Monday, August 20, 2007

Messilas Yehsarim (Mon. Aug. 20th)

For a refuah shleimi for Yoseph ben Rivka Rachel Yuta, young man who is due to be married in a couple of weeks who suddenly and inexplicably became terribly ill.

He's out of intensive care now, boruch Hashem, but he still needs our tephillos.

CHAPTER FOUR (Continued):


The advice given to those of lesser understanding will be based upon their level of comprehension, and will concern itself with respect, which they so desire.

It is obvious to all thinking people that the division of spiritual levels in the world of truth, that is, the World to Come, is based upon the performance of righteous acts. And that one who is greater in such things than his friend will be exalted above him, while one who is lacking in them will be "lower". As that is so, therefore, how can we hide our eyes from our actions, or diminish our efforts, if in the end-- when we can no longer repair what we have damaged--it will cause us sorrow? But there are fools who only want to have it easy. They say: "Why should we burden ourselves with all this saintliness and abstention? Isn't it enough that we're not bad and doomed to Gehenom? We're not about to exert ourselves to get into the Garden of Eden. If we don't get a big portion, we'll get a small one, and that will be just fine for us. We don't plan to burden ourselves with all this."

We would ask them just one question: Could they so easily stand seeing one of their friends honored and glorified more than they, ruling over them, as can happen in this ever-changing world? Or, even more so, could they stand seeing one of their servants or some pitiable, low pauper doing so and not be pained by or seethe in the sight? Certainly not. As we know, all of our efforts are rooted in having dominance over whomever we are able to, and on placing ourselves in a higher position.

Such is the nature of the jealousy of one person over another: if you see your friend in a position superior to yours while you yourself remain static, you will endure it (because you must-- there may be nothing you can do to change it) but your heart will wither within you. So if you find it so hard to be in an inferior position in relation to illusory and unreal characteristics, and to suffer a kind of inferiority that is only external, as opposed to a "superiority" that is vain and untrue-- how would you ever be able to endure seeing yourself being inferior to people to whom you are now superior in the place of true, valued, and eternal superiority, the World to Come? Though you cannot yet recognize that situation and its worth, and so you do not concern yourself with it, you will certainly recognize the truth of it in its time, to your embarrassment and everlasting great sorrow. An easy-going nature such as this, which they adapt for themselves to make their Divine service easier, is a rationalization of the yetzer hara, and not anything based on truth. There would be no need for rationalizations if they would see the truth of the matter; but as they do not care about it, and instead keep on going their own ways, the rationalizations will remain with them until it will be too late-- when they can no longer repair what was ruined.

King Solomon was referring to this when he said "Do whatever is in the powers of your hand to do, for there is no action, accounting for, knowledge..." (Ecclesiastes 9:10). That is, what you hold off doing until the power the Creator has given to your hands-- which is the power of free choice (given you your whole life, and through which you are free and commanded to act)-- has left you, you cannot do in the grave or in the netherworld. For by then you will no longer have the power to do it. If you do not increase in righteous acts in your lifetime you cannot do so afterward; if you do not account for your actions here, you cannot do so then; if you do not make yourself wise in this world, you cannot do so in the grave for, (Ibid.) "there is no action, accounting for, knowledge or wisdom in the netherworld, where you are going."

But the advice for the great majority of people would follow along the lines of detailing rewards and punishments that are based upon the gravity and extent of the law. In truth we should constantly be shivering and trembling. Who could endure the great Day of Judgment? Who could be accounted righteous before his Creator, whose observing eye is exacting upon everything, great and small? As our sages said about the prophet's statement "'And He tells one his conversation' (Amos 4:13) -- Even one's small-talk with his wife is related to him at the hour of judgment" (Chagiga 5b); as well as, in reference to Psalms 50:3, "U'svevav nis'ara me'od: "This comes to teach us that the Holy One (blessed be He) is exacting with His saints to a hair's breadth."

Even the patriarch Abraham-- the Abraham beloved of his Creator, referred to as "Abraham My beloved" (Isaiah 41:8) -- could not avoid judgment on the small things about which he was not particularly careful. He said "How will I know?" (Genesis 15:8) and the Holy One (blessed be He) said, "By your life, you shall surely know that your descendants shall be strangers" (Yalkut 1:5). And because he made a covenant with Abimelech without the express command of G-d, the Holy One (blessed be He) said, "By your life, I will delay the joy of your sons by seven generations" (Yalkut 1:21).

Because Jacob was angry with Rachel when she said to him, "Give me sons" (Genesis 30:1), the Midrash says that the Holy One (blessed be He) said to him, "Is that how you answer the oppressed? By your life, your sons will stand in front of her son" (Breishit Rabbah 71:10). And because (with the best of intentions) he hid Dinah in order that Esau should not take her, and because he withheld some good from his brother, G-d said of him alluding to Job 6:14, "'He keeps back goodness from his friend'-- Since you would not have her marry a circumcised man, she will marry an uncircumcised man; and since you did not allow her to marry in a permitted fashion, she will marry in a forbidden way" (Breishit Rabbah 80:3).

Because Joseph said to the chief steward, "...but remember me in conjunction with yourself" (Genesis 40:14), two years were added on to his imprisonment. And, as our sages said, because he embalmed his father without the express permission of G-d (Bereishit Rabbah 89:3), or (according to another opinion) because he heard his brothers say, "Your servant, our father" and kept still, he died before his brothers (Bereishit Rabbah 100:3).

Because David referred to words of Torah as mere "songs" he was punished by stumbling, as a result of Uzzah's words, and having his joy confounded (Sotah 35a).

Because Michal reproved David for dancing in front of the Ark of the Covenant, she was punished by not having any children other than the one she died bearing (Samuel 6:20 ff).

And because Hezekiah showed the treasury to the ministers of the Philistinian king, his sons were sentenced to be eunuchs in the court of the Babylonian king (II Kings 20:14 ff).

There are very many other such examples.

We are told in tractate Chagiga (5a) that whenever Rabbi Yochanan would reach the verse, "I will draw close to you in judgment and will be a quick witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the hired man in his wages, the widow and the fatherless..." (Malachi 3:5) he would cry, "Is there any remedy for a servant who's light and heavy actions are weighed equally against each other?"


© 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman