Friday, July 29, 2011

Love of Kindness

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh over the radio when I remembered something that had occurred a long time ago. It happened when I lived in Boro Park in the neighborhood of Emunas Yisroel, which I would frequent. To many of the talks of Rav Wolfson shlita, the spiritual leader (otherwise known as The Mashgiach, because he has held the position of Mashgiach in Torah Vodaath) of Emunas Yisroel, I would then go.

In this one instance, I was sitting among the gathered, listening as Rav Wolfson talked about a topic of which I have no recollection. Among the things he said was one that really caught my attention. He raised a question.

In the Shemoneh Esrei we say the beracha of sim shalom. In it, we express ourselves, saying: ki be-or fanecha nasata lanu hashem elokeinu toras chayim ve-ahavas chesed. The statement implies, seemingly, that (kivayachol) the Al-mighty has given us two separate things: toras chayim and ahavas chesed – meaning, a Torah of life and a love of kindness. This raises the question: we can all agree that He has given us a Torah of life. However, what is the basis for saying that He (kivayachol) has given us a love of kindness? Some of us are, after all, more prone to this love than others.

Rav Wolfson shlita, undoubtedly, went on the explain that we have in fact been endowed with a distinctive love of kindness, why this is so, and what the nature of this love of kindness is. In all candor, I have no recollection of what he may have said. My purpose in writing is to suggest that the question is spurious to begin with – or, at least, may be spurious.

There is a way of reading – or should I say parsing? – the statement that prevents the question from arising. It is to read the statement as referring not to two things but to one – characterized by two special features. That is to say, the statement may be read as saying that He gave us a Torah of life and of love of kindness – both epithets characterize the Torah itself. That the Torah is a Torah of life speaks for itself. That it is a Torah of love of kindness follows from the fact that the Torah teaches and encourages love of kindness. It is saturated through and through with this motif – in its laws and in the history it conveys. This is why I say that the question raised that evening in the beis hamedrash fails to get off the ground, given this perspective.

But, of course, anyone is free to adopt an opposing one.

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