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Torah Attitude: Parashas Metzora/ Shabbos Hagadol, Finding merits and excuses brings salvation
Gossip is prolonging our exile. Gossip enables accusations in the heavenly court to be spoken against the Jewish people. As soon as G'd saw that Gideon was trying to find a merit for the Jewish people He set in motion the means for the Jews to defeat their enemies. It takes very little to arouse the Heavenly Mercy to protect and help the Jewish people. In the merit of the fulfillment of circumcision and the Pesach offering, G'd took them out of Egypt. Mordechai told Esther to go and plead to King Ahashverus on behalf of the Jews. As long as no one on earth accuses the person and gossips about it, the hand of the accuser in the Heavenly Court is stayed. Any individual who will give others the benefit of doubt and try to find excuses and explanations for their wrongdoings will bring forth a tremendous measure of mercy in the Heavenly Court.
Gossip prolongs exile
This week's Torah portion continues to discuss the laws regarding the person who was inflicted with plagues due to gossiping and the process of how the person was purified. On an individual level we do not have the plagues nowadays and we have no way of purifying ourselves with sacrifices that can only be brought when the Temple is standing. However, we are far from cured from this malady. As the Chofetz Chaim explains, gossip is one of the main causes of the destruction of the Second Temple and the prolonging of our exile.
Gossip effects heaven and earth
Gossip is one of the worst transgressions. Our sages (Midrash Koheles 9:12) explain that some sins only have an effect here on earth and other sins only have an effect in heaven. Gossip is one sin that is so severe that it has effects both in heaven and on earth. As it says, (Tehillin 73:9) "They set their mouth in heaven and their tongue goes on earth." The Chofetz Chaim quotes the Zohar Parashas Pekudai (264b) that when a person gossips down on earth it enables accusations in the heavenly court to be spoken against the Jewish people. He further mentions from the Tana D'Vei Eliahu that all gossip spoken on earth ascends to the Heavenly Throne. Who knows how many tragedies and calamities have occurred from arousing accusations in front of the Heavenly Court through gossiping on earth.
On the other hand, when a person speaks well about his fellow human beings, and looks for excuses for the wrongdoings of others, this has a positive effect in the Heavenly Court. An example of this is found in the Book of Judges (6:12-14) where a heavenly angel appeared to Gideon to appoint him to be the judge and leader of the Jewish people. The angel said to Gideon, "G'd is with you mighty warrior." Gideon responded, "Please my master, if G'd is with us why is all this happening to us? Where are all the wonders that our fathers told us? Did not G'd take us out of Egypt and now G'd has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of Midian? And G'd turned to him and said, 'Go with this strength of yours and save Israel from the hands of the Midianites.' Our sages (Midrash Tanchuma Parashas Shoftim 4) relates that in the days of Gideon the Jews were suffering from calamities inflicted on them by their enemies, the Midianites. G'd was waiting for someone to say something good about the Jews. No one had anything good to say. Their performance and fulfillment of the commandments were too poor. Rashi explains from the Midrash that on the first day of Pesach that year, Gideon spoke up and said, "Last night my father read the Hallel [in the Haggadah] and I heard how he spoke about when the Jews went out of Egypt [all the wonders that G'd did for them]'. Said Gideon, why has He forsaken us? 'If our ancestors were righteous then G'd should help us in their merit. If our ancestors were evil doers then He should help us just as he helped them even without having merits. So either way, why does G'd not do wonders to help us?"
Gideon was not able to easily find merit in the conduct of the Jews of his time. So instead, he contrived a merit based on the fact that they had ancestors that had merit or at least their ancestors were helped even if they did not have merits. If their ancestors were helped with our without merits, Gideon pleaded that G'd should help the Jews of his time. Says the Midrash, as soon as G'd saw that Gideon was trying to find a merit for the Jewish people as minor as it might be, He set in motion the means for the Jews to defeat their enemies and immediately the angel revealed himself and said, "Go with this strength of yours trying to find a merit for My Children."
How very little it takes
We see from here how very little it takes to arouse the Heavenly Mercy to protect and help the Jewish people. Gideon was living in a time when the Jews were serving idols. They had strayed away from Torah conduct and had absolutely no merits of their own to justify being saved. Yet when Gideon "invented" a merit on behalf of his beloved people, that was sufficient to arouse the Heavenly Mercy.
Merit to leave Egypt
G'd has established that only if people have merits can they achieve salvation and help from above. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, when the Jews also lacked merits to be helped, G'd gave them two commandments: circumcision and the Pesach offering. In the merit of the fulfillment of these two commandments, G'd took them out of Egypt. At the time of Gideon, the Jewish people had already received all 613 commandments and there was no purpose for G'd to give new commandments if they did not keep the old ones. It took the pain and concern of Gideon to contrive some merit to form the basis on which G'd could help the Jewish people.
Mordechai and Esther
Similarly, when Mordechai told Esther to go and plead to King Ahashverus on behalf of the Jews, Esther hesitated because she feared that she would be killed if the King did not summons her first. Mordechai said to her, (Esther 8:6) "If you are going to be quiet now salvation will come through another source." The Midrash (ibid) interprets this, "If you are going to be quiet now and you are not going to be an advocate for the Jewish people and find merit for them, there will come a time when you will be accused and will be lacking an excuse why you did not help the Jews."
This is how the true leaders of the Jewish nation conduct themselves. They constantly try to find merits for their fellow Jews. As the Talmud (Berachot 32a) relates how Moses pleaded with G'd after the Jews had sinned and made the Golden Calf. "Master of the universe, the gold and silver that You showered upon them brought about that they produced the golden calf." The Talmud continues and says that this is comparable to a person who bathes and applies oil to his son's skin. He gives him to eat and drink, hangs a full purse around his neck and brings him to the entrance of a place of ill repute. How can this son possibly avoid to sin? Every individual will always have a host of excuses for themselves and the ones closest to them. This is how we should feel for each other and treat one another. Too often do we blame each other and find fault with our fellow beings. The order of the Heavenly Court is that even if a person does something wrong and sins, as long as no one on earth accuses the person and gossips about it, the hand of the accuser in the Heavenly Court is stayed and he will not be allowed to pursue his accusation. Furthermore, any individual who will give others the benefit of doubt and try to find excuses and explanations for their wrongdoings, and to make circumstances milder in regards to the dealings of others, will bring forth a tremendous measure of mercy in the Heavenly Court.
Bring forth mercy
We have been exiled for close to two thousand years, persecuted and pursued by our enemies. As we say in the Haggadah, "In every generation, they rise against us to annihilate us." We can only marvel at the Jewish nation who after all we have gone through, we still sit down every year at the Seder night to celebrate the exodus from Egypt being chosen as G'd's nation. It is painful to see how many Jews that have assimilated and have lost their contact to Torah and its commandments. However, what can one expect of a child who has been exiled for so long on its own. It is no wonder that so many have strayed. If not for G'd's mercy, chances are that none of us would have survived. As we gather to celebrate the exodus from our first exile, let us at the same time follow in the footsteps of Gideon and plead to G'd and say, "What do You expect of your children that have been estranged and scattered among the nations of the world. We may also be poor in our performances of the commandments, just as in the time of Gideon, but we have great ancestors with many merits, right back to our Patriarchs and Matriarch. In every generation righteous Jews have continued to cling to and observe the commandments despite the hardships and difficulties, including most recently during the horrors of the Holocaust. In the merits of all these righteous people, please G'd take mercy on us and bring all Your children back home, rebuild Your House with the coming of Mashiach. Amen."
These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network