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    Parashat Bo
    tells us of G-d’s
    commands to
    Beneh Yisrael
    regarding the
    Korban Pesah –
    the paschal sacrifice which they offered on the night
    of the Exodus, before they left Egypt.
    G-d commanded Moshe to instruct the
    people to place the blood of the sacrifice on the two sides of the doorposts
    (“Mezuzot”) and on the top of
    the doorframe (“Mashkof” –
    12:7). Interestingly, however,
    when Moshe relayed these commands to the people, he reversed
    the sequence, instructing them
    to place blood on the top of the
    doorframe and then on the posts.
    Why did Moshe deviate from Gd’s instructions, and reverse the
    King Shlomo teaches us in
    Mishleh (3:16), “Orech Yamim
    Bi’yminah Bi’smolah Osher
    Ve’chavod” – “Longevity is to
    the right [of Torah], and to the
    left is wealth and honor.” It has
    been suggested that the doorposts, which stand to the right
    and to the left of a person as he
    walks through, symbolize these
    blessings of longevity, wealth
    and honor. Sometimes a person
    involves himself in Torah for
    ulterior motives, hoping to earn
    reward. He commits himself
    not out of a genuine devotion to
    the Almighty, but rather to receive the rewards promised for
    involvement in Torah. The Gemara in Masechet Pesahim (50b)
    famously teaches that although
    learning “She’lo Li’shmah” – for
    insincere motives – is less than
    ideal, it is nevertheless acceptable. The reason is that once a
    person begins getting involved
    in Torah out of self-serving mo- tives, he will, with time, reach
    the level of “Li’shmah” – learn- ing Torah for sincere, altruistic
    reasons. Accordingly, G-d instructed Beneh Yisrael to begin
    with the “doorposts” – the re- wards for Torah. Before we can
    rise to the level of “Li’shmah,”
    where we learn and practice out
    of a deep-seated and genuine
    love of G-d, we should first begin with the more modest level
    of “She’lo Li’shmah,” involving
    ourselves in Torah in order to
    reap the practical benefits that it
    offers us.
    The question then becomes, why
    did Moshe reverse the order?
    Why did he tell the people to start
    with the “top,” with the ideal level of “Li’shmah,” and only then
    to descend to the “doorposts,” to
    the ulterior motives for learning
    The answer is that growth is an
    ongoing, lifelong process. Every
    time we rise to a new level of
    spiritual achievement, we must
    look further to the next level.
    The new level we have achieved
    should, with time, seem to us
    unsatisfactory, such that we then
    set our sights upon a more ambitious level. This is indicated by the
    Gemara’s formulation in Pesahim: “A
    person should always engage in Torah
    and Misvot even not for their sake…”
    The Gemara teaches us that one should
    always study and practice “She’lo
    Li’shmah.” Once a person reaches a
    level of “Li’shmah,” that level should
    then seem like “She’lo Li’shmah.”
    The level of sincerity we achieve now
    should seem to us later as insincere. We
    must constantly be striving to raise our
    standards, to grow in our level of sincerity and purity of motives. And thus
    Moshe told the people that after they
    reach the “Mashkof,” the exalted level
    of “Li’shmah,” they must then descend,
    so-to-speak, and see themselves back
    on the level of the “Mezuzot,” the level
    of “She’lo Li’shmah.” What seems to
    us as an admirable spiritual achievement now must seem insufficient as we
    continue to grow and develop in our religious commitment.
    This is one of the vital messages that
    Beneh Yisrael were taught at this moment, as they were about to leave Egypt
    and become G-d’s sacred nation. They
    were told that they need to constantly
    grow and advance, that no achievement is ever sufficient. Every new level
    we reach should be celebrated, but we
    mustn’t stop there. We must continue
    working to progress and reach ever
    greater heights, each day of our lives,
    one modest achievement at a time.