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Weekly Chizuk


Full of Mitzvos Like a Rimon

(From Droshos Hamagid, by Rav Shabsai Yudelevitz, zt"l)

There are many elucidations regarding the lulav and esrog. The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Vayikra 247) says that the four species of the Lulav represent four different types of Jews:

1. The Esrog has a good taste and a good fragrance. It represents a person with both wisdom (Torah learning) and good deeds.

2. The Hadas (myrtle) has a good fragrance, but is inedible. It represents a person who has good deeds, but lacks wisdom.

3. The Lulav (date palm) is edible, but has no smell. This represents the person with wisdom, but without good deeds.

4. The Aravah (willow) has neither taste nor smell. It represents a person with neither good deeds nor Torah learning.

This last category disturbs us. The aravah represents the lowly simple Jew who doesn't seem to have any virtue. Why is "he" put together with the other three categories of Yidden in the Arba Minim? He doesn't seem to be worth very much. However, we have to understand that every Jew is very precious. The gemara (Berachos 57a) states that Klal Yisroel are compared to a Rimon (pomegranate). Even the emptiest one is full of mitzvos like a rimon.

To better understand the self-sacrifice that simple Jews are willing to suffer, even the lowest of the low, in order to perform mitzvos, let us consider this following story:

One Erev Rosh Hashana, a terrible predicament arose in one of the outlying villages in the hills of Russia. Russia, as you know has very cold and severe winters. The previous year had been extremely harsh as winter attacked with its full ferocity. The main victims of course were the fruit trees; together with the delicate esrogim. That year esrogim were a rarity, even an ordinary esrog to be used as a medicinal remedy.

Rosh Hashana passed, the great Day of Judgment and Awe, and in that village there was not even one esrog kosher for the mitzva.

The faces of the villagers revealed their anxiety. How could they miss out on the mitzva of lulav and esrog this year? Aren't they Jews like Jews everywhere? What would the Yom Tov davening look like without arba minim? That's the core of the whole davening! Thus the Yidden went around dejected and dismal, seeing no rays of hope on the horizon.

It is not surprising, then, that when the day before Yom Tov a peddler passed through the town with an esrog, that the news hit the village like a tidal wave of emotion and joy. Here, at the last minute, their prayers had been answered. They would have the entire set of arba minim! Everyone would be able to take his turn to bentch on the lone esrog they had found.

However, their joy was short lived. The town leaders started negotiating with the peddler, and they found that the esrog was not just kosher, it was superb! It was perfect! They hadn't seen such an esrog in years. And for such an esrog they would have to pay! The peddler immediately sensed their urgency to purchase his esrog and he demanded an exorbitant price, 3 times its real value. It was way more than the poor villagers had in the town treasury; they simply did not have the money.

All the efforts of the best businessmen in town fell on deaf ears. The peddler understood the opportunity in front of him. He saw that the town had no other esrog and they were under pressure to buy. So he stood his ground and would not budge.

"It's Erev Succos and I have to get home before Yom Tov. I don't live close by so I have to hurry. Nu! Quickly make up your minds so I can be on my way. If you want the esrog for the price I set, fine. Otherwise, I have to be going."

"What do we do?" the city council murmured among themselves. "How can we leave the village without an esrog. This is our only opportunity, and it is a fabulous esrog! But where are we going to get such an exorbitant amount of money from?" They racked their brains and finally decided that the only eitza was to make a community collection. Everyone would chip in whatever he could. Hopefully together with the town funds they would have enough to purchase the esrog and perform the mitzvah with all its glory.

From plan to action.

Messengers were sent up and down all the streets to speak to each of the residents to make every effort to collect the needed funds. In general, you could say that everyone donated according to their ability, not only willingly, but joyously in anticipation of the mitva in front of them.

Everyone - that is, except for one. There was one simple farmer in town who announced publically that he was not interested in donating one zlota for this. "If there's an esrog in town, I'll gladly shake it. But if not…. Nu. I'll be exempt from the mitzvah."

All attempts to sway his resolve fell on deaf ears. He was determined not to listen to anyone.

The messengers were forced to turn their efforts elsewhere and continue the collection. They gathered all the money together and found they had almost made it. Only a small amount was missing. They approached a few of the more wealthy residents to fill the gap. It would difficult for them. They would have to scrimp on their daily household expenses. But it was worth it to be able to have a lulav and esrog for Succos.

Thus the everyone joined in with self-sacrifice - everyone, that is, except for one - to buy the very expensive esrog which was brought to the Rav's house for safe keeping. The news spread like wildfire and the streets were filled with joy.

The morning of Yom Tov the Rav arrived in shul with the lulav and esrog in his hands and immediately after davening everyone stood in line waiting his turn to take the set of arba minim together with the fabulous esrog they had bought.

Suddenly, everyone was flabbergasted to see who also took his place in line - that scrooge of a Yid who had refused to donate a penny for the esrog. "Chutzpa!" they all shouted through clenched teeth. The Shul President out-shouted them and announced, "Whoever didn't donate his portion to buy the esrog cannot take it and bentch on it! There's nothing more to talk about!"

This Jew, seeing everyone bentching on lulav and esrog, was overcome with holy emotion. He had to shake the lulav! He had to perform the mitzvah! He pleaded before the president; he even agreed to pay double his share after Yom Tov. Just give him a chance to bentch on the lulav and esrog.

But the president was not to be moved. "Never! No chance!" he declared. "We have to make a precedent that everyone should see that anyone who doesn't shoulder his share of responsibility in the needs of the community cannot join them in a mitzvah that was bought with such blood and tears!"

The line proceeded as each one took his turn to bentch on the lulav. The line finished and the gabbai took the set in his hands to leave shul and bring it back to the Rav's house. The poor Yid stood there with his heart pounding. He had to shake that lulav! He was totally overwhelmed with emotion. Suddenly, a streak of lightning flashed through his brain. He ran towards the gabbai, picked him up with his two hands, said the bracha, and started shaking him together with the lulav and esrog he was holding!

Everyone in shul broke out laughing at the bizarre sight. Here was the simple farmer in the middle of the shul, holding the stunned gabbai who was holding the arba minim, and shaking and shaking….

"How stupid can a person be?" they all laughed.

One person, however, was not laughing. The Rav. He was studying this spectacle with grave seriousness. "If this Yid's desire to perform the mitva is so great that he is willing to humiliate himself in front of the entire community by picking up the gabbai and shaking him, we have to let him do the mitzvah. Especially since he already made a bracha and we can prevent a bracha l'vatala!" The Rav poskined. And the gabbai immediately obeyed. He handed the set of arba minim over to the farmer, who proceeded to shake them with tears streaming down his cheeks.

Imagine this poor simple villager having lived a long and hard life, arriving in the Beis Din Shel Maalah. All his merits are weighed on one side of the scale, but they were too few to tip the balance and the verdict is guilty. The weight of all his aveiros is too great for the few mitzvos he was able to perform in his lifetime. But when the Angels of Doom come to take him away to gehinom they are surprised to see a little white angel running into Beis Din. "Stop," he screams out. "Don't take him away. I want to add something in his defense."

"What do you wish to add," asked the Dayanim. The defending attorney proceeded. "You have listed before you all the mitzvos this fellow performed every day during his lifetime, until the day he died. Surely among the mitzos is Lulav and Esrog. There was one time he performed the mitzvah with great mesiras nefesh, with embarrassment and humiliation. Is this mitzvah in the list also?"

"Certainly," responded the dayanim. "Every mitzvah is carefully weighed and listed. We took into consideration every detail; the lulav, the esrog the arba minim. But the scales are still tipped toward the side of guilty. We are forced to declare the verdict of gehinom."

"Yes, yes, I understand," continued the defender, a smirk of victory faintly on his face. "You took into consideration the lulav, you took into consideration the esrog. You put them all on the scale. You didn't forget to put in there the hadassim and aravos. But what about the gabbai? Did you put him in there also? When he shook the gabbai, and suffered the calumny of the entire town like knives piercing his body, he only did this l'sheim shomayim. He did this for the glory of Hashem Yisborach in order to perform a mitzvah properly! How can you leave out this precious detail?" The defending angel finished his plea.

Upon hearing this speech, the members of the Beis Din deliberated the case anew. They went into consultation how to weigh in the gabbai. They had never done this before. They had never heard of such a thing, a person shaking the gabbai who was holding the arba minim. But they said to each other that this argument was quite valid. The mesiras nefesh of this simple Jew must be taken into consideration.

And so, the verdict was unanimously declared. "The gabbai must be put onto the scale," poskined the dayanim. His weight was just enough to tip the scale to the side of merit, and so the simple farmer won his case. He had come out successful in his Heavenly lawsuit and so was brought to Gan Eden to take his place in Olam Haba.

And so, now we finally have a concrete inkling into the statement of Chazal: Even the empty ones among them are filled with mitzvos like a rimon!

Wishing everyone a Gut Yom Tov!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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