"And if her father prevents her on the day he hears . . .
and Hashem will forgive her" (Bamidbor 30:6). Rashi
quotes the comment of the Sifrei: "What is the
posuk [`and Hashem will forgive her'] referring to?
To a woman who took a vow of nezirus and her husband
heard and annulled it, and she didn't know and was
transgressing her vow, drinking wine and becoming
tomei. Such a case requires atonement and pardon,
even though the vow had been annulled (and no longer
existed). If annulled vows (that were transgressed) need
pardoning, how much more so is this true of vows that were
not annulled and were transgressed!"
The gemora (Nozir 23) relates that "When Rabbi Akiva
used to arrive at this posuk, he would cry (and say),
`If a woman intended to eat pig's flesh and instead she
happened to take lamb's meat (as in this case, where her
husband's annulment renders her intended aveiros
innocuous) she still needs forgiveness, how much more so is
this true of someone who intended to eat pig's flesh and
actually took pig's flesh!"
My master and teacher, the gaon and tzaddik
HaRav Leib Chasman asked what need there is here for a
kal vochomer? Of course someone who eats pig meat has
transgressed a negative commandment!
He explained the gemora's meaning as follows: If she
intended to eat pig's flesh and through some merit was saved
and took lamb's meat instead, she still requires
forgiveness. Even though there was no actual misdeed, she
requires atonement for her sinful intention, because she
meant to do something that is forbidden. Kal vochomer
then, when there was an aveiroh and she ate the pig's
flesh, she is also punished for her intentions. This
is why Rabbi Akiva wept when he came to this
This is the same Rabbi Akiva whom the gemora (Shabbos
127) tells us worked for three years as a hired hand, at
the end of which he was not paid his wages. The Chasam Sofer
writes that this took place while Rabbi Akiva was still an
am ho'oretz. He judged his employer favorably (see
the gemora for the details of how he did so several
times) and subsequently Rachel, the daughter of Kalba Savua,
married him because she saw his wonderful character, despite
the fact that her father took a vow preventing her from
benefiting from any of his extensive property. She lived
with him in great poverty, as is well known, until he grew
to become the great Rabbi Akiva, with twenty-four thousand
The Chasam Sofer also points out that Chazal say, "The
hatred of amei ho'oretz for talmidei chachomim
exceeds the nations' hatred of Klal Yisroel." While
Rabbi Akiva was an am ho'oretz, he would say, "Give
me a talmid chochom, and I'll bite him like a donkey"
(a donkey's bite being strong enough to break bones). He
spoke like this despite his gentleness and his fine
character, which we have noted. Subsequently, Rabbi Akiva
certainly repented out of love for Hashem, which transforms
deliberate aveiros into merits yet he wept because
one needs forgiveness for bad thoughts as well.
Cause for Regret
There is a well-known story about Reb Dovid Doktor, who
became a baal teshuvoh and climbed higher and higher
until he became one of the greatest of the Lelover
chassidim. He would also travel to visit the Chozeh
of Lublin zt'l. There was a certain chossid --
a Chortkover chossid I think -- who was ill with
tuberculosis R'l, who also travelled to the Chozeh.
In those times, there was no medical cure for this
The chossid visited the doctor, Reb Dovid, who was
not then known as Reb Dovid but simply as Doktor. The
doctor told the chossid, "There is no cure. You had
better go and arrange your affairs."
The chossid went to his Rebbe and told him what the
doctor had said. The Rebbe's response was, " `Permission has
been given to doctors to heal' but not to give up." The
Rebbe gave the chossid some cheese to eat and beer to
drink, both of which were considered by the medicine of the
time to be extremely dangerous for tuberculosis sufferers.
After consuming these items, the chossid fainted and
was left lying in bed for several hours -- following which
he woke up perfectly healthy.
While walking outside he met an amazed Doktor, who
asked him if he had risen from the dead. The chossid
told him about the Rebbe's blessing and the former was very
impressed and became a baal teshuvoh, who himself
travelled to the Rebbe and became his chossid.
Towards the end of his life, Reb Dovid Doktor fell ill and
Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov zt'l, came to visit
him and found him crying. He asked Reb Dovid the reason for
his tears and Reb Dovid told him that he was recalling the
times before he became a baal teshuvoh. The
rebbe told him, "Actually, teshuvoh turns
deliberate sins into merits, so you ought to be getting up
and dancing . . . "
Reb Dovid however, continued weeping and said, "True,
aveiros where a deed was done become mitzvos, but who
knows whether sinful thoughts become mitzvos?"
This was why Rabbi Akiva cried, because of the pardon that
has to be obtained for sinful thoughts, as we see from the
posuk, "And Hashem will forgive her."
The gemora (Yoma 29) says, "Sinful thoughts are worse
than an actual sin." Rashi explains that they are worse for
the body but the Ramban gives a different explanation.
I heard an explanation of this statement of Chazal's from
the kodosh, Rav Elimelech Mintzberg Hy'd. He
explained that after a person has done an aveiroh, he
is finished with it. However, he can spend an entire day
entertaining sinful thoughts, becoming completely embroiled
in sin chas vesholom, without interruption.
I heard a comment from the gaon HaRav Eliyohu Lopian
zt'l, on the gemora (Bovo Basra 57), that
comments, that the posuk (Yeshayah 33:15-17), `And
one who closes his eyes so as not to see evil . . . will
envisage a king in his beauty,' applies to someone who
doesn't look at women as they engage in clothes washing. The
gemora asks, "What case are we dealing with? If there
is an alternative route, then he is a rosho!" The
Rashbam explains that, "Even though he closes his eyes, he
is still a rosho, because he shouldn't have gone near
there but should have kept far away from doing any
aveiroh, as the posuk says, "Keep a distance
from anything unseemly."
HaRav Lopian pointed out that a person can be walking along
the street with his eyes closed and be thought of by people
as a tzaddik, but in reality be called a rosho
by the gemora, for taking that route when he could
have taken another which would have avoided the problem
The gaon and tzaddik HaRav Aharon Luria
zt'l, asks in his sefer, Avodas Penim, why the
posuk uses the term ve'otzeim einov, for "one
who closes his eyes," instead of a different word for
closing [such as soger]. He explains this as alluding
to the necessity for guarding one's eyes and keeping them in
one position, like a bone (etzem). Just as a bone
cannot be moved from its position without a person's
conscious will, a person should also stop his eyes from
moving in all directions, confining them to looking at what
is both permitted and necessary to look at.
This comment is worthy of the person who uttered it. This
gaon and tzaddik lived in Tiveria, and many
stories are told about his holiness. He would be seen
walking in the street with one eye closed, looking out of
the other one.
Although there are many stories about him, I will just tell
one of them that is well known in Eretz Yisroel, about the
petiroh of this tzaddik. The night before he
passed away was leil Shabbos. The author of Toldos
Aharon was spending that Shabbos in Tiveria, and he held
a tisch for his chassidim in the neighborhood
where Rav Luria lived. The latter came out to them and asked
for a minyan to come to his house. They came, he lay
down on the ground, said Shema Yisroel and in front
of the members of the minyan he had called, his
The posuk (Tehillim 147:10) says, "He does not desire
the might of the horse . . . Hashem wants those who fear
Him." We need to understand what is meant by saying that
Hashem does not desire the horse's might. I have told the
story a number of times, of a bochur from Kfar
Chassidim who asked the mashgiach, Rav Eliyohu
Lopian, for permission to travel to attend a wedding. Rav
Lopian knew that this boy's family were not chareidim
and he asked him whether the men and women would not be
keeping mixed company there. The bochur replied that
in fact they would be but, "I and my parents will be sitting
at a separate table away from them and if they engage in
mixed dancing, it doesn't bother me."
Rav Lopian grew angry with him and said, "I am boruch
Hashem an elderly man of eighty, and I can't see
anything at all out of one eye. Yet, when I go out into the
street, I am worried about transgressing the aveiroh
of velo sosuru, not to let one's eyes wander . . .
and you, a young bochur, say that it doesn't concern
The posuk can thus be explained in the following way:
"Hashem doesn't desire the horse's might" -- don't display
your prowess over your `horse' i.e. the yetzer hora,
by withstanding temptation . . . "Hashem wants those who
fear Him" -- yiras Shomayim dictates that a person
should flee from any trials . . . then he will be one of
"those who hope for His kindness."
The Path to Destruction
The gemora (Gittin 58), relates that, "It happened
that a certain person took a fancy to his master's wife; he
was a carpenter's apprentice. His master once needed to
borrow money. He said to him, `Send me your wife and I'll
lend her the money.'
"The master sent his wife to the apprentice. They stayed
together for three days. The master came to him and said,
`Where is my wife, whom I sent to you?'
"He replied, `I sent her back immediately and I heard that
the youths molested her on the way.'
"The master asked him, `What shall I do?'
"He said, `If you'll listen to me, divorce her.'
"The master said, `But her kesuvoh is large.'
"He said, `I'll lend you the money and pay her the
"The master went and divorced her, and the apprentice
married her. When the time arrived for the master to repay
the loan and he didn't have the money, the apprentice said
to him, `Come work for me to pay off your debt.' They were
sitting eating and drinking and the ex-master was standing
and serving them. Tears fell from his eyes into their cups.
That was when the decree (of the destruction of the Beis
Hamikdosh) was sealed."
The Maharsho explains, "It is possible that when he
spent the three days with her in the beginning that they did
not sin together, so that she was permitted to him after her
husband divorced her. However, the decree was sealed when
they plotted to persuade him to divorce her and to enslave
him through the payment of her kesuvoh."
Here we see the tremendous severity of sinful thoughts.
Although they committed no sin, the decree to destroy the
Beis Hamikdosh was finalized because of their evil
The Medrash Rabba on this parshah (22:9), also
shows us the terrible effects of sinful thoughts. On the
posuk (Bamidbor 32:1), "And the children of Reuven
and of Gad had large flocks," the medrash comments,
"This is the meaning of the posuk (Koheles 10:2), `A
wise man's heart is to his right, while a fool's heart is to
his left.' `A wise man's heart is to his right,' refers to
the yetzer hatov, which is on the right. `A fool's
heart is to his left,' refers to the yetzer hora,
which is on his left. Another explanation of the
posuk is, `A wise man's heart is on his right,' this
refers to the tzaddikim, who apply themselves to
Torah, which comes from the right, as the posuk (Devorim
33:2) says, `From His right, [He gave] to them a law of
fire.' -- `A fool's heart is on his left,' this refers to
the evildoers, who set their sights upon attaining wealth,
as the posuk (Mishlei 3:16) says, `In His left hand,
wealth and honor."
This medrash requires explanation. "The posuk
in Koheles speaks about `a fool's heart,' and the
medrash says that this refers to evildoers. But this
is astonishing! Is it forbidden to become wealthy? We find
several Tanoim and Amoro'im who were wealthy.
Why does the medrash call fools `wicked' because they
`set their sights upon becoming wealthy?"
We can explain with a parable which the Chofetz Chaim
zt'l, used. The world says that, "A good businessman
can turn rags into riches." For example, a grocer stands in
his store selling bread. If, when a customer comes in to
buy, he thinks, "He needs the bread to sustain him. I am
giving him this bread as an act of kindness, in order to
sustain a living soul," then he is even entitled to take
payment for his service. Just as the customer needs
sustenance, so does the storekeeper.
All the endeavors of such a person are devoted to serving
Hashem. His only object in running his business is to
sustain himself from the income, so that he should not need
to turn to others and should be able to set aside times for
Torah study and for serving Hashem. All his actions are thus
holy, for everything is devoted to Hashem's service.
This man is making gold out of the money which he earns, for
all his efforts are dedicated to Hashem yisborach.
Even if he becomes wealthy, as "Hashem's blessing that
brings wealth" comes to rest upon him, he remains wholly
dedicated to serving Hashem. He has truly taken rags --
ordinary money -- and turned them into gold -- spiritual
On the other hand, if a grocer stands in his store, or an
owner in his factory, thinking only of the money that he
stands to earn, and not at all about serving Hashem or about
providing for the needs of his customers, he is turning gold
-- the potential for amassing true wealth -- into rags -- a
few paltry coins.
This is stated explicitly in the commentary of the Maharzu
(by HaRav Zeev Wolff Einhorn zt'l), on the above
medrash, who writes (referring to the posuk,
`A wise man's heart is to his right'), "A person's principle
strength and dexterity are on his right side and the left
side is subordinate to the right. This is why all main
things are called `right' and secondary ones are called
Further on, the medrash says, " `A fool's heart is to
his left;' this refers to the sons of Gad and Reuven, who
made the principle secondary and what was of secondary
importance, into the main thing, because they loved
Use and Misuse
The medrash also says (22:7, on the posuk,
"And the children of Gad and Reuven had large flocks,"
"Three gifts were created for the world which, if a person
merits any one of them, he takes all the world's treasures.
If he merits wisdom, he wins everything. If he merits
strength, he wins everything. If he merits wealth, he wins
everything. When? When these gifts come from Heaven and when
they come through the power of Torah . . . " However, if
these gifts do not come from Hakodosh Boruch Hu, they
ultimately stop . . . "Our teachers learned: Two wise men
arose in the world, one from Yisroel and the other from the
nations and they were both lost . . . Similarly, two wealthy
men arose in the world, one from Yisroel and one from the
nations, Korach from Yisroel and Homon from the nations, and
they were both lost. Why? Because their gifts were not from
Hakodosh Boruch Hu, for they grabbed them for
themselves. Similarly, we find that the children of Gad and
Reuven, were wealthy and had large flocks and that they
loved their money. Therefore, they were exiled first of all
This medrash also needs to be understood. What is the
meaning of the answer given by the medrash to the
question why the two wise men etc. were lost -- "Because
their gifts were not from Hakodosh Boruch Hu, for
they grabbed them for themselves?" Do we imagine that anyone
can simply `snatch' wisdom or wealth for himself without it
coming from Hakodosh Boruch Hu, chas vesholom?
The medrash means that if a person merits any one of
these three gifts, he should realize that he has not merited
it to use for himself, but to benefit others and the world
at large. His wisdom is not for himself alone, as the
commentaries explain the mishnah in Ovos
(2:8), "If you have learned much Torah, do not give
yourself credit for it . . . " in other words, don't use it
only for yourself, teach it to others as well.
Similarly, when Heaven bestows wealth on a person, it is not
only for him to use. He is merely a guardian, or trustee for
the wealth, his task being to use it in order to benefit
others. The `owner' of this wealth is like one of the
employees in a bank. If a customer comes in with a young
child and the child sees the teller counting vast sums of
money, the child imagines that the teller is enormously
wealthy because of the large sums that are in his hands. Is
this true? If the teller helps himself to a single dollar,
he will be sacked from his job.
So it is with the wealth which Heaven gives a person. It is
not only for him to "snatch for himself" as the
medrash says. He is a guardian and is supposed to use
it to educate his family and to support them, as we
explained earlier with the Chofetz Chaim's parable. Then,
his gift "comes from the hand of Hakodosh Boruch Hu
and comes through the power of Torah."
I will tell you a story about Reb Boruch Ber zt'l,
the Kamenitzer Rosh Yeshiva, who travelled to the United
States in order to raise funds for his yeshiva in Kamenitz.
A gabbai in one of the botei knesses which Reb
Boruch Ber visited rose and started to enumerate the
visitor's praises: his Torah greatness, his fear of Heaven
and so on. When Reb Boruch Ber heard all this, he began
banging his hand on the table and protesting that it wasn't
true. His chaperone on this visit went over to him and said,
"Rebbe, if they don't sing your praises and say how
great you are, we won't collect a single penny for the
Reb Boruch Ber responded, "If it's for the yeshiva's
benefit, he can continue," and subsequently he held his coat
over his ears, so as not to hear his own praises. Following
the speech a meal was held in Reb Boruch Ber's honor. The
secretary, who was his chaperone for the trip, went over to
him and said, "Rebbe, don't eat the fish, it has a
bad smell." Reb Boruch Ber was angry and said that he
couldn't smell anything wrong with it and he ate his
That night, after they had retired, the secretary heard Reb
Boruch Ber vomiting in the adjoining room. He entered the
room and said, "Rebbe! I told you that you shouldn't
eat the fish!"
"Chas vesholom!" replied Reb Boruch Ber. "The fish
was good! I'm vomiting all the praises that were said about
Thus goes the story, which is pertinent to the topic of our
In the Yerushalmi (Yoma 1:1) we find, "Rabbi Yochonon
bar Torta said, `We find that (the Mishkan at)
Shiloh was only destroyed because they slighted the
festivals. We find that the first Beis Hamikdosh was
only destroyed because of idol worship, immorality and
murder. However, with the second Beis Hamikdosh, we
know who the people were. They toiled in Torah, were
meticulous over keeping mitzvos and every good trait could
be found in them. (So why was it destroyed?) Because they
loved money and hated each other without cause."
Let us end by quoting a statement of Chazal's: "Whoever
possesses comprehension (da'as), it is as though the
Beis Hamikdosh was rebuilt in his time." Let us
strengthen ourselves in loving one another without cause,
emulating the words of the posuk, "They loved truth
and peace," and may we merit the rebuilding of the Beis
Hamikdosh and the complete redemption, swiftly, in our
times, omein seloh!