Shimon ben Gamliel said: I have grown up among the Sages all my days, yet I have never found anything better for a person than silence. Study [of Torah] is not the main thing, but the doing [of Torah] is. And all who speak too much bring on sin. —Avot 1:17
A person running to do a mitzvah can destroy the world on his way. -- Rabbi Yisrael Salanter
Perhaps one of the hardest things to attain is righteousness. We strive to pursue that which will bring heaven on earth; yet at the same time, we sometimes disregard those around us or hurt our fellow man in the process. How is this righteousness? The mere truth is that it isn't.
Our Messiah warned us, "For I say to you, if your tzedakah is not greater than the soferim and the Perushim, you will not come into the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:20, DHE). We often interpret that sentence as if the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees were defective, but Yeshua might be saying the opposite: “Unless your righteousness is even better than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you’ll never make it into the kingdom of heaven.” Such words must have filled the original hearers with despair. How can I be more righteous than a Pharisee—especially if I’m a simple Galilean farmer or fisherman or wife and mother?
1. Ophthalmology . pertaining to or having myopia; nearsighted.
2. unable or unwilling to act prudently; shortsighted.
3. lacking tolerance or understanding; narrow-minded.
Then a certain sage arose to test him and said, “Teacher, what should I do to take possession of eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Torah? How do you read it?” He answered and said, “Love HaShem your God with all of your with all of your soul, and with all of your strength, and with all of your knowledge [Devarim 6:5], and your fellow as yourself” [Vayikra He said to him, “You have answered well. Do this and live.”
He desired to justify himself so he said to Yeshua, “Who is my fellow?”
Yeshua answered and said, “A certain man went down from Yerushalayim to Yericho, and he fell victim to robbers. They stripped him, even wounding him, and they abandoned him. As he stood between death and life, they walked on. A certain kohen happened upon him going down that road. He saw him and passed over him. Likewise, a Levi came to the place and approached and saw him but passed over him. Then a Shomroni was walking on the road. He came upon him and saw him, and he felt moved. He approached him and bandaged his wounds and applied oil and wine to them. He had him ride on his animal, led him to the inn, and provided for him. The next day, when he traveled, he brought out two dinarim and gave them to the owner of the inn. He said, “Provide for him. Whatever else you spend on him I will repay you when I return.” Now, who of these three was a fellow in your eyes to the one who fell victim to the robbers?
He said, “The one who carried out the chesed.” Yeshua said to him, “Go and do likewise yourself.” – Matthew 10:25-37, DHE
Rabbi Salanter was washing his hands before a meal when the rabbis he was with noticed he was not immersing his whole hands in water in the ritual manner preferred by Jewish law. When questioned about this practice, Rabbi Salanter responded:
“I am not the one who obtains the water from the well; it is the poor peasant girl who must do so. Several times a week in the middle of this bitter winter, she must trudge out to the well, break the ice, and bring back pails of water for us to use in our home. The more water I use to wash my hands, the more often she has to face the bitter cold. And I do not want to be extra pious on the shoulders of her suffering.”