How should we look at mitzvos as mere authoritative commandments? Contrary to public opinion, Rabbe Shimon Bar Yochai parshas Yisro calls them עיטין which translates as advice. Shlomo Hamelech also calls the Torah in general advice לי עצה (Mishlei 8,14). If an individual seeks business success, weight loss, therapy, investment strategy, pressing medical treatment, which career to enter etc. he will meet with an advisor who is an expert in his field in order to ensure that his needs will be implemented and his goals actualized. One would not be so foolish to follow the opinions and directions of those who are inept or inexperienced in the field that he is seeking direction and success.

Man was created with the mission of achieving spiritual shelaimus through his daily choices. The only way to be constantly successful in this endeavor is to recognize that Hashem who created everything in the universe including Man, is the sole ruler and king, and who is in full charge and cognizance over everything He created. Hashem has given Man advice of how to be constantly in the reality of perceiving Hashem as being the exclusive master designer and sustainer of the universe. He gave us 613 mitzvos as a GPS advice how to stay on track during Man’s journey through life in order to reach this goal of shelaimus.  No one can never understand this creature called Man and the universe that he lives in more that their creator. We should naturally follow His advice given to us more than any other source or form of existence even the greatest intellect, since man hasn’t as yet even partially understand how and his miraculous brain and body functions the way it does. Why would anyone in his right mind place the health of his body with a present serious complication in the hands of a premed ignorant student of medicine. Even with experts we still seek a second or third opinion.     

Hashem gave us an advise to recognize Him everywhere as our total master. When one could possibly think that he is following the dictum of ,הארץ נתן לבני אדם Hashem ensures that we don’t leave Him out the picture at all. Just look at all the halachos that involve agricultural production. Take the prohibition of כלאים mixing together. This involves planting different kinds of seeds together, grafting trees of different types, planting grain, vegetables, or herbs in a vineyard, cross breeding different species of animals and plowing or doing other work with two different kinds of animal teamed together. Then when you gather your grain at harvest time you are bound by laws such as לקט שכחה ופאה. Before you start eating or cooking you have to give tithes תרומה מעשר מעשר עני ושני. When you make your bread, you must first take off challah to give to the Cohen and when you sit down to eat a meal you must make a berachah, before you eat your bread and afterwards. The first three years it is forbidden to partake from your fruit produce and the fourth year one must bring up part of your produce to Yerushalayim. Every 7th year Shemittah and 50th year you cannot work the land and in Yovel you must return the land you bought to the original owner. כי לי כל הארץ. If you make clothing from the linen that you harvested you must make sure it doesn’t become Shaatnez and if it is a four cornered clothing you must put tzitzis on the corners.

Go explain to a goy that this is called והארץ נתן לבני אדם. However, a Yid realizes that Hashem’s mitzvos are not about control and power but rather advice not to forget Him as your master and the mission he gave you to fulfill for your shelaimus. The earth was given to Man as his for the purpose to follow Hashem’s advice and receive Olam Habah but not to use to satiate his self interests and bodily cravings for pleasure. Why would Hashem gift Man with a lofty neshamah if his purpose is only to live off the land like an animal?

With this we can understand the nusach we say  in each beracha before we fulfill a mitzvahמלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו . This is not a two segment statement, one, He is the king of the universe and He commanded us to fulfill mitzvos. Rather the interpretation is that we recognize that He is the king of the world because He gave to us mitzvos to fulfill in all while experiencing all aspects of our daily lives. He makes it difficult for us to fall into the trap of thinking that it is my acres of land, my food, my clothing, my body and I can tattoo it or harm myself, my mouth and therefore I can say what I please, etc. It is our lucky fortune that we have hundreds of mitzvos ranging from the Torah and Rabbanamthat interrupt our daily activities in order to make us remember Hashem is the master of the world and that even you with all your possessions are sustained every second only by Him.

Our Chachamim established that we should wear a tallis when we daven. The Ibn Ezra writes that the logic behind this is that when we read the parsha of tzitzis they will be available to us to see and kiss them. Writes the Ibn Ezra that in truth I don’t understand this takanah at all since the purpose of tzitzis is to remind one of the mitzvos of Hashem leading him to refrain from doing any aveiros. What aveiros can one do in shul he asks?  Rather everyone should wear the tallis when they leave to shul and go to work for it is there that one is more susceptible to fall into sin. By being surrounded by a covering on his body with tzitzis on the corners, he will remember his obligation and mission on earth and be conscious and alert to distance himself from spiritual failures.

Rav Yerucham Levovitz ztl the Mirrer Mashgiach commented on this Ibn Ezra just look at the difference between our way of thinking and the Ibn Ezra’s perception of mitzvos which is light years away from ours. He realizes that mitzvos are not ch”v to earn “Brownie points” or a Rewards Program. Rather they are advice how to preserve consciousness of Hashem being one’s king, ruler and advisor. Therefore, anything that can serve as an advice to bring us to this divine consciousness is our duty to take upon ourselves to fulfill. It is to save and guide us from misfortune advised by our personal Maker. Our generation thinks it is an extra Hiddur Mitzvah and beyond the law, to wear the tallis in shul and the Ibn Ezra’s thought is why wear the tallis in shul at all. We need it specifically when we leave the shul.

אשרי איש שישמע למצוותיך we say after Shemah Yisrael in the morning. The nusach does not say Happy is one who fulfills or performs Your mitzvos but rather who listens to Your mitzvos. Since when to mitzvos speak? The answer is they are not objects but rather advice for your benefit, protection, and relationship with Hashem. Hashem is talking to you through the mitzvos. We better listen if we know what is good for us. Hashem alone possesses the ultimate unadulterated true good in mind. Nothing and nobody else can guarantee the same. Remember that before you seek advice.

Rav Brazil

Gut Shabbos