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“You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live …” (Vayikra 18:5)

We learn in Koheles (7:17), “Be not overly wicked nor be a fool.” The Talmud (Shabbos 31b) cites R’ Ula who asks how this pasuk can be understood. Could it mean that one should not be extremely wicked, but he could be a little bit wicked? Obviously, that is not the interpretation. Rather, expounds the Talmud, it could be understood this way. If one ate a clove of garlic which made his breath malodorous, should he eat more garlic so that his breath will be even more foul-smelling? Likewise, if one committed a sin he should not despair and commit more sins. Rather, he should find the good within himself and do teshuva.


The Chofetz Chaim presents the following parable. A king planted a beautiful garden outside his palace which contained all types of flourishing magnificent trees and plantation featuring breathtaking buds, flowers and luscious fruit. It was an amazing sight to behold. The kindly king also left orders with his staff to leave the gates of the garden open so that anyone who wished could enter to take pleasure in the dazzling display of nature.

One morning, as the king looked out his window, he observed a man breaking down one of the fences in order to enter the garden. The king remained silent and did not call out to the intruder. The next day, the king once again saw the trespasser, but this time he was picking the fruit off the trees and putting them into his sack. The king once again remained silent. On the third day, the man became bolder, and instead of bothering to pick off each fruit from the tree, he just cut the whole branch off the tree.

At that point, the king became enraged. Not only had the man wrecked the fence of the king’s garden, and stolen fruit from the king, but now he was destroying the tree by chopping off one of its branches. The king immediately called upon his staff to incarcerate the thief and penalize him accordingly.

Hashem, the King of kings created the majestic palace, heaven and earth. The garden is the Torah, and the buds, flowers, fruit and branches are the mitzvos, which refresh the soul and cause the heart to rejoice. A person who studies Torah is thankful and appreciative for this delightful pleasure. However, foolish people choose to breach the fence of Hashem’s garden, the Torah, and transgress the laws and ordinances that our sages have instituted, ultimately violating the mitzvos of the Torah.

In reality, man’s purpose in this world is to do the will of Hashem by learning Torah and performing mitzvos, and the Talmud (Sanhedrin 90a) states that “All of the Jewish people have a share in the world-to-come.” Yet, it should be noted that the Talmud also states (Niddah 73a), “Anyone who studies halachos every day is guaranteed that he is destined for the world-to-come.” Here too, the Chofetz Chaim presents a parable to clarify our understanding of this seeming discrepancy.

The daughter of a wealthy individual in the village is getting married. The host invites his close friends and acquaintances with a personal invitation, or via a special messenger. When the wedding guests arrive, they are ushered to the front of the hall and seated near the host. The poor people, though, who must beg for their food, also hurry to the hall to see if they will be able to partake of the wedding meal. They are not seated with the honored guests, however, and are given a small portion on a plate which they eat as they stand in the corner of the hall.

A similar situation will take place in the world-to-come, says the Chofetz Chaim. Those who learned halacha are the invited guests who are guaranteed an honored place and a rich portion in the world-to-come. There will be others in the world-to-come as well, but they will not be afforded the same tribute and recognition.

In order to earn his livelihood, the great tzaddik, R’ Dovid Feinstein, the grandfather of R’ Moshe Feinstein, had to work for a non-Jew. He stipulated to the boss, however, that he would have to take some time off in order to pray every day, for which he would not be paid. The boss agreed to the terms, although he was quite annoyed that time would be wasted just because R’ Dovid insisted on fulfilling his obligation to pray to Hashem. Moreover, despite the boss’ efforts to hurry R’ Dovid in his prayers, R’ Dovid was inflexible and would not speed up at all.

One day, when the boss saw R’ Dovid saying Shemoneh Esrei, carefully enunciating each word with deep feeling and intensity, the boss became incensed. His anger and jealousy boiled over, and he decided that he would teach R’ Dovid a well-deserved lesson. The man picked up his rifle and shot a bullet right above R’ Dovid’s head to frighten him. At the very moment that the bullet flew over his head R’ Dovid bowed his head down for modim. Although the boss had hoped to see R’ Dovid flee in fear, R’ Dovid continued undisturbed, as if nothing had occurred.

When the boss saw how strongly R’ Dovid clung to his Creator, he understood that he was seeing a person who had true fear of G-d. From that day forward he never again complained about R’ Dovid’s lengthy prayers.

Some time later, the man revealed to R’ Dovid that when he had aimed his rifle at him, he entertained the thought that if R’ Dovid would flee, he would actually kill him.

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Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a prominent rav and Torah personality, is a daily radio commentator who has authored over a dozen books, and a renowned speaker recognized for his exceptional ability to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.