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From Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Sichos Mussar, 5732, p. 140.
Rava said, "Whoever is 'ma'avir al midosov' (passes over his feelings), all his sins are passed over." This is expressed in the possuk, 'Who pardons iniquity, and passes over the transgression' (Michah 7:18). To whom does He pardon iniquity, to one who passes over transgression. (Rashi - Strict Divine Judgment is not exacting with this person. Instead, it leaves him alone and departs.) (Rosh Hashana 17a)
The gemara interprets this possuk as referring to a person who is a wrongdoer. Heaven has not atoned him of his sins. However, he has a certain habit in his dealings with others: he overlooks and passes over what other people do to him. In return, Heaven will change its attitude towards him and pass over his sins. This is wonderful advice for us as we approach the Day of Judgment. The segula to get through Rosh Hashana is to pass over your strictness with others. In other words, don't stand on principle.
Rav Huna, the son of Rav Yehoshua, fell ill. Rav Papa came to visit him. Upon seeing how critically ill he was, he told the family to prepare shrouds for the funeral. In the end, however, he recovered. When Rav Papa returned and saw Rav Huna alive and well, he felt very embarrassed. He asked Rav Huna what had transpired (upstairs). Rav Huna told him that yes, the Heavenly court had decided that it was time for him to pass on to the next world. However, Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to the Heavenly Tribunal that since he doesn't stand on his principles but overlooks things, so too the Beis Din Shel Maalah should not be strict with him and subsequently they allowed him to return to the land of the living.
Here is a living example of the power of overlooking. Rav Huna was on his death bed, about to expire. And this character trait saved him from the Heavenly charges against him and brought him back to life.
However, there is a catch: Rav Acha bar Chanina said, this is like a delicious fatty piece of meat, with a thorn in it. The possuk states, "and passes over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage." Rashi explains that this wonderful segula is a tremendous consolation for us. It is a powerful tool. But it has a very difficult condition that unfortunately makes it relevant to only very few people: it only works for one who makes himself like a remnant, a piece of residue.
In Sanhedrin (111b) Rashi explains what this "remnant" or "residue" is: One must consider himself to have no importance and be untainted of conceit.
True, Hakadosh Baruch Hu overlooks the offences of one who acts in kind to his fellow man. However, this applies only to someone absolutely modest and self-effacing. If one excuses others of their offences due to his own humility, then he gains Hakadosh Baruch Hu's leniency. However, if he lets wrongdoing pass for some other reason, his actions do not deserve this segula.
It is not enough to just decide to overlook other people's offences to you. It has to come from a deep internalization of an unassuming nature. Therefore it is incumbent, in these days leading up to Rosh Hashana, to concentrate on acquiring the trait of humility. When this is finally, in some way, actually pertinent to us, and we start sincerely overlooking what people do to us, then we will have some leg to stand on when we stand before the Heavenly Beis Din on Rosh Hashana.
* * * There is an amazing incident related in the sefer Ish Al Hachoma (vol I, p. 164) that illustrates this point.
When Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld served as head of the beis din of Rav Yehushua Leib Diskin, he adjucated a very difficult and complicated case involving a husband and wife. After hearing all the sides and carefully studying the arguments, he decided against the wife.
The wife's family was terribly upset by the decision. There were some members of the family who were of a tough nature and refused to bow to the decision. They stormed into Rav Sonnenfeld's house loudly uttering threats and curses. This occurred the week before Rosh Hashana. The Rebbetzin happened to have been in an adjacent room, and was shocked at the insults emanating from the mouths of these insolent people. Being a very sensitive person, she was extremely disturbed to hear such an outburst so close to Yomim Nora'im, and she broke out crying bitterly.
The whole time Rav Sonnenfeld sat calmy by the table studying his gemara. As the turmoil grew and the clamor of the insults mounted, he suddenly rose from his seat and stood up full height. He turned to them and said sternly and emphatically, "Listen to me what I'm about to say!" Silence descended on the room. "If you are right in your arguments and your complaints, then I and my beis din made a mistake. You have handed your grievances over to Heaven and they will deal with it, may G-d the merciful have pity on us. We did the best we could and a dayan can only judge a case the way he sees it. However..." he lifted up his voice, "…if we were right and correctly judged the case, then… then…" He repeated this several times, and then stopped for a moment.
The faces of the mob turned white from Rav Sonnenfeld's harsh tone of voice. They were expecting a very sharp and vehement response and became petrified of the wrath of the Av Beis Din.
"If we were correct in our decision, I hereby inform you that I totally forgive you from the pain you have caused me and my family. I give you a bracha that you should be inscribed for a good and peaceful life!"
Stunned and embarrassed they turned and fled before the neighbors would realize what had happened.
Rav Yisroel Yaakov Bernstein, who lived nearby, upon hearing the yelling coming from the Rav's house, hurried to see what was going on. When he came in he managed to hear a few choice epithets hurled at the Rav, and then Rav Sonnenfeld's announcement. When the last of the mob left the house, Rav Bernstein turned to the Av Beis Din and asked him, "I understand why you forgave them. That is the way tzaddikim behave, they forgive their enemies. But why did you have to announce it to them so publically? Wouldn't it have been better that they be hounded by their guilt and regret their despicable behavior and come and ask the Rav proper forgiveness?"
"No. What I did was very smart," replied Rav Sonnenfeld. "The Yomim Noraim are quickly approaching. Everyone starts feeling remorse and starts probing their actions. I'm sure that erev Yom Kippur they would reconsider what they did to me, how they tormented me and my whole family. They will want to do teshuva and come and ask me to forgive them. But then the Yetzer Hara will come and try to convince them out of it: 'How can you humiliate yourselves and come and ask him to forgive you? Then you'll have to explain that really you were right, and you're just being generous in asking mechila.' Then they would have done it again and argued with the Av Beis Din and accused me of making a mistake. Chas v'shalom I would have been causing them a terrible sin on erev Yom Kippur. Therefore, before anything, I announced that I forgave them. That way, when they start having second thoughts and want to make amends, it will be easier for them to admit they made a mistake. That way everything will work out peacefully."
On Erev Yom Kippur, when Rav Sonnenfeld came back from the Kosel, he met the head of the group waiting by his front door. He turned to the Rav and asked him to forgive him. Rav Sonnenfeld accepted the apology and forgave him.
As he was leaving Rav Sonnenfeld asked him, "did you buy an esrog yet?"
"Of course," he answered smugly. "And what an esrog! I've never had such a beautiful esrog like the one I got this year. Perfect! A real pri etz hadar. But it cost me a pretty penny. I paid half a gold Napolean for it. But for such a beauty, it's worth it."
Rav Sonnenfeld gave him a warm glance. "Listen to yourself. The halacha is that for a positive mitzvah, a mitzvas aseh, a person has to be willing to give a fifth of his assets. But to avoid a negative transgression, a lo sa'aseh, one must sacrifice all of his money. Now let us think together. The Torah prohibits us from cursing a dayan. What does this mean? If the plaintiff agrees with the dayan, he's certainly not going to curse him. He'll give him a bracha. So it must be referring to a case when the plaintiff thinks the dayan made a mistake and judged wrongly. That's when the Torah comes and warns us not to curse the judge. So now where is your logic for paying so much for an esrog, only a mitzvas aseh, and not thinking twice about cursing the Av Beis Din, a mitzvas lo sa'aseh?
When he used to tell over this incident, Rav Yosef Chaim added an insight into the possuk in Mishlei (16:7), "When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies be at peace with him."
"When they left my house, I felt the need to look into myself. Here it is, right before the Day of Judgment. Is it a coincidence that they barged into my house and told me the things they said? There definitely was some reason I had to hear it. Therefore, I took on myself to double my learning schedule in Gemara and Mishnayos, and even to say some Tehillim every day. Suddenly the Yetzer Hara saw that his plans had been foiled. He had intended to work up these Jews right before the holiest day of the year and the yetzer hara would gain bundles of aveiros. And here is Rav Yosef Chaim turning the whole thing around and giving everyone merits for the Day of Judgment! Maybe it's better that this fellow should ask mechila from the Av Beis Din so he doesn't take on any more Torah and Yiras Shomayim. Who knows what else will come out of this?"
This is the meaning of the possuk. "When a man's ways please the Lord…" When the Yetzer Hara sees that not only has he been foiled, but Hashem was pleased with the person he was trying to trip up, then the Yetzer Hara causes his enemies to make peace with him in order that he shouldn't become encouraged to take on any more mitzvos.
© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers) and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop - Lakewood).
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