To those of you who may be thinking that I am writing things that any believing Jew knows already, and that I am wasting time, energy, ink, and paper (ink? what’s ink??) on explaining matters which are already known and acknowledged, I ask you to describe the last time that you thought about Hashem (not including — hopefully — davening), and realized that He is controlling all the events in your life and determining their outcome. And that all your actions to change an anticipated outcome may very well be futile attempts to change whatever conclusion He has already determined. I think that on the contrary — you should tear these columns out and read them faithfully (pun intended) three times a week.
Ramban continues: “Because a constant awareness of these principles of faith are the foundation-stone of our being Jews, therefore “the Sages stated, ‘Be as scrupulous in performing a minor commandment as in performing a major one’ (Avos 2:1), for all of them are in fact major and beloved by Hashem, because through doing them a person is constantly acknowledging his G-d.”
For why would someone do this mitzvah–act if not for the fact that he or she recognizes that Hashem commanded him or her to do it? And that must be preceded by the belief that Hashem exists, gave us the Torah, oversees what happens to people, and rewards and punishes. And since every mitzvah brings — or should bring — these beliefs to the forefront of our consciousness, there is no difference between a “minor” mitzvah and a “major” one, since each one is “an acknowledgement of his G-d.”
Ramban continues: “For the ultimate objective of all the mitzvos is that we should believe in Hashem and acknowledge to Him that He created us.”
(Compare to where the Gemara describes [Makos 24a] how succeeding generations kept trying to “reduce” Torah to fewer and fewer basic principles. [Why? Perhaps this quotation from Einstein will help us understand: “A theory is the more impressive the greater is the simplicity of its premises, the more different are the kinds of things it relates to, and the more extended the range of its applicability.” Please think this over till you understand the depth of what is being said.] Finally, the Gemara says that Chavakuk Hanavi said that essentially there is one basic principle for all of Torah and mitzvos — “And a Tzaddik shall live by his faith.”)
Ramban then extends this theme to the very purpose of Creation itself! “And in fact that is the ultimate objective of the Creation itself! For we have no other explanation for the very first creation (the yesh me’ayin act of ex nihilo) other than the fact that the Most High had a desire that man should know and acknowledge to Hashem that He created him; and the whole purpose of raising one’s voice in the prayers, and the purpose of synagogues, and the merit of communal prayer is so that people should have a place where they can gather and acknowledge to Hashem that He created them and caused them to be, and where they can publicize this and declare before Him: “We are your creations!” And this is the intent of the Sages when they explained the possuk in Yonah, “And they should call out mightily to Hashem” by saying, “From here you see that prayer requires a loud voice.”
And a separate, final point, perhaps as fundamental as what has come before. (Warning: the next piece of the Ramban is often misquoted, mis-cited, and misrepresented as saying something he doesn’t say, while what he does say is lost — so please let’s learn this carefully.) “Through recalling and acknowledging the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim, a person ultimately acknowledges the hidden miracles of everyday life” [i.e., the natural order of things, which one now perceives as the Hand of Hashem; for one has now reached the understanding that the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim are but eye-opening events making us aware of Hashem in all aspects of the bri’ah, which are the foundation of the entire Torah]. Ramban explains the role of the events of the world in the reward and punishment of good and evil… for a person “has no share” in Toras Moshe Rabbeinu unless he believes that all our affairs, all our experiences are (what we call) miracles, i.e. that there is no element of “natural causes” or “the ordinary course of the world,” whether it be regarding the community or the individual [meaning that everyone lives under the guidance of Divine Providence. Based on the Ramban in other places in Tanach and other writings, he is probably including people who, commensurate with their spiritual level, are by Divine guidance placed under the natural order!] Rather, if one observes mitzvos his reward will be to bring him success, and if he transgresses them his punishment will be to destroy him, all by the decree of the Most High, as I have already mentioned. [Ramban writes at length in Shemos 6:2 that the promises in the Torah of the rewards of obedience of Hashem and the punishment of rebelling against Him are the hidden miracles of life, for the natural order of the world, fate, fortune, and astrological influences would leave no room for a person’s life to be affected by his deeds! Rather, reward and punishment come in the form of concealed miracles.] And, of course, these hidden miracles are more perceived, more recognized, when they pertain to the affairs of the community, of a tzibbur, [certainly of an entire nation!] as appear in the predictions of the Torah as regarding the “blessings and the curses” of Devarim upon the Nation; that the nations of the world will themselves recognize that the devastation and destruction of Eretz Yisroel and the exile of the Jewish people was, and is, a punishment for forsaking His Torah and breaking His covenant. And in the future, as it is stated, “Then all the people of the world will see that the Name of Hashem is proclaimed over you and they will revere you and be awed by you.”
Next week: Summarizing what we have learned, and how we should relate to Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow? Surely Rav Malinowitz is joking? (Alternatively — who or what is a Tim Tebow?)
Well, one way to find out is to read next week’s column!
Rav Yechiel Spira’s kashrus lectures, Monday nights at BTYA at 8:30 PM, are a fascinating combination of learning things we should know but don’t, and what is out there bashetach in the real world of restaurants, supermarket products, and hashgachas. This coming Monday night will cover “Livers and Kashering Them — And the Issues Involved to Get It Right.”