wife thinks that you’re in shock. “What do you mean already spent?” she says, “Are you out of your head? What happened to you? You’re out of your mind? You didn’t spend anything; it’s all right here.” And so you tell her: “No, it’s all spent already. I spent it on the way home.” “What do you mean you spent it on the way home?” And so you give her the good news: “On the way home I was thinking what I heard in the Achiezer, from Rabbi Miller, and I decided that I want to build a kollel. And that’s what the money is going to be used for.”

Now you try to push that through at home! But if you’re sincere, if it’s a real חישב לעשות מצוה, then you’ll do it. And if you have such a חישב- that’s the real pshat in the words חישב לעשות מצוה – if you have such a sincere desire to accomplish good things, then the fact that your number almost made it – you missed the winning numbers by one digit – that’s נאנס ולא עשאה. It’s not your fault. It was the wrong horse that won, and therefore מעלה הכתוב כאילו עשאה, as far as Hashem is concerned, you built a Torah community for Him.


If a person is anxious to accomplish great things, if he is desirous to open up his eyes and see what’s available for him to achieve, he’ll see all kinds of glorious opportunities. I’ll give you another example: Here’s a man who wants to be a goimel chasadim tovim. Every day he says שים שלום טובה וברכה – Hashem, please give good times and peace to the Am Yisroel. And he says ברוך אתה השם המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום. He prays for the shalom of the Jewish people. The families in Williamsburg, and in Boro Park, and London, and Australia and Yerushalayim. He’s thinking about the Jews all over the world. It’s a beautiful idea to actually think about that. To desire the shalom of the Am Yisroel. All frum Jews. על הצדיקים ועל החסידים ועל גרי הצדק. “Hakodosh Boruch Hu, please give us everything we need, all of us.”

So the person who doesn’t come to this shiur, he stays at home because he has better things to do, will say, “I can’t do anything. Who am I? How can I help the Am Yisroel? I’m a simple fellow living here in Flatbush. I can’t do anything for them.” But you people here already know the truth. You know what to think: “I’m not just a simple fellow in Flatbush; I’m capable and wealthy! And that’s because בכח, in my potentiality, in my mind and in my desires, I have tremendous abilities – tremendous abilities to be a goimel chasadim tovim to Hashem’s children.”

But these desires are laying dormant, sleeping in the depths of your mind. How do you awaken and strengthen these desires? And not just in a general sense, a superficial desire without genuine feelings. A real desire – so much that you would do anything in the world possible that you could do for them. שים שלום. You’re asking Hakodosh Boruch Hu to give them shalom – shalom means all good things, a happy family, parnasa b’revach and good health.

So, the first way that we spoke about before was to gain an understanding of the importance of feeling a love for all of the Am Yisroel and desiring their good always. And that takes work, hard work. But one of the easiest ways is to awaken your desire by speaking with your mouth. By emphasizing constantly, by repeating over and over again to yourself these great ideals, the Torah attitudes of loving all Jews, of desiring their success and happiness, it seeps into your head. Little by little, you actually become  a person who loves the Am Yisroel.


I’ll give you an example. You walk by the Bobover yeshiva, or the Satmerer yeshiva. It’s a big building and you see many bochurim coming in and out. So you think as follows – by the way, you should say these words; this is l’maisah – “Ribono Shel Olam, give a bracha on the roshei yeshivos and their rebbetzins, and on their sons and daughters. And on their eidim and their daughters-in-law. And on their einiklech as well. And the same is for all the Kollel people too. And all the bachurim, all the youngsters in the cheder and in the mesivta, should all live long.”


Now listen to me, and start working on this.  And don’t worry about being silly. If you really want to be silly, then don’t do it. Now, the first fifty times you don’t mean it. You don’t mean it all. But one thing you do mean – you want to mean it! “I hope that someday I’ll mean it.” So Hakodosh Boruch Hu says: הבא לטהר מסעיין לו – “If you’re taking the first step, then I’m going to help you,” says Hashem. And little by little, you become a man who sincerely desires to be goimel chasadim toivim l’amo Yisroel.

Every day as you pass by the yeshiva, the Mirrer Yeshiva right here, or whatever yeshiva you pass by, say it out loud. Nobody has to hear it, but say it out loud. Little by little it goes into your heart, a real ahava. You’ll actually love those people. After a while you’ll catch yourself thinking these things automatically. You’ll actually desire their well-being. You’ll want to hear good news from them all the time.

And then you have come to the madreigah that you actually mean what you’re saying. So Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “Now I see that you’re a person who loves My people sincerely. You desire to walk into the office of the yeshiva and write out a big check for all of the kollel men, to give each kollel man an extra five hundred dollars for yom tov.” Hashem hears everything that you say, and He sees into your mind as well. And the more you desire, the greater you become. Only what can you do? You don’t have the money in the bank to back up the check. “Oh,” says Hashem, “You’re a חישב לעשות מצוה – You want to do the mitzvah. I see that you desire to write out this big check. I see that you want all the yeshiva men to have everything they need, the פרנסה ברווח they need to learn well. Only that you don’t have the money. You’re a נאנס ולא עשאה – against your will, you can’t do it.” And so Hashem says מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאה – “You should know that your blessings, your desires, your thoughts, are accepted by Me as if you did very great deeds for them.”


Now we begin to understand what it says ואהבת את השם אלוקיך בכל לבבך – “You should love Hashem with all your heart.” What does heart mean in lashon kodesh? Heart means machshavah, thought, the mind. With all your thoughts you should love Hashem! However, it should say בכל לבך, with one beis. Why say בכל לבבך? What’s the extra beis for? And the answer is that לבב means the inside of your heart. What’s hiding beneath the thoughts that you are thinking.

I want to explain something now. The chachmei hamussar have for generations preached that there are levels of awareness. There are many levels of thought in a person’s mind. There’s one level that everyone is aware of. He knows what he’s thinking about at this moment. But Hakodosh Boruch Hu knows more than that. There’s a level beneath those superficial thoughts, what a person is really thinking about. Somebody can believe that he’s thinking a certain good thought, but Hakodosh Boruch Hu knows that he’s thinking about something else, and that something else is the real meaning behind his thoughts. The truth is there’s a basement underneath that and another one underneath that. There are many madreigos, deeper and deeper in the mind.

Now, בכל לבבך means that as much as possible, your thoughts should be sincere. And more sincere and more sincere. And then even more sincere. And so you have to always be working on desiring the important things of this world, the important ideals. Because there are an infinite number of levels of desiring good, each one more precious than the previous one. That’s בכל לבבך. With all your לבב, the depths of your heart. And therefore, you can’t ever stop thinking of desiring good things. Because each thought adds another layer onto your heart, and strengthens the sincerity of your desire.


And there are many things in life that you can achieve, that you can accomplish, just by your desire to do it. Once you understand the importance of yearning, of desiring, to do these things, you can fill your days with thoughts of the greatest accomplishments, accomplishments that in Hashem’s eyes are כאילו עשאה, as if they were actually done.

Here’s a man, who makes time to learn. He wants to succeed in his learning. He’s a working man, but he wants to be a ben-torah, a talmid chochom. But what can he do already? He has to work; he’s supporting a big family of Hashem’s children. And children need clothes, and food. You know that, right? Children don’t grow by themselves. And their clothing is not growing along with them. We’re not in the midbar anymore. Clothing cost money! And there’s schar limud. So he’s a busy man. And he does what he can. He learns in the morning before davening, he has a chavrusa at night. But I will tell you something now, and it’s what we’ve been talking about. This man can be a full day kollel-man if he wished. He can stay in his job and still be a kollel-man.

And how is that? By desiring! By wanting to learn, by wanting to learn kol hatorah kula. When this man leaves the beis medrash at night, before going out the door, he should take a detour over to the big shas on the seforim shrank, and say: “Ribono Shel Olam, how I wish I could stay here all night, every night, and learn through shas. I have such a desire to sit over a daf of gemara and slowly absorb the sweetness of the words of Chazal. But what can I do already? I have to get to sleep tonight so that I can get up for work tomorrow.” And don’t tell me that you don’t mean it. You just keep on making that detour over to the shas, and every time you do it you’ll be adding another layer of sincerity onto your heart.


A person can make great accomplishments in his mind. And they’re real! כאילו עשאה! It’s not just empty words that Chazal are telling us. It’s as if it was done. There are so many seforim, good seforim, important chiburim that you would love to learn, to take the ideas out from the seforim and put them into your head! But you gave up on it already. Even in the time that you do spend learning, you don’t have the extra minute to look at the Ibn Ezra on chumash. It takes a lot of time to go through a Tosfos. And therefore, you don’t have the time to go through the whole Ktzos, the Shmaytsa, and to know it all. You’re consigned to the idea that it’s beyond your reach. You gave up on it already. And that’s a tragic mistake! Because those things that seem beyond  your grasp, are actually still within reach. But you have to want them. You have to desire it. You have to pick up the Ktzos and kiss it. All the time! Pick up the Ktzos, and say, “Ribono Shel Olam, how I wish I could sit down with this sefer all day today, and read the sweet words of the depths of the Torah. אחלי! I hope, I wish, I desire to learn everything!” And Hakodosh Boruch Hu is looking down at you and He says, “There’s a man who loves Me. That’s a man who knows what נעשה ונשמע means.”

Now, if a person is sincere about it, if when Hashem looks into his heart, Hashem sees that he means it, then it’s כאילו עשאה. But you can’t fool the Ribono Shel Olam. If you want to be a kollel man, then on Sundays, on your day off, you’ll pack up a sandwich for lunch, and leave to shul in the morning, and stay there all day learning. You’ll be a kollel-man on Sundays. And then Hashem says, “You’re a kollel-man. It’s כאילו עשאה.”


When a man is taking off his tefillin after shachris, what’s he thinking about? About breakfast, about the overflow of work that’s waiting for him on his desk. Maybe about the money his neighbor owes him. What a waste of a mind! What a waste of a few minutes! Now imagine you thought about the following as you wrapped up your tefillin: “How I wish I could continue wearing these tefillin all day long! Ahh, to be able to walk around all day wearing the badge of honor of being a servant of Hakodosh Boruch Hu! What a pride I would feel!” And when you finally meet Hashem in the next world, you’ll see that you’re considered a man who wore tefillin all day long!

So here’s a mother and she’s walking, let’s say on Broadway in Williamsburg, or Broadway in Manhattan. She’s walking on Kings HIghway, or 13th Avenue in Boro Park. And she’s thinking, “Look where I am now, a land of tumah, among atheists.” Most of the Jews today are not even thinking about Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Most of the people in the street are atheists; Russians and  Israelis and so many others. Ruined people! It’s a makom tuma, and her mind is full of foolishness from the outside world.


So she says, “Ah, if I could have lived in the good old days. If I could have lived in the days of the beis hamikdash and watched the Kohanim bring the karbonos onto the מזבח with the fear of Hashem on their faces.” I once had a adom gadol by me and he told me he’s so sorry he didn’t live a hundred years ago. A gadol told me that. He’s sorry he didn’t live a hundred years ago. Ahh, to be with the gedolei yisroel a hundred years ago. He told me this 50 years ago. That’s a 150 years ago. Reb Yeruchem, the Mirrer mashgiach once said, “We cannot understand the greatness of our great-grandmothers.” Now Reb Yeruchem, he was speaking in the Mirrer Yeshiva. It was a very big yeshiva in Europe, with a lot of talmidei chachomim. And still he said, “We cannot understand our great grandmothers.” Our great-grandmothers were so elevated in shleimus of mind, so full of mesiras nefesh, and ahavas Hashem, and dveikus and honesty and temimus, so devoted to Hashem, that we wouldn’t be able to understand them at all.

How could a person hear these things and not have charatah? אוי לעיניים שלנו that missed out on those great days of old. אוי לאזניים, to our ears, that missed hearing from the mouths of our tzadikim from the past. Oy, what we lost by not being present there! I would have been full of yiras shamayim and emunah. Oy, how i missed out!


Now, you can’t accomplish turning back the clock right now. What can you do? First you should know about it. Know about your past. Know about the greatness we once had. Know about it and be convinced. There are all kinds of lies from the false historians who try to confuse people. Know the truth, what the Am Yisroel was בימי קדם.  So first get a understanding of what we once were. And then desire it! “I wish I lived with the tzadikim of yesteryear.” That’s the second thing. That’s a tremendous achievement. Picture yourself. You could press a button and be transported back in time, a hundred years ago. So some people will think, “What?! To go back to Europe?! There were no automobiles. No refrigerators. I don’t want that.” And so you’re going to have to work on knowing what’s important in life, in order to desire the right things.

And the truth is that there is no end to the greatness that one is capable of, once he understands the great secret of נעשה ונשמע – the great principle of desiring to fulfill the ratzon Hashem in its entirety. A man’s most precious possession is his mind because it is your mind that is your ticket to the next world. And since every person can mold his thoughts and desires in any which way he wants, it becomes your responsibility to spend all the days of your life being mikabel the Torah in every detail and facet that your mind is capable of fathoming. And once you are laboring with sincerity in this service of Hashem that we spoke about tonight, you will become a person who is supporting the great Torah communities, a man who is finishing shas and the Ktzos and wearing tefillin all day. You’ll be the wealthy g’vir, who is handing out checks to all the kollel yungerleit in America. And there is no end to the mitzvos, and ideals and attitudes that you can achieve. And all of these things are happening solely in the recesses of your mind. But as far as Hashem is concerned it’s כאילו עשאה, it’s as if you had actually done all of these things. Because it is in the mind of a person that true greatness is found.

Have a wonderful Shabbos.