Tuesday, August 12, 2008

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A Suspended Mitzvah

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

A large number of commandments have been suspended since the destruction of the Temple. For instance, we cannot offer up sacrifices on the altar because we do not know exactly where it is.

There are other mitzvahs that are involved with the Temple that have also been temporarily nullified. For instance, we are commanded to take certain first-fruits to the Temple, and to give them to the kohenim (priests). These first-fruits are automatically sanctified by virtue of their being first-fruits. When the Temple was standing, these fruits had to be eaten by kohenim in a state of spiritual cleanliness. Since this degree of cleanliness is not available today, the sages have suspended the giving over of these fruits.

As we have been discussing, there are the physical aspects of a mitzvah, and the spiritual aspects of the mitzvah. The physical aspects are obvious. In this case, simply give the physical fruits to the kohen, which then become his property. This is to help provide his financial support. Since the physical act is presently in abeyance, we have to see that our priests (our teachers of Torah), are financially provided for from other sources.

But the spiritual teaching that this mitzvah came to teach us in the first place, is applicable and available even today. Why did G-d command us to give the kohen our first-fruits? If it was only to support the priests, then why not just give them gold? That would have been easier for everyone. There must be some special reason for giving them those first-fruits.

The kohen represents the Temple service, prayer, praising and thanking the Giver of all, learning Torah and looking to G-d to satisfy all our needs. Our fruits are our produce, what we accomplish. We gave the kohen these fruits to enact the process of dedicating all of our initial actions to G-d.

Before we take upon ourselves to do something, a project, or to walk in a certain direction, we should give that action, the steps along its way, and its very outcome to G-d. We cannot be sure if we will finish any given endeavor. The end is not in our hands. But the beginning is. It is entirely up to us whether we start or not. If, when we start, we dedicate our deeds to G-d, our paths become holy, even when we are working in the mundane.

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