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I Will Write It In Their Hearts - Volume 1
Letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

An explanation of our Sages' statement: "Load the camel according to its strength"

Translated by: Rabbi Eli Touger

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No. 43

This letter was written in response to a reply sent by Rav Pinchas Katz to letter 35 which was sent to him.
[Erev Rosh Chodesh Teves, 5703]

In response to your notes:

  1. You commented regarding the quote from Kesubos 67a to which reference was made[1] in the previous letter: "Load the camel according to its strength," citing our Sages' statement:[2] "[It does not matter whether] a person brings a large [offering] or a small [offering]...."

    The latter quote refers to a situation where the reason a person brings a small offering is not because of a lack of his commitment to G-d, as the quote continues: "as long as he directs his heart to heaven." The point of the quote is to teach that [when he cannot bring a larger offering,] his reward is equal to that of one who did.

    We are forced to say that this quote is speaking about an instance in which it is impossible for the person to bring a large [offering]. (See Berachos 5b which, according to the first supposition, quotes this teaching with regard to Rabbi Eliezer who cried because he was unable to study [as much] Torah as he desired. Similarly, Eruvin 64b applied the verse:[3] "Due to the love of her [the Torah], he will be dazed at all times" to Rabbi Eliezer. And in Berachos 17a, [our Sages associate the statement: "[It does not matter whether] a person brings a large [offering] or a small [offering]..." with Torah study, [explaining] - see Rashi's commentary, entry Shema - [that the reason the person would study only a small amount is that] "his heart is not open [to increasing Torah study].")

    Or [it can be explained that] the statement "[It does not matter whether] a person brings a large [offering] or a small [offering]..." applies in a situation where there is no advantage in bringing a larger quantity. (This is reflected in the question raised by Tosafos, Shevuos 15a, entry lilamdecho, who asks: Seemingly, the principle "[It does not matter whether] a person brings a large [offering] or a small [offering]..." would not apply [in the instance mentioned by the Talmud], because neither of these conditions were met: It is a mitzvah to bring a more prestigious offering, and it was possible to do so. [Tosafos therefore] offers the resolution that since "[It does not matter whether] a person brings a large [offering] or a small [offering]...," there was no reason for taking pride in bringing a larger offering.

    Thus in a situation where it is a mitzvah to increase the quantity, and a person has the potential of doing so, the principle "Load the camel according to its strength" should be applied. This is obvious.

  2. You noted that our Sages' statement: "Encouragement should be given only to those who are eager" appears [not only in the sources cited,[4]] but also in Makkos 23a.

Indeed, in his Otzar HaPisgamim,[5] Rav Heiman also cites only Makkos and Bamidbar Rabbah, and omits the Sifri, Parshas Naso. Nevertheless, the opposite order of priority appears appropriate, for the Sifri is the primary source for this concept. It is only that since the Sifri is not easily available, I also referred to Bamidbar Rabbah. (Note the difference[s] between [the relative weight of] the Sifri and the Midrash Rabbah mentioned in the texts recording principles [of Talmudic reasoning, among them,] that [Torah law] is not [necessarily] derived from Aggadah.[6] See the Talmud Yerushalmi, Pe'ah 2:4. See also sec. 5 of the maamar entitled Biur Lo Tashbis in Likkutei Torah.) Moreover, the Sifri was authored by Tannaim, as opposed to the Midrash Rabbah [which is of a later date].

[I did not mention the appearance of the quote] in Makkos, because there it is cited:

  1. As a resolution to a question. As is well known, at times the Talmud will offer a resolution that is not entirely substantial (as mentioned in the texts recording principles of Talmudic [reasoning]);

  2. It involves, [not a situation where action is required, but one] where one is to refrain from acting;

  3. It does not follow the opinion of Ravva, a Sage of a later generation,[7] and involves a difference of opinion between Rabbi Yehudah and the Sages, while with regard to the Sifri, there are those who explain that there is no difference of opinion. See also Rashi's commentary at the beginning of Parshas Tzav, the Malbim's commentary to Parshas Naso, et al.

Since we are speaking about these subjects, these points should be made:

  1. With regard to the possibility of receiving an equal reward despite the fact that a person brings a large [offering] or a small [offering], reference can be made to the explanations of the narrative concerning R. Elazar ben Durdaya[8] (see Likkutei Torah of the AriZal, Tehillim, sec. 32; see also sec. 4 of the first maamar entitled Ki BaYom HaZeh and sec 2. of the first maamar entitled Tiku in Likkutei Torah) and the explanations in the maamar entitled Chayav Inish in Torah Or.

  2. Seemingly, one might say that with regard to sacrifices, although one must bring the choicest animal of the type one desires to offer (Menachos 83b), there is no obligation to bring a large quantity of offerings. And yet one does receive reward for bringing a greater quantity. The only exceptions are the burnt offerings and festive offerings brought on the pilgrimage holidays; for concerning them, the Torah states that they must be brought[9] "every man according to his capacity to give," i.e., proportionate to his resources (Chagigah 8b).

Similarly, even a rich man [who pledges to bring a burnt offering] may bring merely a dove (see Lechem Mishneh, gloss to Hilchos Maasei HaKorbanos 16:3). On this basis, we can appreciate the precise wording of the Talmud, Menachos 104b: "Who is likely [to bring a meal offering?" i.e., a poor man] is likely to bring such an offering, but it is possible that a rich man will also bring a meal offering.

On this basis, it is possible to explain:

  1. Rashi's intent in his commentary Menachos 110a, entry Echad Hamarbeh. [Rashi adds] the words "to bring offerings," i.e., to bring a larger quantity of offerings, in contrast to the passage in Shevuos[10] which speaks of a qualitative increase.

  2. The additional explanation offered by Rashi in his commentary to Berachos 5b and 17a, in which he states that the principle: "It does not matter whether a person brings..." is "stated with regard to sacrifices." This is necessary to state, for Rashi understands that the expression "It does not matter whether a person brings..." is speaking about an instance in which the person has the potential of bringing a larger offering, and nevertheless, brings a smaller one. In Berachos, by contrast, [the Sages are speaking] about Torah study. Therefore, Rashi emphasizes [that the principle: "It does not matter..."] is taught with regard to sacrifices, the rationale being that one is not obligated to bring a larger offering, while with regard to Torah study, by contrast, [one is obligated].

[One might then ask:] Why did the Talmud in Berachos attempt to bring a proof [from this principle with regard to Torah study]? Because it is focusing on a situation in which the small quantity is not a result of the person's lack of commitment to [serving] G-d. (In Torah study, such a situation is possible only when the person is incapable [of studying more], as is evident. For if not, our Sages (Sanhedrin 99a) applied the verse:[11] "He scorned the word of G-d.") Thus with regard to Torah study, when the reason for a small amount of study is that he is not capable of more, his reward is the same as one who studied more.

With the blessing "Immediately to teshuvah, immediately to Redemption,"

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) [The letter does not cite that quote explicitly but makes reference to it.]

  2. (Back to text) [Menachos 110a, Berachos 5b, et al.]

  3. (Back to text) [Mishlei 5:19. We have translated the verse according to Rashi's commentary in Eruvin. Seemingly, the Rebbe is quoting that source to indicate a weakness in Rabbi Eliezer's thought process and suggesting that for this reason, he did not study as much as others.]

  4. (Back to text) [Sifri, Naso 5:2; Bamidbar Rabbah 7:6.]

  5. (Back to text) [Otzar Divrei Chachamim U'Pisgimeihem (5694 edition).]

  6. (Back to text) [For Aggadah is considered as primarily intended to give direction in the development of character traits and ethical conduct, not Torah law. The Midrash Rabbah is considered as a text of Aggadah, while the Sifri, a text of Halachah.]

  7. (Back to text) [And the halachah follows the opinion of the Sage of the later generation.]

  8. (Back to text) [See Avodah Zara 17a which explains that with one act of teshuvah, R. Elazar ben Durdaya acquired a portion in the World to Come.]

  9. (Back to text) [Devarim 16:17.]

  10. (Back to text) [15a.]

  11. (Back to text) [Bamidbar 15:31.]


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