Last week, we discussed Nachmanides' view of the Tzaras -- the skin
ailment in the Torah. "Ramban (Nachmanides) declares that the laws of 'tzaras'
(the spots on the body, clothes and house), are a sign of distinction for the
Israelites. At a time of great religious feeling, they will be close to G-d. He will
protect them and indicate His wrath when they err. The diseases and difficulties
of 'tzaras' came as a result of wrongful conduct. We do not merit these afflictions
today because we are not on such a high spiritual level. (Such hardships are
referred to in Rabbinic Literature as 'afflictions of love.')"
In Parshas Acharei, on the verse "These are the statutes and ordinances
which man will live by..." (Leviticus 18:5) the Ramban establishes something
quite remarkable: The reward for G-d's service is dependent on each person's
preparation and intention.
1: Those who serve with intent to obtain riches and honor -- will obtain such
wealth and honor.
2: Those who serve from fear -- that is, fear of punishment -- will be spared
from that which they fear, and will obtain eternal life.
3: Those who serve G-d out of love -- asking for nothing in return, but using
worldly pursuit to support themselves -- will obtain success in this world, and
their reward in the next world will not be lacking.
4: Highest and rarest of all, are those who have no thought whatsoever
about themselves and this world. The Ramban's example is Eliahu (Elijah), who
lived alone with very simple furnishings. (Rebbenu Bechaya quotes the words of
the Ramban almost word for word, but goes on to note that even the patriarchs
Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were not like this, but worked with their
Levels #1 and #2 seem self-centered: The first one only thinks of personal,
material benefit; the second one only worries about reward and punishment.
Levels #3 and #4 differ in regard to the relationship of effort and worldly
endeavor to trust in G-d. #3 -- the working man who serves out of love -- does
not want to rely on miracles, does not want to be a burden to G-d or man. The
fourth one -- the one compared to Eliahu -- doesn't ask for anything at all.
The indication is that, even today, a person on the highest level of faith
would live in the miraculous realm. The commentaries point out that this would
only apply to one who would be consistent -- in all regards -- not to be concerned
with his personal well-being at all. Such individuals are rarely found, especially
today. Since most of us are not of this category, but do make at least some effort
here and there, we should not claim to be extremely pious and faithful in certain
regards. Claiming to be faithful and not taking care of ourselves in certain areas
might just be plain indolence, in the guise of piety.
These are fine points, but something certainly seems difficult with the
explanation of Ramban. He has told us how every person will have just what he
asked for. Accordingly, everyone should always be happy! Ramban, for example,
has assured us that the one who serves for the sake of riches and honor will have
riches and honor... Why, then, are there so many complaints today?
Apparently, it was a given that each of the four types of servants of G-d
knows the Mishnah: "Who is wealthy? He who rejoices in his lot..." Therefore it
was clear to Ramban that each person will have precisely what he wanted. If only
people will be optimists, and learn to appreciate what they have -- they will see
that they have exactly what they have worked for.