25 Aug 2016 Parshas Eikev: The Finish Line
Once again, in this week’s parsha, Parshas Eikev, we are awed and inspired by the passionate, eloquent, moving and heartfelt words of Moshe Rabbeinu, who began his career as a man “not of words.”
The pasuk says: כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם–תִּשְׁמְרוּן לַעֲשׂוֹת: לְמַעַן תִּחְיוּן וּרְבִיתֶם, וּבָאתֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ – All the mitzvah that I command you today you shall observe to perform, so that you may live and increase, and come and take possession of the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers (Devarim 8:1).
On the words כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה, “All the mitzvah,” Rashi quotes the Medrash and notes: אם התחלת במצוה גמור אותה, שאינה נקראת אלא על שם הגומרה – If you have begun to fulfill a mitzvah, (make sure to) complete it, for the mitzvah is attributed to the one who completes it.
The words of the Sages here are impactful and important. We often undertake to perform certain deeds, or embark on a campaign of change, and we begin with lofty aspirations and alacrity to perform. We will change! We will see our actions through! This will be the moment of renewal! We resolve to absolutely finish what we have begun… And then… With the passage of time and the waning of our inner drive to succeed, we find we have begun, and yet never finished what we have set out to do.
כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה – make sure to finish the mitzvah, the action, the act of chessed, with the same resolve with which you began it. שאינה נקראת אלא על שם הגומרה – For only then it is called on your name; only then are you given credit for having done so.
One erev Yom Kippur, R’ Mordechai Gifter zt’l asked a certain talmid to take him on an errand to the flower shop. The talmid waited in his car while R’ Gifter went into the store and emerged a few minutes later with a bouquet of beautiful flowers. “We celebrate my rebbetzin’s birthday today,” the Rosh Yeshiva explained, “and I wanted to buy her flowers, as I do every year.”
However, one year, the rebbetzin told him that she did not want him troubling himself on erev Yom Kippur to run out and buy her flowers. He agreed. Then, that day, when she saw the empty table where the flowers had always been set, she realized she really did want those flowers! The Rosh Yeshiva foresaw this and moments later, in walked R’ Gifter with a big smile and a bouquet of flowers. She realized that regardless of what she said, he would keep buying them for her, and she appreciated that.
The last time he was able to purchase flowers, he was already walking with a walker. In fact, he could not carry the flowers and push the walker at the same time, so his son Reb Zalman carried the flowers for him. But when R’ Gifter reached the door to the apartment, he asked his son to give him the flowers; he wanted to hand them to his wife himself.
כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה, “All the mitzvah”: אם התחלת במצוה גמור אותה, שאינה נקראת אלא על שם הגומרה – If you have begun to fulfill a mitzvah, (make sure to) complete it, for the mitzvah is attributed to the one who completes it.
In all that we do, in all of our actions and interactions, both bein adam la’Makom (mitzvos that govern our interactions between us and G-d) and bein adam la’chavairo (mitzvos which govern our interactions between us and fellow man), let us be sure we begin the mitzvah and finish it with the same degree of alacrity, excitement and commitment that we had when we started. In this way, we will merit to complete what we have begun, as we cross the finish line triumphant.
As we prepare to usher in and enter the holy month of Elul, the month of repentance, return and repair, let us be ever cognizant that the mitzvah is called upon the name of he who completes the action.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,