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"You shall not cause pain to any widow or orphan" (Shemos 22:21). Rashi adds that it is forbidden to hurt any person; however, the verse speaks about the most common cases. Widows and orphans are usually defenseless; therefore, they are most vulnerable to those who wish to inflict suffering. This prohibition includes hurting their feelings, as well as causing them physical distress.
How careful do we need to be with the feelings of others? Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt"l cites the Mechilta's commentary on this very verse. Rebbe Yishmael and Rebbe Shimon were being led out to be executed by the Romans. Rebbe Shimon said to Rebbe Yishmael, "Rebbe, my heart goes out because I do not know for what reason I am being killed." Rebbe Yishmael replied to Rebbe Shimon with a question. "Did anyone ever come to you for a din (judgment) or a shayla (halachic question) and have to wait because you were finishing your drink, putting on your shoe, or wrapping your tallis? Our Torah warns us, 'If you will surely inflict him pain . . .' (Shemos 22:22). It does not differentiate between a small tsar (distress) and a large one." Rebbe Shimon was relieved. He replied, "You have comforted me, Rebbe."
Rav Yerucham is astounded by the extent of how far-reaching this din is. "Let us search our ways and evaluate them!" Contemplate the following thought for a moment. Making someone wait for a few moments is not a very big inconvenience. Yet the holy Tanna Rebbe Shimon felt that he received the penalty of death by the sword for this aveyra. What about major suffering that we cause people? Oy va voy va voy! How a person must be careful every minute of every day to watch himself! He must be sure that what he says and does will not hurt anyone in any way.
One of our gedolim of the previous generation often had visitors knocking at his door during mealtime. If he had a piece of food in his mouth, when he heard the knock, he felt distress. How was he able to swallow his food when someone needed his assistance? We see how far his concern for not hurting other people's feelings extended.
Kinderlach . . .
People are very important. Do not hurt them in any way. If you had a valuable piece of jewelry, how would you treat it? Very carefully. You would be sure to handle it very delicately, making sure that it would not scratch or chip. A human being is much more valuable than any piece of jewelry and more sensitive also. Treat him with great care. Do not do anything that will cause him any distress, even the smallest amount. The rewards for this are great. Hashem loves those who treat His children with tender loving care.
You are the Judge
"Please bring the litigants into the Beis Din."
The two men are ushered in. One, obviously wealthy and influential, is dressed in a beautiful, fine-tailored suit. The other, a poor man, is wearing raggedy old clothes. The Av Beis Din (Chief Dayan) looks carefully at both of the men.
"I am sorry; we cannot judge this case now."
"May we ask the dayan why not?"
"Because of your dress. Both of you must be wearing the same type of clothes. We must see either two fine suits or two raggedy ones."
"How can that be?" asks the rich man.
"The Torah states, 'Distance yourself from a shekker (falsehood)' (Shemos 23:7). Your different clothing may bias our decision, and we will not decide emmes (truth); rather shekker. Therefore, you must change clothes. Until then the case is postponed." (This story is adapted from the Gemora Shavuous 31a.)
Rav Leib Chasman is astounded by this din. How can these holy dayanim (judges) be biased? They are talmidei chachomim, who know the severity of judging falsely. The Shechina (Divine Presence) is present at a Din Torah. The dayan must see himself as if a sword were poised over his neck, and gehennom is open in front of him if he decides falsely (Gemora Yevamos 109). With such Yiras Shamayim (Fear of Heaven), how can he be biased? Furthermore, the bias is not even skin-deep. If the rich man would change clothes, he would still know that he is rich. The same with the poor man. Will that truly help him decide fairly? How do we understand this din?
This is the strength of the Yetzer Hora, explains Rav Chasman. Even the eyes of the holiest dayan are only flesh and blood, made from the dust of the earth. Hashem created them, He formed them, and He knows that they are biased. Therefore, He commanded the dayan, "Distance yourself from a shekker." Your Yetzer Hara has a tremendous power of deception. He can trick the greatest people with the simplest things. Therefore, do not give him even a drop of room to trick you. Distance yourself from him and his shekker.
Kinderlach . . .
Rav Yisrael Salanter points out that we are all judges. We make decisions all of the time. We have two options - one good, and one bad. The Yetzer Hara dresses the bad one up in the finest clothes, making it look very attractive. As if it will lead to wonderful things. The good option, on the other hand, is dressed in rags. Its benefits are in the next world. It does not promise any wealth or honor in this world. We must judge the emmes! We cannot let the clothes fool us! "Distance yourself from a shekker!" commands the Torah. Undress that Yetzer Hora! Expose his lies! See through the exterior into the true beauty of the mitzvah. Kinderlach, may all of your decisions be emmes!
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