Friday, February 20, 2009

Parshas Mishpatim

Adapted from Chofetz Chaim Al Hatorah

The Sweet Coating Around The Bitter Pill

When men argue with one another and one hits the other… he shall pay only compensation and shall surely pay the doctor bills. (Shemos 21:18–19, and Rashi)

From here, we see that a doctor is given permission to heal (Bava Kamma 85a). Do not to think that since his injuries were Heavenly decreed, therefore let Hashem take care of healing him. (Rashi)

Why did the possuk have to repeat the word רפא ירפא? “Heal him, heal him.” It would have been sufficient (even without the repetition of the word “heal,”) to tell us that a doctor was given permission to heal. We must say that if it did not repeat the word, then one might think that medical treatment is permitted only by wounds inflicted by man. But healing a heaven sent illness might appear as defying the heavenly decree. Therefore the possuk repeats the word to tell us that in all cases medical treatment is permitted. (Tosfos)

The above gemara teaches us that all manners of pain that occur to a person, even severe insults and curses, are all sent from Heaven. When one suffers, it is his sins that are cursing him. Even when someone smites him purposefully, this too is from the Divine supervision. It is just that Heaven uses a guilty person as the messenger for the punishment.

This is obvious from the earlier possuk: And when men argue and one smites the other… (Shemos 21:18). The possuk is implying that both men are guilty, even the the victim. He should not have gone out to argue. Yet the gemara labels this act, a malicious act of intentional damage, as “Hashem smote him.”

Dovid Hamelech, fleeing from his son Avsholom, encountered Shimi ben Gera. Shimi ben Gera cursed him and threw stones and dirt on him. That was a crime worthy of the death penalty. He had cursed the King of Israel! Dovid’s guards drew their swords and awaited orders to kill Shimi. Dovid answered them, “Leave him alone. Hashem told him to curse.”

All this is done by HaKadosh Baruch Hu. It is for the person’s benefit, in order, through his suffering embarrassment, to atone for his transgressions. One need not pay any attention to answering insults. On the contrary. One should thank Hashem for the opportunity for such atonement. This is the meaning of the verse, “Those who are insulted and do not reply with insult... the verse describes them: ‘His loved ones are like the Sun when it goes out in its strength.’” (Shoftim 5:31) (Gittin 36b).

The Chofetz Chaim (Ma’asai Lamelech, parshas Vayeira sec.6) warns us not to complain about suffering. He would often quote the Gra that “if it weren’t for our troubles, we wouldn’t be able to find any basis to defend ourselves on the Day of Judgement.”

It says (Tehillim 32:10) “The pains of the wicked are many, but chesed surrounds the one who trusts in Hashem.” In the past, they would use very harsh medicines for stomach ailments, in spite of their bitter and terribly salty taste. Being that they were very good for stomach ailments, they paid no attention to the bitterness. The patient would silently bear the unpleasantness in order to be healed.

Recently they have developed a new innovation: they wrap the bitter and sharp medicine in a capsule and you swallow it without tasting any bitterness whatsoever, and the illness is healed just as efficiently.

The same is true of suffering. “The pains of the wicked are many.” Yes, on the wicked comes many bitter and severe torments, and he cries out in pain. However, “chesed surrounds the one who trusts in Hashem.” If it is necessary to send him torment, the chesed surrounds it. They put the torments into a palatable capsule of chesed. Then he is able to swallow it and not feel the bitterness.

* * *

Life Is Toy Soldiers

Adapted from Yalkut Lekach Tov v. II p. 147 citing V’ohavov K’tzeis Hashemesh Bigvurosov

The famous Ger Tzeddek, Count Pototzki, converted and changing his name to Avraham ben Avraham. However, conversion to Judaism, especially for one of his esteemed position, was a capital crime, and so he was forced to go into hiding from fear of the Catholic Church in Vilna. He fled to the city of Ilye in Lithuania where he studied diligently in the local Beis Midrash. In this city there lived a Jewish youth, a smart-alecky and brazenfaced boy. He harassed the hunted Count no end, and gave him no peace in his studies. Once, after an outburst overflowing with chutzpa, the poor count could take it no more and gave the boy a severe tongue-lashing full of choice epithets. The boy went and told his father. The father, a very similar nature to his son, immediately headed for the Beis Midrash and in his wrath unleashed a vitriolic attack on the count, cursing and swearing. The Ger’s apologies and appeals for forgiveness bore no success to quiet the violence of the father.

The father, an irate and hot-tempered person, could not be calmed down. In a fit of murderous fury, he went and perpetrated the most despicable deed possible: he hurried to the local police and informed on the Ger. Of course, the Ger was immediately arrested and thrown into the central prison in the city of Vilna. There the Church court tried him and gave him the choice of either returning to his Christian faith or being burnt alive at the stake.

The great Gaon of Vilna sent him a secret message that he had the ability to use his occult powers to save the Ger. The Ger responded: I do not want to be saved. I prefer to be burned alive and die on Kiddush Hashem (Santification of the Holy Name)!

The Catholic authorities were incensed by count’s stubbornness and his refusal to return to Christianity in spite of all the threats. As he clung to his Jewish faith, they molested him brutally. Before carrying out the sentence, they taunted him sarcastically, “Here in this world we are taking out our revenge on you. But there in the next world you’ll probably take out your revenge on us.”

With a calm smile, free of any tint of anger or revenge, the Ger answered his bloodthirsty executioners. “I want to tell you a little story from my youth. On my father’s estate, I used to play with the farmers’ children. Once, my father had a set of toy soldiers made up especially for me. I took them out to the garden and set them up in battle formation. After they finished work that day, my friends, the farmers’ children, came with their shovels and rakes and demolished the soldiers to dust. I instantly ran to my father with tears in my eyes, and told him all about my “terrible tragedy.” I begged him to severely punish my friends. My father, however, instead of giving in to my request, started to reprimand me. ‘Since you are so much smarter than the farmer boys, you shouldn’t demand revenge on small things of no value.’

“I was forced to remain silent in face of my father’s resolve. However, I silently told myself, ‘Now I cannot do anything. But when I grow up, I will take revenge myself on those terrorists who destroyed my toys.’

“Do you really think,” continued Avraham, “that when I grew up it ever occurred to me to get back at them? All they did to me then when they were wild uncouth children was to break some images made of clay. They trampled on some mud and nothing more.” Then the Ger turned to his inquisitor. “Do you really think that there, in the world of truth, when everything will be so clear to me, that my mind will be set on taking revenge because you, in your boorishness, burned up my flesh and singed my bones which are only some dust from the earth!!!?”

What is even more astonishing were the words of the Ger regarding that lowly informant. “If I deserve any form of merit in the World of Truth, I won’t rest until I am able to bring that informant to join me in the next world. He was the one who caused me this great privilege to be burned on Kiddush Hashem!”

Good Shabbos!


© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Rosh Yeshiva

Yeshiva Shaare Chaim.

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Trust Me!" Feldheim Publishers) and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop - Lakewood).

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