by HaRav Chaim Kaufman
Ki Sheva Yipol Tzaddik Vekom
Every person has higher and lower moments when it comes to
serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu. One's success is largely
dependent on his ability to overcome a specific
middoh, and to take hold of himself once he has
stumbled. If one succeeds in strengthening himself at a down
moment, one can then utilize the opportunity of a mistake as
a building block for the future. Let us attempt to partially
explain the ways of avodas Hashem so that we can
strengthen our weak points and aspire to great spiritual
The Medrash (Shir Hashirim 4:12) brings the following:
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai told over a parable of one who
inherited a great inheritance, yet it was located in a filthy
area of refuse. The person was too lazy to dig it up, so he
sold his (unclaimed) inheritance for a low price. The new
owner did not tarry. He immediately dug up the garbage and
uncovered a tremendous fortune. He built himself a huge
palace, and soon began strolling in the marketplaces followed
by a string of servants. That hidden inheritance was the
source of his newly discovered pleasures. The original owner
soon saw his buyer living such an affluent lifestyle, and
began sputtering with regret. "Look what I gave up!" he
Similarly, when Klal Yisroel were in Mitzrayim,
enslaved by bricks and mortar, they were an abomination to
the Egyptian people. Yet, after Klal Yisroel left
Mitzrayim the Egyptians suddenly saw their former slaves
camping by the sea in kingly fashion. The Egyptians began
deeply regretting that they had allowed their slaves to leave
Rabbi Yonoson draws a parable to the same topic, of one who
owned a large field which he sold for an insignificant
amount. The new owner went, dug up the field, discovered
wellsprings and planted gardens and orchards -- altogether
transforming it into a paradise. The original owner began
choking himself with regret when he beheld the metamorphosis
of his old property. "Look what an opportunity I have lost!"
he lamented. Similar was the reaction of the Egyptians when
they let the Yidden go, as explained above.
Rabbi Yosi too, tells a parable of one who had a cedar forest
which he sold for an undersized profit. The new owner went
and constructed crates and towers. When the original owner
beheld the success of his former assets, he began choking
himself with regret, exclaiming, "Woe unto me! Look what I
have lost!" When Klal Yisroel left Mitzrayim, the
reaction of the Egyptians was the same.
Clearly, if three Tannaim each drew a different
parable to explain the identical concept, it is not by
chance. Apparently, there is a deeper meaning within each
parable, which we must study.
Pharaoh did not at all recognize what was truly hidden within
Klal Yisroel whilst they were in his land and what
great characteristics lay within this Nation. He was under
the impression that they were a lowly people, abandoned in
refuse and despised by their Egyptian masters. Only after
Pharaoh beheld Klal Yisroel camping in such royal
fashion on the seacoast, did he begin to realize what truly
lay hidden within the Soul of the People.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai draws a parable to one who had
inherited a large bequest yet was too lazy to dig beneath the
garbage to retrieve it. There truly was a fortune lying
beneath all that rubbish, because with it the new owner was
able to purchase slaves and build himself a huge palace. From
these specific details, we see Pharaoh realized that although
his slaves had been in the dumps, they still had a tremendous
inheritance from the Ovos. With this yerusha, they
were capable of building enormously.
Rabbi Yonoson adds in his parable that there is not only an
inheritance here, but if one digs deeply, one will discover
wellsprings and can plant gardens and orchards -- all within
this field. These details teach us that ultimately, each and
every Yid is a live and bubbling wellspring of water,
through which one can irrigate gardens and orchards.
Rabbi Yosi attaches additional details to this parable by
saying that one need not even plant afresh from original
seeds and tender saplings. Everything is already inborn
within our Nation. Rabbi Yosi's parable is a cedar forest,
where the trees are already growing. One must only fashion
crates and towers from these trees, but the supplies are
already available. Similarly, every Yid has everything
within him: the neshomoh, the potential, the talents.
We must each only tap our potential, in order to fashion a
From this Medrash, we learn that each and every one
needs to recognize, understand, and believe that he has
wondrous power within him. It is all there; one must only dig
deeply to reveal the bubbling wellspring. He must toil with
all his talents and capabilities, to fashion crates and
towers and thus fulfill his purpose. Hashem does not expect
that which is not within our power to accomplish. Only what
is already inherent within us are we expected to guard and
With this we can understand the Seforno's explanation
(Shemos 40:18). During the construction of the
Mishkan, ten curtains were first set up horizontally,
to create a roof, and these were called the Mishkan.
This was even before the supporting vertical beams were
erected, and it was miraculous. The curtains rested on air,
unsupported! Only later were the beams put up to stand under
This demands an explanation. Why should we need to use a
miraculous construction? Could the Mishkan not have been
built normally: first erect the beams and then arrange the
curtains atop the existing beams?
A possibility is as follows: From the time of Yetzias
Mitzrayim, Hashem's Shechina was already resting
upon the Jewish Nation. The Shechinah is alluded to by
the ten curtains which were the main component of the
Mishkan, as the Seforno explains. (Ibid.) The
avodoh that is expected of us is to serve and retain
the Shechinah in our midst. We have to erect the beams
and build a structure to maintain the Mishkan, yet the
Shechinah and Divine Revelation have already been
prepared from Shomayim. Our job is to serve,
strengthen and maintain the Mishkan so that it is a
bais kibbul -- a vessel -- for the already-present
Shechina and siyata deShmaya.
For this reason, Moshe Rabbenu's tefillah was: Yehi
Rotzon that the Shechina should always rest in the
fruits of Klal Yisroel's labor. Moshe's prayer
continued with "Veyehi no'am" --the fruits of our
labor should be firmly established for us. This suggests that
the main purpose of the Mishkan was "the fruits of our labor"
-- the active effort which we exerted to strengthen and
maintain the Shechina within us.
Chazal teach us that the twenty-second perek of
Tehillim was recited by Esther Hamalka in her
distress. She was about to enter Achashverosh's chambers,
without having been previously summoned. Such an act was
punishable by death. When she called out, "Keili, Keili,
lomoh azavtoni!" she had in mind, "Keili" -- Who
had appeared at the Yam Suf, and "Keili" -- Who had
appeared at Har Sinai. Why was Esther referring specifically
to these two Appearances -- at Yam Suf and at Har Sinai -- at
her time of tzoroh?
Bnei Yisroel were in terrible danger at Yam Suf. The bad
mal'ochim argued in Heaven, "These (the Egyptians) are
idol- worshippers, and these (the Yidden) are [also] idol-
worshippers! Why does the Jewish Nation deserve to be saved,
when they are guilty of the same crimes as their
Yet Hakodosh Boruch Hu knew that there are great
powers in His Nation, powers that would reveal themselves in
the future. It is written that when Klal Yisroel were
in Mitzrayim and Moshe Rabbenu questioned their merit to be
redeemed, Hashem answered, "They are deserving of Redemption
because they will in the future receive the Torah and serve
Me on this mountain of Sinai." (Rashi) Klal Yisroel's
salvation from Mitzrayim and their rescue at Yam Suf
was in the zchus of their receiving the Torah in the
This is what Esther Hamalka was praying for: "Lomoh
azavtoni?" If You, O Hashem, feel that Klal
Yisroel is not worthy of being saved from Haman's wicked
plan because they are sinners, why is it different now than
in the times of Mitzrayim? At Yam Suf we were also not worthy
of being saved, yet You rescued us due to our future
zchus of receiving the Torah. "Keili at Yam Suf
when we were unworthy, yet also Keili at Har Sinai,
when we were deserving. Please save us just as You have saved
This tefillah is truly remarkable as it is indeed what
happened. Hashem saved the Yidden, and after the Purim
miracle, "kiyemu mah shekiblu kevor." We re-accepted
the Torah which we had already accepted generations before.
There was a second Kabolas HaTorah, in our loving
gratitude to Hashem for His deliverance.
We learn from here that in any situation that a person finds
himself, even in the lowest levels, a person can strengthen
himself and is obligated to realize that come what may, he
still has a very lofty neshomoh. He is capable of
reaching the greatest heights, yet with one condition: He
must take himself into his hands and immediately arouse
himself, and not fall into despair, laziness, and useless
thoughts. Burdened by these, he will not accomplish a
This is brought down in the Chumash (Bereishis 4:6)
when Hakodosh Boruch Hu accosted Kayin, "Lomoh
choroh loch, velomoh noflu ponecha?" This posuk
seems puzzling: Is there a greater personal failure than
Hashem's rejection of him and his offering? Why shouldn't
Kayin be walking around downcast?
Seforim say that Hashem was accusing Kayin for feeling
depressed and downcast. This is not the derech of an
oveid Hashem. No recovery is going to come from this
type of an attitude. Even once a person was not successful,
he must immediately pick himself up and regain his original
grounds, continuing as before. This was Hashem's answer to
Kayin, "If you improve yourself, your sin will be carried,
This explanation is alluded to in the Seforno, in these
words: "If an offense does have a way of being corrected, it
is incorrect to be distressed about the past [regretting that
which has already happened]. One should rather concentrate on
trying to fix up his wrongdoing for the future."
One can also study the Sheloh (at the end of Parshas
Bereishis) to learn an astounding concept: If one has
slipped and transgressed, he should immediately do
teshuva, for if he does not, one aveiroh leads
to another, and before very long one can find himself
slipping again and again!
When Kayin returned to Hashem, Who told him, "If you will
improve, your sin will be sustained, . . . " Kayin was not
yet a sinner. However, because he did not do teshuva
for his offering a second-class korbon, he soon came
to transgress the tremendous aveiroh of murder, and
denial of Hakodosh Boruch Hu's Presence.
In closing, we bring the posuk of Mishlei
(24:16): "Sheva yipol tzaddik vekom, uresho'im
yikoshlu bero'oh." The tzaddik also stumbles --
several times. "There is no such thing as a tzaddik on
this earth who will only do good, and not transgress." The
tzaddik's secret is that -- "Vekom." After he
falls, he continues onward. By contrast, the reshoim
fall in their wickedness and remain there.
A parable is told of a mighty warrior who, whenever he
stumbles in battle, bravely picks himself up, strengthens
himself, and continues fighting. This is the derech of
the ovdei Hashem all their days upon this Earth. They
do not remain beaten, but continue to stride forward, their
strength and their faith showing through, and they will be
zoche to special assistance from Above.
The times we are living are replete with nisyonos.
Physically, we have goyim combating our people.
Spiritually, we have deterrents which loom before us, from
outside influences and from within our own bounds. Yet, each
one of us must know that every positive act accomplished,
however small, has a tremendous impact in Shomayim. It
all adds up to deflate and depress the evil influences that
The sefer Avodas Yisroel on Pirkei Ovos offers
a novel explanation on the mishna, "Emor me'at ve'aseh
harbeih." Emor me'at: Each small thing which one utters --
such as tefilloh, Torah, encouragement to a friend,
or chesed -- accomplishes tremendous things Upon High.
Emor me'at: By voicing even a small something in This
World, ve'aseh harbeih you will achieve a lot in
It would be tremendous if we can strengthen ourselves so that
each one of us constantly includes a small, added touch to
our avodas Hashem. We can then be zoche to very
positive effects, and raise the levels of kedushoh in
This World, so that Klal Yisroelwill merit
yeshu'os very soon.
HaRav Chaim Kaufman is rosh yeshiva of the Yeshiva
Letzeirim Tiferes Yaakov, Gateshead.
The above article appeared in the Kislev, 5743 edition of
the bi- annually published Kol Hatorah journal, and
has been translated with permission. The last section was
graciously sent in specially for this translation by the
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