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15 Kislev 5764 - December 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Lapse Of A Hairsbreadth: A Shmuess

by HaRav Sholom Schwadron, zt'l

Part II

We see that Timna wanted to convert, but the Ovos rejected her, so she went to live with Elifaz, and Amolek was produced from their union. Timna was certainly rejected for her bad character traits, yet Heaven meted out punishment for this. With the great Ovos, even a small lapse can draw a big punishment.

For Our Ultimate Benefit

The posuk (Yirmiyohu 30:10-11) says, "And you, don't be afraid My servant Yaakov," says Hashem, "and do not be terrified Yisroel, for behold I will save you from afar . . . for I am with you," says Hashem, "to save you, for I will wreak destruction upon all the nations where I have scattered you . . . and I will make you suffer for judgment and I will not erase you entirely."

The Zohar (parshas Bolok 199) asks, "Why does the posuk say, `and I will make you suffer for judgment (lamishpot)?' It should have said, `and I will make you suffer in judgment (bamishpot).' However, on that day, Hakodosh Boruch Hu will first bring a cure to Yisroel. What is the cure? Hakodosh Boruch Hu gives Yisroel suffering all the time, continually, little by little, in every generation. . . so that the prosecution should have no control over them, `And I will not erase you completely.' "

[The suffering referred to in the posuk is not the actual judgment itself, for that would be too hard to bear all at once. It is the continual "low level" suffering which Klal Yisroel undergoes, which has the effect of annulling the power of judgment, for the punishment has already been given.] In other words, Hakodosh Boruch Hu brings the cure before the blow. The suffering which we undergo is like an injection given to a sick man. Although the prick of the needle hurts, it brings the cure!

This is the difference between Yaakov and Eisov. Yaakov took Olom Habo and Eisov took Olom Hazeh. Eisov was given Olom Hazeh. However, ultimately he doesn't have it in any lasting way, as Chazal say, "No one dies having attained [even] half of what he desired." The posuk (Mishlei 13:25) says, "A tzaddik eats to satisfy his soul" -- so that he'll be healthy to serve Hashem -- "while the stomach of the wicked ones is lacking" -- his stomach is too small for him. He'd like to continue filling it but he can't, because it's too small!

Punishment in Small Increments; Reward Intact

This is the meaning of the Rambam's comment on the posuk (Vayikra 26:4), "And I will give your rains in their times," namely, that what we are being promised here is not the reward of Olom Habo, but rather the means to subsist in Olom Hazeh in order to receive the reward of Olom Habo.

The Chofetz Chaim explained this with a parable, comparing it to a soldier serving in the army. He does not eat at his own expense but at the army's, for he is in their service. So it is with tzaddikim. When tzaddikim receive their needs [from Heaven], they are not receiving their rewards of Olom Habo, but merely the means of living in order to serve Hashem yisborach in good health and peace.

The posuk (Devorim 7:10), says about reshoim however, "And He pays those whom He hates [their reward] right away, [in order to] destroy them," as the posuk says, "And I will wreak destruction on the nations." Addressing Yaakov, however, the posuk says, "And I will not wreak destruction upon you."

The medrash brings a parable of a king who became angry with his son and vowed to cast a mountain upon him. Later when he had calmed down, he broke the mountain up into small pieces and threw them on his son. He kept his vow and saved his son.

So it is with Klal Yisroel. "And I will make you suffer for judgment" -- the "low level" suffering is what preserves Klal Yisroel. The holy Zohar explains that the judgment mentioned in the posuk "lamishpot," refers to "the great day of judgment," which the gemora speaks about at the beginning of maseches Avodoh Zora. [Thus, the suffering is lamishpot, for judgment i.e. it goes towards the ultimate reckoning which it precedes but it is not bamishpot, in judgment i.e. it is not the actual final reckoning, for that is averted because of the suffering which was experienced beforehand.]

Why the Pious are Dealt with Harshly

The posuk (Tehillim 30:6) says, ." . . for life is in [dependent upon] His [good] will." Our master and teacher (HaRav Yehuda Leib Chasman zt'l) said that whatever is biretzono, according to Hashem's will, is life -- and nothing else. Even the very slightest aveiroh, the very slightest transgression of Hashem's will, harms, obstructs and interrupts a person's connection to his Creator.

Hakodosh Boruch Hu is extremely exacting in His dealings with His pious servants, as Chazal say (Yevomos 121) on the posuk, "And those around Him are dealt with according to a hairsbreadth (Tehillim 50:3)."

The more a person sanctifies and purifies himself, the greater the harm done by an aveiroh which he transgresses. There was, therefore, a case against the Ovos for not accepting Timna as a convert. Though her rejection was prompted by spiritual considerations about her bad character, Chazal tell us that Amolek was nevertheless the result of their failing, a lapse which is indiscernible to us but which was a real one for the holy Ovos. "The camel's load is according to its strength!"

Learn from Eisov's Reward

On the other hand, consider how much reward is due every Jew in Olom Habo for every good deed and good trait. It is unimaginably and indescribably great!

Even Eisov was paid in Olom Hazeh for whatever good was in him, as Chazal tell us (in Bereishis Rabboh 82:13), on the posuk "And Eisov took his wives. . . and he went to a[nother] place because of Yaakov his brother." Rabbi Eliezer said, "Because of the document of debt which was incumbent upon the descendants of Yitzchok to pay (from the Bris Bein Habesorim which Hakodosh Boruch Hu made with Avrohom Ovinu [Bereishis 15:9- 21],) in return for which Avrohom's descendants would receive Eretz Yisroel. Eisov said, `I will go away from here. I have no portion in the gift of this Land, nor in the debt, whose payment involves troubles and servitude.' This is the meaning of the posuk's words, `because of Yaakov his brother.' (He left because of the decree of exile that was upon his brother Yaakov.) "

Eisov did believe that the Land would be given as a gift. However, there was a decree of four hundred years of exile that had to be served first and he wanted neither the exile nor the gift. He just wanted to enjoy himself in this world, nothing else!

The Sign that the Reward is Yet to Come

There are people whose worldly affairs (their businesses), run quite smoothly and on Rosh Hashonoh they ask Hakodosh Boruch Hu, "Don't write or seal anything. . . let it just be like last year. . . " They don't realize that, "There are riches that are kept for their owner's harm" (Koheles 5:12), R'l. Some people receive the reward for their mitzvos in Olom Hazeh so that they lose their portion in Olom Habo. The Chovos Halevovos also writes, "Tzaddikim are concerned lest they be paid the reward for their mitzvos in Olom Hazeh."

The gemora (Sanhedrin 101), tells us, "Rabboh bar Bar Channoh said, `When Rabbi Eliezer became ill, his talmidim came in to visit him. He said to them, "There is a strong sun [shining] in the world." They began to weep and Rabbi Akiva laughed.

They said to him, "Why are you laughing?"

He said to them, "Why are you crying?"

They said, "Can a sefer Torah be in such distress without us crying?"

[He said,] "That is why I am laughing. As long as I saw that his wine doesn't go sour, his flax isn't blighted, his oil doesn't smell and his honey doesn't go rancid, I said, Perhaps, chas vesholom, my teacher has received his reward in this world. Now that I see my teacher suffering (Rashi explains, `And his reward is in keeping for the future'), I am happy.' "

As we said, "The weight of a camel's load is according to its strength." The greater and the more righteous a person is, the more he is held to account for even a very slight blemish.

What advice can we then give in order to enable us to escape the suffering of this world?

There is no other way but to learn mussar and to make oneself suffer through the mussar which one learns. The whole purpose of suffering is to remind a person to do teshuvoh. If one reproves himself through learning the mussar contained in Chazal's teachings, he will be spared from suffering.

May Hashem make us fortunate to escape suffering and to climb to ever higher levels of Torah, mussar, and fear of Heaven!

To read Part I, click here.

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