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Home » K'doshim, Life Is Beautiful

K’doshim: The Manual

Submitted by on May 5, 2019 – 9:15 pmNo Comment | 1,875 views

The manual for G-d’s creation is the Torah. Just like a manual outlines all the safe and unsafe practices for an appliance, so does the Torah lay out all the proper practices for life.  Just as a manual explains the use of every feature of the appliance, so does the Torah guide us on how to turn every experience and engagement in life into something G-dly.

The Torah portion that we read this week contains many points of guidance on proper comportment. One must avoid revenge, one must love another as one loves oneself, one must be honest in business and pay employees on time. One must avoid gossip and one mustn’t abuse the disadvantaged. The Torah goes on and on listing many of life’s safe practices.

Then the Torah, the manual, veers away from logical rules and enjoins us to follow G-d’s edicts. Don’t wear a garment sown of wool and linen. Don’t plant grapes and wheat in the same field. Don’t husband an animal with a mate from a different species. This time the Torah goes on and on listing laws that make no sense to us.

Yet, we are expected to follow the super-rational rules of the manual with the same precision as its logical rules. We might not understand why these practices are safe and why the reverse is unsafe and improper, but we don’t need to understand the manual to follow it. Of course, inquiring minds seek to understand the reason behind the rules, but we would be foolish to reject the manual only because we lack understanding.

The manual is written by engineers who understand the mechanics behind the appliance. They know each safe practice and each unsafe usage. They understand every button and feature and know why each is critical. Laypeople can understand some of it, but to understand every rule in the manual, they would need to develop expertise. And until that time, a smart layperson takes the manual at its word.

The same is true for the Torah with only one caveat. It is impossible to understand its edicts. One would have to be G-d to understand G-d. The laws that G-d filtered through to our level are within our grasp. The edicts are beyond our grasp. But even so, the smart person takes the Torah as it’s word and doesn’t reject the manual.

New Town
Just as it is with the laws of the Torah so is it with the events of life. The Baal Shem Tov taught that when life circumstances conspire to bring us to a new town or a new career, or new employment, it is because G-d needs something from us in that new venue. It is incumbent on us to seek out ways in which to apply our unique talents in ways that have not been applied in this venue before our arrival.

One can easily make the same argument against this teaching that can be made against the Torah’s super-rational edicts. After all, the town I relocated to got on well without me for many years and should be able to survive without my involvement in the future. I came here for my personal reasons, but who says I need to get involved in the town’s spiritual, religious, or other needs?

If we don’t argue with the engineer who wrote the manual, we are certainly in no position to argue with the Creator of the universe. If He didn’t arrange a need for us to join this town, career, or employment until now, it was because they didn’t need our services until now. But the fact that we arrived at this time, indicates that a need arose that only we can fill. Our role is to identify that need and fill it.

For example, if I am a good teacher and the town needs a Hebrew School teacher, it is my mission at this point in my life to volunteer. I might have come to this town on business, but that was just the excuse that brought me here. G-d’s reason for bringing me here was to be a teacher. If I am a good manager and the local synagogue requires a program manager, I must volunteer. That is the reason I came to this town.

The Watchmaker
There was a learned and pious Jew who made his living as a watchmaker. He wasn’t earning a livelihood in his hometown, so his rabbi, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Schneerson, the fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, advised him to relocate to a larger city called Kaminker. Upon arrival, he discovered that although his services were sorely needed and he could make a comfortable living there, the community was ignorant of Torah and he was unable to find a study partner.

When he returned to Lubavitch, he complained to the Rebbe that he was unable to find a study partner in Kaminker. And though his income was much improved in the larger city, he was considering a return to his hometown.

The Rebbe replied, do you think you went to Kaminker to make a living? G-d, who provides for every living being, could have provided your livelihood in your hometown too. He deprived you of an income in your hometown so you would agree to move to Kaminker, and G-d needed you there to teach Torah to the local community.

Needless to say, the watchmaker returned to Kaminker and began to teach Torah. Before long he had many students, and with time several developed into worthwhile study partners for the watchmaker.

That watchmaker is us. Every one of us lives where we do for reasons that G-d could have rearranged. He conspired to land us where we are only so we could do what He needs us to do in this location. Our job is to find that vocation and fill it. Rather than focusing on what we need, we must focus on what we are needed for.

It is not enough to dedicate our time to G-d’s needs, it is important to do so with joy. On the surface, this is a tall order. After all, we didn’t come to town to work for G-d. We came for personal reasons. It is enough that we give of ourselves to G-d’s needs, but to do so without resentment and even with joy is a tall order. How can we retool our perspective to make this possible?

When we stop and realize that of all the people that G-d could have sent to help the community in our new location, He chose us, we will feel privileged. It will stop feeling like a burden and we will begin to regard been chosen as an honor. To take it one step further, we weren’t chosen randomly. We were groomed for this role from birth. G-d planned this in advance.

G-d gave us a unique set of strengths, a unique life story that challenged us to develop these strengths, and a unique set of parents who fostered and nurtured these strengths, all so that we would have the skills that this community would need at the time of our arrival. We weren’t just the right person at the right time. We trained for this our entire lives. This moment is our purpose—the crowning achievement of our existence.

All our years were spent in preparation for this moment. If we utilize it correctly, our entire life trajectory will have meaning. We can make our lives worthwhile with our newfound opportunity in our newfound community. What an exciting moment. What a privilege. What a joy.[1]


[1] This essay is based on Toras Menachem 5714:2, pp. 218-226.