It will be on the Heel of your Listening
הרב בן-ציון אלגזי
Our parsha opens with a phrase that all the commentators address – “It will be on the heel of your listening to the laws.” What is the Torah adding and alluding to with this phrase?
Rashi integrates this question with its answer and explains: “It will be on the heel – If you will listen to the mitzvot that a person trods on with his heels.” Following his lead, we will forge a way in understanding this pasuk and in the service leading upwards to Hashem.
The Gemara in Masechet Megillah 10b explains the difference in connotation between the words ‘vehaya’ (it will be) and ‘vayehi’ (it was). ‘Vayehi’ connotes sorrow, whereas ‘vehaya’ connotes joy. It is clear that opening our parsha with the word ‘vehaya’ (it will be) indicates that joy comes from this way of life, but from what exactly does this joy burst forth?
The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh teaches us about two possible reasons for the bursting of joy. One, similar to Rashi’s explanation, is by the sheleimut (perfection, fulfillment) achieved through doing the mitzvot and through the service of Hashem, as he writes:
The master of prophets (Moshe) comes with his pleasant words to point out with a pleasant rebuke that a person should be happy only when he observes to do all that G-d commands him to do; then his heart should be glad and his honor rejoice. However, so long as he feels that one of G-d’s mitzvot is lacking, whether a prohibition or a positive command, about him Shlomo says, “Of joy, what does it accomplish?” (Kohelet 2:2)
This is the Ohr Hachaim’s first explanation as to the connection between happiness and the performance of mitzvot, something that is proven. When a person is aware that he lacks a mitzvah or has violated a prohibition he does not have the inner fulfillment that generates happiness, so that a lack in mitzvot is a lack in sheleimut and in inner happiness. Thus, happiness serves as an expression of a person’s level of sheleimut.
In addition to the happiness emanating from the sheleimut in performing mitzvot, learning Torah and understanding what it says can bring great joy, as the Zohar states, “There is no greater happiness before G-d than when Israel delve in Torah.” The Ohr Hachaim explains:
“Vehaya,” a general joy filling the world, and when He is happy the whole world is happy -- “on the heels of listening.”
His intention is that in the very fulfillment of a mitzvah there is joy.
These two aspects of joy in doing mitzvot in a complete manner, and especially in learning Torah, form an inner and outwards joy, which flows completely from a person’s sheleimut in serving Hashem, and there is no greater feeling of elevation than this.
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