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Weekly Chizuk

Yom Kippur

Your Benevolence and Your Judgment

Adapted from Chochmas Chaim, a new collection of previously unpublished shmuezim by Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt"l, Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, Yerushalayim.

Your charity is like the mountains of G-d; Your judgments are [like] the vast deep. (Tehillim 36:7)

The middos of Hakadosh Baruch Hu have two opposite aspects. On the one hand, He shows unlimited benevolence and chessed, a treasure house of bounty flowing from Heaven. All it takes is a little bit of contemplation to realize that wherever one turns he can spot tremendous goodness. The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba Emor 27) tells that R. Yehoshua ben Levi was visiting Rome. He saw there beautiful marble columns covered in tapestry to protect them from cracking in the summer heat or becoming brittle in the winter cold. He recited the possuk "Your charity is like the mountains of G-d." "You are the one who gives (the Romans the wealth to erect such columns) and when You give, You give in abundance." R. Yehoshua ben Levi contemplated on everything that he came into contact with, and he was able to see the heights of Hashem's bounty. Wherever one turns a person can see it if he will only pay attention to his surroundings.

The gemara in Erchin (16b) states, "What is the limit of torments? (Meaning to what extent can an incident be labeled a Heaven sent torment.) Mar the son of Ravina said, even if he put his shirt on inside out (and now he has the bother of taking it off and putting it on again). Rava said even if he reached into his pocket to take out 3 coins and pulled out 2 (and now he has the bother of reaching in his pocket to get the third coin)."

These minor annoyances are definitely a nuisance. But they're a normal part of life. We've gotten used to all these minor inconveniences. In spite of this, in Heaven they are called torments. According to the original plans of Creation Man should not suffer even such minor annoyances. Even after the curse of "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread," still nothing should happen to bother or upset him. This is so foreign to us being that we've become so used to a life of constant minor hassles. That's life. However, on the real scale of Creation, all these "hassles" are all a result of our transgressions. Sin ruins our situation. If we could be free of sin, we would live a life or peace and tranquility, without even the smallest bother.

This is an example of how far reaching is "Your charity is like the mighty mountains." If only Man would not ruin his world, his situation would be perfect. He would be given a perfect world of pure peace and simcha.

On the other hand, "Your judgments are [like] the vast deep." Even those extreme examples of petty torments, the torment of being bothered to put your hand in your pocket a second time, even such a petty torment is called a Heaven sent torment. It is Your Mishpat.

The above Midrash continues that R. Yehoshua ben Levi saw in Rome an indigent who had no clothes and covered himself with reed mats. He then recited the possuk, "Your judgments are [like] the vast deep." He saw the severity of punishment and disgrace. It's a terribly degrading to walk around naked and all one has to cover himself is just a bit of reed mat. Such is what happens to a person after sin.

Let's take this example of the poor man one step deeper. This poor man, walking around with no clothes on his back, in the cold, with no home or family or friends to look after him, this poor soul in his loneliness, this is the most extreme example of personal loss. This is a prime example of the depths of Your Judgments.

And at one and the same time if we look even more deeply, we can see Hashem's loving mercy and charity. In spite of everything, this poor soul is alive. Hashem is sustaining and feeding him and taking care of him. At one and the same time we see the depths of judgment, we see the heights of love and charity.

R. Yehoshua ben Levi looked around him and observed Hashem's justice. On one hand he saw mountains of tzedaka. And on the other hand he saw the depths of judgment.

A person is totally surrounded with tzedaka and judgment. Wherever one turns he sees both sides of the coin. If a person wants to know his spiritual position, he only has to evaluate himself with the Heavenly measuring rod: "The way a person measures, is the way they (Heaven) measure him." It is as if Hakadosh Baruch Hu sends him a prophet to teach him where he is really holding and what he has to fix up. With a little bit of thought on how he is being measured by Heaven, with "charity" or "mishpat," he can learn how he has to measure others and behave. Unfortunately, most of us are blind to all this and don't see the message being sent. A person evaluates himself with sweet glorious dreams of who he really is and corrupts any message being sent him.

I want to tell you an incident that I saw which exemplifies this lesson, how much a person is blind to the Heavenly "measure for measure." A certain family with which I am acquainted, was offered a wonderful shidduch. The boy was an outstanding genius and accomplished in all ways. However, he had one shortcoming. He had a slight limp in one foot. The girl and the rest of the family had already agreed to the shidduch in spite of the limp, being that the boy was so outstanding. Only the mother stubbornly refused because of the limp. Because of the mother's adamancy the shidduch fell through.

One day, this woman went to give her husband a cup of coffee. She tripped and broke her leg. This taught her a lesson: be careful even when you're walking in your own house. You can trip and break your leg.

That's it. That's all she learned. Nothing more. Instead of contemplating on Hashem's deep judgments, to see the measure for measure in what happened and realize it was a result of her refusal of an excellent shidduch for her daughter. Instead of all this, she saw something entirely different: that's life.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu sends us messengers in the form of measure for measure and we distort the message. Even when we pay attention to everything going on around us, even when very clear messages are sent, we don't want to see them. This teaches us how weak our minds are and how influenced it is from even a slight personal blindness.

The holy Zohar tells us, "A person walks this world and thinks he will live forever." How can that be? Doesn't he know that every generation comes to an end as a new generation is born? Is he denying reality? How can he honestly think that the whole world is his?

The answer is that in spite of the fact that everyone understands intellectually in his mortality and that eventually his time will come. Still, that doesn't affect his daily life. He goes around on this earth and acts as if the world belongs to him and he will live forever. That is the power a person has to distort his otherwise clear vision.

May we all merit being sealed in the Book of Life.

Wishing everyone A Gut Gebensht Yahr!

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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