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Torah Attitude: Parashas Metzora/ Shabbos Hagadol, Finding merits and excuses brings salvation
Gossip is prolonging our exile. Gossip enables the accusers in the Heavenly court to speak up 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 the Jews needed 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 the Jewish people 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 a person, 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
In this week's parasha the Torah continues to teach the laws regarding a person who is inflicted with a plague due to gossiping, and how he is purified. We do not experience such plagues nowadays, and we would have no way of purifying ourselves with sacrifices. However, we are far from cured from this malady. The Chofetz Chaim explains that 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
This clearly shows how destructive gossip is. In fact, 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 so severe that it has an effect both in Heaven and on earth. As it says, (Tehillim 73:9) "They set their mouth in Heaven and their tongue goes on earth." The Chofetz Chaim quotes from the Zohar Parashas Pekudei (264b) that when a person gossips down on earth it enables the accuser in the Heavenly court to speak up against the Jewish people. He further quotes from the Tana D'Vei Eliahu that any gossip that is spoken on earth ascends right up to the Heavenly Throne. Who knows how many tragedies and calamities have occurred from people arousing accusations in the Heavenly Court through their gossip down on earth.
On the other hand, when someone speaks well about his fellow human beings, and looks for excuses for their wrongdoings, this has a positive effect in the Heavenly Court. We find an example of this 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 about? Did G'd not take us out of Egypt, and now G'd has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of Midian?" 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) relate that in the days of Gideon the Jews were suffering from the Midianites. G'd was waiting for someone to say something good about the Jews. No one had anything good to say. Their fulfillment of the commandments was too poor. Rashi quotes 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 though they had no merits. So either way, why does G'd not do wonders to help us?"
It was not easy to find a merit for the Jews of his time. Instead, he contrived a merit based on the fact that they had ancestors that had merit, or based on that their ancestors were helped even if they did not have merits. If their ancestors were helped without any merits, Gideon pleaded, so G'd should help the Jews of his time, even if they were not worthy. Says the Midrash, as soon as G'd saw that Gideon was trying to find a merit for the Jewish people, as small as it might be, He set in motion the means the Jews needed 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
This teaches us how 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 we need merits to achieve salvation and help from above. When it was time for the exodus from Egypt, the Jews lacked merits to be helped. Therefore, G'd gave them two commandments: circumcision and the Pesach offering. In the merit 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 to give new commandments if they did not keep the old ones. It took the pain and concern of Gideon to contrive some merit, so that G'd was ready to help the Jewish people.
Mordechai and Esther
Similarly, when Mordechai told Esther to go and plead with 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 in the following way. "If you are going to be quiet now, and you are not going to be an advocate for the Jewish people and find a merit for them. A time will come when you will be accused of not helping the Jews."
This is how our true leaders conduct themselves. They constantly try to find merits for their fellow Jews. 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", said Moses, "the gold and silver that You showered upon them brought about that they produced the golden calf." The Talmud continues that this is comparable to a person who bathes his son and applies oil to his 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 the son possibly avoid to sin? We always have a host of excuses for ourselves and the ones close to us. This is how we should feel for each other as well. Too often do we blame others and find fault with them. If someone sins, as long as no one on earth accuses him and gossips about it, the accuser in the Heavenly Court is stayed and he will not be able to pursue his accusation. On the other hand, an individual who gives others the benefit of the doubt and tries to find excuses for their wrongdoings, 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. After all we have gone through, we still sit down every year at the Seder to celebrate that we were chosen to be G'd's nation at the exodus from Egypt. 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. 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 lack in our performance of the commandments, just as in the time of Gideon, but we have great ancestors with many merits, right back to our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. 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 merit of all these righteous people, please G'd, take mercy on us and bring us back home. Rebuild Your Temple, so that we can serve you under the leadership of Mashiach. Amen."
These words were based on notes of Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.
Shalom. Michael Deverett
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