by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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OROH V'SIMCHOH - MESHECH CHOCHMOH ON ROSH HASHONOH BS"D
The MESHECH CHOCHMOH explains the M.R. by predicating the verse in Thilim 9:9, "V'hu yishpote teiveil b'tzedek u'l'umim b'meishorim," that Hashem judges the world with righteousness. The gemara R.H. 16b and Yerushalmi R.H. 1:3 say that Hashem judges a person "ba'asher hu shom" (Breishis 21:17), as per his present status. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH proposes a novel interpretation that this not only means "his present status" in relation to his future status, as was the case with Yishmo'eil, but also in relation to his previous status, i.e. if he sinned a while back and more recently has not sinned, he is judged more leniently, and also conversely, if he has fulfilled many mitzvos earlier, and more recently has not done so, he is judges less favourably.
In earlier generations the majority of people were involved in agricultural pursuits, both Jews and non-Jews. Thus in the winter, when the larder is full and there are no agricultural activities, one can occupy himself with his true interests. The majority of bnei Yisroel will busy themselves with Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos, while the majority of non-Jews would indulge in all sorts of inappropriate activities. When spring comes and one must involve himself in the field, there is no major difference in the activities between these two groups, as all must plow, fertilize, sow, etc., leaving little time for either doing mitzvos or for sinful indulgence. It is therefore most surprising that Hashem has placed Rosh Hashonoh, the day of judgement towards the end of the agricultural season, when the mitzvos of the bnei Yisroel wane and the sins of the non-bnei Yisroel also wane. Why not have Rosh Hashonoh in the spring shortly before Pesach, when the "ba'asher hu shom," recent behaviour, of the bnei Yisroel's mitzvos are the strongest, and the "a'veiros" of the nations are the strongest?
The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers with the gemara B.B. 11a. The gemara relates the story of Binyomin "hatzadik," the righteous Binyomin. He administered charity in his community, distributing it to the needy. During a year of famine a woman approached him, imploring him to give her some charity. All funds had been exhausted, as it was a year of famine. He told her that the coffers were empty. She responded that if he would give r no charity, she feared that she and her seven children would die of starvation. He responded by digging into his own funds and helping her. Later, while still quite young, he became deathly ill. The administering angels in heaven appeared in front of Hashem, pleading his case. "Master of the world, You have stated, 'Whoever sustains even one person it is as if he has sustained the whole world' (mishneh in Sanhedrin 37a, M.R. Bmidbar 23:6, Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer ch. 48). How then can Binyomin the righteous, who sustained a needy woman and her seven children die at such a young age?" The negative decree was immediately destroyed, and 22 years were added to his life.
It is obvious that notwithstanding this great act of kindness, Binyomin was a very righteous man, as he was called "Binyomin the righteous" before he responded so charitably. If so, why weren't his other meritorious acts sufficient grounds to grant him long life? It seems that righteousness alone is insufficient to guarantee long life. However, by his doing an act that extended others' lives, he in return was also granted an extension to his years, "midoh k'neged midoh," reward in kind.
We now understand why Hashem placed Rosh Hashonoh towards the end of the agricultural season. This gives us the opportunity to leave over "leket, shokchoh, pei'oh, ol'lose," and "perret" for the needy, thus sustaining them and in turn being a merit to extend our lives. These particular objects are different from tithes and Trumoh, in that tithes and Trumoh may be given to the recipient of your choice, thus directly benefiting the giver as well. However the items mentioned in our verse are left to any person who deems himself poor, with no control by the farmer on whom the recipient will be, whether he is worthy in the eyes of the farmer or not. So also in kind we activate a similar response in heaven, that our lives be extended even if we are not so worthy.
This is the intention of the M.R. Because the non-ben Yisroel takes all for himself he has no merit to be dealt with in such a kind manner, but the bnei Yisroel who do not annihilate (take all produce for themselves) the field will in turn not be destroyed, as per the verse in Yirmiyohu 30:11.
Although it does not offer an understanding of this M.R., possibly another answer to the MESHECH CHOCHMOH's question of why Rosh Hashonoh does not occur before the agricultural season begins is that Hashem is not ready to judge a person only when he has free time to study the Torah and fulfill a limited amount of mitzvos. The acid test of the Torah knowledge one has in practical application, if it has permeated his being, in the realm of mitzvos between man and man, "bein odom lacha'veiro," takes place during the agricultural season. We then see if he treats his workers fairly, paying them on time, honouring his financial commitments, not overworking them, selling and buying these goods in an honest and fair manner, and giving and leaving of his produce for the less fortunate. Then, and only then, is Hashem ready to judge us.
SHONOH TOVOH UMSUKOH, SHNAS GEULOH VI'SHUOH.
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