Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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15 Sivan 5765 - June 22, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
For How Long the Doubt?

Adapted from Reb Yeruchom in Daas Torah, Parshas Beshalach

Years ago, [a period of] great tension existed between Germany and the other super powers. Its source lay in German demands to reconsider the Treaty of Versailles. After the end of the First World War, the two sides had met in Versailles to sign a peace treaty which took its name from the location of its signing. Needless to say, the treaty was only signed after difficult negotiations and careful examination, lengthy bargaining and meticulous care over its wording.

Tension later flared up when defeated Germany made one single request: that the Treaty be reassessed. For their part, the victorious Allies were adamantly opposed to any reconsideration. The Treaty had been signed so there was nothing to talk about!

Tension was high as accusations and counter accusations were exchanged. The atmosphere grew more and more heated. Why? Why such vehement protest against any reexamination? Why not reopen the issues and study then again? If Germany would have made unacceptable suggestions, the Allies could have rejected them. They were, as earlier, the majority. What did they fear?

Contemplating this episode led me to an amazing revelation in comprehending human nature. Wise people are well aware that nothing is more dangerous than reassessing decisions that have been made, once matters have been signed and sealed. One can never know what the end result of such a move will be, what can happen if one takes a fresh look at what has already been settled. Situations change, times change, and there is no guarantee that what was once decided will be decided a second time.

This is how the yetzer hora operates. When he is aware that he has nothing with which to entice a person and sway him from his path, he leads him to reevaluate things which have already been resolved and decided upon. Not in order to change anything, just to think things over again, to take a second look. The yetzer knows very well that there is a good chance that something will shake, crack or become doubtful.

When we examine the trials and tribulations of the Dor Hamidbar, we see that the common factor in all the occasions when they were taken to task was their desire to reexamine their position, to reevaluate their faith and knowledge. "Until when will they not believe in Me, in all the signs which I have performed in their midst?" Hashem asked Moshe Rabbenu (Bamidbar 14:11). And the posuk warns, "Do not try Hashem your G-d like you tried [Him] at Massoh (Devorim 6:16).

The Ramban explains why this was reckoned for them as a sin. "After having fully realized the truth, through signs and wonders, after having seen that Moshe was Hashem's prophet and that he was a true transmitter of Hashem's word, it was not correct that they should do anything further as a trial." Despite that posuk testifying that the people believed, "and they believed in Hashem and in His servant Moshe" (Shemos 14:31), they still caused Hashem to say, "Until when will they not believe in Me?"

Their faith certainly grew stronger from one trial to the next and from one test to the next. However, they were held guilty for their very readiness to place a question mark over their faith by testing it, putting it on trial and asking for a sign. Once a person has reached a certain recognition, once he has made a decision, he ought to continue securely. When one is scaling the heights, one doesn't peer backwards into the abyss.

However, by My Life

Adapted from Reb Yeruchom in Da'as Chochmah Umussar #72

In parshas Shelach Lecho, Moshe Rabbenu engaged in a debate with his Creator. "The nations will say that Hashem does not have the ability." Hashem replied, "However, as I live and My glory will fill the entire world." What was Moshe's argument and what did Hashem reply? Why was Moshe concerned with what the nations would say?

We learn from these pesukim what kiddush Hashem is and what it implies. Rabbenu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuvoh, sha'ar III, #148) describes it in the following terms. "It is known that one of the practices which is mekadesh Hashem is to proclaim with every utterance, every expression of the eyes, every habit and every action, that this behavior constitutes service of Hashem Yisborach, His fear and His Torah, for this is the sum total of man's [existence.]"

In other words, the principle of kiddush Hashem is man's total submission to Hashem's rule, to make known that "there is none besides Him" and to foster the awareness that this is a human being's sole task. If the slightest movement, action or feeling does not have it's source within this framework, one's service of Hashem is of a dual nature. It is avodoh beshituf, serving two authorities. Kiddush Hashem is incomplete.

This can be understood better by considering the mitzvah of honoring parents. This commandment is fulfilled by hearkening to parents' wishes and by supplying their needs. However, this is not the main point of the mitzvah. Its essence is submission to the parents and the fostering of a strong desire to fulfill whatever they ask. If a person fulfills every request which his parents make of him, yet his heart is not reconciled to doing so, his mitzvah is missing its principal component.

It is the same with kiddush Hashem. "Every utterance, every habit and every action" must be directed towards one purpose: the glorification of Hashem's Name and the fulfillment of His will. In this way, deeds cease to be merely individual actions. They are elevated to perfection and have consequences for the entire Klal. This is the reason that while Torah study is set aside for reading the Megilloh, something involving the Torah's honor is not set aside. Similarly, an act of kindness may not be performed if it involves doing something which the Rabbonon have forbidden. Such a prohibition is set aside however, if human dignity is concerned. These examples show that the honor due to something important is of a different order of importance than the thing itself. In a similar way, Hashem's honor is one of the Torah's fundamental principles. A deed performed for it's sake is elevated and sublime beyond measure.

Not only is this the sole task of man. It is the sole purpose of creation. This is the meaning of the posuk which we say daily, "Holy, holy, holy is Hashem . . . the whole earth is filled with His glory." Hashem's praises emanate from every corner of creation and the ends of the earth witness His salvation.

This was the basis of Moshe Rabbenu's argument. Heaven's glory would be damaged, as it were, if the nations were to gain a mistaken impression. And Hashem responded to his concern. "However, by My life and Hashem's glory will fill the whole earth." Heaven's glory would not be harmed in the minutest degree. The entire world, from one end to the other, will still be filled with Hashem's glory.

Our Youth Shames Our Old Age

A friend from Reb Yeruchom's youth sent him a record of a spiritual undertaking which evoked great feelings of shame. "My soul weeps in hiding over the energies which are devoted to the preservation of the body rather than that of the soul."

Sholom and great blessing to . . . my close friend, who is far away yet is close to my heart at all times, the rav and gaon . . . M. Reznick . . . sholom to all his honored and exalted household,

I received your honored letter. Boruch Hashem that you fare well. I have always been very glad to receive your letters. There is also a purpose in remembering the years that have passed and knowing that one's youth shames one's old age (this is not said of you).

I am ashamed and embarrassed to see the copy of the resolution, which is years old already and showing the signs of age. Those were indeed youthful days, times for girding oneself with strength merely to make such a resolution, for I certainly did not keep it properly. And now old age approaches and despite the fact that advancing age is reckoned as one of the six causes elucidated by Rabbenu Yonah in the second sha'ar of Sha'arei Teshuvoh [Sha'ar II, #1: "Know that the paths of the causes through which a person is aroused to repent from his bad ways are six in number . . . "] and the sixth cause is undoubtedly more compelling than those which precede it, as explained there [#15: "The sixth way, at all times a man should prepare to meet his G-d, for he doesn't know when his time will come . . . "] despite all this, a man like myself only takes a lesson from the sixth cause, old age, to be concerned for and to guard the body's weakness, which of course makes itself felt at this time, but not to guard and be concerned for the soul.

Besides Rabbenu Yonah's explanation [i.e. that with the wane of physical powers in old age the yetzer hora abates and teshuvoh is closer] which ought not to be budged from, there is also an opposite effect, namely, that in old age there can be instances where emotions become stronger because the body is growing weaker. Many things become apparent to a man in his old age concerning which he made many mistakes simply on account of his youthful strength. He neither saw nor was aware of things which are very, very straightforward.

And while I am discussing this, my soul weeps in hiding over the unimaginably simple mistakes with which a person lives almost his entire life, especially when he is young, because his powers mislead him. With the arrival of old age, when a number of errors pass and fade away, how good it would be then to utilize that state to see the truth, to do teshuvoh for the past and strengthen oneself for the future in order to live a life of Torah. A man like me does the opposite. I am spending my time preserving and enhancing my physical health, which is becoming weaker at the present . . .

When I saw the note with the old resolution which you sent, I felt great shame. Would that this will serve a purpose for me, to be ashamed of the past . . .

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