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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Vayigash

Thank you. Think Nothing of It.

Adapted from Da'as Torah, Parshas Vayigash
by Rav Yerucham Levovitz, zt"l, Mirrer Mashgiach.

And now, you did not send me here, but G-d, and He made me a father to Pharaoh, a lord over all his household, and a ruler over the entire land of Egypt. (Bereishis 45:8)

There is a very fascinating Medrash about the lighting of the Menorah: Hakadosh Baruch Hu told Moshe, "Take pure olive oil and light the Menorah." Don't think I need the light. Rather, I want you to turn on lights for me just as I do for you. Why? To elevate you in front of all the Nations. They should say that Yisroel is giving light to the One who gives everyone light. This can be compared to a person traveling with a blind-man. The sighted person says to his blind friend, "Come with me and I'll lead the way for you." The blind man follows his sighted friend. When they arrive home, the sighted man says to the blind man, "Light the candle for me and turn on the lights. I don't want you to have to owe me a favor for my having led you on the way. So turn on the lights for me." The sighted person is like Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the blind man is like Yisroel. Thus Hakadosh Baruch Hu told Yisroel, light the Menorah for Me, just like I give light to you. (Shemos Rabba 36:2) This Medrash gives us an insight into a very basic operative of human nature. When someone does a favor for someone, he doesn't want to get paid back. This does not stem from his generosity. On the contrary. He wants the other fellow to remain indebted for the favor forever. Consequently, he doesn't want to take anything in return.

If Reuven does Shimon a big favor and then Shimon says to Reuven, "I can't thank you enough" and is very effusive with his thanks, Reuven may respond, "Think nothing of it." At first glance, we think to ourselves, "Reuven is a good guy and so is Shimon." Shimon thanked Reuven profusely and Reuven said, "Think nothing of it!"

However, the Medrash is teaching us that it is very likely that both Reuven and Shimon have a hidden agenda here. Shimon does not want to be beholden to Reuven, therefore, he thanks him profusely. He buys him Shabbos flowers. He sends him a candy basket. Why? Shimon wants to relieve himself of the duty to be beholden to Reuven for the favor he received from him. On the other hand, Reuven's attitude is "This guy owes me big time." So he tells Shimon, "Think nothing of it. Do not say another word!" Why? Reuven does not want Shimon to pay off his obligation to acknowledge the favor. Reuven wants Shimon to remember it every time he sees him. The hidden dynamics are that people who are indebted do not want to feel indebted and those who have done favors want to have those favors remembered forever. They want to remain in control of the person they helped. This is what often goes on in human relationships.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu does just the opposite. When a person does any favor for another, he should immediately see to it to get something from the other fellow. When you do a favor for someone, if you really mean his benefit, make sure that he does not remain beholden to you. When you loan someone money, certainly he promises to pay back the loan. However, in return for the favor you just did him (by giving him the loan), try to take some favor back from him. (Understandably, this must be done in such a way that it does not violate the prohibition of ribis). In this way, he will have the opportunity to pay you back for your favor. Just like you did him a favor, he feels he did you a favor in return. This is just the opposite of the fundamental disposition of people.

This is also the underlying principle behind all the mitzvos. Do you think Hakadosh Baruch Hu needs your mitzvos? Does He need anything from us? What in the world can you give Him? And yet Hakadosh Baruch Hu arranged His Creation in such a way as if He needs us.

There is a remarkable Zohar. The possuk in Tehillim (68:35) says, "Give power to G-d." The Zohar (Parshas Bo) comments, "When Yisroel behave improperly, it is as if they weaken the power of G-d. But when they act properly, they give strength and power to Hakadosh Baruch Hu." What is going on here? We give strength to G-d? Why did He do this? We see from here that this is the fundamental Principle of all of Creation. Hakadosh Baruch Hu does unlimited never-ending favors for us. But that's not the ultimate good. When He benefits us, we would remain eternally indebted to Him, and ultimately it is not good for the person to remain eternally indebted. It is humiliating. Therefore, Hashem, in order to bestow a perfect benefit arranged it that we, so to speak give back to Him in return. "Give power to G-d" - Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave us, and we, in a way, also give Him. "Light the Menorah, just like I give you light."

This phenomenon occurs reversely also. When someone wrongs another, the victim wants this guy to remain guilty forever. No matter what, he should never come clean. He perpetrated a downright despicable crime and he should feel guilty forever. The Rosh in Orchos Chaim (110) states, "Don't judge iniquity to one who comes before you to apologize, whether true or false."

Rav Yitzchak (Itzele) Blazer, zt"l, used to point out a very interesting insight into human behavior. When someone comes to apologize for what he had done to his friend, there is a natural tendency to respond, "What are you making such a ruckus about? What'd you do anyway? Don't worry about it. It's nothing." Sounds very nice. He took it very well. But again, the truth is often just the contrary. He really doesn't want to hear any apology whatsoever. He wants the guilty party to remain with no excuse, and to remain a filthy, dirty, corrupt person. Therefore, the Rosh comes to tell us, "Don't judge iniquity to one who comes before you to apologize, whether true" If he is apologizing sincerely, then certainly, you have an obligation to hear him out and see the truth. He is doing teshuva and is no longer guilty.

However, what happens "even if it is false?" You know this fellow is faking it. His apology is absolutely insincere. He wants to pull the wool over your eyes and make you think he is now your best friend and has changed his ways. What does the Rosh tell us to do? Ignore what you know and listen to him out. Give him the impression that he has indeed fooled you and you think he is sincere.

But let's say you don't follow the Rosh's instructions. This fellow comes to lower himself before you and offer his apologies over what he did to you. So you now take the opportunity to pour out your entire laundry list of accusations. It could very well be that your misconduct is worse than the original crime itself.

This concept is totally nonexistent by most people! Everyone knows that there is a Shulchan Aruch regarding wrongdoers and how to deal with them. But they also have to know that there is a complete Shulchan Aruch how the individual must respond when wronged. "Do not despise a thief if he steals to sate his appetite, for he is hungry" (Mishlei 6:30). This is not just a commendable thing to do; it is a directive how to act with a thief; how to talk with him, how to judge him. It's a Shulchan Aruch unto itself.

Yosef's brothers made a mistake and sold him as a slave with all the ensuing consequences. After 22 years of suffering in his Egyptian exile, he finally had them in his hand as he revealed his true identity. And here we see how Yosef Hatzaddik tried to assure them that there really had been no wrongdoing. "But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that G-d sent me before you And now, you did not send me here, but G-d, and He made me a father to Pharaoh, a lord over all his household, and a ruler over the entire land of Egypt" (Bereishis 45:5,8). He turned the entire incident inside out. After all was said and done, he made it as if he owed them thanks for everything they had done to him! Yosef wasn't just uttering some plain niceties. He was talking Torah. That was the truth. We have to study and be amazed how far Yosef Hatzaddik went to smooth everything over and transform the wrongdoing so that now he remains indebted to them! Yosef Hatzaddik understood very well that there is a Shulchan Aruch for the victim. This was his guiding light to judge the entire episode, and it was from this principle that his conduct emanated. And if he had not acted thus, it is possible that his wrongdoing would have been worse than theirs!

Chazal tell us: Better the harshness of the Fathers than the humbleness of the children. What was the harshness of the Fathers? "And Jacob was annoyed, and he quarreled with Lavan, and he said to Lavan, "What is my transgression? What is my sin, that you have pursued me? For you have felt about all my things. What have you found of all the utensils of your house? Put it here, in the presence of my kinsmen and your kinsmen, and let them decide between the two of us" (31:36,37). Rav Simone said, [Yaakov was telling him] "It is normal for a son-in-law who lives with his father-in-law to take advantage of some small utensil. And yet here you searched everything and you couldn't even find a pin or a needle!"

And not the humbleness of the children. "And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and he came and said before Yonason, "What have I done? What is my transgression and what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?" (Shmuel I 20:1). As Dovid tries to appease Yonason he mentioned bloodshed and murder. He seeks my life. (Bereishis Rabba 74:7)

Dovid was criticized for having mentioned blood-shed in his statement of appeasement with Yonason. Yaakov Avinu did nothing of the sort. After everything that Lavan had done to him, he had worked 20 years in his house, his "contract" had been changed a hundred times, he had worked seven long years for Rochel and then he had been tricked into marrying Leah. As the Haggada states explicitly, Lavan "wanted to uproot everything." And in spite of all this when he confronted Lavan he tried to justify himself and all he mentioned was, "why are you angry with me?" This is the Shulchan Aruch for the one wronged. This is so alien to us. When someone does anything wrong against us, we feel that nothing is forbidden and we can take out all our frustrations against him and even libel him. Think about this tragic mistake we make and how far we are from the truth.

Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-325-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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