That’s Worth Everything
By Rabbi Label Lam
If you will follow My decrees and keep My Mitzvos and perform them;
I will provide rains in their time, and the land will give its produce and
the tree of the field will give its fruit. Your threshing will last until
the vintage, and the vintage will last until the sowing. You will eat your
bread with satisfaction and you will live in your land with security and I
will give peace in the land and you will lie down without fear… (Vayikra
If you follow My decrees…If you follow My decrees by engaging in intensive
Torah study, with the intention that such study will lead you to observe
My commandments properly, and if you actually do perform them, you will
merit the blessings given in the following verse. (Rashi: Sifri)
And I will give you peace…By crowning the above blessings with that of
peace, the Torah teaches us that peace is equivalent to all the blessings.
See how dear peace-is that when the Holy One blessed be He wanted to bless
Israel He could find no vessel strong enough to contain all the blessings
than to bless them with peace. (Midrash Rabba)
What does it mean that “peace” is greater than all the blessings and that
it is a vessel to contain all the other blessings? Imagine that you were
given one million dollars cash. What a thrill! The mind runs wild with
possibilities. What we could and would do for our families and friends.
The money is given one hour before Shabbos in a resort town on an exotic
island paradise. What’s the problem? All the food is prepared! It’s all
Kosher! There’s no lock on the door. There’s no safe in the hotel. What
kind of Shabbos will it be? Peaceful? I doubt it! Everything is there
potentially but peace.
Why does the Torah promise “peace” as a residual or a side benefit of
learning and observing Torah? Isn’t peace a goal to pursue and strive
for, like happiness or is it always only a byproduct?
It is known that the Malbim was not only a genius in Torah and commentator
on the entire Tanach but a prolific poet as well. A poet, living
contemporaneously with the Malbim once asked him how he was able to write
so much beautiful poetry being that it is not his main focus. The poet
confessed that he writes much less and yet it is his sole mental
The Malbim answered with the following parable that I will take the poetic
license to update in our terms: A man shopping in Tiffany’s purchases a
$25,000.00 vase. At the check out counter the sales person wraps the
beautiful vase with ornamental ribbons and places it into a specially
designed box worth hundreds of dollars. The exchange is completed and the
man leaves with a gorgeous gift box in his hands. An onlooker spies the
whole event, approaches the counter, and orders up an array of fancy
ribbons and a handsome box. What a surprise he experiences when the
customer service rep hands him a bill for $250.00. He protests. “No fair!
That fellow got it for free!” The agent answers plainly, “He bought an
expensive gift and so the wrapping is free! All you want is the wrapping
and therefore you must pay for it!”
The Torah is the essential item and the poetry is the pretty wrapping. If
one invests in the main thing the other stuff comes along for free and if
not there’s a charge. Similarly in the blessings offered by the Torah, if
we learn and fill our lives with Torah dedication, then a host of good
things flow. The vessel to contain it all, “Shalom”, is given as a grant.
A person can spend days and years in pursuit of a peaceful tranquility but
there’s a cost of time and effort and in the end one may get a measure of
contentment with no real content and find himself all dressed up with no
where to go. However, the bonus for learning and yearning to fulfill the
Torah is not less than a beautiful-practical container that preserves all
the promises of goodness and that’s worth everything.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.