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the finer points
middot righteousness stories the finer points

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the finer points

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-matzahEven while living in Salant, it happened once that Rabbi Israel [Salanter] was unable to be present when his shemurah matzah was being baked. Knowing that he took the greatest pains to observe all the finer points involved in the baking of the matzah, his disciples had undertaken to supervise for him in his absence. They asked for his instructions. What should they be most careful to watch?

Rabbi Israel ordered them to be especially careful not to distress the woman kneading the dough in their zeal, since she was an unfortunate widow, and they would thereby transgress the prohibition, "You shall not oppress a widow..." "The kashrut of the matzah is not complete with the observance of all the embellishments of the laws of Pesach alone," he would say, "But with the observance of all the finer points of the Choshen Mishpat as well." --from The Mussar Movement Volume 1, Part 2, pages 220 - 221

There is no doubt that Rabbi Salanter was scrupulous in his performance of mitzvot.  We read countless stories where he was concerned about the status of the food that he ate, knowing that it would break down, nourish his body, and give him the ability to perform the commandments.  He wanted to be fueled with only the best for the sake of Heaven.

But time and time again, we see Rabbi Salanter's recurring insistence that those who might be involved in his performance of mitzvot would not be worked hard or inconvenienced for him.  Rabbi Salanter had a keen understanding that mitzvot and treatment of other are linked together.  Fulfilling a commandment at the expense of others actually brings the level of holiness a deed lower, as it is done on the back of another without concern.

consideration is love

How terrible for you, hypocritical soferim and Perushim! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, but neglect the weighty things in the Torah: justice, kindness, and emunah; you ought to do one without neglecting the other. Blind guides, who strain out the mosquito but swallow the camel!   --Matthew 23:23-24, DHE

Mashiach Yeshua exhorts us to consider our actions in light of how they affect all involved.  While it is a mitzvah to tithe mint, dill and cummin, neglecting the other mitzvot to appear diligent in the eyes of the law is a sham.  No one is fooled by it and it eventually degrades your service to Hashem.  Tithing spices while oppressing others and showing little concern for their needs is nothing short of hypocrisy.

No matter what it is we do, we must have foresight to see the ramifications of any good deed we might seek to perform.  We are easily clouded by our own desire to appear right, holy and diligent.  This quality, while a positive driving force, can also be a blindness. We need to keep this desire in check so we do not make ourselves and others victims of a shabby form of righteousness.

We must not only take into consideration the many ways in which we can exemplify true righteousness through scrupulous attention, but also see how that level of detail will affect those around us and if it will yield a win-win in all arenas.  As we are supposed to serve the Eternal in heaven, we have to comprehend that we do so with our feet on the earth.  Being grounded in this simple principle will help us to realize that the divine service is not only through our prayers, study and hidden deeds — it also shines through the love and consideration we show for one another.   Let us learn to live by the law without causing others harm:  only then that will we be considered truly righteous.

 

Gospel references taken from Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels (DHE)®, © Copyright Vine of David 2010. Used by permission.

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