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15 Adar 5766 - March 15, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
After Your Enemy Falls . . .

An adaptation of the sichos of HaRav Chaim Dov Altusky, Shlita

In Pirkei Ovos (4:19), Shmuel Hakoton quotes the posuk, "When your enemy falls, do not be happy. And when he falters, your heart should not be filled with happiness: for the Ribono Shel Olom may look into your heart and see how happy you are over the fall of your enemy. And He will not like what He sees in your heart. And then Hashem will withdraw His anger from your enemy" (Mishlei 24:17,18).

With a surprising chiddush, Rashi explains that not only will Hashem take away His anger from the enemy but also, the enemy will be forgiven of all his sins. Remarkably, the Ribono Shel Olom reverses the verdict of someone who rightfully deserves punishment simply because people are happy over his demise. Furthermore, those who are happy over their enemy's downfall will incur the wrath of Hashem.

In his commentary on Pirkei Ovos, Rabbeinu Yonah adds an even bigger chiddush: This process occurs even when the enemy is a rosho, meaning that Hashem considers him a rosho because he is predominantly a baal aveiroh! He has very few mitzvos to counterbalance those aveiros and therefore receives his punishment.

Nonetheless, Shmuel Hakoton teaches us not to be elated over his suffering. Since, as Rabbeinu Yonah puts it, "A person should only be happy because of the kiddush Sheim Shomayim that is occurring for the benefit of the Name of Hashem Yisborach."

When a rosho suffers because of all the pain he has caused, this sanctifies the Name of the Ribono Shel Olom. Therefore, we should be happy because the rosho receives his due punishment. When people witness a rosho running rampant by treading upon the feelings, sensitivities, and lives of others, the rosho feels— and his victims believe—that he is master of his and their destiny. Then, when his punishment comes and he falls, this sanctifies Hashem's Name.

Therefore, it is very good if we are happy because of the kiddush Sheim Shomayim. Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Yonah warns us: Even a tzaddik should not experience personal happiness over the fall of the reshoim. Through the demise of reshoim, people see how Hashem has revealed His complete control over all events. Therefore, the focus of our joy is kvod Shomayim. We are happy because the world realizes that the Ribono Shel Olom is always in control. Hashem has brought about the enemy's demise.

We must not harbor a personal hatred for the rosho nor seek personal revenge. This is so even if this rosho has caused us great personal aggravation and suffering. Even if we have many good reasons to pray and seek his downfall, nevertheless if we will be happy because we hate him for what he did to us, to our families, and to others, then Rabbeinu Yonah says, "The Ribono Shel Olom will cleanse and forgive all this rosho's aveiros."

It is important to realize that we are referring to a rosho who does not have the slightest inclination towards teshuvoh. He is still the same rosho he was — from the beginning to the end. He has already fallen. He has been punished for his crimes. Victims, who had been suffering because of him, suddenly see their enemy crushed. Everyone is extremely ecstatic over the victory. Justice has been done! Under such circumstances, we can experience a very natural sweet feeling of revenge.

Therefore, according to Rabbeinu Yonah, Shmuel Hakoton is warning us, based on the posuk, that having a feeling of sweet revenge is the worst thing that we can do. If we do that, we will bring relief to the enemy because, as Rabbeinu Yonah writes, after Hashem forgives the enemy, Hashem "uplifts him and this is a punishment for he who was happy." Victory and revenge are snatched away, and the rosho is allowed to come back to his former position of power.

After being so elated over the enemy's downfall, the worst punishment possible for someone is to see that his enemy suddenly recovers. Those who were just now happy will have to swallow their pride and look on, without any ability to help those that they love from the renewed activities of the enemy. The letdown and the feeling of helplessness is awful, and despair can overwhelm even the great tzaddik—all because he was once so elated for the wrong reasons.


However, we still have not discovered the reason why our joy — even a tzaddik's joy — over the fall of a rosho causes the tables to be so radically turned. Why should the rosho be allowed to again take control, and why must the tzaddik again be humiliated and have to suffer?

The answer is that we must believe that Hashem Yisborach completely controls everything that occurs in this world, from the greatest earth-shattering events to the most private intimate distress that an individual may suffer in the smallest way. Everything comes from Hakodosh Boruch Hu — the sweet and the not-so-sweet.

Thus, when a hate-filled person brings havoc to the lives of those around him, those who have emunah and bitochon in Hakodosh Boruch Hu are supposed to realize that this weak mortal is not bringing about all the suffering. He is simply the agent of Hashem's will. The Ribono Shel Olom wants it to happen. Hashem uses this crazed individual as His stick to bring suffering upon those who require a stiff reprimand for their ultimate benefit, to cause sorrow to those for whom sorrow will be beneficial. Suffering is an expression of Hashem's will.

It is very regrettable if the situation requires such drastic measures. However, under such circumstances, we must not direct our hate towards that individual and his followers. We must realize that good occurs by means of those who are good; the good are agents of the Ribono Shel Olom to bring happiness to people. In contrast, the bad are the agents of the Ribono Shel Olom to bring unhappiness to people.

Therefore, Shmuel Hakoton is teaching us that we cannot direct our hate towards the agent of the Ribono Shel Olom, nor should we be personally pleased when Hashem sees fit to depose him.

To believe and behave otherwise is as foolish and senseless as the dog who has received a blow from a stone that someone threw. The dog attacks the stone because he is not intelligent enough to direct his attention to the source of his pain. Instead of attacking the person, he takes the stone into his jaws and tries to bite into it. When that does not help, he just flings the stone away in complete anger.

In contrast, a wise person realizes that a stone has no inherent power to hurt him. The one who has thrown the stone is the one who has caused pain.

If so, we have made a terrible mistake. We have directed our hate towards the means and manifestation of Hashem's will. We have not thought about the real reason for all our suffering: that Hashem is unhappy with us. Therefore, when the Ribono Shel Olom sends us the pain and suffering in order to help us in some way, even though we do not always understand we must still behave in ways that show that we know and believe that Hashem directs the world.

However, if we are personally thrilled when we witness Hashgochoh protis — the direct intervention of Hashem Yisborach — in bringing about the downfall of our enemy, then we have misunderstood the way the Ribono Shel Olom deals with His world. We have misunderstood the message and meaning of what has occurred.

We have mistakenly believed that simple mortals control their own destiny and that they control destiny of others, when in fact they do not control the destiny of others or their own destiny. Everything is completely in the hands of the Ribono Shel Olom.

Thus, when we have feelings of delight and relish our victory, this is an indication that we do not have true emunah in Hakodosh Boruch Hu.


At the end of masechtos Makkos (24a) we are taught that the essence of all Taryag Mitzvos is best expressed by the posuk, "The tzaddik shall live through his emunoh" (Chabakuk 2:4). Likewise, based on the posuk in Mishlei (22:19), the Vilna Gaon explains, "The fundamental reason for giving the Torah to Klal Yisroel was so they would place their trust in Hashem . . . [and] the foundation of everything is the perfection of trust, and it encompasses all the mitzvos."

Belief that nothing occurs unless Hashem desires that it be so, is vital to our success in life. If we do not have that foundation, then all our Torah and mitzvos rest upon falsehood and cannot continue. The Ribono Shel Olom therefore reinstates the rosho as His means of bringing us to teshuvoh.

Therefore, even though someone may look and behave like a tzaddik, meaning that he does all the mitzvos and keeps away from all the aveiros, it is a facade. Eventually the truth will come out. We must have enough emunah in Hashem to know, to feel, and to live in ways that reflect a clear knowledge that nothing happens unless Hashem wants it to.

The rosho is not the person who is hurting others. He is simply an instrument in the hands of the Ribono Shel Olom. If the tzaddik lacks this understanding, then he does not have the foundation of emunah. He is not really a tzaddik. He has the potential to become just like that rosho whom he is so happy to see vanquished.

Many times have we seen that after a person's personal desires have been thwarted, someone who once was a tzaddik becomes a vicious rosho simply because he does not have the true belief in Hashem Yisborach. His life, everything he has been doing for many years, is the result of many wrong reasons: a matter of habit, a matter of finding faith in other people's eyes, to receive reward or avoid punishment. He lacks a true belief in the Ribono Shel Olom and this makes him into a rosho.

Potentially he has within him all the aveiros that the human mind can conceive. He is a man without any emunah and bitochon. He is empty.

At any moment, he may burst out in vicious anger and do worse than that rosho has done before. Therefore, Shmuel Hakoton warns us, "When your enemy falls, do not be happy, and when he falters, your heart should not be filled with happiness"—in order that we not suffer the dire consequences of having false beliefs and misdirected emotions about how this world functions.

In his sefer Mesillas Yeshorim (Chapter 11) the Ramchal explains the difficulty of overcoming our susceptibility for hate and revenge—especially when someone has wronged us: "Because a person is very sensitive to insult [and physical pain even more so]; suffering so much anguish that his taking revenge is sweeter than honey and thus is his only consolation. Therefore, if he is able to refrain from what his nature urges him to do and excuse the offense; not to hate the one who aroused his hatred, not be vengeful when he has an opportunity to take revenge and not hold a grudge against him. Rather, [if he] forgets everything and removes it from his heart as if nothing ever happened, he is mighty and heroic, for such behavior is easy only for mal'ochim . . . "

Granted, we are not mal'ochim. We have human feelings and human frailties. Hashem created us human. However, Hashem expects us to change, to move forward from our beginnings. If we respond unknowingly, immaturely and naturally — we run the very high risk of facing the situation that Shmuel Hakoton warned us about when he taught us how to respond to victory. It may be a hard lesson, but learning the lesson is easier than living with the consequences of a mistake.

Whenever we hear about a rosho, famous or not, we can test ourselves. Also each Purim we have an opportunity to practice. We can test our response and perfect our reaction every time we hear the mention of Haman's name.

This effort will bring the Geulah closer. No doubt, the better prepared we are for the great and final victory, the faster it will come.

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