Rabbi Yoel Gold told the following story: Yaakov was accepted into a prestigious law school that had no other religious Jews. Despite this, he decided to wear his yarmulke and tzitzis openly. Upon graduation, the school hosted major law firms for interviews. Yaakov faced the dilemma again: Should he continue to openly show his observance? The morning of his interview with a desirable law firm, he decided not to wear his yarmulke and tzitzis. As he entered the room to meet the “power attorney” who could hire him, he faced…a chasidishe man with a large yarmulke, beard and tzitzis. He said, “We selected you from all the other students because we heard you wore your yarmulke and tzitzis for your four years in law school. A person who sticks to his values so well—that’s what we want for our firm. But I see you do compromise on your values. We are no longer interested.” Yaakov lost the job, but learned a lesson for life.
There is a special blessing Hashem accords to those who follow in His mitzvos, especially when it puts them at odds with the worldview. The Midrash quotes a pasuk in Iyov, “V’achar ori nikfu zos,” and the midrash explains that this refers to many more people being drawn in after Avraham performed the bris milah on himself. Why? Avraham and Sarah had been bringing people close to Hashem and making them Jewish for decades prior to the bris milah. The Sfas Emes explains that objectively, the requirement to perform a bris milah for any male who wanted to be Jewish might sabotage Avraham’s ability to bring people closer to Hashem. As convincing as Avraham and Sarah were, once people would hear this requirement, they might say, “Sorry, I’m not willing to do that!” Yet Avraham went ahead with Hashem’s command, and after his bris milah, many more people converted than before!
A similar challenge occurred with regard to the Akeida (sacrifice of Yitzchak). Rav Shach explains that Avraham had been teaching for years that Hashem is compassionate and caring. If Avraham were to slaughter the only child born to him and Sarah in their old age at Hashem’s direction, surely people would scoff and dismiss him. Nonetheless, Avraham went against his own instincts to follow Hashem’s command.
Rav Tzadok Hakohen says this is the rule for any mitzvah: It must be followed no matter what people may say, and he lists an example. A Jewish farmer must separate terumos and ma’asros from produce grown in Eretz Yisrael, which totals 20% of the yield. Seemingly, this is a significant loss to the farmer. The pasuk says “aser ta’aser,” you shall surely tithe. The Gemara notes that the root letters of the word ta’aser are the same as those for osher, wealth. In using the same word twice, Hashem is giving a blessing: If you tithe, you will gain wealth. Thus the cost of giving terumah and ma’aser, instead of creating a loss, will actually yield a monetary gain! There is one condition, however. Reb Tzadok says the blessing is given only when the mitzvah is performed lishma—altruistically.
In everyday life we encounter situations in which we may feel tempted to compromise our observance of halacha, since it appears our observance will result in a loss. We learn from the above instances that if we don’t compromise our principles, we will merit an increase in blessing and extra help from Hashem to perform each mitzvah in its most optimal form.
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