Rational Yiddishkeit Does Not Endure

The Rebbe Rashab‘s granddaughters had a teacher who taught only Torah matters which could be explained logically. When the Rebbe Rashab heard about this, he ordered that this teacher be dismissed.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

Two bachurim came to the Chasam Sofer for an interview to be accepted to his illustrious yeshiva. The Chasam Sofer accepted one and rejected the other. When asked why he had rejected the other bachur, who was clearly a ben Torah, the Chasam Sofer explained that it had nothing to do with his level of learning. When these two bachurim approached the yeshiva, they walked past the area where the sukkah had stood and where the s’chach was still lying on the floor. The Chasam Sofer noticed how one bachur walked around it and the other walked on top of it.

Our sedra begins with the words והי’ עקב תשמעון, and it will be because you will heed these ordinances. Chazal explain that the word עקב can also be translated as “heel” and the passuk thus means: If you will heed the minor commandments which one [usually] tramples with his heels. The Baalei HaTosafos explain that this is referring to where a person literally tramples carelessly over a mitzvah, for example, on the strings of his tzitzis. When a Yid is careful not to do this, Hashem will keep His covenant of chessed with this Yid.

To the Chasam Sofer, a heel that had nuanced sensitivity to kedushah was greater than a head filled with Torah knowledge.

This sensitivity doesn’t come on its own, it must be cultivated from a very young age.

The granddaughters of the Rebbe Rashab had a teacher who believed that children should only be taught matters in Torah which they could understand and process logically. Telling them stories of tzadikim or the supernatural would overwhelm them. When the Rebbe Rashab heard about this, he ordered that this teacher be dismissed.

Rational Yiddishkeit does not endure. The foundation of Torah and Yiddishkeit is pure faith in Hashem and that we listen and obey Him without question. Stories of tzadikim and of miracles and the supernatural all help ingrain these ideas in our children and build this foundation. Upon this foundation, we can then build beautiful and enduring structures of logic, wisdom, and understanding.

Dovid Hamelech writes in Tehillim, למה אירא בימי רע עון עקבי יסובני, why should I fear in days of misfortune? I have fulfilled the most difficult commandments. Chazal interpret this as a question and answer: Why should I fear in days of misfortune? Because I was not careful with the mitzvos that can be trampled by the heel.

Did Dovid Hamelech truly suspect himself of mistreating mitzvos?

He was certain that he fulfilled even the simple mitzvos, but he wasn’t certain if he did them with the same level of reverence and dedication as the more severe mitzvos. He suspected that perhaps his Yiddishkeit was more logic-based rather than faith-based.

Logically, some mitzvos demand our full attention and energy and some don’t. But when we perform mitzvos just because Hashem said so, then each and every mitzvah is filled with vibrancy and enthusiasm.

If my approach to mitzvos, Dovid Hamelech worried, is logical, then maybe Hashem will also act with me according to logic, and there’s room to fear that I won’t always be worthy in days of misfortune. But if my commitment to Hashem transcends logic, then I can be sure that Hashem’s treatment, too, will transcend what I deserve.[1]

[1] See Likutei Sichos vol. 19 pg. 89

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