<I>Vayikra</I>: It Is Intent That Counts

Every society needs both rabbis and agricultural workers. Both groups are obligated to study Torah (Maharsha, op. cit.), each according to his ability. If they do so, "the reward of he who studies copiously is like the reward of he who studies a small amount." (Rashi, op. cit.).

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
The story is told about Rabbi Elazar who took sick, and Rabbi Yochanan, who came to visit, and found him weeping. In his efforts to comfort Rabbi Elazar, Rabbi Yochanan asked him if he was crying over the insufficient amount of Torah he had studied. If so, there was no cause for despair, as our sages teach that, "quantity makes no difference; it is intent which counts." No matter how much Torah you have studied, the important thing is your intention to serve G-d (Brachot 5b).

That same passage of Talmud relates that the sages of Yavne had a saying: "I am a human being, and so is my fellow man." In other words, even though I study Torah all day, and my fellow man is an ignoramus, he is a human being too (Rashi, op. cit.). "My work is in town, and his in the field?. You may object that I [study] intensely, and he [studies] little - we have learnt that 'quantity makes no difference; it is intent which counts.'" (see Brachot 17a)

Every society needs both rabbis and agricultural workers. Both groups are obligated to study Torah (Maharsha, op. cit.), each according to his ability. If they do so, "the reward of he who studies copiously is like the reward of he who studies a small amount." (Rashi, op. cit.).

The source for this dictum is the last Mishna of Masechet Menachot, and derives from passages in parshat Vayikra. "The Torah uses the same words, ' a sweet savor,' for the burnt offering of a heifer, a fowl, and a grain offering. This teaches us that quantity makes no difference; it is intent which counts." (Menachot 110a) The Talmud supports this dictum with the quotation from Ecclesiastes 5:11, "Sweet is the worker's sleep, whether he has consumed much or little." (However, this obviously does not apply to an underachiever.)

Thus, this passage of the Torah teaches us two, seemingly contradictory, but actually complementary spiritual guidelines:

1. We must try to study as much Torah and to do as many good deeds as possible.

2. We must be satisfied with our spiritual (as well as physical) lot in life, and not accuse ourselves and others of laziness. "It is not your responsibility to bring the work to completion," but on the other hand, "neither are you free to be idle." (Avot 2:21). We must take pride in what achievements we have, and attempt to build what is lacking upon that foundation.

What is humanly impossible to achieve is considered non-existent. Therefore, if one honestly attempts to achieve everything he possibly can, he will be rewarded for the little as if it were a lot.


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