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13 Ellul 5766 - September 6, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Bein Odom Lechavero and Avodoh Lesheim Shomayim During Golus Yishmoel and Edom

by HaRav Meir Zvi Bergman

Part III

The first part focused on the Torah reading of the first day of Rosh Hashonoh that discusses the birth of Yitzchok and the expulsion of Yishmoel from Avrohom's house by Soroh with Avrohom's consent. The Ramban says that Soroh Imeinu was punished for this, as well as Avrohom for letting her do it, in that Hogor was given a son who was a pere odom, and who later oppressed the descendants of Avrohom and Soroh.

HaRav Bergman explains that it was evident to Soroh and Avrohom that it would not be possible to educate Yitzchok in one house together with Yishmoel and Hogor. Avrohom and Soroh certainly knew that by expelling Hogor and Yishmoel they were committing a grievous injustice, but they did it nonetheless, lesheim Shomayim, in order to safeguard the education of Yitzchok. Sending away Yishmoel and Hogor was an act of mesirus nefesh on their part and on the part of their descendants who would be persecuted by the descendants of Yishmoel for all generations. And yet they still did it for the sake of Yitzchok's education.

Since it was done lesheim Shomayim, that is why Soroh is still said at her petiroh to have been like a twenty year old, free of sin.

There is an astounding principle: Even when there is a Divine command, if there is some flaw in bein odom lechavero it needs to be rectified. The explanation for this seems to be that HaKodosh Boruch Hu created man in His image, and whoever causes anguish to another offends against that person's tzelem Elokim. That is why on the first day of Rosh Hashonoh we read the parsha of the sacrifice of both Avrohom and Soroh. We pray that Avrohom and Soroh's self-sacrifice should protect us. It is because of this akeidoh that we are suffering from the golus of Yishmoel to this day, Hashem yeracheim. The medrash on Bris Bein Habesorim says, explains the Zayis Raanan on the Yalkut, that when the male (Yishmoel) and the female (the heifer Edom) will unite they will destroy the world, chas vesholom. Why?


It says in Mishlei (30:21-23), "For three things the land quakes, and the fourth it cannot endure: for a servant when he reigns, and a villain when he is filled with food, for an odious woman when she is married, and a handmaid that is heir to her mistress." Rashi (Ibid.) based on the Medrash Aggodoh explains that this posuk is referring to the Four Kingdoms. "The land" is Eretz Yisroel; "a servant when he reigns" is Nevuchadnetzar, who was a servant of Morodoch Baladan; "a villain when he is filled with food" refers to Achashverosh; "an odious woman when she is married" refers to Greece; "a handmaid that is heir to her mistress" refers to Eisov, because Yaakov was originally meant to be the servant but the tables were turned and because of the brochos Yaakov became the master and Eisov the servant.

The Medrash Mishlei on the same posuk, on the other hand, says that, "a handmaid that is heir to her mistress" — refers to Hogor. As we explained, both Eisov and Hogor have power over us because of the same flaw, and therefore "the fourth it cannot endure," as the Yalkut says: When Yishmoel and Edom get together, since the power of both stems from the same flaw on our part, the force of their claim against us is increased.

Chazal say in Sanhedrin (27b) that on the one hand it says (Devorim 24:16), "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children . . . every man shall be put to death for his own sin." On the other hand, it says (Shemos 34:7), "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children." Chazal explain that when children commit the same sins as their fathers they are also punished for their fathers' sins. See the Rambam (Hilchos Taaniyos 5:1): "There are days (Tzom Gedaliah, Asoro BeTeves, Shiva Ossor BeTammuz and Tisha B'Av) on which the whole Jewish people fast because of the calamities that occurred on them in order to awaken hearts and open the paths of repentance. This will serve as a recollection of our evil deeds, and of our fathers' deeds which resembled ours, resulting in the same calamities for them as for us. By remembering these matters we will improve our ways as it says, `And they shall confess their sins and the sins of their fathers.'"

The gemora (Yuma 9b) says that the second Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed because of the sin of causeless hatred. We may be sure that if we would amend the sin of bein odom lechavero we would already have been redeemed from the golus of Eisov and Yishmoel. The roots of this sin of hurting our fellow man, even for the sake of a mitzvoh, lie with the Ovos hakedoshim and we have to pay for it in order to amend it.

We can now also understand another strange Medrash (M. Rabboh, Bereishis 98:3): "R. Akiva was sitting and expounding and his listeners were falling asleep. Wishing to wake them up, he said, `Why did Esther rule over 127 states?' Let Esther, a descendant of Soroh who lived for 127 years, come and rule over 127 states."

Why did R. Akiva choose this droshoh to wake up his listeners? There are no signs to indicate that he was expounding this on Purim. Surely he did not mean to make a mere milso dibedichuso. Furthermore, why are the years of Soroh's life compared to the number of states over which Esther ruled? Also, instead of `Why did Esther rule over 127 states" (lit. "What did Esther see to rule. . .") the commentator R. Zeev Wolf Einhorn (based on M. Rabboh Esther) amends this to read, "Why did Esther deserve to . . . "? What does this mean?

Mordechai and Esther were both very great people. Mordechai was a member of the Anshei Knesses Hagedoloh, and it could be that Esther was even greater than him, just like Soroh was greater than Avrohom in prophecy. See Esther (5:1): "On the third day Esther donned her royal apparel." The gemora in Megilloh (15a) says that Esther, "dressed herself" in ruach hakodesh, and megillas Esther was written with ruach hakodesh, as it says in Megilloh (7a), "Esther sent the chachomim a message saying, `Write an account of me for posterity.' "

It says in Esther (4:1), "When Mordechai heard about everything that had happened." Chazal (quoted by Rashi) say that he knew from the Dreamer, and they do not say that he knew because of ruach hakodesh. Esther told Mordechai to fast for three full consecutive days, including the first day of Pesach, and to refrain from eating matzos. Mordechai accepted this, as it says, "Mordechai . . . did according to all that Esther had commanded him." It seems that Esther was a very great person indeed. She may be compared to Devoroh who taught halochos (see the first answer of Tosafos in Shavuos 29b D.h. Shvuas).

Mordechai, a member of the great Sanhedrin, ruled that she had to go to Achashverosh of her own free will. Chazal say on the posuk (4:16), "I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law," — because until now I was forced and now I am going willingly, "and if I perish, I perish" — just like I lost my father's house, so will I become lost to you because now that I am going willingly I will become forbidden to you. See Shut Noda Biyehudo (Y.D. 161 and other places) that we cannot make any rulings for the case of saving individuals based on the precedent of Esther, because her case was different since her actions were to result in the salvation of the whole of Jewry from India to Kush and were in accordance with the instructions of Mordechai and his beis din perhaps based on ruach hakodesh.

The gemora says in Brochos, "Bar Kaporoh expounded, `What short text is there upon which all the essential principles of the Torah depend? "In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths (Mishlei 3:6)." Rovo said, Even for a matter of transgression." See Rashi, but the Maharitz Chayes (in the name of the Pachad Yitzchok) quotes Rashi in an old printing that we should acknowledge Him even if we do a sinful act for the sake of Heaven, such as the daughters of Lot or Yael, and then Hashem will direct our path.

It says in Nozir (25b), "A transgression performed with a good intention is better than a mitzvah performed with an evil intention . . . as it says, `Blessed above women shall Yael be, the wife of Chever the Keini. Above women in the tent shall she be blessed,' and `women in the tent' refers to Soroh, Rivkoh, Rochel and Leah." Rav Yochonon adds that since the favors of the wicked are evil to the righteous, Yael derived no pleasure. It was purely lesheim Shomayim.

The whole of the Mesillas Yeshorim is based on the beraissa of R. Pinchos ben Yo'ir which states that the highest level to be attained is that of ruach hakodesh where all one's actions are for the sake of Heaven without any ulterior motives. The Ramchal concludes his book by mentioning that posuk in Mishlei, "In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Esther, by obeying Mordechai and going to the king willingly and thereby becoming forbidden to her husband, was following the path of ruach hakodesh, of acknowledging Him in all our ways. She was following in the footsteps of Yael.

We now return to the Medrash Rabboh about R. Akiva's droshoh. His question was, "Why did Esther see fit to rule willingly over 127 states?" By mentioning Soroh in his answer (and saying that she lived "for 100 and 20 and 7 years") R. Akiva is alluding to the medrash that Soroh at 100 was as free of sin as a twenty-year-old. Even though, as the Ramban and the Baal Haturim point out, she did have a flaw, but since her intention was exclusively for the sake of Heaven it is considered as if she was free of sin.

Similarly, Esther saw fit to rule over "100 and 20 and 7" states, because her sole intention was lesheim Shomayim without any personal enjoyment which is the purpose of avodas Hashem and the foundation of the Torah: "In all your ways acknowledge Him," even when committing a sinful act.

To understand why R. Akiva wanted to awaken his listeners from their slumber with this droshoh, we have to refer to the Mishna and gemora in Yuma (19b) that if the Kohen godol was about to slumber on Yom Kippur, young kohanim would snap their fingers to keep him awake until the time of shechitoh. The gemora says, "They kept him awake neither with the harp nor with the lyre but with the mouth, and they would sing, `If Hashem does not build a house, they labor in vain that build it.'"

Rashi explains: Ensure that your avodoh is for the sake of Heaven, otherwise your labor will come to nothing. The holiest person, the Kohen Godol, on the holiest day of the year in the holiest place, is told that he has to act for the sake of Heaven, the foundation of all avodas Hashem or otherwise his work is in vain. These words will keep him awake.

Similarly R. Akiva told his listeners who were dozing off about Esther who was to be compared to Soroh since they both acted lesheim Shomayim without which our avodas Hashem will come to nothing. This thought was to keep them awake.

We have to strengthen our middos bein odom lechavero, especially on Rosh Hashonoh and especially during this period of golus Yishmoel and Edom.

Our main goal in our avodas Hashem should be to do everything lesheim Shomayim, thus making our avodoh acceptable.

In this merit may we be inscribed in the Book of Life and witness the Redemption.

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