Parshas Yisro - The Princess And The Pauper

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 01/24/19

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
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When Hashem offered the Jewish nation the Torah, they ecstatically declared “Na'aseh Venishmah” (“we will do and we will listen”), and were prepared to do whatever Hashem commanded. Hashem then warned them not to approach the sacred mountain on which the Torah would be given. Sounds simple enough, right? Interestingly, Hashem felt that it was necessary to give this warning multiple times and to even add a death penalty for anyone who transgressed. Additionally, directly before Hashem gave the Torah He warned Moshe yet again, not once but twice, to prevent the nation from approaching the mountain - for He knew that the Jews would find it difficult to comply with this commandment.

 Why was all of this necessary? What urge could the Jewish nation have possibly felt to transgress such a simple commandment?

 R' Avraham Neuberger explains with a timeless parable that is found in the Mesilas Yeshurim:

A princess found herself married to a common villager. Her husband, a simple man, tried his hardest to make her happy, but ultimately, she was miserable. She just couldn't forget about the delicacies she enjoyed in her father's home, the gold and diamonds, the splendid finishes and luxuries. Whatever her husband brought her was nothing compared to the standards of opulence that she had enjoyed in her father's palace. As hard as she tried to be happy, she simply couldn’t become satisfied with her commoner husband’s way of life.

 Physical pleasure can never satisfy the soul. Why? Because your soul is the princess in the parable and the simple villager is physicality. No matter what physicality offers, your soul can never be impressed for long. Your soul comes from Hashem Himself and constantly remembers the true pleasure of being close to Him; earthly pleasures simply can’t compare. Therefore, no matter what physicality you offer it, no matter how INCREDIBLE, it won't be satisfied. It wants, no, it NEEDS to have a meaningful life pursuing Hashem and His ways.

 With this understanding, we can now answer our question. One of the greatest manifestations of Hashem’s concentrated presence in history was about to take place on Har Sinai with the giving of the Torah. Hashem understood that we are drawn towards spirituality like a powerful magnet. Just like a child cannot be expected to resist a candy that is placed directly in front of him, Hashem understood that deep down we all YEARN for and CRAVE spirituality to an incredible degree. More than gold and silver, man desires meaning and purpose. Therefore, Hashem knew that it was absolutely necessary to give repeated warnings not to approach the mountain where His concentrated spiritual presence would rest. For without repeated warnings, without the threat of death itself, man's unquenchable thirst to be close to his Creator would have undoubtedly drawn him onto the mountain. We see from here that, deep down, we all have an incredible intrinsic draw towards spiritual pursuits and that this yearning cannot be easily silenced or ignored.

 Living Inspired

 A majority of the people in the world, regardless of age or nationality, are fixated on their search for a meaningful and purposeful life and no amount of luxuries can quench their thirst. Have you ever wondered why? What makes everyone so confident that there's more to life than eating, drinking and being merry? Even more fascinating still is the fact that this quest is not exclusive to people who have limited access to physical indulgences. In fact, often the more successful a person becomes and the more pleasures he has at his disposal, the greater his craving for meaning. Why? The answer is that, as demonstrated in this week’s parshah, our soul is the princess in the parable and the pauper is our physical desires. Our soul comes from the highest of heights and, other than utilizing physicality to fulfill its spiritual mission, it is unimpressed and cannot be satiated with what the physical world has to offer *. All it wants is to re-experience the feelings of spirituality that it once tasted in Heaven - which can ONLY be accomplished by living a meaningful life learning Torah and fulfilling its mitzvos. This desire serves as a constant reminder to us of where we REALLY come from **.

 Why then don't we always feel the drive to do the right thing? The Mishnah in Avos explains that our souls behave like a muscle - the more it is exercised the stronger it becomes, and vice versa. All we have to do is focus on accomplishing "small" mitzvos, and refraining from "small" sins, to re-awaken our soul (Pirkei Avos 4:2). The more we do mitzvos, the greater our souls will yearn for spirituality like they are supposed to and the more we will feel the enormous contentment that results from the soul knowing that it is fulfilling its purpose. Do you want to know the seemingly elusive secret to achieving REAL happiness? Live your life in accordance with the spiritual dictates that you, your soul, really desires.


* - At the same time, the Mishnah in Avos (4:17) states "Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in This World than the entire life in the World to Come". This teaches us that if one properly utilizes this world for serving Hashem, then his soul will not be dissatisfied with physicality. On the contrary, it will savor the opportunity for spiritual growth which can ONLY be accomplished in This World and will feel immeasurable joy both in This World and the World to Come.

** - Furthermore, this desire for meaning and purpose baffles every evolutionist, for why would a physical being desire and enjoy meaningful and spiritual acts?