Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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17 Ellul 5761 - September 5, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
This is My Consolation in my Misery

by L. Jungerman

This week contains the portion of the tochochoh, the Divine Rebuke. The Midrash asks in Parshas Re'ei why the baal korei does not interrupt the Torah reading before he has completed the entire Rebuke and its curses. In other words, why is it that the person who is called up to that section must bear going through the entire gamut of curses, when these could have been divided up among the others who are called up before and after him? It replies: Said R' Chiya ben Gamda: This is because it is written, `The rebuke of Hashem, my son, do not despise' -- do not reduce the rebukes to chopped up chunks.

Shem MiShmuel explains this thought in the name of his father, author of Avnei Nezer, saying that the curses are not an end in of themselves. Rather, they are an opening, an aperture and doorway to a person to repent through them, as it is written in Iyov, "And he revealed/exposed their ear to rebuke." And if this is true, and the purpose of the curses and their reading is not an end in and of themselves but rather as a door to something else, there is no point in breaking them up. To do so can be compared to a person who comes to a place but remains standing in the doorway.

Among the responsa of the Radvaz we find the question: Why does the Rebuke in Parshas Bechukosai end with words of consolation, "And even with this all, when they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them or repulse them to annihilate them, to renege upon My covenant with them. And I will remember My covenant with Avrohom . . . ", but in the Rebuke of this week's portion, we find no such words of comfort and reassurance? The Radvaz replies that the greater measure of consolation is in the very fact that "Hashem will make your plagues remarkable" (28:59).

This begs explanation. Wherein lies the consolation in the fact that Hashem's Name is here mentioned? Can we make the mistake to think that in the Rebuke of Bechukosai where His Name is not mentioned, that it is not He Who strikes and punishes?

R' Shmuel Weintraub zt'l, rosh yeshivas Novardok in Pinsk, says: We know, as established by the Ramban, that the first Rebuke refers to the Jewish exile after the destruction of the First Temple when the Jews transgressed the three cardinal sins of the Torah, headed by that of idolatry. We know that the verses of rebuke in Bechukosai refer to "If you shall despise My statutes to violate them . . . " And there it states: "I shall destroy your high places and I shall cut down your images." The Rebuke here in Ki Sovo, says the Ramban, is directed to this present exile, for it does not even hint at any specified end to the exile. All it says is that they [the Jews] will [eventually] repent and return, and be subsequently redeemed.

Therefore, says R' Shmuel, it was necessary in the first rebuke to promise that zchus ovos, the merit of our ancestors, would not be depleted. "And I shall remember My covenant [with] Yaakov . . . " for there was the fear that the Rebuke might not be taken in the correct spirit: as mussar designed to improve the Jews and restore them to the good. For those who served idols are prone to think that the world is indeterminate, happenstance and without design. They are liable to see whatever is happening around them as chance and circumstance [a mere toss of the dice]. Therefore, it was necessary to have ancestral merit as a guarantee that there would be an end to that exile.

The present exile we are in, ever since the destruction of the Second Temple, stems from baseless hatred and not from a lack of faith in Hashem. Thus, the greatest consolation that can be had for the punishments described in the Rebuke is the very knowledge that "Hashem shall make your plagues remarkable." These are the blows inflicted through love, for the purpose of getting us back on the true path, and this is our very comfort in our misery.

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