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21 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
The Hand Of Hashem

by HaRav Aharon Rotter

"I will speak that I may find relief; I will open my lips and answer" (Iyov 32:20). To quiet the storm raging within me I am forced to divulge my thoughts.

The Ramban (at the end of parshas Bo, Shemos 13:16) writes that ever since people began worshiping avoda zorah at the times of Enosh, people's emunah has become warped. Some rejected Hashem's existence and claimed the world always existed: They have denied Hashem and they have said, "It is not so!" Some denied Hashem's being omniscient, of having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight. They said, `How does Elokim know? Is there knowledge in the most High?' (Tehillim 73:10). Others although admitting Hashem's limitless awareness denied His providence: `You made men like the fish of the sea' (Chabakuk 1:14), believing that Hashem does not supervise what people do, and neither does He punish them nor reward them, and they declare, Hashem has forsaken the land' (Yechezkel 8:12).

"When Elokim cherishes a community or individual and performs a miracle for them through changing the customary and natural order of the world, all become aware how erroneous these ideologies are. The wondrous miracle shows that the world has an Elokim Who renews it, Who has total awareness, Who supervises it, Who rewards and punishes, and Who is omnipotent.

"When that miracle is previously prophesied through a novi the trueness of nevu'ah becomes apparent - - 'Elokim does talk with man' (Devorim 5:21) and reveals His secret to His servants the prophets' (Amos 3:7), and it confirms the whole Torah. The Torah therefore writes about miracles, 'That You may know I am Hashem in the midst of the earth' (Shemos 8:18). These miracles show His providence, that He has neither abandoned the world nor allowed things to happen accidentally, as their ideology dictates."

Afterward the Ramban writes: "No person has a part in Toras Moshe unless he believes that both everything what we intentionally do and what occurs to us are all miracles, there being no natural or customary way of the world in them. This [axiom] effects both the public and the individual. When we do mitzvos our reward will bring us success, but if we commit sins our punishment will cause our extinction. Everything happens through a Divine decree, as I have already mentioned. The covert miracles will become known to all when what the Torah has destined concerning brochos and kelolos materializes, as the Torah writes, Then all the nations shall say, 'Why has Hashem done thus to this land?' (Devorim 29:23). Then men shall say, 'Because they have forsaken the covenant of Hashem Elokim, of their fathers' (ibid., 24). All nations will later know that their punishment is from Hashem. The Torah writes about our fulfilling the Torah, `All people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of Hashem, and they shall be afraid of you' (Devorim 28:10)."

We have merited a special Divine Benevolence, with Heaven's name having been sanctified in an exceptional way. When Ehud Barak, the Prime Minister, and his cabinet trumpeted the beginning of a "Secular Revolution" but instead received the "Arab Revolution," we all saw, "The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against Hashem and against His anointed, saying, `Let us cut their bonds asunder and cast away their cords from us.' He who sits in the heavens laughs, Hashem will mock them. Then He shall speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in His burning anger" (Tehillim 2:2-5). This marvelous wonder shows that the world has a ruler Who renews it, Who is aware of all that happens, Who supervises over it, and Who is omnipotent.

Moreover, Hashem revealed this course of events through His novi Yechezkel (20:32): "That which comes into your mind shall never come about, that you say, 'We will be like the nations, like the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.' As I live, say Hashem Elokim, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with anger poured out, will I be king over you." Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 32b) tell us: "R' Nachman said: If only HaKodosh Boruch Hu would be angry in that way with us and redeem us."

This Divine sign calls upon us to repent thoroughly, to become complete baalei teshuvah, as the Ramban writes, "This shows His providence, that He has not abandoned the land and allowed things to happen accidentally, as their ideology dictates." We should not analyze what has happened in a way derived from low-grade emunah. The Tanna in Ovos (4:15) writes, "R' Yanai says: 'It is not in our power to explain either the tranquility of the wicked or the suffering of the righteous.'" But when HaKodosh Boruch Hu punishes the reshoim, without any doubt, as the Ramban writes, "It will later become known to all the nations that their punishment is from Hashem."

The Sha'ar Bas Rabbim writes: "I heard from HaRav HaGaon R' Shimon Sobatsky z'l of Warsaw about the gaon R' Yaakov Lipshitz z'l of Danzig, the author of Tifferes Yisroel on all of the Mishnayos (HaRav S. Sobatsky was the friend of R' Yaakov Lipshitz). He said that once a certain rich, powerful and violent man who was one of the Danzig community's leaders passed away. The deceased disregarded fulfilling mitzvos and acted improperly. This community leader died suddenly, Rachmono litzlan, in the middle of doing some aveira.

That gaon went to console the mourners, the deceased sons, and told them as follows: Dovid Hamelech said in Tehillim (9:17): "Hashem is known by the judgment which He executes; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Reflect on this, Selah." Dovid asks: When is it known that Hashem has judged and punished, that He is feared and sanctified by people? He answers: This is when, "The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands." When the rosho is snared in the midst of engaging in an aveira we should "reflect on this, Selah." This is what people reflect about. One says to the other: "You see that person who committed a sin did not finish it until he was punished." In this way Hashem's name is sanctified. "The wicked will return to the depths of the grave" (ibid., 18). If Hashem does not castigate them immediately for their wickedness, but is patient with them until they return to the depths of the grave, and only then punishes them in Gehennom for their wicked acts, then, "all the nations that forgot Elokim" (ibid.). Hashem's name is not sanctified and they will, chas vesholom, forget Elokim and His judgment.

I want you to know that your deceased father did so and so, he committed this and that sin, and Hashem punished him that he should pass away suddenly before his time. If you do not better yourself, but instead follow your father's ways, the attribute of Hashem's judgment will also affront you and punish you as your father. These were the consolations of that gaon and tzaddik. After hearing this the sons became his enemies and persecuted him, but he remained righteous. His heart did not sink and he did not regret what he had said."

I saw cited in the name of HaRav Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik zt'l that when a bus of a company known for its chilul Shabbos suddenly caught fire, Maran said: "Shabbos is demanding punishment for its being humiliated. This is the fire of Shabbos!" People asked him: "Do we not see such happenings by others as well, although they are not mechalel Shabbos?" Maran the Brisker Rav answered: "That is not a contradiction. For other incidents are other explanations, but here it happened because of Shabbos."

I remember when I was a boy and studied in the Beis Knesses Hagodol of Netanya, a tragic car accident took place on Thursday. On Shabbos afternoon the baalei batim assembled to pray mincha and while waiting for the time to start the tefillah each one explained what happened for another earthly-based reason. Suddenly an elderly Jew who was sitting the whole time in the corner saying Tehillim stood up and screamed out: "What type of nonsense are you saying? I was the wagon driver of Maran the Chofetz Chaim and he would always say that Shabbos demands punishment for its being humiliated. If car accidents occur it is only because people ride on Shabbos." This is what the wagon driver of Maran the Chofetz Chaim understood what should be said, but what about us?

I remember a year ago the Prime Minister said, "It is inconceivable to block for several hours the highway because of the sanctity of Shabbos." Now the highways are blocked for several weeks because of rock throwing and shooting. Is this not that the Shabbos is demanding punishment for its being humiliated?

It is obvious that not only is it forbidden to tell them that this happened by accident, but we must search for the specific aveira that caused this punishment. Chazal (Brochos 5a) write: "If a person sees that he is suffering, he should examine how he acts" (Rashi explains that he should try to ascertain what aveira has caused this suffering).

"If he examined his acts and did not find any reason for this suffering he should ascribe it to bitul Torah [the source of all aveiros]. If he did not find that this is the reason either, then he can assume it is hardships of love" (suffering given by Hashem to cleanse man from his sins so he can merit Olam Haboh).

The gemora later on (5b) writes: "Four hundred barrels of wine belonging to Rav Huna turned sour. Rabbonon told him to examine how he acts since HaKodosh Boruch Hu is not suspected to punish without justifiable reason. Rav Huna said to them, 'If you heard something about me that I should rectify please tell me.' They told him: We heard that you do not give to your sharecropper his share from the grapevine shoots, and we learned in a Mishnah, "Just as we must divide wine with the sharecropper so must we divide the shoots and twigs with him." See Tosafos and the Rashba what they commented about this incident).

We see clearly from Chazal that if, chas vesholom, an individual suffers he should attribute it to some sin [except for complete tzaddikim such as a great person like R' Yochonon, who are smitten with hardships of love to increase their reward for Olam Haboh even more than their zechus. Furthermore, some tzaddikim are punished because of the generation's sin]. The goal is that he should become a baal teshuvah because of this hardship.

"Shall the women eat their fruit, their cherished babes?" (Eichah 2:20) and the immediate answer is, "Shall a Cohen and Novi be slain in the Mikdash of Hashem?" The novi directly indicates that the punishment was because of this particular sin.

We primarily see the Hand of Hashem in that the country's leaders were paid a "measure for measure." They wanted a "Secular Revolution" and Hashem sent them an "Arab Revolution." Chazal (Sotah 8b) write, "A man is treated with the same measure he has acted." Since the goal of punishment is doing teshuvah, Hashem in His abundant mercy punishes a person with the same measure that he sinned so he will realize his sin. This is what Yisro told us when he said, "For in the very matter in which they had conspired against them" (Shemos 18:11).

Although the nations of the world have powerful leaders who can proclaim war and hurt their enemies, their only intent is to punish their enemies, and it does not matter to them what punishment they use. Hashem's entire intent is to teach sinners to repent and therefore the sinner is punished in the same way that he sinned so he can realize his sin. This is what the brothers of Yosef said to each other, "Truly we are guilty concerning our brothers, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us" (Bereishis 42:21). The Seforno explains, "Although they judged him as being worthy to die according to the din and did not consider what they were doing as a sin, they should have had mercy on him. In the same way they were cruel to him, this man was acting cruel against them." Their cruel punishment taught them that their sin was also of their being cruel.

This country educates its children to live without emunah. We have long wondered how such a heretical country continues to exist. Actually it has two strong pillars on which it constantly relies. (1) Torah Study. (2) Public Shabbos Observance.

(1) Torah Study: The Ha'amek Dvar (Vayikra 22:22) writes: "You shall therefore keep all My chukim and all My mishpotim and do them, that the land, into which I bring you to dwell will not vomit you out." We already explained above (18-26) that observing the chukim and mishpotim, which is Torah study, protects a person from committing arayos. The posuk adds that even if, choliloh, the whole generation is lax in arayos and it is enough reason for them to be exiled from the land, if they study diligently the Torah, the zechus of the Torah will help them so that the land will not spit them out, and instead they will be punished in the land."

(2) Public Shabbos Observance: The Ibn Ezra (Shemos 20:8) writes: "We see that Yirmiyahu (in ch. 17) was stringent in the mitzvah of Shabbos. He explicitly prophesied that although it was decreed for Yerushalayim to be destroyed, if Yisroel would once again observe Shabbos as commanded they would not be exiled from their place and in Yerushalayim the throne of the Davidic kingdom will stand."

As long as the country's leaders did not touch these two pillars, the country still had a right to exist. Is it not presumable that the country is shaking because its leaders began sawing down these pillars?

We should ask all those engaged in kiruv to utilize this Divine Benevolence to help people do teshuvah. They should not imagine the Right will deliver them or this or that leader will rescue them. It is as the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 7:5) writes, "Yisroel will only be redeemed through teshuvah." We pray to the One Who sits in Heaven to have pity on us. For this reason what Yechezkel writes (Yechezkel 20:33), "Surely with a mighty hand and with a stretched out arm and with anger poured out, will I be king over you" is not mentioned in the pesukim of malkiyos during tefillas Mussaf Rosh Hashanah, and when the nation will do teshuvah we will not need this posuk.

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