Shabbos HaGadol

One of the major themes of the upcoming Yom Tov of Pesach is the handing down of Jewish tradition from generation to generation. Accordingly, I present here a selection from Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaYirah, chapters 8 and 9, dealing with the role of tradition as a guide to how to serve Hashem.
One of the tactics that the evil inclination uses to lead a person astray, particularly with people who have distanced themselves from worldly pleasures and seek to serve Hashem faithfully, is to induce the person to serve Hashem in a manner that deviates from Jewish law. One type of deviation is inventing new forms of worship. The Maggid discusses this type of deviation in several of his essays, some of which we have presented previously. Another type of deviation is for a person to introduce his own innovations in his observance of established mitzvos. The evil inclination tells the person: “If you perform this mitzvah in such-and-such a manner, it will be much more beautiful and splendid. You will earn a straight ticket to the World to Come.” And if the person listens, it can lead to his downfall.
Hashem told us clearly in His Torah how He wants us to serve him. He conveyed His directives to Moshe Rabbeinu, and from that point on they have been communicated and passed down by the prophets and by the Torah sages of each generation. How can anyone step in after Hashem and His emissaries have given the word, and try to be smart and improve on the ways of serving Hashem that are specified by our Torah and tradition? How can anyone think of making even the slightest change in any of the laws that Hashem, our One and Only shepherd, gave us? We should realize that only He knows what effects the mitzvos produce.  It is out of place for us to dabble in matters of which we have no real understanding.
By analogy, consider a person lying sick in bed who is examined by a famous expert doctor. Suppose the doctor prescribed for him a set of medications to be taken in a specified manner. Would it make sense for the patient to tinker with the treatment plan, either to add a medication or drop one? Of course not. The doctor understands well the nature of the patient’s illness and the effects of the medications; the patient’s level of understanding is far lower.
Accordingly, a person should carefully consider every step he takes, and analyze whether it is in line with the laws of the Torah and the ways of our forebears. In this vein, David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 119:100): “From the elders I gain understanding, so that I guarded Your ordinances.” David is saying: “When I wanted to analyze some step I planned to take, to see whether it was right or wrong, I examined the ways of the elders and pondered whether the path I had set for myself was in line with theirs. In this way, I was able to ensure that I guarded Hashem’s ordinances.” A person who is truly wise will not try to be clever, but instead will take a simple attitude and follow the Torah’s laws exactly as they have been handed down.
It is written (Shir HaShirim 1:5): “I am black, yet beautiful.” The Midrash expounds (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:35): “I am black as regards my own deeds, but I am beautiful as regards the deeds of my forefathers.” The Midrash is saying that when we choose a course of action on our own based on our own understanding, we are liable to act in an unseemly manner, but when we follow the path of our forefathers without deviating, then, and only then, can we be assured that “the desire of Hashem will success in his hand” (Yeshayah 53:10).
In the above vein, the Gemara in Chagigah 15b says that a person should choose for himself a Torah teacher who is like an angel. The basic nature of an angel is to do exactly as he is commanded, without making any changes. If a person serves Hashem in a straightforward, simple, and faithful manner, doing exactly as Hashem directed, he is worthy to serve as a Torah teacher. 
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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