This shmuess is an excerpt from Mussar VoDaas—Sichos
Maran HaGrid zt'l
In the first part, HaRav Povarsky explained the important
principle that one's ma'asim have fruits that benefit
the doer himself, namely that the feedback from his good
deeds, in turn, causes him to become a better person. His
deeds are his fruits, and then these fruits have further
fruits from which he himself benefits. In this way, HaRav
Povarsky explained how the Jews in the generation of Purim
accepted the Torah willingly when the great Dor Hamidbar did
not. In the time of Mordechai and Esther, the acceptance was
the fruit of deeds: "fasting, crying, and lamenting." The
feedback of these acts made the doers great and led them to
fully and willingly accept the Torah.
This is the process: from the heart springs an act. The heart
is where that act is sown — "Just as the mountains are
capable of being sown." And from this sowing grow a person's
acts, which also sow the most important and greatest fruit:
the acts' influence on his heart. Undoubtedly from such a
heart will now spring forth even greater acts that will
afresh influence the heart beneficially. This is the
continuous [feedback loop] process.
Every type of ma'aseh has its own influence.
Chesed breeds "love of chesed," and studying
Torah breeds "love of Torah." So it is with every act.
The Dor Hamidbar lived in a different atmosphere. After
rising so high in their spiritual level and beholding the
whole truth, they understood that no other way of life exists
except for that of the Torah. Without observing the Torah we
simply cannot exist—this is what is meant by, "You will be
buried there"— so therefore they understood that they must
accept the Torah.
Nonetheless, the free will to accept the Torah was lacking.
The Dor Hamidbar was forced to accept the Torah. Real
desire to do something can originate only from deeds, when
the will and love are the "fruit of their doings." This is
the pearl that someone who does a virtuous act is
zocheh to attain.
Moreover, the Tomer Devorah (1:8) writes, "HaKodosh
Boruch Hu acts with Am Yisroel according to this
middoh, and that is the secret of Hashem's kevishas
he'ovon (quashing iniquity). A mitzvah, however,
flourishes (and splits the heavens) immeasurably so as to
rise before Hashem."
(The Tomer Devorah does not mean that the mitzvah
itself actually grows. He means, as we have written before,
that the mitzvah a person does influences his heart, each
mitzvah with its particular influence. This assists one to do
more virtuous deeds that again influence his heart
beneficially. This is an endless loop process, until his
deeds appear before Hashem Himself.)
Acting virtuously does not literally subdue iniquity. A
person's ma'asim flourish enormously and add on to his
previous mitzvos until they build an illustrious edifice and
The Zohar (I, 224a) explains what the garment formed by
mitzvos is. "These tzaddikim, eternally concealed
behind the Divine King, merit having made for themselves a
precious garment to wear in this world." A person's acts join
together and become a single, complete garment.
Although individual acts are distinct from each other, the
result of doing these acts is their impact on the heart. An
act that emanates from the heart will have a return
[feedback] effect on the heart which in a way resembles what
the act was. In the person's heart all these influences
become one—which is an immeasurably pure and perfect heart.
This is what is meant by a garment being created by one's
mitzvos. Only when the different impressions that are made on
a heart unite is there a complete garment formed.
Actually the Zohar is stressing an additional point.
Besides a good heart being an outcome of doing a mitzvah,
that outcome does not remain as it is initially. Hashem does
not quash mitzvos. He allows them to flourish until "they
appear before Hashem Himself."
Where does the mitzvah grow and rise? Can it do that in
Shomayim? All growing and elevating is internal, within
the heart, until these mitzvos cling and attach themselves to
the Ruler of the World. This is the power of ma'asim:
limitless growth until they unite with Hashem.
This process happens only with mitzvos. It would seem that
the same should happen with aveiros: from every
aveiroh a harmful fruit should be created that will be
an injurious influence on the heart. Chazal (Kiddushin
40a) indeed inform us that after a person has committed an
aveiroh and has repeated it, that aveiroh is
considered by him as if permitted.
Rabbenu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuvoh 1:5) writes that
HaKodosh Boruch Hu does not usually consider an evil
thought of doing an aveiroh as actually doing an
aveiroh. But for someone who has committed an
aveiroh and has repeated it, even when he only intends
to do that aveiroh, HaKodosh Boruch Hu already reckons
it as if he actually did it.
After a person has done an aveiroh and repeated it, his
heart becomes an "evil heart." With such a heart the thought
of committing an aveiroh is a finished act, since it is
anyway seen by him as permitted.
Nonetheless, aveiros are not like mitzvos that unite
with each other and become one single garment. Aveiros
do not "flourish." The Ruler of the World quashes them so
that they will not grow and become a "garment."
The above conforms with how the Tomer Devorah (1:2)
explains the matter of "forgiver of iniquity." This
middoh is greater than the previous one of Hashem's
joining all of man's mitzvos together.
When a person does an aveiroh, a destructive Heavenly
force is formed. (This is undoubtedly true, since destructive
forces are created in Heaven by our doing aveiros. We
must realize that such a force is created within man himself
by his doing aveiros. Just as through a mitzvah a
person obtains a "good heart," so through an aveiroh he
obtains an "evil heart.")
"R' Eliezer ben Yaakov said: He who fulfills even a single
mitzvah gains himself a single advocate, and he who commits
even a single transgression gains himself a single accuser"
(Ovos 4:11). The accuser referred to is the "evil
heart" created within man. That accuser stands before
HaKodosh Boruch Hu and incriminates that person for
committing an aveiroh.
Since all creatures exist only because Hashem sustains them,
how can that accuser itself continue to survive? (A good
mal'ach created from the mitzvah grows and ascends
before the Ruler of the World. Its clinging to Hashem
sustains it.) It would be just for HaKodosh Boruch Hu
to tell the heavenly accuser, "I will not sustain you. Go to
the person who created you and request parnossoh from
The accuser-creature, as a result, would descend immediately
and remove the sinner's neshomoh or sever it, or the
person would be punished until that accuser was nullified.
But Hashem "forgives iniquity" and does not allow it to
develop. Without that middoh, the sin would attempt to
take away the life of the one who made it.
Hashem does chesed for both mitzvos and aveiros.
The mitzvah becomes a single garment along with other mitzvos
since in the heart they are all one, while aveiros are
prevented from doing that and do not grow at all.
We now understand the secret of an "act" and the greatness of
a person who is "a doer of acts." Chazal (Taanis 25b,
Bovo Metzia 85a) write, ". . . not because this person
is greater than the other but because . . . ." (We dare not
even discuss this topic.) Even if an act is done
superficially, since it emanates from a person's inner self
and from the depths of his heart, the act becomes a part of
his essence and perfects the heart and middos of the
person as far as concerns that specific act.
A ma'aseh that is not done because of internal
conviction, one that does not come into existence because
studying Torah motivated him to do it — even if that act is
tremendous, even if those are like the deeds and tests of the
holy Ovos — if they are done without internal feeling,
if they are only done as if one was compelled to do them, or
when one was embittered, like when a mountain is being held
over one like a barrel — these acts would not have the value
that the Chovos Halevovos speaks of.
On the other hand, even when a person makes all his inner
preparations, if his plans do not actually materialize they
will not have the segulah, the unique power, of
illuminating the neshomoh that is achieved by him who
succeeds in doing the act. After the act, the neshomoh
becomes illuminated with a radiance similar to what is found
in the act itself.
The Ovos, despite all of their colossal inner
preparation, also needed to do ma'asim since without
ma'asim everything remains only potential.
The Dor Hamidbar too — though their level was lofty
and all of the spiritual worlds were revealed to them to such
a degree that they realized that without Torah they were lost
and could not exist — were still missing something. They did
not reach the level of willingly accepting the Torah. The
Dor Hamidbar only accepted the Torah because they were
forced. The will to do something can be attained only through
ma'asim, and in absolutely no other way.
This is the level of the Ovos, of which Chazal
(Sanhedrin 96a) wrote that they were like horses
running before Him between the breaks of the water. The water
would spray in their faces but the horse would continue to
gallop ahead regardless. Such a level can be attained by
someone who does ma'asim and only through
Although Moshe Rabbenu thoroughly humbled himself—"What are
we?"—he raised a complaint to Hashem when he had a question
about how Hashem acted (see Rashi, Shemos 6:9). The
Ovos never had any objections to what Hashem did, since
their level, attained through acts, was altogether different.
This is because ma'asim directly influence one's
We must make an effort to attain spiritual elevation from our
Purim. From Purim we must extract a strong desire to do
avodas Hashem. Surely there are lofty levels in
avodas Hashem with an ardent rotzon, but we have
Purim too [to help us].
Chazal say that the kuf of Yom HaKippurim means it is
compared to Purim. We now understand this well, since Purim
gives rise to a strong desire to do avodas Hashem. Such
a day is surely sublime and holy and is equal to Yom Kippur,
but chas vesholom that from Purim the opposite should
The Mashgiach of Yeshivas Mir, HaRav Yeruchom Levovitz
zt'l, once explained Chazal's statement (Megilloh
7b) that "a person is obligated to drink on Purim until he
cannot discern between `cursed is Haman' and `blessed is
Mordechai.' " (Various interpretations have been offered for
this Chazal.) The Mashgiach explained that this Chazal is
teaching us the secret of accepting the Torah willingly: that
we should not accept the Torah because of fear or because we
are being forced to accept it when we see that we have no
other choice. We must forget and not be aware at all of
"cursed is Haman." Our acceptance should be only motivated by
our free will and love—"blessed is Mordechai."
I want to conclude with another explanation that I heard from
the Mashgiach zt'l. Dovid Hamelech says (Tehillim
78:38), "He, the Merciful One, is forgiving of iniquity and
does not destroy." If Hashem did not forgive iniquity then He
would have to destroy. Nothing would remain of the sinner and
evil would immediately swallow him. (Azoi bitter iz
geven . . .).
The Mashgiach concludes that this forgiveness happens only
here in Olam Hazeh but there, in Olam Habo,
HaKodosh Boruch Hu allows evil to destroy. In Olam
Habo Hashem is not "forgiving of iniquity" and does not
quash sin. In Olam Habo everything is as it is in
reality: from the heart of a sinner grow rotten grapes, and
the evil that emerges from his inner soul ascends and
We see how careful we must be in two matters. First, that our
good deeds should have a neshomoh and not only a body:
that they should grow from our heart, just like a fruit grows
from a tree. In that way they will grow and forever bear
fruit, and fruit of fruit.
The second matter is that we must beware of bad deeds.
Although HaKodosh Boruch Hu does chesed and
quashes the evil and this consoles us, surely bad deeds harm
the heart. It is simply terrible that we do not feel what we
are losing. We are always trampling on jewels and pearls
underneath our feet. Every act of mitzvah is a pearl. Someone
who does chesed becomes a person who loves chesed
and someone who honors others becomes honored.
Someone who studies Torah becomes a shtikel Torah, a
part of the Torah itself! Let alone if he studies Torah for
its own sake; then how great he becomes!
If we do all our acts in such a way, we will be indeed
HaRav Dovid Povarsky zt'l was the rosh yeshiva in Yeshivas
Ponovezh of Bnei Braki