Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Reason To Speak To Him Again

(Picture by M. Petelicki)

Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Haftaras Ki Seitzei:

"Do not be like servants who serve their master in order to receive a reward; rather be like servants who serve their master not upon the condition of receiving a reward." (Pirkei Avos 1:3)

There is another version of this statement: "be like servants who serve their master in exchange for no reward". I heard from my grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, that both versions are correct, and reflect two different levels, one higher than the other.

"In exchange for no reward" is the proper and greater form of avoda. Your intention in davening for something should be for the sake of Hashem. It should not matter whether or not you receive the object of your prayers. Indeed, everything you do should be for the sake of Hashem, and not for your own pleasure at all.

However, there is another, higher level which can be understood by way of a parable:

A certain person had a deep and burning desire to speak with the king. The king issued a decree that anyone who presented him with a request would have it granted. When this person who longed to speak to the king presented his request, he was actually afraid that the king would fulfill it, and then he would have nothing more to talk to him about. He preferred, rather, that the king not fulfill his request, so that he has a reason to come before the king and speak to him again.


At September 11, 2008 at 8:04:00 AM EDT, Blogger Gandalin said...


Lovely thoughts, nice picture.

Reminded me of July 15, 1410.

Kol tuv.

At September 11, 2008 at 8:09:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

The Battle of Grunwald

At September 11, 2008 at 9:52:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

The Notzer Hesed also explains this Baal Shem Tov, but not the final parable.

I think that the english translation used here is troublesome, it's hard to see the exact difference between the two forms.

The Notzer Hesed explains that the Tanna originally taught it as "serve in exchange for no reward" and it was changed to "don't serve in order to receive a reward" because otherwise it would be a stumbling block. Serving in order to receive no reward is a very high level of bitul. (it's a really beautiful teaching inside, i didn't do it justice at all)

At September 11, 2008 at 10:46:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks you Yitz for your suggestion. I changed the English and hope it more accurately conveys the Degel's teaching. Please let me know if you do not thing so.

At September 11, 2008 at 11:13:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

definitely better, it's funny, it's such a nuanced point, that figuring out what exactly is meant is complicated -- the first time i learned the Notzer Hesed on it it took me a while to understand what he was talking about. (and the third time i learned it i had forgotten the first two times and had to break my head over it again :) )

At September 11, 2008 at 11:16:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I know what you mean. After I looked at your comment, I started cracking my mind open to see the difference between it as well:

שלא על מנת לקבל פרס


על מנת שלא לקבל פרס

At September 11, 2008 at 11:48:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice!
I am reminded of the Heilige Berditchover's comment (Kiddushas Levi - Lech Lecha) on the passuk:
“Hashem said to Avrohom: 'Go forth from your land, from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great.”
That the nesayon for Avrohom Avinu was not the traveling; rather, the true test was to see if he would leave his land for no other reason that Hashem has asked him to, and specifically not for the reward that Hashem had promised…


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