Rav Reuven Taragin, Educational Director at World Mizrachi
Rav Reuven Taragin, Educational Director at World MizrachiThe Western Wall Hesder Yeshiva

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה רְצוֹנוֹ כִּרְצוֹנֶךָ, כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה רְצוֹנְךָ כִּרְצוֹנוֹ.

בַּטֵּל רְצוֹנְךָ מִפְּנֵי רְצוֹנוֹ, כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּבַטֵּל רְצוֹן אֲחֵרִים מִפְּנֵי רְצוֹנֶךָ. (אבות ב:ד)

Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, encourages us in the quote above to “make His will like your own so that He will make yours like His” and to “nullify your will before His so that He will nullify the will of others before yours” (Avos 2:4).

Identification

Rabban Gamliel emphasizes not only “nullifying” our will before Hashem’s, but also transforming it to match His. Instead of just submitting to Hashem’s will, we should identify with it. In addition to fulfilling Hashem’s will, we should teach ourselves to want what He “wants.” We should aim to value what He “values” and feel what He “feels.

We learn this from Pinchas, whom Hashem described as “kano et kinati.” Pinchas did more than just act in response to sin. His reaction was more profound — it was visceral. He empathized with Hashem’s “pain” and “jealousy.”

Form — Passionate Heart and Soul

Identification with Hashem’s will affects both the form and scope of our avodat Hashem.

It impacts the form by enabling us to serve Hashem with a full heart. The Ramban saw this level of avodah as the intention of the command to serve Hashem “b’chol levavcha — with all your heart.” When fulfilling mitzvot, we should focus fully on avodat Hashem and act wholeheartedly.

This wholeheartedness should express itself as passion. The Ramban highlights Avraham’s rushing to serve his guests as expressing exactly this passion. Avraham did not just do chessed; he ran to chessed.

We see the relationship between “running” and “will” through the similarity between the Hebrew word for “will” — “ratzon,” and the abbreviated form that means “running” — “ratz.” We run to that which we are passionate about.

This is why Rabbi Yehuda ben Teima links the two words and concepts when he encourages “running (ratz) like a gazelle to fulfill the will (ratzon) of your Father in Heaven.”

Scope — What Hashem Wants

Aligning our will with Hashem’s means seeking to fulfill not just His commandments, but everything He “wants.” We should commit ourselves to doing whatever Hashem stated explicitly as well as what we infer “between the lines.” This commitment is a testament to our devotion and dedication to our faith.

We ought to relate to Hashem the way we relate to those we love and care deeply for. When we care about someone, we address not only their formal requests, but also whatever we think will make them happy.

Avraham’s actions at the Akeidah demonstrated this attitude. After Hashem commanded him to spare Yitzchak’s life, he searched for something else to sacrifice. Avraham could have headed home, satisfied with Hashem’s praise for his willingness to sacrifice Yitzchak. But he thought Hashem wanted him to go further and actually sacrifice something. Even though Hashem did not command Avraham to sacrifice something, he sought the opportunity. Interestingly, Hashem blessed Avraham only after he offered this voluntary sacrifice. The berachot were given to Avraham because he was not just a loyal servant of Hashem, but that he acted out of love for Hashem as well.

Mordechai’s words to Esther in response to her hesitance to approach Achashveirosh are another example of pursuing Hashem’s unspoken will. Mordechai told Esther that interceding with Achashveirosh may be “the moment for which you became queen.” Hashem commanded neither Esther nor Mordechai to take action. Like Avraham, Mordechai reflected on the circumstances and estimated what Hashem wanted. This estimation was something for which he felt Esther was responsible to risk her life!

The Chatam Sofer used this idea to explain the surprising statement of the Gemara that “one who says that they have only Torah, lacks even Torah.” What besides Torah does “having Torah” depend upon?

The Chatam Sofer explained that the Torah, as eternal and universal, can mandate only the generic responsibilities of all Jews at all times. Each of us has additional, personal responsibilities we are meant to divine from the unique abilities with which Hashem creates us and the circumstances in which He puts us. Those committed to Hashem’s will seek to determine and commit themselves to these additional responsibilities. Having “only Torah” is not enough; one must join to it the desire to understand and carry out Hashem’s will writ large.

May It Be Our Will

May we successfully sync our will with Hashem’s in a way that brings us to identify with His goals and inspires us to serve Him fully and comprehensively!

Rav Reuven Taragin is the Dean of Overseas Students at Yeshivat Hakotel and the Educational Director of World Mizrachi and the RZA.

His new book, Essentials of Judaism, can be purchased at rabbireuventaragin.com.