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"Each of you shall not aggrieve his fellow, and you shall fear your G-d; for I am Hashem, your G-d" (Vayikra 25:17).

Rashi brings the explanation of the Sages that the Torah commands us here not to vex one another by words - that one should not annoy his fellow-man.

The Torah wants us to be sensitive of another's feelings and not cause him any type of grief or pain. Most of us would readily agree that this is the proper way to behave. The problem is, however, that we usually judge others according to our own values. In other words, if something is not important to us, we won't consider it important to anyone else, although it might mean a lot to him.

Rav Varshavchik z"l once told us the following. A person was very distraught and he decided to take a walk in the park where he hoped the serene surroundings would help calm him down. In the center of the park was a beautiful lake and he was attracted to its calm waters. Unfortunately, a little boy was playing with his paper ship in the waters, and, in his present frame of mind, the man found this to be annoying him. He went to a different part of the lake, but found another child playing there too. Frustrated, he kicked the paper toy and it disappeared under the water. The child began to cry hysterically.

A passerby saw what had happened and rebuked the man for being so insensitive to a child's delight. The man defended himself and argued that, in any event, the item was just a paper ship; worth merely a few coins.

Reb Yisroel Salanter ztvk"l says that the man is gravely mistaken. True, in the world of mature adults, a paper ship is almost a worthless item. But to the child who was playing with it, it was worth much, much more. In the Heavenly Tribunal, says Reb Yisroel, the man will be punished as if he had actually drowned a great steamship filled with merchandise!

The same applies in the positive sense. When one wants to favor someone, he must do it in accordance with the receiver's standards; not his own. Otherwise, he may give someone something which he considers to be very valuable; yet the receiver considers it worthless. I saw a very nice sign this week. It read: "To love someone is to give him what he really likes."

The following, beautiful story is related in the Haggadah Shel Pesach, Kehilas Ya'akov. On Shabbos morning, Harav Shach zt"l used to distribute candies to the children who would come with their fathers to visit him. Although there is a very good eiruv (a Rabbinic device to enable carrying on Shabbos in places where it would otherwise be forbidden) in Bnei Brak, some ultra-Orthodox people do not rely on it and do not carry anyway. When the child of such a family would appear before him, the Rosh Yeshiva would tell him, "Your family does not carry here on Shabbos. However, tonight, when the Shabbos ends, I will send your candy to you with your father."

Such was the sensitivity of a Torah giant to a little child.


In this week's parashah, we read the terrifying tochachah, the words of rebuke, with which Hashem warns of the frightening consequences of not following in the ways of the Torah and obeying her commandments. As we discussed before, every good parent knows that with love alone, offering only rewards for compliance, one cannot assure that his child will behave properly. There must also be the balance of fear, the concern for punishment (within the proper limits, of course), which will help the boy or girl choose properly.

We generally consider pain and suffering a very negative phenomenon and will do whatever possible to rid ourselves of them. One who looks through the eyes of the Torah, however, has a totally different viewpoint.

A story is told of a devout Jew who had more than the average portion of suffering. Poverty and sickness were his lot, together with all of the attributes which accompany them. After many years of torment and affliction, he decided to visit a Tzaddik (holy man) and ask him how he could rid himself of his yisurim (suffering).

When the man came to the Tzaddik's home, he was let in by the Rebbetzin (the Rabbi's wife). He explained to her that he needed her husband's help to get rid of the yisurim which were tormenting him beyond his ability to persevere. She politely asked him to wait on the couch until the holy man would be able to accept him. Time passed by and the forlorn fellow fell asleep on the couch. Suddenly he began to dream that he had passed away and his soul ascended to the Heavens. He watched in fear as he saw his soul approach the Heavenly Tribunal who began to review every detail of his life in "the other world."

The man breathed a sigh of relief as he heard the Defending Angel of Mercy announce proudly that he had fulfilled many mitzvahs in his lifetime and that a great portion in Paradise awaited him. However, he gasped with horror as he heard the Prosecuting Angel declare that he had also sinned abundantly in his lifetime and had not repented before he died. The Angel explained that from every sin had been created a black, evil angel who would first come and torture him in Gehinom for having caused his creation. Only after he had been purified of his sins could he receive his rightful reward.

Even as the Prosecuting Angel spoke, busses upon busses, filled with black, sadistic angels began to arrive. As far as the man could see, there were more and more busses, bringing hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of demons who would cause him anguish as he had never known before. The poor, unfortunate soul shuddered to think what awaited him.

Just when he thought he was doomed to his fate, the man heard the compassionate Defending Angel of Mercy speak up again. He announced that the soul in question had suffered very much in his lifetime and that, according to the Heavenly Rules, a little suffering in "the other world" cancels out a lot of suffering in the World of Truth. As the good Angel spoke, busses upon busses, filled with yisurim, began to arrive. As every bus unloaded its "passengers" more and more black angels disappeared before the man's eyes. He began to feel very encouraged until, to his utmost horror, the busses of yisurim stopped coming and there were still tens of thousands of black angels left.

Terrified, the man began to cry out, "Aren't there any more yisurim to help me? Please, oh please, bring on some more yisurim to save me from the fires of Hell."

Suddenly, the man heard the Rebbetzin calling him and waking him from his traumatic dream. As he began to come to himself, his heart palpitating at a dangerous rate, he heard her say to him, "My husband can see you now. I'm sure that, with Hashem's help, he'll be able to free you of your yisurim."

The man regained his composure and realized that the Tzaddik had already helped him by revealing to him the hidden blessing of his suffering. "I won't waste his time unnecessarily," he told the Rebbetzin. "Please thank him very much for all of his help."

And with that the man left, happy to receive all that Hashem knew was best for him in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel