The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Our Faith and Strength
by Rabbi Naftali Hoffner

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

THE MOST IMPORTANT CHALLENGE OF LIFE

1. PURPOSE OF LIFE

  1. Everyone has been created with freedom of choice between good and evil (see chap 2) - - and the challenge is to select the good.

  2. Since, within the framework of the covenant at Mount Sinai (Matan-Torah), an everlasting covenant was concluded between the Creator and Israel (compared to other nations, see chap. 14c) has changed.

    1. We received 613 commandments-and-prohibitions - - to enable us to continually improve ourselves in Torah ways.

    2. . It is our duty to fulfill the above-mentioned Mitzvoth, and yet everybody has the freedom of choice (between good and evil) - - so the Torah very clearly spells out the importance of our lifes challenge:To choose the path of life, as it says:

      1. see I have put before you today: life and what is good - - anf death and what is evil!

      2. Life and death I have put before you,the blessing and the curse - - and you shall choose life, so that you and your descendants shall live!"

      3. So I command you today to love your Almighty G-d - - by following His ways and observing His laws.."

  3. If we choose the path of life - - we are promised great happiness, as it says:

    1. "..and you shall live and multiply and your G-d Almighty will bless you - - in the land which you are about to inherit "

    2. "..and you shall choose life - - so that you and your descendants may live!"

  4. If, contrary to the Torah's recommendation, we choose the alternative, negative path - - we are liable to severe punishment (more than other nations!), since such conduct constitutes a gross violation of the covenant concluded at Mount Sinai; for it says:

    1. "If your heart turns away and you don't listen [i.e. do not observe the Mitzvoth], causing you to stray until you ..worship other gods - - I am telling you today that you will perish and will not remain for long in the land you are heading for on the other side of the Jordan "

    2. "And [i.e. if] these people will decide to go astray after idol-gods which are foreign to the land...and will abandon Me, thus breaking our covenant which I concluded with them - - I shall become angry..and I will abandon them and look the other way ..when a lot of misfortune and troubles befall them.."

2. FREEDOM OF CHOICE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL

  1. R. Chanina said: "Everything [Rashi: i.e. if a person is to be "tall or short, poor or wealthy, smart or ungifted, white or black";] is in the hands of Heaven [i.e. this is decreed beforehand from Heaven;] except 'Yirat Shamayim' [Fear of Heaven, i.e. [Rashi] the choice whether to be righteous or evil: since the Almighty has transferred the choice to man himself so that he may choose the path of 'Yirat Shamayim'] as it says 'And now Israel what does the Almighty your G-d want from you? - But to fear Him... and follow His ways ... to observe the Almighty's laws'" - i.e.:

    1. . Only this He asks you to do, since everything else is in His hands and this matter is up to you (Rashi);

    2. Not that the Creator needs to ask something from His creatures, for what He asks for is merely for the benefit of those close to Him - the Jewish people. This means that He left you the decision to fear the Almighty (and conduct yourself according to His laws), as such decision alone involves the relationship between G-d and a person (Rif).

  2. The freedom of choice between good and evil is an established fact. Thus it has not been decreed whether a person become righteous or wicked - - since everybody may freely choose between good and evil. For example:

    1. to follow the divine commandments - - or to ignore them;

    2. to avoid sinning - - or to transgress;

    3. to be compassionate - - or to be cruel;

    4. to study Torah - - or not to study.

  3. Since nobody is forced to sin - - a person who does - will be held accountable for those sins! (and cannot claim that he had no other choice).

  4. The sinner harms himself by his wrongdoing - - thus it is in his best interest to repent (for it says "Let us follow and check our ways - - so that we may return to the Almighty").

3. CHOICE OF ENDEAVOR

A person has freedom of choice (not only with regard to good or evil, but) also in other situations (whether and how to act); yet, the outcome of such decisions is often conditioned by their effect on other persons and/or external factors (see diagram).

  1. If others are unaffected, the decision is likely to be decisive. For example, if you decide:

    1. to sit down - then you will naturally not remain standing;

    2. to eat - then you will eventually be full;

    3. to light a candle - then there will be light.

  2. If others are affected or there are external factors, - - your decision may be only influential (but not decisive, see diagram at end). For example, if you decide to concentrate your efforts:

    1. on the study of difficult texts - the success will depend also upon your ability to memorize facts, etc.;

    2. on physical exercise - the resulting benefit will depend also upon limitations, if any, of health etc;

    3. on business - the success will usually depend also on others.

4. CHOICE OF ENDEAVOR FOR THE FUTURE

In some matters the choice of endeavor may affect (if not entirely determine) your future. For example, your decision:

  1. In which neighborhood you wish to live or whom to befriend - - because you, and your family, may learn good or bad Midoth from neighbors and friends.

  2. Which type of work to do - - since, generally, physical work is healthy and strengthens the body - whereas mental work requires thought and planning and so develops intelligence and also may be more enjoyable.

  3. Where you wish to be active and to what extent - - however, increased effort alone does not necessarily guarantee success (See chap. 15).

  4. At what time to act. For example, in the morning, most people are likely to achieve better results, whether physically or mentally, than in the evening.

5. FREEDOM OF CHOICE AND ITS LIMITS

Whenever freedom of choice (whether between good and evil or in the choice of endeavor) affects another person or is influenced by some outside f actor - - such freedom of choice becomes limited. For example:

  1. If the Creator induces you to feel:

    1. Sympathy for someone - - since then you act (as messenger of the Almighty) favorably towards such person.

    2. Animosity towards someone (as He induced the Egyptians to hate Israel) - - since (as messenger) you then decide, e.g.

      1. To reject that person for a job opening you have in your office (even though that person is qualified);

      2. Not to shop at that person's grocery;

      3. To dismiss that person from his job (as part of a general layoff in your f actory - rather than someone else).

      Note: Regarding your possible punishment for such acts, see chap. 6.

  2. If as punishment or reward for your deeds you are influenced (by Heaven) to act in a way which is for you:

    1. (if meant as punishment) not good (e.g. you lose money thereby), or

    2. (if meant a reward) good (e.g. you make a profit).

  3. Your freedom of choice ceases to exist - - when you act on the spur of the moment, without premeditation (as it says: "and when he goes with someone else into a forest to cut down trees, and [during the wood cutting] his hand at the axe gets pushed...so that its iron head slides off the wooden [handle] unto that person, killing him" (i.e. without any intention whatsoever by the woodcutter of hurting anybody. Such act is thus exercised without regard to that person's usual 'free will' or 'free choice between"good and evil'. In such a case he is considered an emissary of the Almighty, to punish!).

  4. Limitation of a person's free will be better understood by considering a chess player's options Let us assume a chess player has a choice of 5 possible moves (according to the prevailing chessboard setup, in accordance with accepted rules of the game). However since the chess player will refrain from any move which he feels (at that time) to be of no use to him - such consideration constitutes by itself a limitation of his free will!

6.WHEN EVEN AN EMISSARY IS PUNISHABLE.

When your freedom of choice becomes restricted - by a feeling of animosity towards another person (and you thereby become sometimes an emissary to punish) - although you act accordingly (because of your limited freedom of choice) - - you may nevertheless be punishable, but only for any additional ill-treatment. For example:

  1. In everyday life:If you fail to hire a person for a vacancy - - you are liable to be punished (not for having preferred someone else instead, but) only for misleading the unsuccessful applicant or causing him unnnecessary, inconvenience or embarrassment. For instance:

    1. By pretending that you already promised the job to someone else (and this is not so); or

    2. By misleadingly stating that the applicant is unsuited for the position (and this is not so); or

    3. by deceptively announcing that you will advise him of your decision (when you already have decided not to hire him); or

    4. by making him wait unnecessarily before seeing him; or by embarrassing or humiliating him (by telling him, e.g., that the reason not to hire him is that he was unemployed for some months).

    Note: Since you do not know whether you have actually been chosen to be the envoy to punish someone, let alone to what extent, you are not entitled to willfully wrong any person.

  2. The following examples illustrate cases where punishment of the emissary was deserved because he exceeded the limits set by the Almighty.

    1. During the exile in Egypt, the Egyptians were punished:

      1. not because they subdued the children of Israel - since it is said: "The Almighty decreed that Israel be subdued in Egypt, until He will decide to return them"; but

      2. because "they acted to subjugate them with force... 'for my anger [towards Israel] was limited, but they meted out punishment beyond that'"; i.e., the Egyptians were punished for acting with cruelty, sinning against Israel deliberately!

    2. Avshalom, the son of King David, was punished by an unusual death:

      1. not because he rebelled against his father, King David, since in this respect he was acting as Divine messenger (to help atone for King David's sins), for King David himself was told "I shall bring forth from your House [family] misfortune upon you "; but

      2. because he added wickednesson his own (and thus was punished according to the principle "measure for measure") as it is said:

        1. "Since he deceived 3 hearts - The hearts of his father, of Beth Din and of all Israel - therefore he was pierced by 3 darts";

        2. "Avshalom was arrogant about his hair; thus he was hung by his hair".

    3. Yehu, the king of Israel:

      1. was not punished for destroying the family of Akhav and the Ba'al worshippers, or for rooting out Ba'al idolatry from Israel. On the contrary:

        1. he even openly proclaimed the fact that he is doing so as the Almighty's envoy, for he said: "Be it known then that no detail of the Almighty's words, regarding the House of Akhav, will be skipped, but the Almighty will do what He has announced through His servant Eliyahu";

        2. for this action he was even rewarded so that he himself and his descendants would continue as Kings of Israel (although he sinned in other matters), for it says "And the Almighty spoke to Yehu: since you were good to do what is appropriate in My eyes: by doing to the House of Akhav all I had intended: [up to] your great grandsons will sit on the throne of Israel!" And this happened, as it says: "This is the word of the Almighty to Yehu: great-grandsons will sit on the throne of Israel and so it was";

      2. but Yehu was punished because: "Yehu failed to observe the Torah of the Almighty G-d of Israel, with all his heart, by not abandoning the sins of Yerobeam who caused Israel to sin".

7. INABILITY TO REPENT

  1. Generally a person is able to choose freely between good and evil (see chap. 2) which includes the capacity - - to repent for sins or omissions.

  2. However, sometimes a person, who (of his own free will) committed certain sins (as specified below) is punished by the inability to repent (forcing him to continue in his wicked ways until he dies and is doomed). For example:

    1. Whoever diverts someone else (let alone many) - - to evil (e.g. a missionary);

    2. Whoever prevents many - - from fulfilling a Mitzvah;

    3. Whoever lets others commit a sin (be it an individual, his own family or many people) - - when, because of his influence, he could have stopped it;

    4. Whoever sins with the prior intention of - - 'repenting' afterwards.

  3. The inability to repent in itself constitutes the most serious punishment - - it was thus fitting for sins committed in the past by other nations and their leaders (see chap. 8).

  4. The loss of the ability to decide freely for the good is illustrated in the following verses.

    1. "The heart of this nation has become vain [i.e. giving way to the evil inclination alone] and its ears hard of hearing [because of their inclination] and its eyes blinded, - lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart - and repent and be saved!"

    2. "And they have made light of G-d's emissaries and despised His words and deceived is prophets until the Almighty became angry with His nation - until there wasn't any cure!" (i.e. they were so guilty that, th e possibility of repentance - which would have been the cure - was taken from them).

  5. Although people, who have thus lost their ability to repent, may claim, e.g. that 'they do not believe in such a law', etc. implying that it was up to their free will to decide, - they actually have already lost their free will which would have enabled them to decide differently!

  6. To prevent blocking the paths of repentance, refer to chap. 9.

8. NON REPENTANCE IN HISTORY

Several events related in the Tenakh illustrate how the Almighty removes a person's ability to repent - as punishment. For instance, it says in connection with:

  1. Paraoh: "And the Almighty hardened Paraoh's heart ". R. Shimon ben Lakish said: "..the Almighty warns a person once, twice and a third time: if he still does not repent - He prevents him from repenting anymore, to punish him for his sins. This was the case with the wicked Paraoh: for, although he had been warned by the Almighty [through Moshe Rabenu] 5 times, His words went unheeded, so the Almighty said: you have become stubborn and unyielding, therefore I am adding to your evil doing. Thus "...the Almighty hardened Paraoh's heart.."

  2. Bileam: Although various warnings and delays should have clearly indicated to Bileam that his projected cursing of Israel was frowned upon by the Creator, Bileam decided again to ask: "And now if you disapprove, I shall go back." Since such a question was entirely superfluous (for a person like Bileam), the free choice (to repent) was taken from him in order to punish him. Thus the angel answered him: "'Go with the people..' and in the end you will perish from this world".

  3. Sikhon: "Because the Almighty your G-d made him stubborn, strengthening his resolve [to go to war against Israel] - in order to surrender him to you as of this day". The real reason for denying Sikhon his free will was, not only because of his refusal to let Israel cross their territory, but to punish Sikhon's nation for the very serious crimes they had committed.

  4. Knaanites: "Because it came from the Almighty to make them stubborn and go to war against Israel - in order to doom them". The reason for dooming them was to punish them for their heinous crimes.

  5. Non-believers in the days of prophet Hoshea:Ephraim [i.e. the people in Israel: Targum] became attached to idoltary: [Rashi: and it is impossible to separate him; therefore] donot bother him! (Rashi: you prophet, do not reprimand him because it wont help anyway!)

9. HOW TO AVOID RESTRICTIONS ON FREE WILL.

In order to insure that you do not block your possibilities for repentance, act as follows:

  1. Do not make fun of a Mitzvah because you do not understand its significance - - since then you will not even try to understand or observe it.

  2. Dont argue against what Torah sages say - - lest this may cause you to avoid them (making it impossible for you ever to repent).

  3. Dont show disrespect for your teacher (Rabbi) - - lest he may refuse to teach you anymore (and you may not find a more suitable person to acquaint you with the truth).

  4. Accept a reprimand (from a person or a text) - - because this may help you to repent.

  5. Don't think that repentance is only for others - - because you (like everyone else) should always strive to improve!

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

PREDESTINY

10. WHAT HAS BEEN DECREED BEFORE BIRTH

Parents and ancestors have an influence before a person is born, on the following attributes:

  1. Personal status - if the new born will be (e.g.):

    1. Jew or non-Jew;

    2. Kohen, Levi or Yisroel;

    3. man or woman.

  2. Hereditary characteristics, such as the person's:

    1. looks or appearance (which differ from person to person);

    2. health (incl. strength, immunity to sicknesses but also see chap. 58);

    3. tendency to longevity (see also chap. 11).

  3. Special qualities or merits - such as:

    1. intelligence (including ability to learn, remember and innovate);

    2. predestined spouse;

    3. wealth (in a general way): but actual earnings also depend:

      1. on what is decreed for the person each Rosh Hashanah (see chap. 34);

      2. on the person's ambition (see chap. 3).

11 WHAT IS DECREED AT BIRTH

The following matters are decreed - as part of personal predestiny - at the time of birth.

  1. Lifespan - - but only approximately, thus:

    1. "It says 'the number of your days I shall complete': These are the years [the lifespan allocated to a person at birth; Rashi] of two generations... if he is deserving [for keeping Mitzvoth - years] will be added [to that amount]; if he is undeserving - [years] will be deducted" (i.e. from the lifespan allocated at the time of birth).

    2. "The angel of death said to R. Shimon ben Chalafta [after the latter inquired as to when his time will be up to depart from this world]: 'I have no jurisdiction over you or over people like yourself; [on the contrary:] at times the Almighty - in appreciation of your good deeds - will add to your lifespan.. [i.e. beyond the time originally allocated at birth ], as it says 'Fear of G-d - - adds days!'".

  2. Whether he or she will have children. Yet, even when a person has been predestined not to have children - special merits accumulated later on may cause a change for the better. Thus, although our patriarch Avraham was destined to have no children, because of his exceptional achievements this was changed. This was also the case with our matriarchs Sarah, Rivka, and Rachel (and Chanah, the mother of prophet Shmuel).

12. SELF DETERMINED FATE AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE

Besides predestiny, a person's own conduct (called self determined fate) also has considerable influence on the course of a person's life. This means that appropriate Divine judgment (good or bad) is decreed upon a person according to his deeds.

  1. Because the Creator notes all positive and negative acts of His subjects (Rsg) before judging them, as it says:

    1. "Eminent is the reign and great is the action that Your eyes watch the ways of all people - - to pay each one for his ways and according to the results of his deeds";

    2. "I G-d investigate the heart, assess the kidneys - - in order to pay a person for his conduct and its results".

  2. Also, once a year, each person is judged on the basis of his conduct throughout the preceding year (chap. 34).

13. WHEN NEGATIVE DESTINY IS OVERRIDDEN

Even when personal predestiny happens to include negative aspects (e.g. if the person does not merit children or if his lifespan is limited), these may be cancelled or overridden by the Almighty - - when a person has extraordinary merit. For example:

  1. Through prayer (see chap. 40); for instance:

    1. After Aharon the Cohen was condemned to lose his sons, Moshe prayed on his behalf ("And I also prayed on behalf of Aharon"). As a result "One half of the verdict was cancelled: Two [of his sons] died, but two [of them] remained"; in other words, prayer was instrumental in alleviating the Divine punishment by one half;

    2. Although our matriarch Leah was due to become the wife of Esav, she prayed not to have to marry that wicked person. R. Huna said "Strong was [her] prayer which cancelled the decree, and what is even more, she got married before her sister"

  2. By charity (with funds properly acquired), in particular, when given after a bad decree has been issued (for it says "And charity shall save from death ") - - as in the case of R. Akiva's daughter.

  3. For special merit which helps improve personal destiny - - in order (e.g.) to have children (as in the case of our patriarch Avraham)

  4. For the sake of prayer and special merit: e.g. when King Hizkiyahu of Yehuda, lay on his death bed (he was even told by the prophet Yeshayahu that he would die), praying to G-d and crying, his prayer was accepted: for not only he did not die, but his lifespan was lengthened by 15 years!

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

SUCCESS IN LIFE

14. WHAT DETERMINES SUCCESS IN LIFE

  1. R. Chanina said: "Everything is determined from Heaven [i.e. if a person is tall or small, intelligent or not, white or black; this refers to predestiny] except [a person's] fear of Heaven" (this is not predestined, but depends solely upon a person's free will, i.e. the freedom of choice between good and evil).

  2. We learn from the above that there is no contradiction between freedom of choice (chap. 2-5) and predestiny (chaps. 10-11), as each applies to a different area (see diagram).

    1. Personal predestiny applies only to those matters which had already been determined either prior to birth (chap. 10) or at birth (chap. 11). It has decisive influence (which will not change for the better - if there is a need for this - except in case of special merit; see chap. 13).

    2. Personal free will or freedom of choice (thus also self-determined fate) applies to what you may decide (besides the free choice of endeavor, see chap. 3) regarding good or evil (chap. 2). Such a decision determines the verdict you will receive (in this or the coming world, see chaps. 22-26).

  3. The purpose of freedom of choice (which everybody is endowed with from Heaven) is to enable people - by virtue of their own free will - to conclude that a perfect way of life is only possible by living according to the Torah (as far as Jews are concerned; for other nations: according to the 7 Noahidic laws).

  4. Free choice of endeavor has only potential influence on the final success, since this also depends upon personal predestiny and self determined fate.

  5. In order to succeed (in attaining knowledge, virtue, livel hood, etc.) you hould try to improve as follows:

    1. Increase our efforts so as to insure that the final success balance is tilted in your favor (see diagram).

    2. Continue in the path of righteousness!

15. LASTING SUCCESS - FROM HEAVEN

  1. It is decreed from Heaven (regardless of 'free choice of endeavor', see chap. 3) to what extent one will succeed in earning one's livelihood or in attaining a good position (and for how long), for it says:

    1. I own the silver, I own the gold, says the Almighty.

    2. The Almightys blessing - - makes wealthy.

    3. And the chief butler failed to remember; the chief butler forgot you, but I shall not forget you! (Also:)

      1. Who would have thought, that Avraham and Sarah, though they were old, - - would get a son?

      2. Who would have thought that Yakov, who crossed the Joirdan with [only] his stick, - - would become so prosperous and wealthy?

      3. Who would have thought that Yosef, with all his troubles, - - would become king?

  2. After it has already decided in Heaven how much a person will earn (or which position he will hold), the following points should be remembered:

    1. Extra effort to try to amass a fortune will not help, as the following quotations illustrate:

      1. I have repeatedly seen under the sun [i.e. in this world] that not [necessarily] the fast win the race, nor the mighty the war; nor the wise [necessarily excel in earning their] bread, nor the intelligent [obtain] wealth, nor the knowledgeable ones find favor".

      2. "Because not [by going out on business trips, even:] from the east or from the west [to the east: someone becomes rich] and not from [even if he travels by boat from east to west and crosses] the desert or the mountains [he will get wealthy], since it is the Almighty who judges: He demotes one and He promotes someone else" - - for it is said "What does the Almighty do? - He takes property from one person and gives it to another ...the proof: When he wanted to enrich the tribes of Re'uven and Gad, He had the Midianites be vanquished by Israel...i.e. the Almighty brought down the Midianites and elevated Israel..."

      3. "Ben Azay said: [Rashi: A person should not claim that someone else deprives him of his livelihood, because] ... from what is yours [the livelihood allocated to you from Heaven:],they will give you, and no person can touch what has been allocated to another, and no government [Rashi: when its time comes to fall and be replaced by another one] can encroach upon the time allocated to the next government, not even by as much as a hair's breadth " (Rashi: For, if its authority is scheduled to end at night, it will fall that night...andif its time is up during the day, it will fall that day...)

    2. Even if it seems that extra effort on your part does 'succeed', - your success will not last if: (a) it does not constitute a gift from Heaven; or (b) it was not acquired according to the rules of the Torah - as indicated in the following extracts.

      1. "Three gifts have been created in this world...he who merits wisdom: gets all; he who merits wealth: gets all... When? - when they are gifts from Heaven and are acquired in accordance with the Torah; ...two wealthy men...Korakh of Israel and Haman of the Gentiles... both perished from the world. Why? - Because their assets w ere not a gift from the Almighty, but resulted from amassing them unscrupulously!"

      2. "Whoever pushes ahead by force [Rashi: e.g. Avshalom who wanted to become king by force during his father's lifetime]: the 'hour pushes' him aside [i.e. he will not succeed; Maharsha: Since fate is related to a particular hour, it follows that a person is unable to rush such fate by force - without the help of the Almighty - however, by comparison:] whoever waits for his hour [without trying to push ahead by force]: the hour will 'stand' by him" (i.e. the right opportunity will eventually come, enabling him to succeed).

      3. "Every executive position to which someone is appointed, is given through the Torah, for it says: 'Through Me: kings shall rule [Mez. D.: I shall maintain their rule if they proceed in accordance with the laws of the Torah] and governors shall issue just laws".

    3. Although the size of your income has been decreed from Heaven - nevertheless:

      1. Don't do anything to impair your ability to earn a living and don't rely on a miracle (to provide your livelihood, since you may not be worthy of such a miracle), for it says: "Don't test the Almighty.." (Sef. Chinuch). E.g., do not stay in a place where there is famine!

      2. You are not allowed to become a fatalist (and believe that since all events are determined by fate, you may as well sit and do nothing). On the contrary, you are obliged to work for a living, by order of the Almighty, for (after Adam's sin) He said to Adam: "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread..." (i.e. you shall work).

    4. Put your trust in the Almighty alone (and in the way He distributes wealth among people), and do not rely on people, nor trust their promises (see chap. 21,d).

16. HUMAN EFFORT AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE

  1. Nothing prevents the Almighty from giving more to one person or less to another (regardless how much effort that person may put in).

  2. The special relationship between personal ambition ("to make money") and trust in the Almighty and His Divine providence for each individual - - is clearly illustrated and tested by the way the Mannah was collected, for it says "So I can test it [i.e. the people] to find out - - if it will abide by My Torah or not" (Marpal).

    1. wicked persons who had only limited faith in Divine providence - - went out to gather as much Mannah as possible (to them refer the words "The people roamed about to gather" i.e. the Mannah) - - thus the Almighty returned 'measure for measure: their search for Mannah involved them in considerable exertion!

    2. Average persons, who kept some commandments (although not to the same extent as the righteous), but also devoted much time and effort to amassing wealth etc. - were also paid measure for measure: They could support themselves, but still required some effort. (To these people refer the words "The people went out to collect");

    3. The righteous, who had complete trust in the Almighty's providence, devoted much more time to learning Torah and fulfilling religious duties (because they realized that by working harder, they still would not earn more than what had already been decreed for them from Heaven). The Almighty paid them accordingly: they collected their Mannah with minimum effort - - it landed right on their doorstep. (To these people refer the words: "And when dew settled at night on the camp, Mannah came right down on it").

    Note: After all had finished collecting Mannah for the day they compared the yield and to their surprise - they all ended up with exactly the same amount per person - regardless of the time and effort spent!

17. CONSEQUENCES OF SUCCESS

A person who has been blessed by Divine providence (e.g., with intelligence or wealth), has the possibility to use his advantage in one of the following three ways (Or. Ts.):

  1. To the detriment of others; for instance:

    1. One may use one's intelligence - - to harm others (as it says: "wise men they are to do evil, but to do good - they do not know!"). In this case, wisdom becomes a stumbling block for the wise.

    2. A rich person may -

      1. be discourteous towards a poor person;

      2. use his money to the detriment of others;

      3. help wicked people;

      4. waste his time just enjoying his wealth.

      In all these cases "Wealth stored by its owner [i.e. at times] - - to his detriment".

  2. Neither to the detriment of others, nor to their benefit, e.g. an egoist -

    1. may use his abilities - - for his own needs only;

    2. in his eagerness to amass wealth (even if he does not hurt anybody, and even if he does not brag about it, yet:) may not share his wealth with others.

  3. For the benefit of others: by helping them as much as possible (Mes. Yesh.; - e.g. with advice, influence or money) and this is what you are supposed to do - - since for that purpose only did the creator bless you!

Note: When doing so, do not feel important, nor that you deserve any compliment - since it is your duty as pointed out -

    1. By Mordechai to Esther And who knows if [it were not for your possibility to intercede on behalf of Israel] you would have become Queen at this time?

    2. By R. Yohanan ben-Zakai if you have learned much Torah, do not take credit for it - - since for this reason you were created!

    3. In nature around us: a bird flies - - because it has been created so to do!

    On the contrary the more you are blessed by the Almighty, the more humble and the more grateful you should feel for the opportunity to contribute your share, as it says: How shall I thank the Almighty - - for all the kindness He has bestowed on me! (This is similar to a poor man who receives a gift: the bigger the gift,the greater his embarrassment! Mes. Yesh.).

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

TRUST

18 TRIALS AND TRUST

The extent to which a person trusts in the Creator is expressed by the way he reacts in difficult situations, described as in the following.

  1. "(Whoever is not needy enough and still accepts [i.e. charity etc.] will not die before he will need [handouts from] other people) but whoever is needy enough to take [charity], but does not take [because he trusts that the Almighty will provide for his needs] - - will not die...before he himself will [be able to] provide for others, as it says: 'Blessed be the man who trusts in the Almighty and the Almighty will become his trust!"

  2. "There is no person whom the Almighty does not test":

    1. "A wealthy person is tested to see if his hand is open [generously] to the poor...if he passes this test and gives charity - he will enjoy his possessions in this world and his ultimate reward will be ready for him in the coming world, and the Almighty will save him from punishment in Gehinom";

    2. "A poor person is tested to see whether he is able to suffer without rebelling ..if he passes this test ..he will receive double [the reward he would be normally entitled to] in the future-to-come. 'and the Almighty doubled whatever Iyov possessed'"

  3. The most serious challenge in our generation is to overcome the general temptation to pursue materialistic aims rather than Torah values. The futility of pursuing materialism (rather than Torah) can be seen in practical life - - for, whenever earning a living leads to an attempt to amass a fortune, the extent of such 'success' does not depend on how hard that person tries (chap. 16).

19. TRUST IN THE ALMIGHTY

  1. Torah study is always of primary importance, as expressed in the following quotations.

    1. The Almighty said to Yehoshua: "This book of the Torah shall never depart from your mouth, and you shall study it by day and by night, so that you will be able to follow what is written there - - for then you will be successful in your endeavors and you will be wise!"

    2. "I prefer Torah from Your mouth - - to thousands [of pieces] of gold and silver!";

    3. Raba bar bar Chana said: "Come and see the difference between earlier and later generations":

      1. "Earlier generations who put their primary effort into Torah [study], relegating work to second place - - were successful in both endeavors";

      2. "Later generations who put their principal effort into work (or 'earning a living' thus) giving Torah (study) secondary status - - were not too successful in either endeavor!"

  2. Trust in the Almighty and His providence (with regard to livelihood as decreed from Heaven) is shown when a person occupies himself mainly with Torah and Mitzvoth - - relegating the earning of a living to the remainder of his time - and even that only because the Creator has direct people to work (to make a living - - but not in order to "make more money": in particular, since such ambition knows no limits, as it says: "Someone who loves money will never have enough of it!").

  3. If you limit your efforts to earning a living (as explained above), you thereby fulfill the will of the Almighty and all your efforts are considered a Mitzvah, and rewarded, as follows:

    1. R. Yosi said: "All your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven " - i.e. you shall trust the Almighty fully!

    2. R. Yehuda ben Ilai said: "Whoever emphasizes Torah study in preference to other matters - - will become important in this world (but whoever stresses wordly matters in preference to Torah - - will be relegated to lesser importance)",

    3. R. Yehoshua ben Levi said: "Whoever is engaged in [or occupies himself with] Torah [study] - - his assets will prosper". The Rif comments:

      1. Those assets will succeed in satisfying his soul, since through them he acquires Torah and the world to come;

      2. Through his occupation he will also add to his Torah knowledge, as Rabban Gamliel points out "It is appropriate to combine Torah learning with worldly occupation".

20. LACK OF TRUST

  1. Even if a person puts his trust in the Almighty, in general, but not all the time - - he is punished for his lack of trust by being deprived of cheerfulness and of real friends (as it says: "Who puts his trust in the Almighty will be surrounded by good will", i.e. when he lacks trust, he will also lack charm; Marpal).

  2. A person's lack of trust is expressed by his unwillingless to accept the fact that others deserve what they have. For example:

    1. he is envious of others and their possessions;

    2. he feels that what someone else obtained - - he himself should have gotten;

    3. he ascribes his failures - - to other people's decision only;

    4. he thinks that others are responsible for his misfortune - - therefore he hates and slanders them (thus becoming liable to additional punishment - until he is unable to repent).

21. PUNISHMENT FOR LACK OF TRUST

Whoever fails to trust in the Almighty alone - - is punished (according to the measure for measure principle) in a manner which befits the kind of trust he does have. For example:

  1. Whoever trusts in his own capabilities (without realizing that all 'his' successes are a gift from Heaven) - - is considered as if he had forgotten the Creator, for it says "and in case you should think my strength and my skill have been the reason for my success - be advised that it is the Almighty your G-d who has given you the strength to succeed!"

  2. Whoever puts his trust in power of money by cherishing money even more than people - - is punished as it says "Whoever puts his trust in his wealth - will fail"

  3. A person who trusts in the power of money so much that he 'marries for money' - - will never be forgiven, for it says:

    1. "A man (of trust [Gra: an accomplished faithful believer will receive]: many blessings; and he) who rushes [constantly; Gra]: to become rich will not be forgiven': this is Esav, the wicked, who married Yehudit, Bosmat and Makhalat for money - for which he will never be forgiven";

    2. "..and when someone marries for the sake of the Ketuba [i.e. the dowry] - this will not be inherited by his children and grandchildren".

  4. Whoever puts his trust (not in the Almighty, but) in people - - will be punished with disappointment; for, by relying on people, he fails to render due honor to the Almighty, as it says:

    1. "The Almighty said: they know that a human being is nothing and overlook My Honor and say: 'Give vs a king!'"

    2. "Whoever relies on a human being who is passing: also his promise [or position which he may have expected to met through him; Mat. K.] will pass him up; for it says: 'Do not rely on 'important' persons or on a [mere] human being, - because he is incapable of helping' [Ibn Ezra: even his own soul; - since later on:] 'when his soul departs, he will return to the earth'".

    3. So said the Almighty: cursed is the man who puts faith in a person and puts his trust in a persons help - - disregarding [Targum: the words of] the Almighty (Rashi: who promised him: And I shall order my blessings upon you).

  5. Whoever puts his trust in idol worship [including the worship of silver and gold] is punished by similarly becoming a nobody. How do we know this?- For it says: Like them [i.e. the idols] shall be their makers, [shall be:] all those who put trust in them!

  6. The main reasons for the destruction of both Bateh- Mikdash (Temples) have in common that the sinners believed that their conduct would ensure them a better life - - be it by idol-worship (as at the time of the first Beth-Hamikdash; - Netziv). Such miscalculations resulted from the fact that they failed to trust the Almighty properly.

  7. The above-mentioned considerations should have the following results.

    1. Our trust in the Creator should be constant - for it says:

      1. "Israel trust in the Almighty - He is their help and shield".

      2. "It is better to trust the Almighty than to rely on a person".

      3. "And those who know Your name will trust You, for You have not abandoned those who seek You Almighty".

    2. "A person should always be accustomed to say: whatever the Almighty does - He does for the good" - as it says:

      1. "The Almighty planned it for the good!"

      2. "If we accept the good things from the Almighty, shall we not accept the bad things too?"

    3. You should put your trust only in the Almighty - - and no feeling of jealousy will remain!

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

REWARD AND PUNISHMENT IN THIS AND THE COMING WORLD

22. REWARD AND PUNISHMENT IN THIS WORLD

The following has been promised in the Torah:

  1. If we keep the Torah, serve the Almighty cheerfully, observe His laws willingly and benefit from the Torah's wisdom, then:

    1. The Almighty will always keep away from us those curses and whatever else may prevent us from observing Mitzvoth, such as sickness, hunger, war, etc.

    2. He will bless us so that we will be able to fulfill the Torah (and its Mitzvoth) properly.

    3. We will be enabled to study the Torah and observe its Mitzvoth with a clear mind (and will not be obliged to work all our life for benefit of the body only).

    4. We shall merit not only a good life in this world (by acquiring wisdom and performing good deeds), but - - also a share in the world to come. Thus said R. Nechunya ben Hakaneh "Whoever takes upon himself Torah obligations, - - will be relieved from obligations towards the authorities and worldly activities"

  2. If a person abandons the Torah knowingly, in order to occupy himself with temporal vanities (as hinted in the verse "And Yeshurun became fat and he rebelled"), then the Creator will remove His blessings and bring upon him curses (for it says: "For not having served the Almighty...you shall have to serve your enemies whom the Almighty has sent against you, under [conditions of] hunger and thirst") - - until:

    1. his mind will not be free, nor will his body be healthy enough to fulfill Mitzvoth (but his days will just pass under pressure and fear);

    2. he ends up forfeiting not only this world, but also the world to come (since a person, beset by worries about health, hunger, war, etc. - cannot devote himself very much to Torah study and Mitzvoth). In a similar vein said R. Nehunya ben Hakaneh "Whoever disregards Torah obligations - - will be burdened by obligations towards authorities and wordly pursuits!"

23. THE WORLD TO COME

Life in the world to come starts (for the person deserving it) - - immediately after death (Rambam, Ramban). Life in the world to come constitutes:

  1. the maximum reward set aside for the righteous - - as it says "so He will benefit you [in the world where everything is good] and you will live long"

  2. life without - - death or evil.

  3. goodness which all prophets were longing for - - as it says "How much goodness have You stored for those who fear You!"

    Note: Deprivation of the life in the world to come is the most severe punishment (see chap. 60) - - since, as a result, the soul perishes, without hope of return - - and becomes extinct (like an animal after death).

24. RETRIBUTION FOR THE WICKED AND THE RIGHTEOUS

  1. Reward (for Mitzvoth) and punishment (for transgressions) are meted out to the righteous people (whose merits exceed their sins) and to the wicked - but in a different manner, as it says:

    1. "Whoever has more merits than sins [i.e. the righteous], will be punished in this world for the fewer sins - - in order to grant him full reward for his merits in the future" (i.e. the coming world and, at times, also in this world, see chap. 25)

    2. "Whoever has more sins than merits [i.e. the wicked], is rewarded - in this world for the fewer Mitzvoth he observed - - in order to punish him fully in the coming world" (sometimes also in this world, see chap. 35,d4).

    In conclusion it says: "And many of the dead will wake up: - those [i.e. the 'righteous'] - for eternal life and those [i.e. the 'wicked'] - for eternal shame and humiliation!" (unless changed.).

  2. Even though it may at times appear that a wicked person in this world has an easier life than a righteous person (which is very often a mistaken impression as explained in chap. 35), yet, in the coming world - it is the righteous (and almost never the wicked) who are rewarded. Thus it is said "'Anger is better than cheerfulness' - the anger shown by the Almighty towards the righteous in this world [where He punishes them for all their sins, so they will be able to inherit unimpaired reward in the coming world] - - is preferable to the cheerfulness shown by the Almighty towards the wicked in this world" (since once they have been rewarded for their merits in this world, the wicked will not be able to share in the benefits of the coming world).

25. WHERE MITZVOTH ARE REWARDED

Whoever does a Mitzvah is rewarded - - in this world or in the coming world - or in both of them, as described in the following:

  1. The wicked are rewarded in this world alone - for all Mitzvoth not listed in subpar. c.

  2. The righteous are rewarded in the coming world alone - for Mitzvoth not mentioned in subpar. c.

  3. Anyone (whether righteous or wicked) is rewarded in this world and the coming world:

    1. For those Mitzvoth for which the Torah has promised longevity as reward (Em. Ved.):

      1. For honoring father and mother, as it says "Honor your father and your mother - so that your days [i.e. your life] be lengthened ";

      2. For dealing honestly with others, as it says: "You shall have [i.e. use when dealing with others] a complete stone [weight] and just measure; you shall have [i.e. use] a whole Ehfah and just measure: so that your days [i.e. your life] be lengthened in the land which the Almighty your G-d has given you";

      3. For pitying mother birds, as it says: "Dispatch the mother bird and take the chicks: so that He will be good to you and your days will be lengthened!".

    2. For beneficial secondary merits resulting from Mitzvoth and good deeds, as follows:

      1. "Which are the things [i.e. Mitzvoth], the fruits [i.e. good results] of which a person enjoys in this world, with the full reward reserved for him in the world to come? - Honoring father and mother; doing favors for others; making peace between two people; and - learning Torah is equivalentin importance to all the others i.e. the above-mentioned Mitzvoth] combined"

      2. "There are six things [i.e Mitzvoth] the 'fruits' [i.e. their partial reward] of which a person enjoys in this world, with the main reward coming due in the coming world and these are: hospitality, visiting the sick, concentration in prayer, rising early for the Beth-Hamidrash, raising sons to Torah study and judging others favorably.

26.WHERE SINS ARE PUNISHED

Whoever sins knowingly will be punished accordingly (Em Ved.):

  1. In this world and in the coming world - - for serious crimes involving others. For example:
    1. Whoever rejects obligations [i.e. of the Torah],discontinues the covenant [i.e. the Mitzvah of Brith- Milah] or interpretes Torah not in accordance with the Halachah - even though he may have the merit of good deeds:yet he will be punished in this world, with the main punishment reserved for the coming world.

    2. There are four things for which a person is punished in this world, with the main punishment reserved for the coming world, these are: idol worship, forbidden intercourse, spilling of blood [i.e. killing] and - evil talk outweighs all of them!"

    3. "A sin which results in 'fruits' [consequences - also]: produces 'fruits'" (i.e. there is added punishment in this and the coming world). E.g., someone:

      1. who causes many others to sin (like Yerov'am ben Nevat);

      2. who prevents others from doing a Mitzva (for any reason).

  2. In this world:

    1. For sins calling for the death penalty - - as our Sages said "From the day the Beth Hamikdash was destroyed, although the Sanhedrin ceased to function ..the 4 death penalties have not ceased - - whoever should die by being stoned, will fall from a roof or will be killed by a wild animal; whoever should die by burning, will perish in a fire or from a snakebite; whoever should be killed [by the sword], will be turned over to the authorities [for execution] or robbers will kill him; whoever should die by strangling, will drown in a river or will die by choking!"

    2. For swearing in vain (as it says "Because the Almighty will not forgive the person who swears by His name in vain");

    3. For spilling innocent blood (for it says: "And I shall forgive [for other matters, but:] for killing I shall not forgive them");

    4. For adultery with a married woman (as it says "so he who commits adultery with someone else's wife, will not be forgiven...");

    5. For bearing false witness (for it says:"A witness who lies will not be forgiven and who gives wrong evidence will not escape" i.e. appropriate judgement);

    6. For any other sins committed by the righteous - - since our Sages said: "He whose merits exceed his sins is punished for the fewer sins in this world: in order to reserve his full reward [i.e. for the Mitzvoth he has done] for the future to come". Note: A 'righteous' person who dies before being punished for his fewer sins, will still merit Gan Eden, except that punishment due to him will be deducted from the reward - - which had been set aside for him, (Sef. Ch.).

  3. In the world to come - - for other sins committed by the wicked.

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

RELATIVE RECOMPENSE

27. RELATIVE RECOMPENSE

The magnitude of reward for fulfilling Mitzvoth - or the punishment for transgressions - is assessed according to prevailing circumstances, as it says: "I, the Almighty, investigate the heart, test the kidneys - in order to pay a person according to his ways, according to the result of his deeds!" Thus:

  1. Reward for accomplishing a Mitzvah depends upon how much effort, difficulty and worry was involved. For example:

    1. To return a lost object to its owner demands more of a poor person - - than a wealthy one;

    2. The merit of someone who has to overcome his evil inclination before fulfilling a Mitzvah (or to refrain from sin) is greater - - than the merits of someone who doesn't struggle;

    3. Someone who saves his personal enemy from danger - - has greater merit than if he saves his friend.

    4. Whoever strengthens the true faith in the world (like King David) has greater merit - - than someone who just continues customs of his ancestors (Sef. Ch.).

  2. Punishment also depends on the circumstances. For example:

    1. If someone commits a sin just to annoy (not for 'pleasure') even on a relatively minor matter - this is worse than someone who sinned (not to annoy, but) because he was swayed by his evil inclination.

    2. Someone committing new sins (which he had not seen before like worship of golden calves by Yerov'am) is worse - - than someone who continues his parents' sins.

28. MITZVOTH FOR LOVE OR FEAR OF THE ALMIGHTY

Whover fulfills Mitzvoth for the love of the Almighty is greater than someone who does the same because he fears Him (Em. Ved.).

  1. The person who fulfills Mitzvoth out of fear - - does so:

    1. To avoid punishment (similar to someone who does everything to avoid potential danger) - - in this world (in the form of suffering, poverty, etc.) or afterwards (to avoid Gehinom);

    2. To obtain reward - - which is like learning Torah not for its own sake!

  2. The performance of a Mitzvah for love of the Almighty (and not out of fear or to get honor or other benefits):

    1. Is considered like learning Torah for its own sake and because this is the only true path to follow;

    2. Will merit steady goodness;

    3. Will reach higher levels in the fulfillment of Mitzvoth.

  3. To be able to love the Almighty properly, it is necessary to study Torah to the best of one's ability and to make an effort to understand well what one learns: whether it is a little or a lot!

  4. Even though one has not yet reached the level of doing Mitzvoth out of love for the Almighty - R. Yehuda said in the name of Rav: "A person should always keep busy with Torah and Mitzvoth - even if he does not do so 'for their own sake' - since by doing them even not 'for their own sake', he will [eventually] come to do so 'for their own sake '" (i.e. out of love).

29. APPROPRIATE REWARD

Reward for a Mitzvah, based on the measure for measure principle, applies also to merits in general. Thus if you do a Mitzvah, the Creator rewards according to prevailing circumstances. E.g.:

  1. If, after you decided to do a Mitzvah, you do it promptly - - the Creator will fulfill your request or provide your needs soon!

  2. If, in order to fulfill a Mitzvah, you had to neglect your business - - the Creator will make good your 'loss'.

  3. If fulfilling a Mitzvah involves disregarding your personal honor - - your honor will be enhanced!

  4. "As long as you are merciful [i.e. to other people], the Almighty will be merciful to you.."

  5. "Whoever judges someone else favorably - - will himself be judged favorably!"

  6. When you work for the needs of other people, or if you pray that they be saved from all kinds of punishment [like R. Meir who asked for pity on behalf of sinners so they would repent] - - your personal needs, too, will be taken care of. For instance:

    1. Whoever (as a volunteer) is busy with religous community affairs (while neglecting his own needs) - - his personal requirements (which he neglected) will be taken care of - by others!

    2. When King Shlomoh prayed to the Almighty that he be given wisdom in order to enable him to judge Israel properly - - his other needs were also given to him, as it says: "And also what you did not ask for, I have given to you".

  7. When you refrain from harming someone who has hurt you - - the Creator will in response frustrate your enemy's scheming;

  8. When you flee from sin - - you will be worthy of miracle (Sef Ch.).

30. APPROPRIATE PUNISHMENT

Since a person is punished in accordance with the measure for measure principle - - punishment sho uld be a cause for a review of past deeds (this is the actual purpose, since punishment not only atones for a sin but is also a warning for the future - lest a person repeats his sin!) - - in order to trace the sin which fits the punishment. For example (Sef. Ch.):

  1. If you lose money (e.g. when the value of your holdings drops) - - you must have previously sinned in money matters (this may have happened some time ago, and, at the time you may even have thought that there was nothing wrong with what you did). For instance:

    1. if you borrowed something - - but never returned it (even without any intention to appropiate it!);

    2. if you delayed payment of a debt without justification (e.g. by telling: Come back next month! or using other delaying tactics);

    3. If you refused to pay someone as agreed (even if only verbally!);

    4. if (when supplying services) you asked for extra payment to which you were not entitled.

  2. If you have been burglarized - - it may be because you failed to make payments as due (or the like).

  3. If you became ill - - maybe this is due to your wrongfully suspecting an innocent person ( for Resh Lakish says "Whoever suspects innocent people - - his body will be afflicted").

  4. If you almost fall (Sef. Ch.) - - this may be because you did not care what could happen to others (e.g. by letting your child throw chewing gum on the sidewalk which may cause a passerby to slip and break his leg!).

  5. If any other trouble happens to you - - it may be because:

    1. you acted against someone (by word or action) without pity - - for "if you act without pity - the Almighty with not have pity on you!";

    2. you enjoyed someone else's misfortune(Sef. Ch.) - - for: "whoever rejoices at somebody's misfortune - will not go unpunished!"

    3. You were ungrateful to someone - - since "whoever pays for a good deed with a bad one - - misfortune will not leave his house!"

31. PUNISHMENT BY HEAVEN-SENT DEATH

A person is liable to die by Heavenly decree, for the following sins:

  1. Whoever robs or humiliates a poor person - - for it says "Do not rob a poor person, because he is poor [and so nobody will stand by him] and do not humiliate a poor person in public - - for the Almighty [Mez. D.: in case the poor person is unable to defend himself:] will fight their battle and will exact punishment of the [Rashi: robber's] soul" (Mez. D.: Since he - the offender - will die).

  2. Whoever annoys or distresses a widow or an orphan, be it through theft, extortion, humiliation or even by a judge's failure to retrieve their property - - for it says: "Do not annoy a widow or orphan; [for] if you do, and they complain to Me, I shall listen and shall be angry and kill you by the sword - - then your wives will become widows [corresponding punishment for acting against widows], and your children - orphans" (for having acted against orphans, thus the punishment is 'measure for measure').

  3. Whoever would be liable for one of the four death penalties to which a Sanhedrin could have condemned him (See chap. 26,b).

  4. A Torah scholar whose conduct alienates people from the Torah way, for our Sages said:

    1. "'All who hate Me, love death' meaning those who make Me hated" (Rashi: among the people until they say: look how despicable are those who study Torah: as a result, such person alienates people from Torah).

    2. "'And you shall love the Almighty Your G-d' that the Heavenly name become liked through you...however, if someone learns...and gets practice as a Torah scholar, but does not conduct his dealings honestly, and does not speak to people in a dignified manner, what are the people going to say about him? - See that person...who learned Torah! It was unfortunate for his father that he taught him Torah! It was unfortunate for his teacher for having taught him Torah! That person who has learned Torah, see how bad are his deeds and how detestable his methods, to him applies the verse "And when they come to the nations, to which they were exiled, they desecrate My holy name, because they [i.e. those nations] say [about them derisively]: 'This is G-d's nation who left His land!'"

32. PUNISHMENT FOR EVIL THOUGHTS

  1. Thinking about a sin without doing it - - is not the same as actual wrongdoing (for it says: "A bad thought [without performing the misdeed] - the Almighty does not consider like a deed").

  2. However, a person does get punishment for - idolatrous or atheistic thoughts, for it says:

    1. "Lest among you there is a man or woman..whose heart turns away..from the Almighty..by worshipping the gods of those Goyim...the Almighty will not condone this..but will eradicate his name [i.e. that person] from under the Heaven!";

    2. "Because each and every one in Israel... who will turn away from Me and turn his heart towards idols...I shall be angry with him and I shall ruin him as a warning to others and I shall remove him from my nation, so that you shall know that I am the Almighty".

  3. By contrast, a person who discards sinful thoughts gets considerable reward - - as it says "The wicked shall abandon his ways, and the man of evil - his thoughts: thus he shall return to the Almighty - so He may have pity on him - to our G-d, as He forgives a lot" (Rsg.).

33. WHAT REGRET MAY CAUSE

Regret for something done in the past may have great importance (Em. Ved.).

  1. Whoever regrets Mitzvoth he has performed - - may (even if he has not sinned ) stand to lose any merit to which he had been entitled (for fulfilling those Mitzvoth), for it says:

    1. "When the 'righteous' turns away from his righteousness and does evil...like the 'wicked'...all his righteous accomplishments shall not anymore be remembered - because of the evildoing being [now] committed, thus [burdened only] by his liabilities [i.e. the sins he has done] he will die!"

    2. R. Shimon bar Yohai said "Even if someone had been an accomplished righteous person throughout his life, but rebelled at the end: he thereby loses the prior [i.e. the merits], for it says 'The righteousness of the righteous will not save him on the day of his sin'".

    Note: Thus, even if you sin, never regret the Mitzvoth you have done!

  2. Whoever regrets sins he has committed and also follows the appropriate rules for repentance - - may sometimes merit (even if he has no other merits!) atonement!

    Note: Thus even when you do a Mitzvah - - regret also the sin which you have committed!

34. JUDGEMENT DURING THE TEN DAYS OF REPENTANCE

R. Kruspadai said in the name of R. Yohanan: "Three books [for recording the deeds of each individual; Rashi] are opened on Rosh Hashanah: one for the 'completely wicked', and one for the 'completely righteous', and one for the 'intermediates'".

  1. [Persons listed in the book 'of] "the completely righteous are promptly inscribed and confirmed to live" - these include all persons (even those whose sins exceed their merits; Ran, Ramban, Mordehai) who are acquitted on this day of judgement because of a certain merit, - for it says: "and vindicate the righteous!" (that is the 'right eous' in that one particular matter; Ran).

  2. [Persons listed in the book 'of] "the completely wicked are promptly inscribed and confirmed to die" - - these include all persons (incl. those who are generally considered 'righteous' because their merits outweigh their sins) - found guilty on this day of judgment because of a certain sin, for it says: "and find guilty the 'wicked'" (i.e. the 'wicked' in that one particular matter; Ran).

  3. [Persons listed in the book 'of] "the intermediates have their final judgement suspended from Rosh Hashanah until Yom-Kipur" which means (Sef. Ch.):

    1. If such a person has some merit making him worthy to live he is judged favorably, according to the rule "Great kindness tilts towards kindness" and also because of the merit of Yom-Kipur (see also chap. 54) - however, on condition that:

      1. he has not sinned against the community;

      2. his merits are derived from his kindness;

    2. If there is some sin for which he deserves to die: he is judged unfavorably. E.g., if he has sinned against the public, he maybe liable for punishment (even if he has most merits!): by suffering, or by death (he or his descendants see also chap. 62), or by losing wealth (however, at times, such punishment may be postponed - for someone who is burdened with more sins - because of his ancestors merit).

35. PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED

If you notice a person who is generally considered wicked, is prospering (a fact which may raise doubts among some people), such an impression may be misleading for the following reasons:

  1. Maybe he was wicked in the past, but has since repented - - for which the Almighty waits, as it says:Do I really want the wicked to die? - says the Almighty - but [i.e. what I do want is:] that he mends his ways - so that he may live!

  2. Maybe it seems only to others that the wicked person is doing so well, while actually -

    1. he has plenty of troubles which are not obvious to an observer (e.g. his health, in his family, in business);

    2. his present 'prosperity' may cause his eventual downfall - - as stated: "Wealth is stored by its owner [i.e. at times] to his detriment!"

  3. Maybe the present happiness constitutes due reward in this world for various Mitzvoth he has done (e.g. charity, hospitality, favors, work for the community) - - as it says:

    1. ("Just as the righteous are rewarded in the coming world for even a minor Mitzvah, so) the wicked are rewarded in this world - even for a minor Mitzvah they have done"

    2. "..but [a person] with more sins and fewer merits [i.e. a 'wicked' person]: is rewarded in this world for the lesser Mitzvoth he has done: so that he can be given his full punishment [for his sins] in the future"

  4. If it seems that a wicked person is not punished, even for those sins for which the wicked should get punished in this world (see chap. 26), there may be several reasons for the postponement of such punishment.

    1. Maybe the time has not yet come, as our Sages said:

      1. "The Almighty does not punish a person before his quota is full, as it says: "When enough [Rashi: of his heart's craving - i.e. his sins] has been amassed - misfortune strikes'" but not before!

        Note: Prompt retribution mentioned by this verse applies only to the wicked; for, in the case of the 'righteous', they are punished little by little - for their own benefit (Maharsha).

      2. "Although he [a person] does not get punished promptly, he should not think that the Almighty has forgotten his sin, but...He punishes him when the time [for judgement] is due...to teach you that whoever fails to repent for a sin and does not worry about the coming day of judgement, will not be given special consideration..."

    2. Maybe it is because of potential merit - - since R. Yoshaya said "Because of three matters the Almighty shows patience with the wicked in this world":

      1. "Maybe they will repent" (maybe in this particular case the 'wicked' person has already repented and is not any more 'wicked'); or

      2. Maybe "they will do Mitzvoth for which the Almighty will reward them in this world" (and doom them from the world to come; see par. c2 above); or

      3. "Maybe righteous children will descend from them; because we find that He showed patience with Akhaz - who begot Hizkyah; with Amon - who begot Yoshayahu; with Shimi who begot Mordechai!"

    3. Maybe he is needed by Heaven for a certain assignment, e.g. to take revenge against other wicked persons, as it says in relation to:

      1. Ashur "Hey, Ashur, whip of my anger...I shall send him against a hypocritical people" (i.e. Israel; Rashi) (Rsg);

      2. Esav "and you shall slave for your brother; however, when you become embittered [Targum: if your brothers' children will transgress the commandments of the Torah; Rashi: and you will thus have an excuse to regret the loss of the blessings taken by Yakov]: you will remove his yoke from your neck" (this verse refers mainly to the descendants of Yakov and Esav; Ibn Ezra).

    4. Maybe punishment is delayed in order to increase the ultimate punishment (Rsg) -

      1. Paraoh was saved from death during all the 10 plagues - to be drowned in the sea, as it says "and pushed Paraoh and his army into the Red Sea",

      2. Yirmyahu, after asking "Why do the ways of the wicked succeed?" - was told "Until when will the land be desolate, will the grass of every field be parched, because of the inhabitants' evildoing, livestock and birds will perish, because of their claim that He does not see our future?".. (Mez.D.: will My land be desolate forever to atone for their sins? - instead Nebukadnetzar will come to exile them, thus atoning for their sins - so they can return to their land which will thrive as before) - i.e. the delay in creased their punishment (Rsg).

      3. "A stupid person will not grasp, and a fool will not understand this: when the wicked thrive like grass and when all evildoers prosper - this is to doom them forever!"

      4. R. Elazar bar R. Zadok says "To what can the wicked in this world be compared [Rashi: regarding the good things they get]? - to a tree which stands on impure ground with its upper branches [some of them; Rashi] extending over pure ground. When the upper branches are cut off [Rashi: i.e. once the wicked have received their reward]: All of it [i.e. the entire remaining tree, like the wicked person who has already received the reward for his good deeds in this world]: stands on impure grounds! - Likewise the Almighty grants good fortune to the wicked in this world in order to banish and relegate them to the lowest standing, as it says "There is [also; Ibn Ezra] a [seemingly; Mez. D.] straight path in front of a person [Rashi: When the 'wicked' see their contentment, they feel that they are on the right path] but it ends up as path of death!"

      5. "Each person has two shares - - one in Gan Eden and one in Gehinom. If the 'righteous' merits it, he gets his share and someone else's share of Gan-Eden. If the 'wicked' is guilty, he gets his share and someone else's share of Gehinom".

    What is mentioned above shows there in no point in being jealous of a wicked person's success - - it is only temporary!

36. TROUBLES OF THE RIGHTEOUS

If you notice that things do not go well for an apparently righteous person (e.g. he suffers ill health or has financial problems) - and, in particular, while the apparently wicked seem to prosper - - the reason could be one of the following:

  1. Maybe the righteous person only appears to be unfortunate - - and in reality is quite happy and satisfied (because his objectives are spiritual - and not material!);

  2. Even if he considers himself unfortunate - - such distress is sometimes for his ultimate benefit. For example:

    1. If he has to undergo an emergency operation, causing him to miss a planned flight abroad - - and, later on, it turns out that the flight never arrived!

    2. If he was fired from his job (although he had worked there successfully for a year) - - and, after years, it becomes known that everybody in this factory had been exposed to dangerous radiation.

    Note A: This may be compared to taking bitter pills (to get well) or to the 'punishment' which a father metes out to his children - for their benefit. And this is clearly expressed as follows:

    1. "Just like a man inflicts punishment on his son, the Almighty your G-d punishes you";

    2. "Because whomever the Almighty loves, He reprimands".

    Note B: So it says "'And Israel [i e. the patriarch: Yakov] said [to his sons] why did you harm me?...but the Almighty said: I am setting up his son as ruler in Egypt and he says: why did you harm me?

  3. Maybe his lack of success is not a punishment, but rather part of his predestiny as decreed before birth (see chap. 10) or at the time of birth (chap.11).

  4. Maybe it is punishment to atone for some sin - - and thus for the persons ultimate benefit, for R. Elazar ben R. Zadok said, To what are the righteous compared to in this world [regarding the troubles which beset them; Rashi]? - To a tree which stands entirely on pure ground, except that its top branches [i.e. some of them; Rashi] overlook impure ground. When the top is cut off, [i.e. the righteous are punished for their sins] the entire tree stands on pure ground. - Likewise the Almighty brings trouble upon the righteous in this world [Rashi: they are punished to cleanse them of their few sins] to enable them to inherit the coming world.

    Note: Likewise a righteous person is punished if he is the son of a wicked person(for it says: "He visits the sin of fathers upon the sons, the grandsons and the great- grandsons") - if also he:

    1. continues his father's misdeeds (Rashi); or

    2. benefits from an inheritance which had been acquired by his father by improper means; or

    3. covers up the misdeeds of his wicked ancestor.

  5. Maybe the person involved only pretends to be righteous or religious, while being actually neither (this includes sometimes scholars whose conduct alienates others from Torah) - - since such a person is in fact a hypocrite and wicked.

  6. Maybe the adversity is (not a punishment, but:) a test for that righteous person (when it is obvious to the Almighty that such person is able to endure certain misfortune [Rsg] - similar to a potter who tests only the beautiful pots) for his own benefit - - so that the Almighty can compensate him (for suffering endured, without sin) with greater fortune, as it says "So as to oppress and try you - - in order to benefit you in the end!". Now "if he accepts [i.e. such suffering out of love] - what is his reward? - 'he will [merit to] see offspring; will live longer and the Almighty's desire [for success in Torah study; Targum] will succeed!'"

  7. At times the righteous person is punished for the benefit of other people. For instance:

    1. To remind him that he must not neglect -

      1. to reprimand people when needed;

      2. to pray on behalf of others that they be spared punishment (Sef. Ch.)

    2. In order to atone for the sins of the generation:

      1. As our Sages have said: "As long as there are righteous persons in the generation: these are punished on behalf of [the sins of] the generation.."

      2. R. Hoshia said "The Almighty said: I take one righteous person from them..and forgive them for all their sins.."

    3. So that others (upon hearing and seeing or realizing the extent of the suffering) will take such suffering to heart as a warning - - and repent and mend their ways.

  8. When the generation has sinned to such an extent that communal punishment is decreed (see chap. 63-65), even a righteous person, who has not sinned, will not escape - unless he deserves to be saved miraculously because of extraordinary merits(e.g. if he fled from a sin; Sef. Ch.). Note: However one should avoid getting into a dangerous situation needlessly so that one does not have to rely on a miracle - - since only the Creator knows who deserves to be saved miraculously.

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

TROUBLES

37. REASON FOR SUFFERING

Our sages said "A person afflicted by suffering - - should review his deeds [to find the cause, i.e. the wrong he has committed]..."

  1. "If he checked his deeds and found nothing [i.e. no wrong-doing]: he should ascribe it [the suffering] to neglect of Torah study, for it says: 'Fortunate is the man whom the Almighty disciplines - - and from Your Torah You will teach him'" (since suffering should bring a person to study Torah; Rashi).

    Note: Likewise our sages said:

    1. (R. Shimon ben Lakish): "Whoever occupies himself with Torah - - suffering stays away from him!"

    2. (R. Yohanan): "Whenever someone has the opportunity to study Torah and does not take it - - the Almighty afflicts him and he will suffer!"

  2. "If he thinks to ascribe [his suffering to neglect of Torah study] but cannot find [such neglect] - - such suffering is obviously suffering of love [Rashi: the Almighty punishes him in this world for no particular sin, just to increase his reward in the coming world to more than he would have been entitled on the basis of his actual merits], for it says 'because whomever the Almighty loves, He disciplines'..if he accepts it [the suffering given in love; Mez. D.: without complaining about this fate] what will be his reward? - 'He will see offspring [who will not die during his lifetime Mez. D:] and live long' - and furthermore he will succeed in his Torah studies, as it says: 'and the Almighty's desire [regarding Torah study; Targum] will succeed!'"

38. REACTION TO SUFFERING

Reaction to suffering should be as follows:

  1. Don't complain (nor question the justice ) - - since suffering comes mostly as punishment for sins or omissions (see chap. 30) or as a test (see chaps. 18b2; 36f).

  2. Act like those righteous people who willingly suffer embarrassment (as the Prophet Yeshaya said: "My face I have not hidden from [facing] insults..") - - in honor of the Creator!

  3. Pray that neither heavenly - - nor human calamity shall strike!(as did the prophet Daniel)

  4. Pray to the Almighty that He should help all the righteous who suffer (as it says: "and you shall love another person like yourself") - - and He may save you too!

  5. It may be worthwhile (but it is not a must) to let someone else know, who may sympathize with your suffering (but not someone who does not care!) - - for it says "A worry in a person's heart depresses him" (But by telling someone else about your troubles you make it easier for yourself to carry on and you also divert yourself from your worry; Rif).

39. PUNISHMENT OF OTHERS BECAUSE OF YOU

Be careful that someone else is not punished because of you (even if he deserves it!), even indirectly (Yos.Om.) - - since this is bad also for yourself (as it says "Punishment [even if meted out to someone justly - nevertheless, if caused by the righteous, it] is not good for the righteous himself!"). Therefore:

  1. Forgive someone who has sinned against you!

  2. Never disparage or denigrate someone, let alone Klal- Israel (Sef.Char.) - - for it says: "Do not denounce the servant [i.e. a person] to his master [i.e. the Creator; Rashi: do not accuse another person, even if he is wicked, before the Almighty] lest he curses you and you stand accused!"

  3. Do not gain satisfaction from someone else's embarrassment. For example (Yos.Om.) -

    1. By trying to look for vulnerable points in a person - - in order to criticize them;

    2. By stressing the correctness of your own actions - - in a way which reflects negatively upon someone else (even if you do not name him and even if he is absent).

40. WHEN PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED

Although punishment for a sin cannot be entirely cancelled, since it comes as retribution for the sin and it cannot be expected that the Almighty will not punish the sinner at all (in the same way that the righteous are rewarded by the Almighty for all their merits) - - it is possible that such punishment may be mitigated (depending on the seriousness of the sin; Sef.Ch.) through prayer, on condition that:

  1. The prayer is said with devotion - - as it says: "How do we know that if a person stands and prays and puts his mind to it, that the Almighty is likely to hear his prayer? - because it says: 'You who listen to a prayer - to You all 'flesh' will come'";

  2. The person praying, -

    1. must be humble and overlook any possible offense against himself - - like R. Akiva;

    2. (if he has sinned) must have repented - - for it says Return to Me [Mez. D.:to keep My Mitzvoth] - and I shall return yo you!

    3. must refrain from evil-talk - - and from believing it!

    4. must not ask for what may be good for himself - - but bad for others! (Sef.Ch.)

    5. shall pray on behalf of others that they will be spared all kinds of punishment - - similar to R. Meir who asked for pity for the sinners so that they would repent.

    Note: The above-mentioned conduct will be fittingly rewarded (Sef.Ch.)

    1. Whoever fasts and prays that the needs of other Jews be provided - his own needs will be taken care of through the efforts of others.

    2. Whoever devotes his time to take care of community requirements and religious matters: his own needs will be taken care of through other peoples efforts.

    3. King Shlomo asked the Creator for wisdom to enable him to properly judge Israel - in response, he was told "And what you have not asked for, I shall give you too!"

41. WHEN PRAYERS ARE NOT ANSWERED

A prayer cannot be expected to be answered (Em.Ved.) if the person who prays -

  1. does so - - absent mindedly;

  2. indulges in flattery - - since R. Elazar said "The prayer of a flatterer - - will go unanswered, as it says: 'And those who flatter cause anger, they should not [bother to] pray [for pity] when I make them suffer!'"

  3. is arrogant - - for Hizkiyah said: "A prayer is not heard - - except from the humble!"

  4. ignores pleas from the poor - - for it says: "Who is deaf to the plea of the destitute - - also, when he himself will plead, he shall not be answered!"

  5. oppresses or robs - - because about such person it has been said:

    1. "Even if you pray a lot - - I shall not listen: your hands are full of blood: - clean yourself, purify yourself, remove the bad effects of your deeds from My sight, stop acting wickedly!"

    2. "And those who have been 'consuming' [i.e. robbed the property of] My people...when they plead to the Almighty - - He will not answer them but ignore them.."

  6. disregards a Mitzvah of the Torah (e.g. by indulging in evil talk), as it says - - "Whoever turns his ear away from listening to the Torah - - also his prayer is [considered] with disgust!"

  7. failed to repent - - as it says "And it shall happen that when He [through His prophets; Targum] called and they did not listen - - likewise, when they [who fail to repent] will plead to Me, I shall not listen, said G-d the Almighty".

  8. does so after his fate has already been sealed - - as G- d said to Mosheh Rabenu (when he tried to pray for reversal of the decision forbidding him to enter the Land of Israel) - "It is enough, do not speak to Me anymore on this matter!"

    Note: However, if a bad decree has not yet been finally decided, prayer may possibly reverse or ease the decree! (See chap. 13.)

42. INDICATION THAT PRAYER IS ACCEPTED

  1. Sometimes there is some indication whether a prayer has been accepted, as described below.

    1. "R. Chanina ben Dosa [who prayed for the sick] said to them - - if my prayer comes to me easily, I know that it [i.e. the prayer on behalf of a particular sick person] has been accepted; - - if not: I know that it is rejected".

    2. "If, while you are praying, your heart gets suddenly filled with joy and love for the Almighty - - this indicates that the Almighty wants to do your will" (Sef.Ch.).

  2. If your prayer fails to be answered, act as our Sages said:

    1. "If a person sees that his prayer has not been answered - - he should pray again, as it says: 'Trust in the Almighty [again, if your prayer has not been answered; Rashi], be strong and may your heart be fortified, and trust in the Almighty'" (always; Ibn Ezra);

    2. "He who prays and is not answered: - - should fast!"

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

REPENTANCE

43. IMPORTANCE OF REPENTANCE

Repentance started with Reuven, for our Sages said "'And Reuven returned to the pit.' Where had he been?...R. Elazar said...in sack cloth and fasting [about his sin; Mat. K.] and when he had a chance, he looked into that pit...the Almighty said to him - Never before has someone, who has sinned before Me, actually repented, and you have started to repent; by your life - one of your descendants will also be [famous for] calling for repentance. Who is he? - Hoshea who said: 'Return Israel unto the Almighty your G-d". It is a Mitzva to repent and be sorry for a sin (or omission). Repentance is very important for the following reasons.

  1. Repentance brings a person closer to the Almighty since:

    1. Yesterday (i.e. before repenting) he was a sinner, hated and despised by the Almighty, as it says:

      1. "Your sins form a divide between you and your G-d";

      2. "Even if you pray a lot, I shall not listen!"

    2. Today (i.e. after repenting) he (the Baal Tshuvah) is liked and cherished so much that his prayer is promptly answered - - as it says "And it shall be that before they even pray - - I shall answer".

  2. Repentance prevents punishment (and may even cancel a bad verdict that has already been decreed upon a person) - - for R. Shimon ben Yohai said: "..even if he was completely wicked throughout his life, but he repented at the end, his [former] wickedness is not even mentioned anymore, as it says: 'Wickedness will not prove a stumbling block for the wicked [i.e. it will not anymore be taken into account] on the day he repents from his wickedness'".

  3. Repentance is well rewarded: because a Baal-Tshuvah, (since he has already tasted sin), has to exert greater will-power to conquer his desires (than a person who has not sinned) - which puts him on a higher level and also reclassifies his sins (depending whether he repented for fear or love of the Almighty, see also chap. 28) as follows:

    1. If he repented for fear: "Sins that had been committed willingly, will now be judged as sins committed inadvertently" (this reduces punishment considerably);

    2. If he repented for love of the Almighty (this is higher- grade repentance): "Sins which had been committed willingly will now be judged like merits!"

    Note: A person ready for repentance will continue to ascend from one grade to the next. He will start to repent out of fear, and afterwards, he will repent for love.

  4. Repentance may be rewarded by a share in the coming world - - thus repent during your entire life in order to be a Baal Tshuvah before death!

  5. R. Yonathan said: "Repentance is great since it brings the redemption closer, for it says: 'And the redeemer will come to Zion and to those who turn from sin in Yakov'"; as our Sages said:

    1. "Israel will be redeemed only by repentance, because the Torah has promised that Israel will repent at the end of the exile and will be promptly redeemed, for it says: "And all these things, the blessing and the curse, you will experience...and you will return to the Almighty your G-d ..and the Almighty your G-d will bring you back and have pity on you".

    2. "Rav said all the 'final' time limits [for our redemption] have elapsed, and the matter depends only on repentance and good deeds. And Shmuel said: It is enough for the mourner [i.e. Israel] to continue mourning [i.e. the suffering of the exile in order to merit redemption even without repentance; Rashi]. .. R. Eliezer says: 'If Israel repents: they will be redeemed; if not: they will not be redeemed. R. Yehoshua said... but the Almighty will force on them a ruler whose decrees will be as harsh as those of Haman - and Israel will repent and mend their ways!

44. WHAT TO REGRET

One should regret one's sins and repent as follows:

  1. A sin committed inadvertently - also requires pardon and atonement (except, if you were forced to sin, in which case no repentance is needed; Rambam).

  2. A doubtful sin - is even more serious than a definite sin (just as the Asham-Taluy [suspended-guild] sacrifice for such kind of sin - is more expensive than a sure-guilt [asham vadai] sacrifice offered for a definite sin) for the following reasons:

    1. It requires greater will-power to regret a doubtful sin (than a sin youdefinitely committed);

    2. Your evil-inclination will tend to convince you that such a doubtful sin is no sin.

  3. A sin not involving any action: e.g.,

    1. Forbidden talk (like evil-talk, tale-bearing, lies, flattery, deriding others, abusive language; see chaps. 50 and 51);

    2. Heretical thoughts which result from arrogance (as it says: In the footsteps of [events paving the way to] the Mashiakh [Rashi: At the end of the exile before his coming]: arrogance [towards heaven] will spread).

    Atonement for such thoughts should therefore start with the realization of one's insignificance and limitations.

  4. A bad character trait (e.g. jealousy, desire for wealth, honor or pleasures, hatred, anger, sarcasm). A very great effort is required to get rid of such negative traits, in particular after they have become second nature (as it says: "the wicked shall abandon his way").

  5. A sin involving an act (e.g., robbery, theft, consumption of forbidden food);

  6. A sin which is so serious that it carries the death penalty. For (although it says: "What is crooked cannot anymore be straightened out, what is missing cannot be made up"), repentance may help to limited extent:

    1. By postponing death, as e.g. in the case of King Menasheh of Yehuda, for they say:

      1. "Menasheh...was [i.e. for punishment] turned over to his enemies...he started to call the Almighty...the Almighty said to him: you wicked person, it would have been appropriate for Me to ignore you, since you have angered Me; however, [i.e. I accept your repentance] in order not to close the door to [potential] penitents: so that they should not say: see Menashe tried to repent and he was not accepted!" (so why should we repent?)s

      2. R. Yohanan said "Whoever maintains that Menasheh has no share in the world to come, discourages the sinners from repenting...for it says: Menasheh repented for 33 years"

      3. R. Yehuda says: "Menasheh has a share in the world to come, as it says: 'And he prayed to Him, he was listened to and He heard his supplication and He returned him to Yerushalayim to his kingdom'".

    2. Even if death comes soon, by gaining subsequent pardon and a share in the coming world (e.g. R.Elazar ben Duradaya).

45. HOW TO REPENT

The best way to repent fully is as follows.

  1. Review those of your deeds which were inappropriate - - as it says "Let us search our ways and investigate them - - so that we may return to the Almighty!"

    Note: Since, in most cases, any suffering (such as pains, sickness, embarrassment) comes as punishment for a sin - - one should not trace such harm to other factors (even if these seem likely). The connection between hurt and punishment is also shown as follows:

    1. "What has G-d done to us?" asked Yosef's brothers when realizing that the actual reason - for being pushed around and threatened without apparent justification - was to punish them for what they had done to their brother: "G-d found [i.e. this occasion to pay back for:] the sin of your servants! ...R.Yitzhak said the lender found an opportunity to collect!"

    2. King David told his associates when Shimi cursed him: "Do not bother.., let him curse, [surely] the Almighty must have told him to curse David!" (thus accepting the shame as punishment due to himself).

  2. Confess your sins before the Almighty (as required by the Torah) - - at least by saying the following words: "Hashem I have sinned, done wrong and offended against You (by having done this and this) and I regret having done it and I am embarrassed by it and I never intend to repeat it!" Whether to confess your specific sin aloud - depends on the circumstances.

    1. If the sin is not publicly known, confess quietly - - because publicizing that you sinned against Heaven:

      1. is considered arrogant;

      2. may cause people to wonder why you are not punished;

      3. may encourage others to sin (Sef.Ch.).

    2. You may (but are not obliged to) confess aloud - if such a sin is generally known.

    3. It is a Mitzvah to disclose a sin - - if this is necessary to prevent other people from being suspected.

    4. You may disclose your sin to a Sage - - in order to be told how to repent.

    5. When all pray together (e.g. during 'Ashamnu' or 'Al cheht') you are allowed to do so aloud (since such communal confession does not reflect necessarily upon you).

  3. Make amends if you have sinned against another person (because, in such a case, even a combination of repentance, confession and Yom-Kipur is not sufficient atonement). E.g.:

    1. by apologizing, for R. Yits'hak said: "Whoever annoys someone else, even [only] by words: has to placate him, as it says 'My son, if you...have gotten involved because of your mouth's utterings [Rashi: you have annoyed him with your talk] do this then my son and get saved...Bow to the fact [Rashi: to pay him] and, [for any provocative talk, on your part:] have many of your friends' [Rashi: ask him for forgiveness]: If his property is with you: open the palm of your hand; if not: send him lots of friends!"

    2. by paying for damage caused (or by returning what does not belong to you).

  4. Decide firmly not to commit such a sin anymore!

46. PROMPT REPENTANCE

It is a Mitzvah to repent for each sin as soon as possible, without waiting (e.g. for Yom-Kipur), since in the meantime:

  1. You may forget the sin - - and thus never repent;

  2. Even if you don't forget, you are tarnished by the sin - - which you ought not to be (as it says "Your clothes shall be white all the time" i.e. you shall be unblemished);

  3. You forestall - - punishment;

  4. The Mashiakh may arrive (revealing the sinners) - - and then repentance will be of no use anymore (since repentance will be accepted only before the advent of the Mashiakh; Rashba).

47. TIME FOR STOCK-TAKING

If you don't repent promptly:

  1. Review your deeds (Marpal) to check whether you sinned (e.g. by evil talk, slander, lies) - - so you will realize your mistakes and correct them:

    1. Before you study Torah or pray; since, whoever indulges in evil talk and fails to repent - - neither his prayer nor his Torah study is accepted by the Almighty (Marpal).

    2. Once every day in the evening before you go to sleep.

    3. Each week - - on the eve of Shabat.

    4. On each of the "ten days of repentance".

  2. You must confess, at the very latest, on Yom-Kipur (which in its own right atones, because it is the terminal of forgiveness for all Israel) in each Amidah prayer:

    1. For sins against the Almighty - - since even if someone has been sentenced to death by Beth-Din, and is executed, his death alone does not atone for the sin, unless he has also confessed (E.g. "A murderer...shall say to them: 'I am a murderer'").

    2. For sins against a fellow man - - because it is not enough to just repair the damage done (although you certainly must).

  3. It is certainly time to repent if you receive a clear warning from Heaven:

    1. Of the misfortune which may befall you - - as when the prophet Yonah warned: "In another 40 days Niniveh will be destroyed.."

    2. In the form of actual punishment - - that has already started.

  4. If a person repents only on his deathbed - - this is also considered repentance.

48 REPENTANCE IN STAGES

In order that the repentance should succeed, it may be advisable to start with those sins for which it is easier to repent - - and to continue gradually (Marpal). The same applies to developing the motivation to repent and defenses against further sin. Thus:

  1. Prepare for repentance in stages - - as it says: Thus children, listen to me, I shall teach you the fear of the Almighty: Who is the man who desires life?.. Keep away from evil and do good...

    1. Keep away from evil: Be careful to refrain from transgressing a prohibition (which is, generally speaking, easier than fulfilling a commandment);

    2. And do good: Fulfill a Mitzva.s

    Note: For, maybe, if you would start with a Mitzvah commandment - before you refrain from evil - your repentance may not last (Marpal).

  2. As far as motivation for repentance is concerned - - repent first for fear of the Almighty and then out of love for the Almighty!

  3. To avoid prohibited talk - - the following sequence may be helpful:

    1. Refrain from evil-talk, involving lying (which is equal to defaming someone).

    2. Refrain from evil talk, even if true.

    3. Avoid slips of the tongue, which constitute evil talk only to a slight degree.

    Note: The above mentioned method constitutes an appropriate antidote to the damage done by your evil inclination which caused you to start with relatively less serious sins - by indulging:

    1. In slight evil-talk ('avak').

    2. In regular evil-talk, even though it is true.

    3. In evil-talk which is untrue.

49. HOW TO AVOID FORBIDDEN TALK

One must take care continuously to refrain from forbidden talk - - even if this involves changing personal habits (similar to an ill person who has to swallow bitter pills). The following is therefore desirable.

  1. "Study Torah - - for it says: 'Healing the tongue [i.e. avoiding evil talk; Gra.: the cure is] - tree of life' ..Torah" (i.e. talking in Torah matters; Gra.).

  2. Refrain from talking to those who are liable to involve you in forbidden talk - - because it may be difficult for you to resist.

  3. Skip any conversational topic - - liable to bring about forbidden talk.

  4. Don't answer before thinking what to reply, as it says:

    1. "Who is wise? - he who anticipates the result!"

    2. "The result of speed - is regret!"

  5. Try to be brief, because the more you talk, the harder it is to refrain from prohibited talk.

  6. Make it a point to praise people - - and also to encourage the poor.

  7. Say only the truth (even when admonishing someone) - - but do not relate how someone swindled somebody else - after the perpetrator has repented and made restitution as required.

50. REPENTANCE FOR EVIL-TALK

If you indulged in evil talk or tale bearing and you wish now to repent, keep the following points in mind:

  1. If those who listened to you rejected your evil talk out of hand (thus nobody had been disparaged, so you do not have to ask the person concerned for forgiveness) - - you still have to repent (since you have sinned against the Almighty). You should therefore:

    1. Regret and confess your sin;

    2. Take upon yourself not to repeat the sin.

  2. If those who heard you did not reject your evil-talk and you thus damaged a person's good name - - in order to obtain atonement you must act as specified in par. a above and also ask the person involved (even if he was unaware of your sin; Chaf.Chaim) for forgiveness (otherwise the sin will not be atoned for). However, since the person may be upset if he hears what you said about him (and to upset him is forbidden; R.Israel Salanter), there is another way of repairing the damage - from now on, make it a point to praise that person in front of those same people who heard your derogatory remarks - in order to erase any bad impression which you may have caused.

51. REPENTANCE FOR BELIEVING EVIL-TALK

If you sinned against a person by believing, even in part, any evil talk about him, you should atone as follows:

  1. Decide definitely not to believe such matter further. Note: Even though it may be obvious to you that the evil- talker had not invented the story, always realize that he may (even inadvertently) have added or omitted something (or, that part of the story became derogatory by the way it was told), or that you might have gotten a different impression if you had heard the story from the person involved himself.

  2. Decide that in the future you will definitely not accept or believe evil-talk or tale-bearing about any Jew (who is not wicked as specified in chap. 40).

52. IF UNSUCCESSFUL IN REPENTING

If you tried to repent, but failed:

  1. Do not give up - - but try again, as it says:

    1. "If the spirit of the ruler [i.e. the evil inclination in each person] gets the upper hand [nevertheless:] don't give up!".

    2. Resh Lakish said: "Whoever wants to purify himself - will be helped".

    3. Raba bar-Chinena said: "Whoever sins and then feels embarrassed, will be forgiven all his sins!"

  2. Resist your evil-inclination with all your strength until:

    1. You whole-heartedly repent for the past;

    2. You decide not to sin any more.

    Note: When you say the 'Al chet' prayer, don't think that it really refers to other people's wrongdoing, - - it applies to you too, because you are obliged to account (among other things) for lies (inc. half-truths), evil-talk, tale-bearing, embarrassing someone else, making fun of someone, flattery, anger, haughtiness or just idle talk. Take care what you say and try in general to speak less. Then there will be hope for improvement and real repentance.

53. HELP WITH REPENTANCE

  1. If someone really wants to repent - but delays his repentance because of the problem of fulfilling everything necessary for atonement - - it is better to be satisfied (at the beginning at least) with only partial steps of repentance:

    1. Since by delaying repentance altogether (because of the above mentioned difficulties) - - there is a chance that one will never repent nor atone for one's sins.

    2. Because the main object should be - - to repent (even if only partially, since eventually one will repent fully!).

  2. If someone embarrassed you, or hurt you by speaking evil about you - and asks you for forgiveness - - forgive him, as our patriarch Avraham forgave Avimelekh, the king of the Plishtim, and even prayed for their recovery - - although Avimelekh had treated him badly. You stand to gain by forgiving. Thus:

    1. Ravah said: "Whoever overlooks a slight - - all his sins will be overlooked!"

    2. If anybody is punished because of you - you will also suffer (see chap. 39).

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

ATONEMENT

54. ATONEMENT NOWADAYS

Today, since we do not have a Beth-Hamikdash (in which the altar of incense, the priestly clothes and the He-Goat dispatched on Yom-Kipur enabled atonement) - - atonement is achieved variously, depending upon the sin. For example:

  1. If you fail to fulfill a Torah command (such as putting on Tefilin - where non fulfillment does not carry the 'Karet' penalty) - - repentance alone suffices.

  2. If you transgress a Torah prohibition which carries neither Karet not the death penalty (e.g. shaving with razor blade) - - even prompt repentance cannot atone - until Yom- Kipur comes.

  3. If you transgress a Torah law which carries either 'Karet' (such as eating on Yom-Kipur) or the death penalty (such as persuading others to worship idols) - even repentance and Yom-Kipur cannot atone, but only suffering.

  4. If you transgress a Torah prohibition such as desecrating His Holy name - - (even if you repent, Yom-Kipur comes as well as suffering) only death atones!

55. ATONEMENT FOR WRONG-DOING

  1. Any kind of suffering (not only in the form of sickness, accident, pains, threats, etc. - but) even in the form of some inconvenience - - is intended as atonement for what one has done wrong. (Thus such suffering should not be traced to other causes - even if they seem likely!)

  2. Whatever kind of suffering it may be - - corresponds to the sin or omission to be atoned for (see chap. 30).

56. ATONEMENT THROUGH TORAH STUDY

Torah study can atone - - as expressed by our sages:

  1. R. Nehunya be-Hakaneh said: Whoever takes upon himself Torah obligations [i.e. by devoting his time mainly to Torah study] rids himself of obligations toward .. worldly endeavors.

  2. Rava said: Everyone was created to toil - - lucky is he who merits to toil in Torah!

  3. R. Alexandri says: There is no person without toil - - a person is fortunate if his toil comes through [intensive study of; Mat.K.] Torah, as it says: And from Your Torah You will teach him".

57. ATONEMENT WITH MONEY

At times atonement may be achieved by money. For example:

  1. By giving charity (Sef.Ch.) - for it says Wealth will not help on the day of anger - [nevertheless] charity will save from death!

  2. By compensating the robbed (after restoring what was stolen) - - for the annoyance caused and for the benefit obtained (before the object was returned; Sef.Ch.)

58. ATONEMENT THROUGH SUFFERING

Atonement for sins is also possible - - by suffering (which brings to mind the bad deeds for which one has meanwhile repented). For example:

  1. Physical suffering,

  2. Embarrassment (e.g., by confessing aloud to a sin generally known, or by not reacting to insult).

  3. Worry (e.g., about other people's troubles or about lost money).

59. ATONEMENT AFTER DEATH

A person who has sinned but also accumulated merits during his lifetime, may have his punishment mitigated posthumously by the actions of someone still living (Sef.Ch.). For example:

  1. By confession (as it says: "And they shall confess their sin and the sin of their father") - - and return of (e.g.) stolen property.

  2. By prayer (e.g. R. Meir who prayed on behalf of Elisha ben Avuyah).

  3. By charity (which helps in particular for someone who had not studied Torah).

  4. By fasting (or taking upon himself some other suffering).

  5. By disrespect for the deceased - - as King Hizkiyah did (and the Sages approved of what he did), for it says:

    1. "And they dragged out the bones of the kings of Yehuda..";

    2. "And their sin was on their bones" (regarding Hizkiyah who dragged the bones of his father).

60. WHO HAS NO SHARE IN THE COMING WORLD

The following have no share in the coming world (unless they repent).

  1. Someone who lacks faith (apikorus), by claiming any of the following:

    1. There is no G-d, and that the world has no leader (i.e. an atheist).

    2. (Even if he admits that the world has a leader, nevertheless, he claims that) the world is not lead by a single leader, but by 2 or more.

    3. (Even though he admits that there is only a single leader, but he claims that) the World Leader has a body.

    4. (Even if he admits that the Leader of the World has no body, but he claims that) the World Leader is unaware of what people do (this includes e.g. someone who worships a star or a constellation, so that they will intercede on his behalf with the World Leader).

    5. (Even if he admits that the World Leader is aware of people's deeds, but he claims that) there is no communication of prophecy between the World Leader and the people.

    6. (Even if he admits that there is prophecy which is directed to people, but he maintains that) Moshe's prophecy is not true or not from Heaven (but Moshe pronounced such things on his own) - even if he maintains this only in reference to one verse in the Torah or to one word, because he thus "interprets Torah not according to the Halakha".

    7. (Even if he admits that the Torah is given from Heaven but that) the Creator has meanwhile invalidated Torah laws, exchanging them for others (on the contrary it says "Do not add to what I have commanded you and do not deduct from it!").

    8. (Even if he agrees that the Heaven sent written Torah has been given forever, but he claims that) there is no oral Torah from Sinai (as maintained by Zadok and Beitus) and whoever denies the coming of the redeemer or the coming resurrection of the dead.

    9. (Even though he agrees that both the written as well as the oral Torah are given from Heaven, but he claims that) it is no use being part of the persecuted Jewish people - it is preferable to worship Avodah Zarah (i.e. another religion or ideology)! - Such person is an apostate with regard to the entire Torah.

    10. (Even if he agrees that both the written and the oral Torah are from Heaven and he is willing to remain Jewish and observe the Mitzvoth, but) he disagrees with certain commandments - this makes him an apostate in respect to those commandments. This includes someone who deliberately:

      1. breaks the covenant of our patriarch Avraham (by disregarding the Mitzva of Brith Milah);

      2. eats treif (although kosher food is equally available);

      3. desecrates the Holidays;

      4. wears Shatnez;

      5. does not mend his ways - because he does not feel that he is doing wrong.

  2. Someone who has one of the following negative attitudes towards the Torah.

    1. He belittles those who study Torah, claiming for instance: "Of what use are our Torah scholars? - If they study, they study for their own benefit" (without passing it on to us). - On the contrary, those who study Torah are of great benefit to all of Israel, for it says "And I shall forgive the entire area - - for their sake"(i.e. whoever studies Torah protects the community from disaster).

    2. By belittling the Torah itself (by claiming for instance: "those things in the Torah are superfluous!"). Such a person does not understand (or has never learned) the reasons - and pride causes him to make such statements. On the contrary, it says regarding the Torah:"It is not empty of meaning for you, but is your very life!". R. Mana said: "If 'empty for you': it is because you don't make an effort to study it! - 'because it is your life' - when is it 'your' life? - when you make an effort to study it!"

  3. Whoever distorts the meaning of words in the Torah.

  4. Someone who desecrates His Holy Name - since this is not only a failure in the basic obligation to honor the Almighty and sanctify His name (for which man was created) - - but dares to do the opposite!

  5. Someone who criticizes the worship of the Almighty (and shows disrespect for religious laws) - - let alone causing others to sin!

  6. Someone who shows general non-observance of Mitzvoth (even though he refrains from sinning!) - - and indifference to troubles besetting Israel.

  7. Someone who conducts himself badly towards others, as specified in the following.

    1. Whoever (even if he had been deserving in Torah and good deeds) insults someone else in public.

    2. Whoever calls someone by a derogatory name, even if the latter is used to it and is not insulted - - since the intention is to slight the person (Rashi).

    3. Whoever calls his Rabbi or teacher by his first name (only)!

    4. Whoever humiliates someone in front of a Torah scholar - - since he shows disrespect for the scholar's Torah knowledge!

    5. Whoever humiliates a Torah scholar - - since such disrespect may cause people:

      1. to ignore the words of (even other) Torah sages who guide people to become G-d fearing.

      2. to misunderstand the value of Torah - - and thus refrain from learning it and perform Mitzvoth!

      Note: On the contrary , Torah scholars should be honored, so honoring he Almighty, and to indicate that service to G-d is the main aim in life - for G-d cannot be served without those who study Torah, who teach Halachah and strengthen Israel - insuring that Torah will not be forgotten.

    6. Anyone who behaves in one of the following ways - and hence belongs to G-ds enemies:

      1. Disapproves of those who study Torah and perform Mitzvoth (let alone someone who prevents them from so doing).

      2. Hates the dignity of righteous Torah scholars.

      3. Honors the wicked!

    7. Whoever obtains satisfaction from someone elses embarrassment.

    8. Whoever indulges regularly in evil-talk and the defamation of others.

    9. Whoever frightens the community (not for Heavens sake but) for his own honor (or the honor of his associates) - - because he thus transgresses the prohibition of not to injure others feelings even by words. Moreover he may lead people astray!

      Note: On the contrary, a true leader does not reign by terror, as it says When a ruler of people is righteous, fear of G-d rules. Also it stands to reason that people will be more inclined to respect a G-d fearing person - without need for coercion.

    10. Whoever betrays his fellow-man (or his wealth) to the Goyim - for subsequent killing or beating.

    11. Whoever murders someone.

      Note: However, even if someone was guilty of one of the above serious sins, - if he repents he will:

      1. be reinstated - - for it says: "Return estranged children gone astray" (i.e. he is reinstated even while still estranged, because he has already repented privately).

      2. have a share in the coming world - - as it says: "Shalom, shalom, to the person who is far [Targum: who is returning] and to the person who is close [Targum: the righteous who keeps the Torah] said the Almighty, because I have healed him" (Rashi: from his sickness and his sins).

61. WHEN EVEN REPENTANCE DOES NOT ATONE

There are some very serious sins for which even prompt repentance cannot atone (mainly because it is impossible to undo the misdeed; Em.Ved.). For instance:

  1. If you mislead someone with a wrong halachic decision (or seduce him from his faith) - - as it says: "Whoever misdirects the righteous into bad ways - he will himself be trapped.."

  2. If you hold on to property unlawfully acquired - - or fail to return it to its owner.

    Note: If the person robbed has meanwhile passed away, you have to make restitution to his heirs (as it says "To whom it belongs: to him he has to give it on the day he admits his guilt"); if you do not know his heirs (or if there are none; Sef. Ch.) donate the value of the stolen articles to some worthy public institution.

  3. If you cause trouble for many (Sef. Ch.).

  4. If you slander someone (Rsg); or if you accuse him of some misdeed of which he is not guilty (Sef. Ch.).

62. PUNISHMENT OF A SON FOR HIS FATHER'S SIN

  1. A son (even if he generally conducts himself as a righteous man) is punished for his father's sins - - if he continues to benefit from assets acquired improperly by his father (or if he covers up such sin; Sef.Ch.). In this connection it is said "..Who inflicts punishment for fathers' sin - - upon sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of My enemies" (Targum: if they continue the misdeeds of their fathers).

  2. A son is not punished for his father's sins - - if he himself is righteous and does not continue the bad ways of his father - nor benefits from the wrongs committed by his father, as it says (in this connection):

    1. "(Fathers will not be killed because of their sons,) nor will sons be killed because of their fathers: each one will be killed because of his own sin".

    2. "A son will not be liable for his father's sin and a father will not be liable for his son's sin: for the merit of the righteous [person, if he is one] shall be his [Mez. D.: alone, to get recompense] and the guilt of the wicked [person - if he is one] shall be his" (to be punished).

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]

COMMUNAL PUNISHMENT

63. ANTISEMITISM AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE

  1. The real reason for antisemitism (which would seem to be completely unjustified) is clearly explained by the following Midrash (in connection with what happened before the exodus from Egypt): "When Yosef died, they [i.e. the children of Israel] did away with the Brith-Milah Mitzvah, claiming: 'Let's be like the Egyptians!' .Because of this the Almighty turned the affection with the Egyptians had for Israel into - hatred, as it says: 'He turned their heart to hate His nation, to plot against His servants'".

  2. Likewise in our times, in reaction to the tendency of a considerable section of our people to be 'like the other nations' (a process which starts with ignoring the Mitzvoth - - and gradually moves towards assimilation and intermarriage with the Goyim) - - we are faced by communal punishment (according to the measure-for-measure principle) of antisemitism (which impedes assimilation).

  3. The purpose of communal punishment is - - to serve as a clear warning to all of us to improve our ways, before our situation deteriorates further.

    Note: For instance, when the Nazi regime came to power in Germany more than 60 years ago (then according to 'measure- for-measure'):

    1. During the first month of power, they prohibited all mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews (at the time, the rate of such marriages had reached 50% in some places!!).

    2. About 2 months after seizing power, on April 1st, '33, which fell on a Shabat, it ordered SA-guards to stand at the entrance of each Jewish-owned store, open on that Shabath, to warn any potential customer that the store was owned by Jews and should therefore be boycotted. - There could have been no clearer warning against the desecration of the Shabath!!

64. REACTING TO ANTISEMITISM

  1. As explained (see chap. 63), the disregard of Mitzvoth (which encourages assimilation) is the only reason for the increasing hatred against us (and for other general calamities befalling us) - - be it in ancient Egypt, be it in any other Galuth, be it in our Holy Land!

  2. Because we lack the effective leadership (which could have influenced many to improve their ways) - - the warning is directed against us (more painfully) in the form of great troubles (such as antisemitism; passing away of the Gedol- Hador; stupid leadership, etc.) - - in order to warn us against continuing the trend to live 'like all other Goyim'.

  3. Thus, when assessing such troubles, it is foolish and pointless to ignore their warning message - by interpreting the meaning of the public calamity otherwise - - since such ill advised reaction has two negative effects.

    1. People will fail to realize the need to improve their ways (although only this can prevent the situation from worsening!).

    2. A worsening of the calamity is likely (in one form or another).

  4. Ignoring the real significance of the calamity (as explained above) caused things to become worse also in the past:

    1. "Before the enemy came [i.e. to destroy the Beth- Hamikdash - the prophet] Yirmiyahu used to say to them [the people] 'Repent, so that you will not have to go into exile!' - They answered: 'Even if the enemies come, what could they already do to us?'" - Thus they did not bother to repent and - perished!

    2. Before the last holocaust, worthless and misleading opinions were heard (such as "such a calamity will not occur - we are not in the Middle Ages! - Patience, everything will be fine!") - - but calls for repentance were almost not heard (or they were heard when it was already too late!) - - despite the fact that the troubles became worse all the time (since the 'leadership' failed to stress the real significance of those troubles!).

  5. But if the warnings are heeded, like at the time and under the leadership of Mordechai and Esther [Esther 9:22]- - all those troubles disappear suddenly and completely!!

65. HOW TO PREVENT COMMUNAL PUNISHMENT

Since the aim of communal punishment (which does not "happen") is to warn people to improve their conduct and to reprnt their sins, or(if such warning has not been heeded) to punish them- it is the duty of anyone with influence to act as follows:

  1. To strenghthen general observation of Mitzvoth (even by those who are not so religious) as follows.

    1. To organize study lessons in Torah and religious laws.

    2. To explain Torah views.

    3. To discuss moral issues and ethics.

    4. To improve Kashruth in general.

    5. To install an Eroov wherever possible - - thus reducing desecration of the Sabbath.

    6. To bring those who strayed closer to Torah and Mitzvoth - - which is an extremely important Mitzvah.

  2. To exhort people incl. the righteous - who may be liable for the sins of others) to remedy transgressions and omissions - and to counteract, in particular:

    1. Neglect of Torah study - - or prayer;

    2. Assimilation - - in any form;

    3. Complaints to the Almighty about someone else (even the wicked; Sef.Char.). See also chap. 39;

    4. Unjustified hatred (even with the intention to do so only 'for Heaven's sake'; Netziv) - - since this causes public controversy and, eventually, destruction;

    5. "Jealousy, desire and honor-seeking - remove a person from this world!" - - since these cause all public controversies (and, in particular, if they are broadcast - - for the more people that hear the defamation of a person - the bigger the sin!)

    6. Insensitivity to the problems - - of the unfortunate.

  3. To pray that people be provided with all their needs and be spared all kinds of punishment. For example:

    1. Moshe Rabenu and R. Meir prayed for pity on the sinners in Israel - so they would repent (instead of ending up in Gehinom);

    2. We pray during the 10 days of Penitence at the end of each Tefilat-Amidah - "Let us be remembered and registered before You in the book of life, blessing, and peace and a good livelihood: we and your entire people Israel - for good life and peace!"

66. PUNISHMENT OF NATIONS

Regarding the behavior of various nations towards Israel the following had been written:

  1. "Even though Israel sinned and, as a result, the Almighty turned them over to other nations, those [nations] will not be exempt from punishment either - - In the end the Almighty will sit in judgement on those nations to whom He delivered Israel, as He did to Egypt, Bavel..", for it says:

    1. "And I shall be very angry with those complacent nations: for my anger [towards Israel] was limited, but they meted out punishment beyond that!"

    2. "And I shall destroy all those nations amongst whom I have dispersed you!"

    3. "Since G-d's day of judgement approaches for all nations: as you have treated [i.e. Israel] - - likewise you will be dealt with!"

  2. Regarding the timing for punishing the above-mentioned nations for their cruelty against Israel - the Midrash states:"Israel said to the Almighty: Master of the Universe! Until when do You delay judging the nations? - He answers: When the time is ripe to pick..Does anyone harvest his vineyard before it is ripe..? The Almighty says thus to Israel: Just wait until the time of harvesting Edom comes, then I will humiliate them, as it says: 'On Edom I cast My shoe!'"

[Table of Contents] [The Most Important Challenge of Life] [Predestiny] [Success in Life]
[Trust] [Reward and Punishment in This and the Coming World] [Relative Recompense]
[Troubles] [Repentance] [Atonement] [Communal Punishment] [Subject Index] [Diagram] [Top]


Written by Rabbi Naftali Hoffner
HTML Design: Michael Treblow
© Copyright 1994 by Naftali Hoffner and/or Mosad Eliezer Hoffner
Published by Mosad Eliezer Hoffner; P.O.B. 6303 Tel Aviv
Distributed by Feldheim Publishers
Web Edition Courtesy of Ohr Somayach International
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or other-wise, without prior permission in writting from the publishers
Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students. The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.
Ohr Somayach International. Send comments to: info@ohr.edu
Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) and your donation is tax deductable.