May our Merits be Numerous like a Pomegranate
הרב מרדכי גרינברג
The Gemara in the end of Masechet Chagiga says: "The sinners of Israel are full of mitzvot like a pomegranate, as it says, 'like a slice of pomegranate is your cheek (raketech).' Do not read it 'rakatech,' but 'reikanim shebach' (the empty ones of you)."
Rav Wolbe zt"l asks: If the empty ones are full of mitzvot like a pomegranate, what is left for the "full ones" to add? It is impossible to squeeze additional seeds if the pomegranate is full! Furthermore, if they are "full like a pomegranate," then they are not "empty!"
His answer is that the difference between the empty and the full is not in the quantity of mitzvot, but in the quality. It is possible for a person to be full of mitzvot, and even so to remain empty, since the mitzvot are light ones.
What is a "light mitzvah?" The Gemara in the beginning of Masechet Avoda Zara (3a) calls succah a light mitzvah, because it does not entail expenditure. In other words, any mitzvah that a person does not have to invest effort in, that comes easily to him, and that does not place him before a test - this is a light mitzvah.
Therefore, Chazal say (Bereishit Rabbah ch. 33) that the wicked are paid the reward of the light mitzvot that they do in this world, to prevent them from the world to come. These are the sinners of Israel, who are, indeed, full of mitzvot, but they are light mitzvot, that are not a test and do not require great effort. Therefore, their reward is also possible in our world, the natural world, just as the performance of the mitzvah did not go beyond the natural world, and the person did not have to rise above himself.
"Behold the people will arise like a lion cub and raise itself like a lion." (Bamidbar 23:24) Rashi explains: "When they awake from their sleep in the morning, they gather strength like a lion to grab the mitzvot; to wear tzitzit, to read the Shema, and to put on tefillin."
The Maharal explains (Gur Aryeh) that the idea of mitzvot is to overcome like a lion one's nature, from morning till night. Therefore, only serious mitzvot have the quality to raise us above nature. These mitzvot can be mitzvot that a person tramples, seemingly little things, such as lashon hara and brachot, just that it is difficult to be careful in them. All the more so the mitzvah of talmud Torah, which requires strength like a lion, "and each one of us knows by himself, how much he would choose to run to mitzvot of tzedakah and gemilut chasadim, if only he could exempt himself from talmud Torah without stop, because this is the most difficult mitzvah."
Thus, it is possible for a person to observe many mitzvot his entire life and be full of mitzvot, and nonetheless to remain empty.
"Renew upon us a new year," this is our request from the Creator," but he also demands of us a movement of renewal. "Their fear of Me is like rote learning." Therefore, we are stricken wondrously, as Yeshaya says. (29:13-14) This is one facet of renewal - not in quantity of mitzvot but in their quality. To be strong like a lion and not to sense the difficulty of observing mitzvot. It is this difficulty, in particular, that gives mitzvot their full value, and with this we will become more and more full like a pomegranate.
קוד השיעור: 3902
(Translated by Rav Meir Orlian)