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23 Kislev 5761 - December 20, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Greatness In Righteousness, Greatness In Wickedness

By HaRav Sholom Schwadron zt'l

Part II

The first part discussed the greatness of mal'ochim and of Yaakov Ovinu in that he used them as messengers as it says at the beginning of parshas Vayishlach. It then points out that Eisov was not impressed by the mal'ochim because he was used to them. It then discussed the importance of kosher money and how much great tzaddikim value it, and concluded with a story about Heavenly intercession for R' Chaim of Volozhin to enable him to say a brocho to drink by sending him someone to answer omein.

A Penny's Worth

Here is the story which I heard from HaRav Lopian, which goes all the way back to HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, who related it himself: There was once a bochur in Volozhin who died l'a, a young man. It is known that in Volozhin, the sound of Torah learning could be heard around the clock, without any interruption. As soon as one contingent of bochurim left, another would immediately enter. It was Rav Chaim's custom to enter the beis hamedrash several times nightly, after midnight, to see how the bochurim were learning.

As Rav Chaim stood in the passageway on his way out after one of his visits, he saw the bochur who had passed away standing in the passage. R' Chaim asked him, "What are you doing here? Your place is already in the Upper World." The bochur replied that upon arriving before the heavenly Court, all his actions had been scrutinized and he had been found to be a tzaddik in every way. The verdict was issued that he deserved Gan Eden and he was joyfully taken to the gates. A single mal'ach stood in front of the gate and said that he would not let him inside because he was guilty of stealing.

What had happened was that before travelling once from the yeshiva, as he stood at the railway station, he had remembered a debt to his landlady of seven groschen. (Rav Chaim instituted that the bochurim took their meals in the houses where they stayed.) Just before he had to go, he gave seven groshcen of his to the friend who had accompanied him and asked him to pass it on to the landlady. The friend returned to yeshiva however, and forgot . . . and that is why he was not being allowed into Gan Eden.

He had tried telling the Heavenly Court that it had been his friend's mistake, not his own. This argument was accepted and it was decreed that he would be allowed to descend into this world in order to rectify this sin. Rav Chaim told him that he would arrange for the money to be paid for him. He then blessed him with Sholom and a peaceful repose and the bochur flitted away. Rav Chaim related this story to HaRav Zundel of Salant zt'l, and he told it to R' Yisroel.

(When I repeated this story about HaRav Chaim in the beis haknesses Zichron Moshe [in Yerushalayim's Geulah neighborhood], sons of the Brisker Rov zt'l, were present. They told it to their father, mentioning to him that I'd said that I heard the story from Rav Elya, who had heard it from Reb Hirsch Broide, who heard it from the Alter of Kelm, who heard it from Rav Yisroel Salanter, who heard it from Rav Zundel of Salant, who was Rav Chaim's talmid.

When they said that the Alter of Kelm had heard it from Rav Yisroel, he interrupted and said that they didn't need to continue with whom Rav Yisroel had heard it from, for, "We do not investigate a cohen's lineage further back than an ancestor who was known to have served upon the mizbeiach!" In other words, demonstrating the reliability of Rav Yisroel's source is like searching further back than the mizbeiach!)

There is another story, which has already appeared in print, which took place in the time of the Arizal concerning one of his talmidim who was a great tzaddik as well as being very wealthy. This man owned two factories; in one, men were employed and in the other one, women, so as to avoid any mingling. On one occasion, when this talmid entered his master's presence, the Arizal looked at his face and in a tone of rebuke told him that there was a sign upon his forehead which showed that he was guilty of robbery R'l.

The talmid was shocked. He took two purses full of money and went first to the men's factory and announced that anyone who had any monetary claim on him, could come and take what he felt he was owed him from the purse. Then he repeated this announcement in the women's factory. All the employees declared that they had no claims upon him, with the sole exception of one of the women workers, who went over to the purse on the table and took out one small coin, which she said was owed to her for her work. Since it was only a small amount, she had been ashamed to ask him for it.

The talmid returned to the Arizal, who told him that his sin was gone and he had been forgiven, with the mark having been removed from his forehead. We can see from here how serious the sin of stealing is. That is why the money which belongs to tzaddikim is precious to them. Money which comes to them in a fitting way, as a result of loyalty and of having toiled for it, so as to make quite sure that they do not stumble into theft or trickery, is indeed precious to them.

Eisov's Merits . . . and his Weakness

Let us return to Yaakov and Eisov. What was Yaakov's fear at the prospect of the impending confrontation with Eisov? Could it have been on account of Eisov's strength? Doesn't the posuk tell us that, "Yaakov rolled the stone from the opening of the well"? And don't Chazal comment that he did so with the same ease that one removes the stopper from a bottle? See the Medrash, which speaks about Yaakov Ovinu's great strength. [Obviously, this was not what frightened him about meeting Eisov.]

Chazal tell us that he was afraid because of two merits which Eisov possessed, and which he lacked. These were from the two mitzvos which Eisov had fulfilled: living in Eretz Yisroel and honoring his father.

Yaakov had been separated from his father for twenty-two years and although he had gone in fulfillment of his father's command, the fact was that he had not fulfilled the mitzva for all that time, whereas Eisov had. Chazal quote his having said, "I honored Father throughout my life" -- and if he testified thus about himself, he must have fulfilled the mitzva on the highest level -- yet he added that, "I nevertheless failed to reach half of Eisov's level of honoring his father."

In order to influence Eisov in his favor Yaakov, who was afraid because of his brother's mitzvos, sent him a gift of herds of goats, sheep, lambs etc. Did he expect to impress Eisov with such a gift? Eisov was a wealthy man himself!

And in order to magnify the effect of the gift, as Rashi explains, Yaakov commanded those who delivered it to leave spaces between all the different herds. Eisov already had extensive herds of his own; why would this have an effect?

We see that nonetheless, the gift did have the desired effect: "And he kissed him." Although there are dots above this word, which indicate that it was not a wholehearted greeting, it is still amazing to contemplate the idea of Eisov having made any kind of reconciliation, after having felt such hatred for his brother as to express his intentions of killing him as soon as their father passed away. How did Yaakov's present achieve such a significant result?

Our master and teacher HaRav Yehudah Leib Chasman zt'l, repeated Chazal's words on the posuk, "The tzaddik's lips recognize [another person's] wishes," in other words, "The tzaddik's lips know how to appease." How did Yaakov do this with goats and sheep?

The answer lies in the words, "recognize wishes." He knew what a rasha desires and he knew that Eisov would be appeased by the gift of animals. "Reshoim are controlled by their hearts," and their hearts and wishes are for their animalistic desires. [As we mentioned earlier,] Chazal tell us in the holy Zohar that although Eisov was great, "his heart was no good." Although he possessed the head of a savant, his heart was swayed by lust and pride. This is why he was subdued by the sight of goats and donkeys. Yaakov Ovinu realized all this for, "The tzaddik's lips recognize [another person's] wishes!"

Two Worlds, Two Views

"And he [Eisov] lifted his eyes and saw . . . and he said, `Who are these of yours?' " (33:5). We find that with Yitzchok Ovinu, upon Eliezer's return from Padan Arom bringing Rivkoh with him, the posuk (24:63) says, "He saw, and behold camels were coming," whereas with Eisov, the posuk says, "And he saw the women." Eisov's question, "Who are these of yours?" and Yaakov's reply, "The children, with whom G-d has favored your servant," need to be understood. What exactly did each of them mean with his words?

Chazal (in Tanna Devei Eliyohu), tell us that, "Yaakov said to Eisov, `Brother Eisov, we are two brothers, and there are two worlds before us, Olom Hazeh and Olom Haboh. If you want, you take Olom Hazeh, and I'll take Olom Haboh.' At that time, Eisov took Olom Hazeh, and Yaakov, Olom Haboh." How was it possible for Yaakov to "take" Olom Haboh? Is it something that can be taken without first toiling in order to acquire it?

The subject of their agreement however, was how to live their lives in this world. It is possible to live a life of Olom Hazeh, or to live a life of Olom Haboh in Olom Hazeh, as the Mesillas Yeshorim writes, "The general principle is that man was not created for the station which he occupies in Olom Hazeh, but for his station in Olom Haboh." His position in Olom Hazeh is a means of attaining his position in Olom Haboh.

This was the crux of the argument between Yaakov and Eisov. Eisov also wanted Olom Haboh, and he argued that it was possible to enjoy the pleasures of Olom Hazeh and to attain Olom Haboh as well. Yaakov's argument however is illustrated by a moshol which was given of a man travelling through the desert who is thirsty. He finds water but it is salty. Obviously, the more he drinks of it, the more thirsty he will become. It is the same with worldly pleasures. "Nobody dies having attained even half of his desires." One should therefore only take the minimum necessary for living, to attain Olom Haboh. This is why Eisov scorned the bechoroh.

The Tanna Devei Eliyohu explains that when Eisov saw Yaakov's wives and children, his question was, "How do you come to have Olom Hazeh?" Yaakov said to Eisov, "I have everything [that I need]" (33:11), whereas Eisov said to Yaakov, "I [only] have a lot" (33:9). Eisov then proposed that they remain together and make a partnership, each of them getting half of Olom Hazeh and half of Olom Haboh, like Yissochor and Zevulun (posuk 12). To this Yaakov replied (posuk 13), "The children are tender." He told Eisov, "They cannot stand up to the suffering. Everything in Olom Hazeh is a test and if they live a life of worldly luxury, they will be unable to withstand temptation. How can I give them half of Olom Hazeh?"

Ultimately, "Eisov returned that day on his way to Sei'ir" (16), whereas "Yaakov travelled to Succos" and "Yaakov came complete to Shochet," (pesukim 17-18), on which Rashi comments, "[He was] complete bodily; his possessions were intact and his Torah was complete." This comes to teach us that the entire purpose of Olom Hazeh is to serve as the antechamber to Olom Haboh. Whoever lives accordingly, merits both worlds, Olom Hazeh as well as Olom Haboh.

May Hashem merit us to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers, omein seloh!

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