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22 Kislev 5760 - December 1, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Masters and Servants of the Heart: A Shmuess

By HaRav Sholom Schwadron zt'l

Part III

The yahrtzeit of HaRav Sholom is 22 Kislev. T. N. T. B. H.

This part contains further insights on human character and especially the idea of being satisfied with one's lot.

Untouched by Pride and Desire

"And Dovid said to his heart, `Now, I will one day be finished at Shaul's hand . . . ' " In the previous perek (Shmuel I 26:7-8), we learn that, "Dovid and Avishai came to the people at night and there was Shaul lying and sleeping inside the ring with his spear wedged into the ground by his head, and Avner and the people were lying roundabout him. Avishai said to Dovid, `Hashem has put your enemy in your power. And now, I will smite him with the spear through to the ground, with one blow and I will not [need to] do it a second time.' "

Avishai, son of Dovid's sister Tzeruyoh, who was one of the finest among Klal Yisroel, ruled unequivocally over here that it was permitted for Dovid to kill Shaul. And we must acknowledge too, that the deep slumber which Hashem brought upon Shaul Hamelech and all his men (posuk 12), was in order that they should fall into Dovid's hands. "And Dovid took the spear and the flask of water from next to Shaul's head and they went away, without anybody seeing or knowing or waking up, for they were all asleep, for a slumber from Hashem had fallen upon them." Yet in posuk 9, Dovid tells Avishai " . . . `Do not destroy him, for who has put his hand out to [harm] Hashem's anointed one and remained innocent? . . . And Dovid said, `Chay Hashem, only Hashem will smite him . . . ' " In the Yalkut, Chazal ask, `Why did Dovid swear by chay Hashem? He swore to his yetzer hora, `I will not do this.' Rabbon Shimon ben Gamliel says that Dovid told Avishai, "If you touch a drop of that tzaddik's blood, I will mingle your blood with his." '

It is amazing to consider how Dovid's heart did not prompt him in the slightest degree to assert that right was on his side in his dispute with Shaul and to accept Avishai's assumption, as well as what seemed to be the evidence of his own eyes, that Hashem was presenting him with an opportunity to remove one who sought his life. This was because `Tzadikim are in control of their hearts.' Dovid was completely untouched by the desire for honor and glory and thus did not delude himself into thinking that Hashem meant him to take Shaul's life.

Whereas Dovid resisted the prompting of the desire for honor, Doniel resisted those of the attraction of worldly desires. `And Doniel made a point of not polluting himself with the king's delicacies and the wine he drank . . . ' Nevuchadnezzar had given orders that all those who attended the king should be fed with meat and given wine to drink, so that they would have a good and noble appearance. Doniel, Chananioh, Mishoel and Azarya did not want to eat this food. However, while they were really subsisting on a diet of seeds and water, they still looked as though they were living on fine food. How did this happen?

Rav Saadiyah Gaon zt'l, explains that the friends derived such pleasure from being able to escape tainting themselves with the king's food and drink, that this itself gave them the appearance of being healthy and well fed when they stood before the king. Their enjoyment of their fare of seeds was such that they felt they were partaking of fine food. This ability too, comes from the control which tzadikim have over their hearts.

The posuk (Tehillim 81:10), says, `There shall be no foreign power within you . . . ' Chazal say, `Which power is a foreign one? The yetzer hora, which dwells between the two keys to the heart. You may be asleep and oblivious to his presence but he is alert to yours. HaRav Yitzchok Blazer says that the yetzer hatov is asleep, while the yetzer hora is awake. We must awaken the yetzer hatov and there is no other way to do this other than by learning mussar. May Hakodosh boruch Hu merit us with progress in Torah, yiras Shomayim and mussar!

Subduing the Inclination to Complain

Commenting on the posuk in Mishlei (18:16), `A person's gifts give him leeway,' Chazal (Medrash Rabbah, Vayikra 5:4), tell us that once, Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva went to Antochia to raise money for tzedokoh for the chachomim. One of the people there was named Abba Yudan and he always used to support the poor generously. It happened once that he lost his property and when he saw our teachers approaching, his face fell (for he didn't have his usual contribution to give them). He went to his wife and she asked him why he appeared so sickly. He told her, "My teachers are here and I don't know what to do.'

His wife, who was even more righteous than he was, said, `We only have one field left. Go and sell half of it and give it to them.' He went and sold half of it and gave it to the chachomim. They blessed him and said to him, `May Hashem make good your losses.'

Several days later, Abba Yudan went to plow the half field that remained his and suddenly, the ground gave way in front of him and his cow fell inside and broke her leg. He went down to get her up and Hashem opened his eyes and he saw a treasure in the pit. He said, `It was for my benefit that my cow's leg broke.' The medrash concludes by telling us that the chachomim returned and applied the posuk, `A person's gifts give him leeway,' to Abba Yudan.

Why though, was it necessary for Abba Yudan's cow to break its leg in order for him to find the treasure? He could just as well have finished plowing with a healthy cow and then found the treasure in the street on his way home? Why did it have to come to him through such suffering? The following story will enable us to understand this medrash.

In Minsk, Russia, lived a certain Jew, who came to Eretz Yisroel towards the end of his life. I knew him personally. His name was Reb Boruch Zoldvitz z'l. He was very wealthy during the Czar's reign, wealthy not only in money but also in understanding and in good deeds. He hosted every rosh yeshiva and great Torah scholar on their visits to Minsk, among them Reb Chaim Brisker and Rav Shimon Shkop zt'l and others. He supported three yeshivos from his own funds. When the yeshivos of Slobodke, Novardok and Kamenitz were in Minsk, as a result of their being exiled during the First World War, he sustained them.

By the way, I want to repeat something I heard in the hesped for Reb Boruch that was given by HaRav Yechezkel Sarna zt'l, rosh yeshiva of Chevron. HaRav Sarna's comment was both a wonderful thought in itself and accurate in its application -- utter genius. The posuk (Tehillim 112:9) says, `Pizar nosan lo'evyonim,' meaning, `he distributed [and] gave [charity] to the paupers.' HaRav Sarna asked what the double expression pizar-nosan means. [Both words are verbs, expressing the giving of tzedokoh. What do they mean when combined in this double form?]

HaRav Sarna explained it is in some people's nature to scatter and disperse their money. This trait has both its positive and its negative sides. On the one hand, such a person will give a lot of tzedokoh freely and generously, but on the other hand, he does not understand the value of money and it slips away between his fingers. He does not appreciate the importance of the tzedokoh! He gives for he tends to be a spendthrift in his other affairs as well.

At the other end of the spectrum, is a second type of nature, whose owner possesses a very sound understanding of the value of money, which is good, but which can lead him to a different shortcoming: miserliness and being tight-fisted. However, there is a third type of person who knows the value of money very well, yet he still gives with the generosity of a spendthrift. This is the trait which the posuk mentions: scattering money freely but at the same time, with an appreciation of every penny's significance. Of someone who distributes his money in this way, the posuk concludes, `his righteousness will endure forever.' And this was the praise that was applied to Reb Boruch Zoldvitz z'l!

When the Bolsheviks came to power, they impounded all the wealth of the propertied classes and reduced them to poverty. They dealt more kindly with Reb Boruch, out of gratitude for the many favors he did them and although they took his money they sent him to Eretz Yisroel, giving him enough for his travel and living expenses. When he passed through Brisk, Reb Boruch paid a visit to Reb Chaim zt'l, who told him, `You know Reb Boruch, that a university has a number of faculties and if someone has already graduated say in chemistry, from one of them, he goes to study mathematics perhaps, in a different one. It is the same with this world. Hakodosh Boruch Hu tests a man in different ways, with poverty, or with wealth. And as for you -- you have already passed the trial of wealth with success; now you have to pass the test of poverty."

Reb Chaim's words appear explicitly in the first perek of Mesillas Yeshorim: "Hakodosh Boruch Hu has put man in a place where there are many things distancing man from Him, may His Name be blessed, namely, the worldly desires . . . for all the different circumstances in the world, whether good or bad, are trials for a person; poverty on the one hand and wealth on the other -- as Shlomo Hamelech said (Mishlei 30:), `Lest I become satisfied and I deny and say "Who is Hashem?" and lest I become destitute and I steal' -- tranquility on one hand and suffering on the other, so that a person is embattled on all fronts. If he is brave and is victorious in the battles which surround him, he will emerge as one who has perfected himself and will merit cleaving to his Creator."

Reb Chaim gave Reb Boruch his blessing that Hashem should help him withstand the trial of poverty and this is what happened. Nobody could tell that Reb Boruch was a man who had lost a fortune. He never complained, and continued acting with perfect faith, just as he had done when he was wealthy.

This is the explanation of the story of Abba Yudan, who lost his fortune. He didn't complain against Hakodosh Boruch Hu, neither when he felt bad about not being able to give his usual donation, nor when his cow broke her leg. He therefore found the treasure and Hashem paid him for his righteous conduct, as the posuk says, `A person's gifts give him leeway.'

Just a Little Patience

I will tell you another story which I related in public, where it was heard by people who used to frequent the home of our master the Brisker Rov zt'l, who gave his approbation to my understanding of the story I am about to tell you, commenting that I had explained it very well indeed. I heard this story from the lips of the gaon and tzaddik HaRav Eliyohu Lopian zt"l.

The gaon and tzaddik HaRav Eliezer Shulevitz zt'l, was Rosh Yeshiva of the Lomzhe Yeshiva. He travelled to the Chofetz Chaim to ask him to recommend a suitable candidate to serve as mashgiach in his yeshiva. The Chofetz Chaim recommended a distinguished young Torah scholar, who was qualified to fill the position of mashgiach in Yeshivas Lomzhe and naturally HaRav Shulevitz accepted his recommendation.

During chol hamoed Pesach, HaRav Shulevitz received a telegram from the Chofetz Chaim telling him that he had second thoughts about the avreich whom he had recommended for the position of mashgiach. When they met, HaRav Shulevitz asked the Chofetz Chaim why he had suggested the young man at first and later withdrawn his recommendation.

The Chofetz Chaim told him that one week after HaRav Shulevitz' original visit, the avreich in question visited him and complained to him about his livelihood. "I think," the Chofetz Chaim said, "that an avreich who complains about his financial state is not fitted to be a mashgiach and an educator in a yeshiva."

Of course, this was not a personal shortcoming, for the Chofetz Chaim certainly took care to avoid speaking loshon hora. He simply felt that such a person was not suited for the post of mashgiach.

I heard who this avreich was and I commented that had he merited serving as mashgiach, he would have had both a livelihood in this world and reward in the next.

What was the only thing he lacked? Patience! Had he had patience, he would have had everything!

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