The Torah tells us that Yocheved and Miriam who were the head midwives of the Jewish Nation, had two other names Shifah and Puah. Our Chazal give an explanation to these two names which were added. These names describe their meritorious actions. Shifra who was Yocheved, was called so because after the delivery of the new born, she would wash and cleanse him from the blood and waste that accompanied his birth. Puah who was Miriam, was called so because she would make soothing and comforting sounds like pu pu for the newborn baby who just entered a strange world. Let us think about this for a second. What midwife or nurse wouldn’t do the same? It might almost seem questionable why the Torah went out of its way to “reveal” to us what seems to be the norm and even expected behavior in after birth? In fact, Rashi himself writes that Miriam did this כדרך הנשים who try to appease the crying newborn?
The Baalei Mussar have coined this phrase “It is not the deed that makes the man but rather the man who makes the deed”. Two people can be eating from the same KorbanPesach but one is looked upon as a tzadik and the other a poshaiah (Horiyos 10b). It all depends upon the degree invested of purity of intention and passion of the heart of the individual fulfilling the mitzvah. Let us take a look of an incredible gemarah in Moed Katan 28 and its interpretation which testifies to this fundamental. The Malach Hamaves could not take away Rav Chiya’s life because of his constant merits. One day he transformed himself into a pauper and knocked at his door and asked for some bread. Rav Chiya immediately fulfilled his wishes. It was then that the MalachHamaves revealed himself with a fiery appearance and rebuked him by saying that for the poor person you would perform a chesed and have rachmanus but for me who must take your life you refuse to do so. Upon hearing this Rav Chiya immediately surrendered his life.
What was the logic behind the Malach Hamaves’s comparison of performing an act of chesed to a poor person and giving up one’s life to the Malach Hamaves? The answer is that with our naked eyes we can only detect superficiality an act but cannot realize what I call the H Factor which is the simultaneous experience in one’s inner chambers of his Head, and Heart in the background of his personal History; for instance if this time he is upgrading his fulfillment and therefore challenged even more so. If we had the Mitzvah Microscope to examine the H Factor we would realize that when Rav Chiya acted with chesed to the pauper he did so with all his might, heart, and with the deepest and purest of intentions. He reached the point of deveikus that he was prepared to give up his life during the performance of this mitzvah.
As the Chidushei Harim explained the chait of Nadav and Avihu, that when performing a mitzvah, one must attain a madraigah of such deveikus that his neshama actually departs from his body. It miraculously returns because it is on the heel of the fulfillment of the mitzvah as the passuk says (Vayikrah 18,5) וחי בהם that through the mitzvos new life is given. The only unfortunate component with the total mesirahs nefesh of Nadav and Avihu was that that their act of mesiras nefesh was not in conjunction with a commandment from Hashem (Vayikrah 10,1). Hence, they did not merit the וחי בהם return of the neshamah which is normally experienced after one’s mesiras nefesh over a mitzvah.
The Malach Hamaves saw in Rav Chiya his mesiras nefesh in this mitzvah of chesed and therefore he presented to Rav Chiya a logical comparison. If you can give up your life while doing a chesed to a poor person, then you can give up your life and do a chesed for me as well.
Rav Moshe Weinberger Shlita of Aish Kodesh related that many years ago he went to visit the Amshinover Rebbe Shlitah in Bayit Vegan. As the gabai brought him into the waiting room, he removed his coat and hung it in the closet. It was then that his eye suddenly caught sight of a Monopoly Game lying at the bottom of the closet. Curiously he asked the gabai whose game is it? The gabai answered the Rebbe’s. Rav Moshe couldn’t fathom such an answer after knowing the incredible deveikus of the Rebbe and he asked why would the Rebbe own such a game? The gabai’s reply was in order to play with his children. Wow! An individual who is known to be above time and schedule because of his intense AvodasHashem, an avodah in which even a Shalom Aleicheimhandshake to another Yid takes a year and a Yovel, yet he finds time to play Monopoly with his young children. Amazing!
However, the real amazing factor that we must recognize here is that there is no casual or rote avoda by the Oveid Hashem anytime. The intensity and depth of his H Factor even while experiencing this seemingly playful act of chesed, is equal to the same degree attained with the performance of a mitzvah. One cannot imagine or detect the toil and effort that was dedicated in the Rebbe’s game of Monopoly and his feelings of chesed towards his children. How would we know anyway if unfortunately most of the time our avodas Hashem borders a performance out of habit.
By Shifrah and Puah the Torah goes out of its way in order to reveal that one would be entirely mistaken to think that they treated and executed the after birth cleansing and comforting of a “Yiddishe Kind” in the same form and wholesomeness like everyone else. If that was so then there would be no need to speak about their acts of kindness. Rather their acts of chesed involved their total being, their head, their heart, and their limbs to the fullest degree possible and that is what the Torah is teaching us. To say that Rav Chiya was an individual who was compassionate to the poor is missing the mark altogether. One might even erroneously think after learning this gemarah that he also is on the same par with Rav Chiya. Without citing the insightful interpretation given above in this episode, we would fail to realize that we stand light years away from his level of chesed and rachmanus and that alone leaves to us plenty of room to upgrade our maasim tovim and change for the better.
The courageous questions that we must ask ourselves are when I do chesed or a mitzvah, how much percentage of the H Factor do I invest in it? Am I ready for spiritual retirement or am I already in it? The Chidushei Harim, even though he was a very early riser, he held back from davening until three hours passed. When questioned about his conduct he answered that the Zohar Hakadosh writes that upon awakening, not every limb in one’s body awakens the same time. Some limbs take longer than others to awaken. However, after three hours all the limbs of a person are ready to do avodas Hashem. When it comes to tefillah we say כל עצמותי תאמרנה ה’ מי כמוך that all my bones and limbs should praise Hashem declaring who is like You. If I daven before three hours I will be missing some of those sleeping limbs in my praise to Hashem. I am not interested in an incomplete mitzvah.
How many limbs, how much heart and kavanah, and how much intention do we invest in our tefillos? Even if we think we do, is there any room left to upgrade and include another limb, better focus, slower pace, more understanding of what we are saying etc? The Cambridge Dictionary gives two definitions for the word deed. The first is, an exceptional act especially good or bad. The second definition is a legal document that is an official record of an agreement or official proof that someone owns land or a building. To my understanding, both definitions complement one another. One cannot possess an exceptional deed unless he owns it and is control of its navigation by activating and employing the H Factor.
The Max Factor Cosmetics which was founded by a Yid is all about external makeup for the face and is temporal. In contrast is the H Factor which every Yid is his own internal and eternal makeup artist for his deeds. As the Zohar Hakadosh writes that without the love and fear of Hashem, together with the passion of the heart and pure intentions, one’s deed is compared to a bird without wings. Let us constantly remember that it is the Man who makes the deed that can fly and not the deed that makes the Man which is grounded.