Chores or Passions?

“…I will turn towards you…” – Vayikra 26:9

וּפָנִיתִי אֲלֵיכֶם – ויקרא כו, ט

After stating that if you follow G-d’s statutes and observe His commandments G-d will grant you prosperity, security, and peace, the Torah adds that G-d will also “turn towards you” and grant you additional blessings as well. Rashi comments on the words “I will turn towards you” and interprets this to mean, “I will turn away from all My preoccupations to pay your reward.”

The expression “I will turn away from My preoccupations”—not “from My other preoccupations,” but from “My preoccupations” in general—implies that the payment of reward described here is not among G-d’s preoccupations or chores. So what is it? Also, the placement of this promise after the verse has already enumerated some of G-d’s other promised rewards implies that there are two degrees of reward promised here:  the earlier blessings are indeed among G-d’s preoccupations, while the latter blessings are not. What does this mean?

The term “(My) preoccupations,” or עסקי in Hebrew, denotes a variety of tasks that are chores, impositions on one’s natural interests. One therefore feels “preoccupied” with them; they demand his attention. These “preoccupations” represent a descent from a person’s truest and most natural self. In contrast, “turning away from all your preoccupations” toward something else means that what you are concentrating on is an expression of your truest self—the essence of who you are.

In light of that, we can understand the two degrees of reward that G-d promises for toiling in Torah study and observing His commandments. One degree of reward is for fulfilling the mitzvos to the extent required of you; the other is for devoting yourself to the fulfillment of G-d’s will beyond the letter of the law.

For by going beyond what is required of you, such as by toiling in the study of Torah more than is required by the mitzvah incumbent upon every Jew to study the Torah, you demonstrate that this in not just a duty or chore, but your truest passion and desire. Commensurately, G-d’s reward for such devotion emanates not from a level of divinity that is a “descent” from G-d’s essence—analogous to a “preoccupation” or “chore”—as do the blessings enumerated in the earlier verses here, but from the Divine essence itself!

—-Likutei Sichos, vol. 17, pp. 324-329


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