Full Jewish life – but how?

Shabbat Kodesh Parashat Ki Tavó

We will read this week ((Devarim 30, 11-12)

כִּ֚י הַמִּצְוָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם לֹא־נִפְלֵ֥את הִוא֙ מִמְּךָ֔ וְלֹ֥א רְחֹקָ֖ה הִֽוא׃

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach.

לֹ֥א בַשָּׁמַ֖יִם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַעֲלֶה־לָּ֤נוּ הַשָּׁמַ֙יְמָה֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַעֲשֶֽׂנָּה׃

It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

To which Rashi comments:

״לָא בַּשָּׁמַיִם הִיא״, שֶׁאִם בַּשָּׁמַיִם הִיא — אַתָּה צָרִיךְ לַעֲלוֹת אַחֲרֶיהָ

It is not in heaven: for if it were in heaven, you would have to climb up after it [in order] to learn it. – [Eruvin 55a]

What is Rashi trying to say? Indeed what is the Torah indicating here? 

Is it possible to “climb up to heaven”?  Why tell us something which is in any event impossible to perform, even if we were instructed to do it? 

Perhaps: Many people have the impression that in order to fulfil the quintessence of Torah and Mitzvot, one has to be a perfect Zadik; an individual who has purified himself totally. 

This Pasuk is telling us that the opposite is true – We do not have to be spiritual “Everest climbers” in order to fulfil the obligations set in the codex of the Torah. 

Rather, as in the next verse (30, 14) 

כִּֽי־קָר֥וֹב אֵלֶ֛יךָ הַדָּבָ֖ר מְאֹ֑ד בְּפִ֥יךָ וּבִֽלְבָבְךָ֖ לַעֲשֹׂתֽוֹ׃ 

Because this (thing) is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfil it.

Living a full Jewish life is not a matter reserved for an “elite class”. It is open for all, כי בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו.

Shabbat Shalom and best wishes

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld