Vol. 6 No. 29
The Test of Wealth
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)
"The crown of the wise is their wealth, and it is the wealth of the foolish that causes them to be foolish" (Mishlei 14:24).
Shlomoh ha'Melech is telling us here that wealth is an asset that the wise merit, and that the sinners stumble over.
When wealth is in the hands of the wise man, it becomes a crown and glorifies him, because, as long as he lacks riches, his wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. With riches on the other hand, he has the power to raise the prestige of truth and to suppress falsehood and all those who speak it. Moreover, he distributes it in acts of tzedokoh that crown and glorify him.
Furthermore, Shlomoh teaches us that the same riches that form a crown on the head of the wise man, become a source of foolishness for the foolish. This is because the foolish boast of their riches, and use them to increase their power, to support sinners and give them the upper-hand to perform all manner of sin.
In fact, wealth is comparable to the sun, which has the ability to perform two opposite functions: it is able to bleach the garment and, at the same time, to blacken the face of the launderer. It all depends upon the recipient. So it is with wealth; it is a crown for the one, and a source of ineptitude for the other, all depending on the mind of the person.
And the double expression ('Aveles kesilim Aveles') comes to tell us that wealth brings foolishness not only to the foolish man's body, but also to his soul, for wealth affects both of these and leads them both to destruction.
The wise man on the other hand, takes care not to come to grief on account of his wealth. On the contrary, he is honoured through it, and he benefits from it, body and soul, because he knows full well that riches and success in this world are nothing more than a preparation for the needs of the soul, to enable him to study Torah and to receive Divine wisdom.
That is why the possuk writes there (15:21) "Joy is the source of ineptitude to the one whose heart is lacking, but it causes the wise man to go straight". For joy and an abundance of tranquility cause the foolish man to proceed with his foolishness, whereas with the wise man, it causes him to rectify himself, both body and soul. This explains why the Torah always connects the performing of mitzvos with material success, and an abundance of tranquility and goodness in this world.
It is common knowledge that these things are not an end in themselves, seeing as they are physical rewards, which serve as an incentive to the spiritual soul, to enable it to seek the knowledge of G-d and to attain it - and that in order to award him in the end with the light from the face of the living G-d, which is the ultimate reward. Therefore, the Torah promises us that when we carry out the statutes and the mitzvos, we will receive in exchange the means to live in this world by which, in turn, we will merit and live an everlasting life, with a degree of perfection that nobody has ever yet attained, neither in the first Beis ha'Mikdosh, nor in the second, as the Torah writes "If you will go in My statutes...".
Parshah Pearls (Behar)
Adapted from the Chofetz Chaim
Moshiach - in our Generation?!
"And when the foreign resident gains the upper-hand with you ... after he (the Jew) has been sold, he shall be redeemed ... according to his years (from the time of the sale), he shall pay for his redemption ... and if he is not redeemed with these, then he goes out (anyway) in the Yovel-year" (25:47-54).
From this parshah we can learn, explains the Chofetz Chayim, that a Jew should never despair of the coming of the redemption. Neither should he wonder how it is possible for his generation to merit to see the coming of Moshi'ach, when earlier generations, who were that much more meticulous in the performance of Torah and mitzvos, than the one in which he lives, did not merit it.
It is well-known that golus comes to atone for our sins (a fact that is borne out by many pesukim), and that, just as the golus of Egypt was fixed at four hundred years, and that of Bovel at seventy, so too, is this last and longest golus fixed, according to the maximum time-period required to cleanse us of the sins for which we were sent into golus in the first place.
Imagine then, if we were to have been redeemed right at the beginning of the golus, how many merits we would have had to bring in order to go free so many years before the due date (just like the Jewish servant who would have had to pay the full amount that he received - six years' wages - in order to go free at the beginning of his six-year period).
And to have gone out in the middle, half-way through the allotted time? there too, like the Jewish servant, we would have had to pay somewhere around half the amount in merits, to compensate the many years that still remained of our exile.
And what will happen if our merits are too few to enable us to buy our redemption earlier?
Should the servant have no money at all with which to buy his freedom, he nevertheless goes free at the end of the six-year period, as the Torah explicitly writes - without having to pay a cent. And that is precisely what will happen to us, in such a contingency.
The golus will be forced to run its full course - but nevertheless, when the time comes, we will go free, a phenomenon that could not have happened in earlier generations, where the redemption had to be earned, as we just explained.
And not only that, but the pain and suffering of the golus will do much to compensate the lack of merits and help wipe the slate clean. We can surely be optimistic that it will not be long now, before we are redeemed with the coming of Moshi'ach, as the allotted time for the golus draws to a close.
To Be Hanged for a Sheep
"Do not make yourselves idols or a carved image and do not erect a monument for yourself" (26:1). 'This refers to a Jew who is sold to a non-Jew as a servant,' says the Medrash (quoted by Rashi). He should not say: 'Seeing as my master worships idols, commits incest and desecrates the Shabbos, I must do likewise'. Therefore the Torah writes these pesukim ...
Here, the Torah is teaching us, says the Chofetz Chayim, that, even though at the time when he sold himself to the gentile, he knew full-well that, due to the sale, there were certain halachic issues that he would be unable to fulfill, that in no way absolved him from fulfilling every mitzvah that he was able to, to the best of his ability, just as he had done before. For this is why the Torah writes (25:55) "Because Yisroel are My servants ...", and G-d's document of purchase came first!
Now we can learn a Kal va'Chomer, the Chofetz Chayim concludes: because if someone who sold himself into a situation which sometimes forces him to give up mtizvos, yet he is not absolved from any mitzvah that he is capable of fulfilling, how much more so must someone who has willingly transgressed mitzvos of the Torah know, that he is not, on account of his transgressions, permitted to perpetrate one sin more than the ones that he is guilty of having already transgressed; he will be taken to task and punished for each and every sin that he contravenes, for so the Rambam writes - that even Yerov'om ben N'vat will have to give a final recknoning even as to why he did not keep the mitzvah of Eiruv Tavshilin.
To Confess and Continue Sinning
"And they will confess their sins ... and how they went with Me in a casual manner. Also I will go with them in a casual manner" (21:40-41).
Now, since the people confessed, a sign that they had repented from their sins, why does Hashem threaten to go with them casually? Why does He not respond to their teshuvah?
The answer, explains the Chofetz Chayim, is that confession may well be the first stage of teshuvah, but it is by no means the last; unless it is followed by the other stages of teshuvah - regret and a firm undertaking not to repeat the sin - it is meaningless.
It happened once during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, that the Yeshivah was saying selichos, when the Chofetz Chayim banged on his shtender and stopped them. "What is the point," he asked, "in saying selichos, telling Hashem that we have sinned, when He knows it already? The most important thing is that we take upon ourselves here and now, not to continue with our evil ways!" And they continued saying selichos with great fervour.
About the Mitzvos
Performing Them With Conviction - Part 2
The way a person will perform a mitzvah depends largely on his motivation, and there is obviously no comparison between a mitzvah that is performed because the person performing it was taught that that is the right thing to do, and one that is inspired by a deep fear of G-d; just as a mitzvah that is rooted in the fear of G-d is incomparable to one that is inspired by love. Attitude plays a vitally-important role in determining the quality of a mitzvah, and it is clear that someone who develops the right frame of mind before going ahead with the mitzvah, will attain a higher level of perfection when he actually performs it.
The importance of attitude towards mitzvos is well-illustrated by the story of R. Sa'adya Gaon, who, taking his cue from an inn-keeper, took to doing teshuvah each day, for not serving G-d yesterday, with the devotion that matched his knowledge of Him today. Yesterday, he explained, he had not been as aware of G-d as he was today, and he now needed to repent for not serving Him then, in the manner that befits his new-found appreciation of His greatness.
What appears to be a mitzvah at the time when it is performed, often turns out to be an act of disrespect, and even of sin, when viewed from the new perspective from which one now perceives G-d, and from which one now examines the original deed.
THE MITZVOS OF TODAY
(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
1. Not to eat the sciatic nerve (of an animal) - as it is written in Va'yishlach (32:33) "Therefore the B'nei Yisroel shall not eat the sciatic nerve". It applies to the nerves of both thighs of both a kosher animal and a kosher beast, as well as to an unborn animal.
There are two nerves: the inner-nerve, next to the bone of the spoon of the thigh is forbidden by Torah-law; whereas the rest of the inner-nerve, as well as the entire outer-nerve, together with the fat that is on them and the smaller nerves and membranes that surround it, are all forbidden by Rabbinical decree.
The sciatic nerve has no taste. Consequently, should it fall into another dish (even if it constitutes more than one sixtieth of the dish), one merely needs to remove the nerve, and the dish is permitted.
Even though the sciatic nerve may not be eaten, one may derive benefit from it.
This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.
2. That chometz should not be seen ('bal yero'eh') in the possession of a Jew for the duration of the seven days of Pesach - as it is written in Bo (13:7) "And chometz shall not be seen for you ... for seven days". (For more details, see Mitzvah 3.)
This mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times (i.e. in every era) to men and women alike.
3. That chometz should not be found ('bal yimotze') in the possession of a Jew - as it is written in Bo (12:19) "For seven days yeast shall not be found in your houses".
Someone who places chometz in his house on Pesach (i.e. if he makes a chometz dough on Pesach and puts it in his house, or if he bought chometz and deliberately put it in his house), is due to receive two sets of Malkos (39 lashes) - one for transgressing 'bal yero'eh' and the other, for 'bal yimotze' - because he transgressed them by performing an act. But someone who leaves chometz in his house from before Pesach, and fails to destroy or to nullify it, will have transgressed the two la'avin, but will not receive malkos, because he transgressed them without performing an act.
Chometz of a non-Jew in the possession of a Jew, must be destroyed if the Jew accepted responsibility, but may be retained if he did not, as the Torah writes "And chometz shall not be seen for you" (meaning what is yours - a Jew's - but not what belongs to non-Jews) and responsibility for an object is a form of possession. If the non-Jew has the right to claim the chometz from the Jew in non-Jewish courts, then the Jew is obligated to destroy it even if he did not accept responsibility for it. Chometz that one had in one's possession over Pesach, is osur be'hano'oh (forbidden to derive benefit from it), due to a k'nas (a Rabbinical imposition) for having transgressed the la'avin of 'bal yero'eh' and 'bal yimotze', even if he did so inadvertently.
This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.
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