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Simcha Groffman

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Parashas Behaalosecha

Witnesses Make Mistakes

One day in Beis Din . . .

"Okay, let's call in the witnesses."

Two men walk into the Beis Din. The Dayanim begin questioning them.

"When did the alleged theft occur?"

"The second hour," answers the first witness.

"The third hour," says the second witness.

"They are contradicting each other!" says the alleged thief. "May we use their testimony?"

"Yes, it is perfectly valid" says the Dayan.

A short time later . . .

"Call in the witnesses for the next din Torah."

The two men enter the Beis Din.

"What time did the alleged million dollar loan take place?"

"The third hour," answers the first witness.

"What do you say?"

"The fifth hour," says the second witness.

"These witnesses contradict each by two hours!" says the borrower. "We surely must reject their testimony."

"No. We can accept their testimony also."

The question is:

How can the dayanim accept these two apparently contradictory testimonies?

The answer is:

The Gemora (Pesachim 11b & 12a) discusses these cases. In the first case, the theft occurred at the exact moment and the end of the second hour, beginning of the third hour. The first witness called it the second hour, because it was indeed the end of the second hour. The second witness called it the third hour because it was the beginning of the third hour.

In the second case, Rebbe Yehuda rules that a witness can be mistaken in the time of day up to half an hour. Therefore, the actual time was 4:30. The first witness made a mistake of half an hour earlier, thinking it was the beginning of the fourth hour. This is also the end of the third hour, therefore he said, "The third hour." The second witness made a mistake of half an hour in the other direction. He thought it was the end of the fourth hour, which is also the beginning of the fifth hour. Therefore, he testified, "The fifth hour."

This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.

B'ezras Hashem

"According to the word of Hashem, the Bnei Yisrael journeyed, and According to the word of Hashem they encamped. All the days that the cloud (of glory) would rest upon the Mishkan, they would encamp. When the cloud stayed a long time over the Mishkan, the Bnei Yisrael would keep Hashem's restrictions and not travel. Sometimes the cloud would be upon the Mishkan for a number of days; according to the word of Hashem would they encamp and according to the word of Hashem would they journey. And sometimes the cloud would remain from evening until morning, and the cloud would be lifted in the morning and they would journey; or for a day and a night, and the cloud would be lifted and they would journey. Or for two days, or a month, or a year, when the cloud would linger over the Mishkan, resting upon it, the Bnei Yisrael would encamp and not journey, but when it was lifted they would journey" (Bamidbar 9:18-22). This passage describes how the Bnei Yisrael were instructed to travel, camp, and guided on their way in the midbar. All of their travels and encampments were "al pi Hashem" - According to the word of Hashem.

The sefer Eved HaMelech cites the Shelah HaKadosh who illuminates this parasha with a brilliant insight. The Torah is hinting to an important mussar thought. Before a person begins any activity or movement, he should say, "Im yirtzeh Hashem" (If Hashem wishes [it to be so]), or B'ezras Hashem (With Hashem's help). If he takes a trip, he should say, "I am traveling with Hashem's help and I would like to reach my destination with His help, if He so wishes." When he arrives, he should give thanks and praise to The One who brought him here by saying, "Behold, with Hashem's help I have reached this place!" In this way, he will constantly mention the Heavenly Name when he decides to do something, while he is doing it, and when he successfully completes it.

Similarly, when he engages in buying or selling merchandise he should say, "I trust in Hashem that He will give me success." If he profits he should say, "I profited with Hashem's help" as the verse states in parashas Eikev, "Then you shall remember Hashem your G-d: that it was He who gave you the strength to make wealth" (Devarim 8:18). Similarly, if he fails, cholila (Heaven forbid), he should say, "The came to me from Hashem for a sin that I committed." He should then search his deeds measure for measure, perhaps he was dishonest in a monetary manner, or withheld tsedaka from a poor person. He should return the money, admit his mistake and confess to the Almighty. If a person begins a business venture he should say, "I am going to do this with Hashem's permission, and for the sake of His Name." He should pray a short prayer, "Master of the World! Your holy words state, 'One who trusts in Hashem is surrounded by chessed.' 'You give sustenance to all (living things).' Bless this venture that I am about to undertake with a portion of Your chessed."

A person should believe that everything that happens to him is from the Holy One, Blessed Be He. Even unpleasant things are from Him. Wicked people who hurt us are just his messengers. Therefore, whether good or bad things happen to him, he should believe in the Almighty and say, "This is from Hashem."

Kinderlach . . .

The Shelah HaKadosh is describing the reality of the world. Everything that happens to us is decreed from Above. The Holy Shelah then gives us the tools to internalize that reality and live with it. Talk to Hashem! Observe His ways! Realize that He is The One who will grant you success or failure in any undertaking. Therefore, ask for His help and blessing before you begin. If He grants you success, thank Him. If the outcome is not pleasant, acknowledge that He is trying to teach you something. Examine your deeds, learn the lesson, and correct the problem. Bring the Almighty and His ways into your regular conversation. Live with Him every moment of the day! "According to the word of Hashem, the Bnei Yisrael journeyed, and According to the word of Hashem they encamped."

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