Friday, November 23, 2012

Vayeitzei - The Proper Attitude Towards Mitzvos

Towards the end of Parshas Vayeitzei, we are told that Jacob noticed that his father-in-law Laban had developed a negative attitude towards him and that there was resentment towards him among Laban's family. God then told Jacob to return to the land of his fathers. Jacob then informed Rachel and Leah of the situation and of God's command. Rachel and Leah responded (Genesis 31:14-16):
And Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Do we still have a share and an inheritance in the house of our father? Does he not consider us strangers? For he has sold us and even consumed our money! For only that wealth that God has rescued from our father is ours and our children's. And now, whatever God said to you, do!"
This dialogue is very strange. Jacob told his wives that God had instructed him to leave Laban’s land and return home. They responded first by saying that Laban was unkind to them, and then that Jacob should do whatever God had instructed him to do. Why did Rachel and Leah respond in this way? Once they knew that God had instructed Jacob to leave, what difference did it make if Laban was good to them or not? Either way, they still had to listen to the commandment of God! Once God told them to leave, their personal problems with Laban shouldn't matter anymore.

R' Moshe Feinstein
Rav Moshe Feinstein (d.1986), in his Sefer Derash Moshe, answers that we learn from here that we should never feel that doing a mitzvah is difficult, even when we are going to do it anyways! Rather, we should always find ways to explain to ourselves that it’s easy to do the mitzvah. This is why Rachel and Leah first said that Laban was unkind to them. By saying this, they made it easier for them to follow God's command.

It is not proper for a Jew to feel that obeying the commandments is a great sacrifice, even if he is ready and willing to make that sacrifice! On the contrary, we have to recognize that there is no real benefit from disobeying God's commandments and there is no loss from obeying them. For example, if one does not work on the Sabbath, this does not mean he will earn less money, for God controls how much money we will earn anyways.

Every mitzvah is a pure benefit and blessing, with no loss at all. Not only is this true, but, Rav Moshe says, having a positive attitude about the mitzvos makes it easier to continue doing mitzvos both for yourself and for your children.

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