The Fundamentals of Avodas Hashem

Attributes that one should emulate throughout his life:[1]

Rabbi Yehuda Ben Teima stated: One should be as bold as a leopard, as light as an eagle, as swift as a deer, and as strong as a lion in order to fulfill the will of your Father in Heaven. The following is the meaning of these attributes:[2]

Be as bold as a leopard:[3]
Not to let oneself be intimidated by scoffers: One should [be as bold as a leopard[4] and] not allow himself to get intimidated or embarrassed by those who scoff [at his service of G-d[5]].
Answering back to scoffers:[6] One should not answer brazenly[7] towards scoffers [which scoff at his divine service].[8] 

Sparks of Chassidus

In previous times, when persecution of Jews and Judaism was common, the Mesirus Nefesh in service of G-d was in the most literal sense, to give up one’s life to serve G-d. In current times where most Jews live in democratic countries which provide freedom of religion the Mesirus Nefesh required is on a different scale. One’s Mesirus Nefesh today involves not being affected by the words of scoffers and continuing his service of G-d despite the common public consensus which ridicules his method of life.[9]
Moshe was humbled by our Mesirus Nefesh:[10] The Alter Rebbe taught that the humility of Moshe which surpassed the humility of all other people was mainly affected by his foreseeing the challenges that the Jews in the time of the footsteps of Moshiach would face and succeed. When he saw the Mesirus Nefesh in which the Jews at that time would serve Hashem against all the concealments and public ridicule he became humbled in his own service.

As swift as a deer:[11]
Walk towards Mitzvos and good deeds: One is to be as swift as a deer. This means that one’s feet should only walk towards Mitzvos and good deeds.

As strong as a lion:[12]
Overcome one’s inclinations: One should be strong like a lion. The main character of might is found within the heart. This means that one is to overcome his inclination and prevail it just like a warrior subdues his enemy and wrestles him to the ground. Thus in the morning every person is required to strengthen himself like a lion and overcome his desire [to continue sleeping] by awaking some time prior to dawn.

As light as an eagle:[13]
Control ones sight: One is to be as light as an eagle. This refers to ones sight, that one should close his eyes to avoid viewing evil. Just like the eagle changes his glance very swiftly when he flies across the heavens, so too one should swiftly close ones eyes when seeing evil.[14] Seeing evil is the beginning of sin, as the images which the eyes see is transformed into a desire of the heart which persuades one to sin.
Woman:[15] It is a Biblical prohibition to look at any part of a woman for the purpose of pleasure.

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[1] Mahadurah Basra 1/1 as writes Tur; omitted in Michaber; Rama; M”B
Ruling of Mahadurah Kama: In the first edition [Mahadurah Kama] Admur only mentions the matters of being like a lion to wake up early in the morning [1/1] and being like a leopard to not feel intimidated by scoffers [1/3]. The remaining matters of the Mishneh were omitted.

[2] As for the reason why the Sages stated to emulate the animals and did not simply state what one is to do, see Kuzari 3/5 that one is to find a lesson in service of G-d in all items that he is aware of. This follows a traditional teaching of the Baal Shem Tov [see Keser Shem Tov Miluim 223] that everything one hears or sees is a lesson in service of G-d. Perhaps for this reason the Sages taught us the fundamental services of G-d from the animals, in order to also emphasize the need to see everything in life as a message from G-d in how he is to be served.

[3] Basra 1/1; Kama 1/3; based on Tur brought in Rama 1/1
This is the first matter mentioned in the Mishneh being that it is a great component of service of G-d as at times one desires to do a Mitzvah and avoids doing so due to scoffers. [Tur] This is the foundation of all one’s service of G-d. [Toras Menachem 22 p. 38]

[4] Mahadurah Basra 1/1

[5] Mahadurah Kama 1/3; Lit. Az Kinemer.

[6] Mahadurah Kama ibid based on Beis Yosef; Ketzos Hashulchan 1 footnote 2
Mahadurah Basra:  Admur omitted this Halacha in the second edition. Vetzaruch Iyun.

[7] Meaning one should not answer them in an ill mannered way. This implies that he may answer them in a polite method.
Answering back to Apikorsim: The Biur Halacha writes that Apikorsim which are coming to make changes in the status quo of Judaism, may be spoken to in a brazen manner if speaking to them politely does not affect them. One may conduct a full out war against them. Included in matters of Heresy are all matters that are opposed to Daas Torah. [Ketzos Hashulchan 1 footnote 2] To note however that while this was the path taken against the non-believers in previous generations, today society has changed and in majority of cases one accomplishes a lot more through respect and polite conversation than through offensive battles.  This summarizes the focal point of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of bringing Jews closer to Judaism through showing open love and acceptance to every Jew. Nevertheless when necessary the Rebbe promoted open battles against public matters that opposed Judaism although always differentiating between the people involved and their opinions.

[8] As doing so may cause one to become brazen even towards matters that are not dealing with service of G-d. [Kama ibid]

[9] Toras Menachem 3 p. 157; See also Mamar “Ein Hakadosh Baruch Hu Ba Betrunya” 5648 for a thorough overview of the Mesirus Nefesh required in today’s times against the scoffers. The Rebbe Rayatz instructed the students of Tomchei Temimim to commit this Mamar to memory. [Sefer Hamamarim 5685 p. 7]

[10] Mamar Yud Kisleiv 1941 [Mamarim Melukatim 2 p. 51]

[11] Tur 1; Bartenura on Avos 5/20
Opinion of Admur: The above explanations are taken from the Tur, and are not mentioned by Admur. Possibly the reason for this is because Admur follows the order of the Michaber and Rama, which also did not explain the above. [Ketzos Hashulchan 1 footnote 3]

[12] Basra 1/1

[13] Tur; Beis Yosef
Opinion of Admur: The above explanations are taken from the Tur, and are not mentioned by Admur. Possibly the reason for this is because Admur follows the order of the Michaber and Rama, which also did not explain the above. [Ketzos Hashulchan 1 footnote 3]
Opinion of Bartenura: Rabbeinu Ovadia Bartenura comments on this statement that it refers to that one should review his studies and this will cause him to effortlessly be expert in the topic.

[14] So is implied from commentary of Beis Yosef on the Tur. As for why the term “light” was used, seemingly this is saying that just like the eagle due to his lightness is able to fly quickly past sightings, so too one’s eyes are to be light and swiftly turn away from viewing evil.

[15] Michaber Even Haezer 21/1; The Riy states it is Biblically prohibited to look at an Erva due to the prohibition of “Lo Sasuru Acharei Levachem Veachareiy Einechem”. However according to the Rambam it is only a Rabbinical prohibition. According to all it is a Rabbinical prohibition to look at a single girl that is not an Erva [i.e. not a Niddah]. According to all it is a Biblical prohibition to entertain forbidden thoughts of any woman, even a single woman that is not an Erva. [Beis Shmuel 21/2] Looking at woman is one of the sins that is most difficult to do Teshuva for being that people think there is no true sin involved as they have not committed any act. In truth it is a grave sin, and is the opening of all matters of immorality. [Rambam Teshuva 4/4] In Kabala it is explained that one who is accustomed to look at woman and does not guard his eyes will be reincarnated into a Reiah. [Shaar Hagilgulim of Arizal, brought in Sefer Chareidim 33]


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