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Vol. 3 No. 42|
To Be Small Before G-d
Life contains many paradoxes, yet perhaps the most striking of them all is the attitude people take to what "fate" has in store for them. It is usually the not-so-righteous Jew who expects everything to go his way, and he is quick to complain when something goes wrong: the religious Jew will resign himself to his lot and state with conviction "Gam zu le'tovoh". But it is the tzaddik who is eternally grateful to Hashem for everything he has.
However meagre his lot is and however distressing the circumstances, he can only appreciate the good things, and wonders why G-d has chosen him of all people, as the beneficiary of His goodness.Ya'akov Ovinu, praying to Hashem to save him from the clutches of Eisov, could only proclaim "Kotonti!" - "I am too small and undeserving of all the kindness and truth which You performed with your servant!" And whether, like Rashi, we understand this to mean that Ya'akov, having received so many favours from Hashem, genuinely believed that these favours had subsequently caused his store of merits to become depleted or, as the Ramban explains, that he considered himself unworthy of Hashem's promises and kindness in the first place, we have here the mark of a tzaddik, who sees Hashem as a great Benefactor, whose kindness extends to the worthy and to the unworthy alike, whilst at the same time, belittling his own good deeds, as if they were nothing but a small repayment of Hashem's ongoing magnanimity.
Nor should one for one moment believe that Ya'akov Ovinu was not aware of his own greatness. Did he not himself inform Eisov, "I dwelt with Lovon, yet I kept all the mitzvos"? - inferring that any attempt on the part of Eisov to cause him grief would be ill-advised and was bound to fail, on account of his own undiminished righteousness. Clearly Ya'akov knew that someone who pursues all the mitzvos is a Tzaddik, and clearly he realised that he was one of those Tzaddikim.But it all depends to whom one is speaking. When addressing Lovon or Eisov, one must place oneself above them, demonstrating a pride in one's beliefs and a gratitude to Hashem that his own religion and mode of conduct is superior to theirs. He dare not relegate himself to their level or compare himself to them, lest he becomes like them, or encourages them to continue in their ways.But when communicating with Hashem, it is a different matter. "In the presence of G-d, one must feel inferior and submit oneself to His jurisdiction.
One's own ego must fade before the Omnipotence of G-d, as the light of a candle ceases to function with the rising of the sun. It is written about Rav Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, ztl, Rav of Yerusholayim, who once explained that it was only when he addressed himself to the secular activitsts, that he spoke fire and brimstone. When he spoke to G-d, he would beseech Him and plead with Him to have compassion on those very same people.The man in the street is not interested in the propagation of Hashem's Name, inasmuch as that does not lie within the orbit of his life's goals: namely, self-glorification and the pursuit of his own self-interests. He finds extreme difficulty in submitting himself to Hashem's jurisdiction - (quite aside from his preconceived conviction that he is the master over his own destiny). The Tzaddik, on the other hand, forever conscious of Hashem's Omnipotence, but particularly during tefillah, becomes overwhelmed by it, and that inevitably results in his total submission to Hashem.
Submission is the essence of tefillah! Submission is the essence of a Tzaddik! That is why Ya'akov Ovinu prayed to Hashem, preceding his prayer with the words, "I am too small!"GEMS FROM THE PARSHAHParshas Va'YishlachThe Chofetz Chayim's Prophecy"And Ya'akov said, '(Should) Eisov come to the one camp and smite it, then the other camp will escape.' " (32:9)In the year 5693 (1933), when Hitler (Y.S.) came to power, the Chofetz Chayim was asked by one of his Roshei Yeshivah in Radin what would be the lot of the Jews of Germany and Poland, seeing as that rosho had spelt out his intentions of annihilating all Jews (C.V.).The Chofetz Chayim replied that that goal was unattainable. It was simply not possible to wipe out all Jews, since G-d had promised Ya'akov that even if Eisov succeeds in destroying the one camp, then the second camp will escape.The Rosh Yeshivah understood from the Chofetz Chayim's words the terrible danger that faced European Jewry - that the rosho would indeed "come to the one camp and smite it", so he asked further where the fugitives would find refuge.The Chofetz Chayim replied with a possuk from the Haftorah (Ovadyoh 1:7) - "And Har Tziyon will be the place of refuge, and they will be holy" etc.The Rosh Yeshivah went out trembling at the implications of the Chofetz Chayim's prophecy, but with the sure knowledge that Eretz Yisroel would be saved.
Sure enough, as soon as the Nazis (Y.S.) attempted to attack Eretz Yisroel, the tide turned against them. The Chofetz Chayim's prophecy, uttered close to ten years before the event, came true.AFlattering the Wicked"And you shall say ," Ya'akov instructed his messengers to tell Eisov , "Your servant Ya'akov is also behind us." (32:21).The Chofetz Chayim writes that when G-d took Ya'akov to task for lowering his sanctity by referring to himself as "Eisov's servant," he replied that he was flattering the rosho so that he should not kill him. And it is from Ya'akov that we learn to flatter the wicked in this world because of Darkei Sholom.Chazal take Ya'akov to task for subjugating himself before Eisov, specifically when G-d had specifically told his mother Rifkah - "And the older one will serve the younger" (Bereishis 25:23). And for the eight times that he referred to himself as Eisov's servant, Eisov merited eight kings before Shaul was crowned King of Yisroel."The deeds of the fathers are a sign for the children," say Chazal. If Ya'akov had not chosen to belittle himself before Eisov, then it seems, we would have always been Eisov's superiors. It was because Ya'akov did choose to do so (otherwise why did G-d take him to task for that?) that we must now follow in his footsteps and flatter the resho'im in this world. And His Eleven Children"And Ya'akov took his two wives etc. and his eleven children, and he crossed the River Yabok" (32:23). "And where was Dinah?" Rashi quotes a Chazal. He put her in a box to hide her from Eisov's view.Now, how do Chazal know that it was Dinah who was excluded? Maybe Dinah was included in the eleven children, and it was one of the sons who is not counted.
The Gro discounts this contention by pointing to a Chazal. Chazal say that the Beis Ha'mikdosh was built in Binyomin's portion of land because he is the only one of the sons not to have bowed down to any human being. All the other brothers bowed down to Eisov, when he met up with Ya'akov in this Parshah. Binyomin of course, was not yet born.Had any of the brothers not bowed down to Eisov, we would still need to justify the building of the Beis Ha'mikdosh in Binyomin's portion of land - not necessary if Dinah was the one to be excluded, since, as a woman, she did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisroel.
ATHOSE BEAUTIFUL MITZVOS! There is a Mitzvah to perform every Mitzvah beautifully; "Zeh Keili ve'Anveyhu" teaches us that we must be willing, if possible, to spend up to an extra third (possibly up to half) more for a better quality or a bigger Lulav and Esrog, that we must write our Sifrei Torah with a nice k'sav, and that we should embellish every object of Mitzvah to the best of our ability.Yet there are only two Mitzvos which, from their inception, the Torah (in the case of a Mitzvah d'Orayso) and the Rabbonon (in the case of the Mitzvah de'Rabbonon), laid stress to Hidur - namely the Esrog and the Chanukah lights respectively.The Torah goes so far as to actually refer to the Esrog as a Pri Eitz Hodor, from which Chazal derive that certain aspects of Hidur even hold up the Mitzvah. The Esrog must be a Hodor (and indeed, Chazal understand that the concept of Hidur extends to all of the four species, the Lulav, the Hadass and the Arovoh, as well). And the Chashmono'im, who instituted Chanukah, also included Hidur into their Mitzvah of Chanukah, though in quite a different way. The Hidur on Chanukah is not in the shape and size of the Menorah - that remains in the form of the Torah's "Zeh keili ve'Anveyhu".
So yes, it is a Mitzvah to spend more on a nice-looking, better quality Menorah, and to buy better quality oil and wicks or candles.But Chanukah is the only Yom-Tov on which not only have we been given the choice - three options, no less - of whether to perform the Mitzvah ordinarily (one Menorah per household, one light per night), or like the Mehadrin (incidentally, the term "Mehadrin" applied nowadays to Kashrus items, is "stolen" - or should we respectfully call it "borrowed" - from Chanukah) who give all male (nobody knows quite why only the males) members of the family a Menorah (known as Chanukiyah here in Eretz Yisroel), each of whom lights one light per night. Or we can observe the Mitzvah like the Mehadrin min ha'Mehadrin, where each member of the family lights progressively from one light on the first night through to the eighth (or, according to Tosfos, just the head of the family adds one light each night - that is Mehadrin min ha'Mehadrin.Not only have we been given the choice of how we wish to perform the Mitzvah, but we have unanimously accepted to perform it in the best possible way, like the Mehadrin min ha'Mehadrin. (To be continued)
(Ovadyah Chap. 1) Although it is not specifically stated as to who Ovadyah was or when he lived (see opening Ibn Ezra in Ovadyah), it is generally accepted that he is synonymous with the Ovadyah who hid one hundred prophets in the days of Ach'ov (see Radak ibid.).This is what Rashi writes there: "What is the connection between Ovadyah and Edom, which is the only prophecy of (the single chapter that makes up the entire Seifer of) Ovadyah? Our Sages have said that Ovadyah was an Edumian convert. G-d said, 'I will bring on them a prophet from among themselves. Let Ovadyah, who lived between two resho'im, Ach'ov and Jezebel, and did not learn from their ways, come and punish Eisov ho'rosho, who lived between two tzadikim, Yitzchok and Rifkah, and did not learn from their ways.' "AAfter referring to Edom as insignificant and despicable, Ovadyah describes their faults, and inter alia, he regales them for their shameful treatment of Ya'akov, of their brothers Yisroel in the time of the second Beis Ha'mikdosh.
Towards the end of the Haftorah, Ovadyah records the prophecy that describes Yosef's role in Eisov's ultimate destruction, and which Rashi quotes in Va'yeitzei (30:25) to describe why Ya'akov felt ready to leave Lovon and confront Eisov, immediately after Yosef was born."And the house of Ya'akov will be fire, the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Eisov stubble."Yosef, I once heard it explained, was the absolute antidote to Eisov in Midos. Eisov never forgot what he considered a bad turn. Thus it was that, although thirty-six years had elapsed since Ya'akov had taken the B'rochos, he still came with four hundred men to meet Ya'akov - bent on revenge.Yosef, on the other hand, possessed not the least inclination to avenge his sale at the hand of his brothers. Not only did he do nothing to hurt them in any way, but he did everything in his power to pacify his brothers and to let them know that he bore them no grudge. It was Yosef's beautiful midos that would negate Eisov's evil influence. In fact, it is from here that Chazal derive that Eisov's descendants will fall into the hands of Yosef's descendants.AAnd Ovadyah ends his prophecy with the possuk that Rashi quotes in the Parshah (33:14) describing Ya'akov's intention to go to Har Se'ir, not now, as requested by Eisov, but later in history, with the coming of the Moshiach, about whom it is written, "And they (the leaders of Yisroel) will go up delivered, on the Mountain of Tziyon, to take revenge from Har Se'ir, and (then) the kingdom will revert to G-d." This prophecy in turn, is strikingly similar to Chazal's interpretation of the last possuk in Parshas Beshalach.
There they explain that G-d's Name will not be complete, nor His Throne, until the name of Amolek (Eisov's grandson) is blotted out (see Rashi Sh'mos 17:16).In the previous possuk, the Novi wrote that Har Tziyon will be a place of refuge. The Chofetz Chayim quoted this possuk to one of his Roshei Yeshivah in Radin, when he told him that the Nazis would not capture Eretz Yisroel, and that the refugees from Europe would escape there. We have been zocheh to see the first part of this prophecy materialise in our days. May we merit to witness the fulfillment of the completion of the prophecy, which reads "Then they will be holy and the house of Ya'akov will take possession of those who until then had taken possession of them".
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