Shabbos Parashas Chaiyei Sarah

Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaDaas (Gate of the Intellect), Chapter 8
Knowledge concerning spiritual matters through intellectual investigation involves deep reasoning, of the kind philosophers engage in, to bring strong proofs of the Creator’s existence, oneness, eternality, power, and supervision over the world. But since Hashem has done us the great kindness of enlightening our eyes through His Torah, it is better not to depend on the philosophical approach to these matters. The philosophical approach is very time-consuming and uncertain, whereas the path of the Torah tradition allows one quickly to learn the truth.  Shlomo HaMelech has previously warned us about the philosophical approach, saying (Mishlei 3:5-7): “Trust in Hashem with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways know Him, and He will smooth your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear Hashem and turn away from evil.”  That is, a person’s performance of mitzvos (even those that we understand are necessary) should not be on account of his own wisdom and understanding. Rather, one should turn away from evil simply out of pure fear of Hashem. Thus David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 111:10): “The origin of wisdom is fear of Hashem.”
Elsewhere David pleads to Hashem to teach him in the merit of his faith in Him (ibid. 119:66): “Teach me good reasoning and knowledge, for I put my faith in Your commandments.” We can bring out the point behind this plea with an analogy. Once three men were stricken with the same illness. They went to the same doctor, and the doctor prescribed the same treatment to all three. The first patient did not investigate the matter at all, but simply followed the doctor’s instructions, and he recovered. The second patient had some knowledge of medicine, and he investigated the doctor’s recommendations. Those he did not understand he disregarded, and he died. The third patient had the same degree of knowledge of medicine as the second patient, but he recognized that the doctor knew more than he did. Although he investigated the matter and was unable to understand some of the recommendations, he relied on the doctor’s great expertise, and thus he did not bring himself harm through his investigation.
Similarly, in relation to mitzvos, different people have different attitudes. The common folk observe the mitzvos to perfection without any investigation, while a person with intellect will investigate every detail. Such investigation poses a serious risk that the person will disregard what he does not understand. But if a person at the outset puts faith in Hashem’s wisdom and omnipotence, his investigation will not cause him to stumble. This is the point behind David’s plea. David entreats: “Teach me good reasoning and knowledge.” He then explains why it is appropriate for Hashem to do so: “For I put my faith in Your commandments.” Elsewhere in the same psalm he declares (ibid. 119:6-7): “My ways will be firmly guided to observe Your edicts (חקיך) so I will not be ashamed when I peer at all Your commandments (מצותיך).” David firmly commits himself to observe Hashem’s edicts – the chukim, which are beyond human understanding. As a result, he will not come to shame through examining His commandments – the mitzvos that the human intellect can comprehend.
Iyov’s companion Elihu asks Iyov (Iyov 33:13): “Why do you complain against Him that He does not answer for all His affairs?” There is an important message in this question. It is the way of a servant to obey all his master’s orders, not only those he understands and recognizes as right, but also those that make a person’s ears ring because they seem to run counter to reason. The servant submits himself to his master and carries out all his orders swiftly. This is the attitude we should take to the directives Hashem set down for us. As servants of Hashem, it is our duty to carry out all His directives swiftly, not only those that we understand but also those for which we see no reason. We must keep our mouths shut and not question why Hashem told us to do this or that.
We can bring the point out further with a parable. Once there was a soldier who did his work well and carried out his sergeant’s orders swiftly, but with every order he would ask the sergeant what the reason was. The sergeant would explain, and the soldier would be satisfied and would carry out the order. At some point, the sergeant approached him and, for no apparent reason, beat him so fiercely that he bled. The soldier cried and asked why he had been beaten, but the sergeant gave him no answer. The sergeant beat the soldier in this way on several occasions. The poor soldier was more distressed over not knowing the reason behind these beatings than over the physical pain that the beatings caused. After some time, the soldier met up with a wise man and asked him about the beatings, hoping he could explain. The wise man replied: “You should know, my friend, that your sergeant considers your performance good and fitting, and you have not left out anything in doing your work. But you are accustomed to ask him for the reason behind each order, and afterward you carry it out. You are not accustomed to accept his orders simply as orders you must obey no matter what. Your sergeant wanted to teach you and instill in you the mindset that you must do everything he orders you to do without asking for the reason, like a faithful servant who does not question his master at all. The only way he could do this was to take some action toward you that you viewed with disfavor, and then refuse to answer you when you asked for the reason. He had to do this several times, until you had no choice but to simply accept it. And there is nothing that he could have done which you disapprove of more than to beat you and not tell you the reason. If he were to explain the reason, it would no longer be something you had to simply accept as something you must bear.
The parallel is as follows. Iyov carried out Hashem’s directives perfectly, but only because he understood them and found them appealing. He had not accustomed himself to ascribe justice to the will of Hashem, his Master, in situations where His directives seemed to him bizarre. And there is nothing that a person will find bizarre and disapprove of more than afflictions that come upon him for no apparent reason. Hashem therefore subjected him to afflictions and refused to explain the reason when he asked, until he gave up and simply accepted the suffering and kept silent. Elihu sought to call Iyov’s attention to the flaw in the attitude he had taken. He declared (ibid. 33:12): “I answer you that you did not ascribe justice; God is greater than mortal man. Why do you complain against Him that He does not answer for all his affairs?” Elihu was telling Iyov: “You have not accustomed yourself to ascribe justice to Hashem’s ways in situations where they run counter to your understanding. How could you forget that Hashem is greater than mortal man? You have the mind to know that Hashem, our Master, is great. His wisdom is boundless and his works are multitudinous. His ways are loftier than the schemes of mortal man. This being so, why do you complain against Him that He does not answer for all his affairs? Hashem does not explain the purpose behind everything He does. You must keep your mouth shut and accept all His ways as edicts.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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