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28 Elul 5763 - September 25, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Ki Sheva Yipol Tzaddik Vekom

by HaRav Chaim Kaufman

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 heights.

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 cried.

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 their land.

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 magnificent vessel.

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 utilize.

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 the curtains.

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 oppressors?"

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 future.

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 us then!"

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 thing.

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, etc." (Ibid.)

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 surround us.

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 Shomayim.

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 esteemed author.

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