Our Faith and Strength - Footnotes

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Our Faith and Strength
by Rabbi Naftali Hoffner


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This we learn from the verse: "And the Almighty said: man has become like one of Us to know good from evil"

Note: Although it says: "Whatever wants, He has done in Heaven and on earth"" - this is clearly 's will and design that man be able to choose freely between good and evil!

And so He said to Kayin: "Isn't it so that if you do good - you will carry on [or 'the evil inclination will release you'; Targum], and if you fail to do good - at the threshold [of your grave; Rashi] is waiting the sin - towards which an impulse drives you - but [in spite of it] you shall overcome such an urge!" (i.e. the freedom of choice includes the challenge not to beswayed by the evil inclination).

Bar Kapara said:"Both the soul and the Torah are compared to a light . . said to man: 'My light is in your hand and your light is in My hand. My light in your hand - this is the Torah; and your light in My hand - this is the soul. If you watch My light [i.e. the Torah] - I watch your light [i.e. the soul]. But if you extinguish My light, I extinguish your light.."

Therefore, it can be clearly seen that if it had not been for a person's existing faculty to freely choose between good and evil, he would not have been punishable for his sins (not would he have been entitled to a reward if he had been destined to be righteous) - as it says "He who judges the whole world, will He not be just?"

Since it says: "It is not from the Almighty that evil and good emanate!"186 (but from the person himself [Rambam352.1] whose conduct causes reward or punishment).

R. Meir says "A person should always teach his son a clean and easy trade and pray to the Almighty, the owner of all wealth [for success]: because there is no trade immune to poverty and [no trade] which excludes [accumulation of] wealth: since poverty is not caused by any particular trade, nor is wealth due to a particular trade - but all this [poverty or wealth] is attributable to personal merit" (i.e. destiny; Tosfot). This means, unfavorable destiny cannot be changed, but it may be improved by prayer.

As it says "And decreed that Akhitofel's advice should be dismissed, although it was good, in order to bring misfortune upon Avshalom!".

To prevent blocking the paths to repentance (and the true way to spiritual elevation) - - both the prophets and other righteous personalities asked the Almighty in their prayer for help, for it says:

  1. "Please, Almighty, show me Your way"(i.e. so my sins will not obstruct the path of truth).
  2. "Help me to be generous"(i.e. to perform Your will, and do not let my sins be a cause for preventing me from repenting, but may I keep the free will until I understand the truth);
  3. "The Almighty is good and just, therefore He shows the transgressors the path [to follow], He guides the modest...".

  1. By sending prophets who spread the knowledge of 's way and induce the people to repent;
  2. By giving them the ability to learn and understand;

since as long as a person is interested in the ways of wisdom and justice: he will aim to attain them, as Resh Lakish says "Whoever wants to purify himself will be helped".

10A. R. Chanina bar Papa said "...and said to Him: Master of the Universe, this drop - what [kind of human being] will become of it? - strong or weak, wise or stupid, wealthy or poor? - But he does not ask [whether he will be] wicked or righteous'!" (Since this is up to the person himself to decide).

Our Sages said "The father bestows on his son: beauty, strength, wealth, intelligence and years" (i.e. lifespan range).

R. Chanina says "Destiny makes wise [i.e. wisdom is predestined; Rashi]; destiny makes wealthy" (this too, is predestined).

R. Yehuda said in the name of Rav "40 days before formation of the embryo a Heavenly voice announces: The daughter of this [name of person] is destined for that [name of person]!",

As it says in the Midrash: "Since from Rosh Hashana it is decreed how much a person is scheduled to earn and how much to loose".

Raba said: "Life, children and food [i.e. whether someone earns an adequate livelihood] - do not depend upon merit, but upon predestination".

Rav Yitzhak said: "Four things may cancel a bad decree upon a person":

  1. "Charity" (as it says "And charity [with assets honestly acquired] saves from death");
  2. "Crying" (as it says "And after they cried to the Almighty when the going was tough; He saved them from their misfortunes");
  3. "Change of name" (because it is written"Her name shall not [anymore] be Saray, but her name is Sarah" and it says (ib.): "and I shall bless her");
  4. "Changing deeds" (as it says "And saw their deeds [they changed their evil ways] and thus [in appreciation] refrained from punishing them with the calamity intended for them");
  5. "And there is an opinion which says: even moving elsewhere" (as it says [refering to our patrianch Avraham] "Go for yourself from your land" and afterwards: "And I shall make you into a great nation").

However, there would be no freedom of choice if only the wicked would die, as explained by R. Yonathan "If so [that Adam died only because of his wickedness] He could have decreed death for the wicked and no death for the righteous! - Yet, to prevent [possible] deceptive repentance by the wicked, lest they may say: do not the righteous keep on living? - This is just because they amass Mitzvoth and other good deeds, so let us do likewise and accumulate Mitzvoth and other good deeds! - which would result in fulfillment [of Mitzvoth] for opportunistic reasons only..."

As the Sages said "'So the Almighty your will bless you - - in all your work': Maybe then you could be idle? - thus the verse adds 'which you will do!'" (i.e. work - thus you may not be a fatalist and remain idle - yet the actual success of your efforts is determined from Heaven).

During the remainder of your available time you shall occupy yourself with Torah and Mitzvoth, for it says:

  1. "Learning Torah is equivalent to all of them"(i.e. as valuable as several other Mitzvoth combined);
  2. "Somebody who does not know the laws of the religion - cannot be very religious" (i.e. how could he observe them?)
  3. "David said before the Almighty..He answered him...: 'I prefer a day of your Torah study - - to a thousand sacrifices which your son Shlomoh will offer Me on the altar'".
  4. "A person should always be occupied with Torah and Mitzvoth - before he dies: for after he dies, he becomes detached from Torah and Mitzvoth, and will cease to be praiseworthy to the Almighty"

By thus devoting the remainder of your time to Torah study and other Mitzvoth, you will also be able to avoid both jealousy and hatred, for it says "Remove worry from your heart" - - and thus you will not have to put off Torah study for the sake of trivialities.

Since there are actually people who value property more than even their own life, - the following statement by R. Eliezer the Great applies to them: "Since it says: [you shall love the Almighty your G-d] 'with all your soul', why does it also say: 'with all your property'? - And if it says 'with all your property' why does it also say: 'with all your soul'? - but [this teaches us]:

  1. If there is a person who values his life more than his wealth [for such a person] it is said: 'with all your soul';
  2. If there is a person who values his wealth more than his body [i.e. his life, - for such person] it is said: 'with all your property'".

For it says regarding the 'Karet' penalty: "And the soul who acts high handedly ...he thus blasphemes the Almighty, such soul shall be severed from its nation: because he disregarded 's word [this includes in particular someone who utters blasphemy, worships idols, atheists and the incorrigible wicked] and broke His commandment, such a soul shall be severed and eliminated - for it is guilty!" - i.e.:
  1. The soul shall be 'severed' - in this world (before Yom Kipur, or, he will die before reaching the age of 60; Ramban).
  2. The soul will also be 'eliminated' - from the coming world: by not participating in the general resurrection of the dead, nor will it have a share in the coming world!

Note: Of course this punishment will not take place if proper repentance has been made before death (see chap. 47d).

The term 'righteous' refers not only to someone who never sins, but - as long as a person's merits exceed his sins - he is judged as 'righteous' (Rsg). By this definition, Kings Yehoshafat and Hizkiyahu [although they sinned too!] were 'righteous', for it says:

  1. Regarding Yehoshafat: "and he spoke to King Yehoshafat: 'is it conceivable that you went to help a wicked person [Mez. D.: Akhav] and loved those hated by the Almighty? and therefore His wrath descended upon you! - - yet there are also positive things which you have done by eliminating the Asherot idols from the country and by seeking 's words!"
  2. Regarding Hizkiyahu: "In those days [as punishment] Yehizkiyahu fell ill and was close to death - and he prayed to the Almighty and He said to him [Mez. D.: that He accepted his prayer and thus would live, also:] and He gave him a sign" (to that effect). - - However Yechizkiyahu failed to respond properly because of his pride - thus anger descended upon him and on Yehuda and Yerushalayim!"

The term 'wicked' refers to someone whose deeds are mostly sins although the person has also some merits. As long as his sins exceed his merits: he is judged as 'wicked'. Thus, by this definition, Kings Yehu and Tsidkiyahu are considered 'wicked' - despite the following merits:

  1. Yehu put an end to the Ba'al worship (to the benefit of the community at large);
  2. Tsidkiyahu saved Yirmiyahu.

Thus, people are divided into just 2 groups: 'righteous' and 'wicked' (except during the 10 days of penitence when there are also 'intermediates'):

  1. As it says "And go around and you will see the difference between the 'righteous' and the 'wicked'..."(i.e. no others are mentioned).
  2. Because Beth Hillel said regarding whoever is in the 'intermediates' category "Abundant kindness will tilt [i.e. the balance - if a person's merits equal his sins] towards kindness" (Rashi: Whenever there is a 50 to 50 balance, the decision tilts towards merit).

Now things change completely if a wicked person repents and thus changes his status to righteous - or if, on the other hand, a righteous person joins the category of the wicked:

  1. When a 'wicked' person becomes 'righteous' (e.g. if the 'wicked' repents), he thereby also alters the time and place of the principal retribution for his sins (and also for his Mitzvoth or merits), as follows:

    1. While still 'wicked':
      1. the main retribution for his sins would have been in the world to come;
      2. the main reward for his merits he has been receiving in this world;

    2. When the 'wicked' becomes 'righteous', he receives:
      1. the main retribution for his sins in this world; and
      2. the main recompense for his merits in the world to come (and no longer in this world);

    Note: Thus, do not be surprised if you notice a person who has repented (and whose status changed from 'wicked' to 'righteous') is punished for the sins which he commits - now (Rsg; - actually this is a favorable sign for his future).

  2. When a 'righteous' person becomes 'wicked', he alters the time and place of his principal recompense (for merits or sins) to his detriment, because (Rsg.):

    1. While he was 'righteous':
      1. he was punished promptly (i.e. in this world) for his fewer sins (so he would enjoy unimpaired reward for his merits in the coming world);
      2. the principal recompense for his merits was reserved for him in the world to come.

    2. After changing from 'righteous' to 'wicked':
      1. the main retribution for his sins is now postponed - until after death;
      2. the main recompense for his merits is now in this world.

    Note: Thus since a 'wicked' person does not get punished, for most of his sins, in this world, but - is rewarded there for his merits, - - a person who has just become 'wicked' (not only that he is seemingly not punished, but:) may seem to prosper - strange as it may seem! But actually this is not the case: since punishment for his sins is now meted out to him - after death, and thus is more bitter!

This is the opinion of R. Saadia Gaon. However according to the Talmud "Whoever says 'you take pity on a bird's nest' [Rashi: by sending away the mother bird...] shall be silenced" for the following reasons:

  1. "Because he creates jealousy among the creatures" - by implying that just those creatures (in a bird's nest):
    1. deserve pity (but no others; Rashi);
    2. benefit from Divine providence (while in fact they benefit only from the general providence affecting their species; Me'iri).

  2. "Because he qualifies Mitzvoth of the Almighty as acts of pity - while they are actually decrees!" (i.e. had this Mitzvah been established out of pity for birds, He would not have permitted us to slaughter them). Rather, this Mitzvah was decreed to teach us the virtue of pity, lest we become cruel (Me'iri, Ramban Dvarim 22,6).

Rabi thus pointed out: "be careful about fulfilling an easy as well as a difficult Mitzvah - since you don't know the amount of reward for fulfilling Mitzvoth"

R. Shimon son of Elazar says "He who acts [i.e. when fulfilling Mitzvoth] out of love is greater than he who acts out of fear"

  1. Because whoever fulfills Mitzvoth out of fear: "Merits [Rashi: to protect up to] 1000 generations", for it says"And for those who keep His commandments: for 1000 generations"

  2. Because he who fulfills Mitzvoth out of love: "Merits [Rashi: to protect up to] thousands of generations, as it says 'and He Who does favor to thousands [i.e. at least 2000 generations of the descendants] of those who love Me'" (i.e. those who observe Mitzvoth out of love).

And even at the level attained by our patriarch Avraham - provided (Sef. Ch.):
  1. He performs an extraordinary feat once (like Avraham who was ready to sacrifice Yitzhak); or
  2. He has some particular continuing achievement (as it says in connection with Avraham: "And You found his heart trustworthy before You").

Note: The Creator liked our patriarchs because all day and all night they occupied themselves with Torah thoughts (Sef. Ch.), as it says:

  1. "But [strive] in [matters of] fearing all day long".
  2. "'And Yakov woke up from his sleep'11 R. Yohanan said: from study!"

Since of such a person it is said "Before they pray I shall respond [i.e. He will act promptly; also] while they are still talking, I shall already have paid attention!"(Sef. Ch.).

Adequate retribution for a sin is based on the measure formeasure principle, for it says:

  1. "The Almighty's day [of judgement] for all nations is approaching: according to your [i.e. whatever nation's] actions - you will receive [Mez. D.: fitting] retribution!"

  2. R. Meir said "How do we know that a person is judged according to the way he acts? - Because it says: 'With a Saasah [Rashi: a certain measure; Mez.D.: According to the extent they sinned, they will be punished] when [Egypt; Rashi] sent away [Israel; Rashi] You fight them' [as per their measure (Rashi); Targum: To the extent that they strike, they are paid back!], I know only about a Saah [i.e. a great sin; Rashi]...How do we know that each and every Prutah [i.e. minor item; Rashi: even though he may not be punished for it the first time and not the second time, punishment is not cancelled, because:] all add up to a large account? - Because it says 'One for one adds up to an account'".

  3. R. Shmuel bar Nachmani said "How do we know that all the acts of the Almighty are measure for measure? Because it says 'And Elisha said: Listen to the words of the Almighty. Thus spoke the Almighty: At this time tomorrow, a Saah [a measurement] of fine flour will be [i.e. costing] a Shekel, and 2 Saah of barley will be a Shekel, at the gate of Shomron', and it says 'And the official said:...and now even if the Almighty provides special openings in the sky [to enable more rain to fall; Targum], will such thing [i.e. such miracle for the benefit of his generation] happen? - And he [i.e. the prophet, in answer] said: you will see this with your own eyes, but you will not eat from it!' and it says 'And it came true, and the people trampled him [that official] to death by the gate'" (Rashi: his sentence corresponded to what he had denied [that it would occur]; thus he was not able to eat from the food, and moreover was trampled to death by onrushing buyers).

Our Sages specified why a person loses property:

  1. "Because of 4 things, owners [this refers to wealthy leaders who are not Torah scholars; Maharshah] lose their assets to the authorities":

    1. "Because of those who keep promissory notes after they have already been cashed: (Rashi: in order to try to cash them again; however, according to the Maharshah, they do so not for the purpose of cashing them again, since this constitutes plain robbery, but they retain these notes just to put pressure on the borrower - in case there is some litigation - to claim legal relief ('Migu'). Although such procedure may not appear to some as forbidden, the Sages have forbidden it);

    2. "And for those who lend money on interest" (Maharshah: without Heter Iska, or other legally permitted way);

    3. "And for those who were able [Rashi: because of their influence due to their wealth, or their wisdom] to stop [acts of contemporary transgressors, as those may have been too embarrassed to oppose them; Rashi] by reprimand, but failed to reprimand";

    4. "And for those who publicly announce their donation for charity, but fail to deliver" (all of it, by claiming that their intention was only to spur others into donating appropriate amounts; Maharshah);

  2. Rav said "There are 4 reasons for the gradual dissipation of wealth of its owners":

    1. "Delay in paying employees' wages" (Rashi: By telling them: to come for the money some other time; Maharshah: By telling them they are too busy right now - and thus sin by delaying payment arrogantly);

    2. "Unlawful retention of wages due" (Rashi; altogether; Maharshah: by delaying payment);

    3. "Removal of the yoke [i.e. their obligations] from their neck and its transfer to others";

    4. "Arrogance [because of their wealth; Rashi], - and such haughtiness is equivalent to all" (other reasons; Maharshah: because it causes people to retain other people's wages, etc.).

Our Sages said in this connection:

  1. "There are four indications" (i.e. punishment by ills for specific sins):

    1. "Indication of (certain) sin: dropsy";
    2. "Indication of causeless hatred: jaundice";
    3. "Indication of arrogance: poverty";
    4. "Indication of evil talk: Askara" (choking or croup)" (Rashi: A sickness which starts in the intestines and ends up in the throat).

  2. "Because of the sins of: needless oath, false oath [Rashi: in which the falsehood is not readily recognizable and thus he spreads lies amongst people], desecration of His name, and desecration of the Shabat: wild beasts multiply, livestock becomes less, people become fewer and the roads become deserted"(for lack of people; Rashi).

  3. "And the Almighty let loose fiery snakes among the people: Why did He use snakes to punish them? - Because the [original] snake began the evil talk and was cursed for it, and they failed to take this to heart: So the Almighty said: Let the snake, who originally started the evil talk, come to punish those who indulge in evil talk, as it says 'Who breaks a fence [i.e. a law] let a snake bite him'"

For it says:

  1. "And the wicked person who repents all his sins he has committed and observes all My laws and does what is right and charitable - he will live and not die, [because] all his sins will not be remembered [regarding possible punishment; Mets.D.]: through the righteousness he practices - he will live!"

  2. "The past wickedness will not be a stumbling block for the wicked - on the day he decides to stop doing evil!"

Although called 'intermediates' - this does not mean that merits of such person are exactly balanced by his failures (because it stands to reason that a small amount of merit or failure, respectively, will tilt the scale to one side); but the 'intermediate' are also those whose merit demerit balance may even be slightly tipped to one side, by (Rif, Sef. Ch.):

  1. A small merit - which, by itself, however, is not sufficient to redeem him from death (because whoever has to his credit a merit, great enough to redeem him from death, - is not in the category of 'intermediates', but in the category of the 'completely righteous');

  2. A Small sin - which, by itself, however, is not serious enough to make him liable to die (Because whoever is burdened by such sin - does not belong to the category of the 'intermediates', but to the group of the 'completely wicked').

R. Yohanan said: "Why did Omri merit to become king? - Because he added one city in Eretz-Israel ...
Why did Akhav merit to remain king for 22 years? - Because he honored the Torah which was given with 22 letters.."

It should be noted that at times the righteous person is being punished even for matters which do not seem to be a great sin (Sef. Ch.), e.g.:

  1. Associating or living with wicked persons;

  2. Neglecting a Mitzva which he had been accustomed to observe.

  3. Changing an established custom (dating to the time of the Rishonim) or even only substituting a certain piece of liturgical poetry (Krovah) by a different one (although this is not considered a sin according to the Torah), because it may run counter to the rule "do not trespass the border of the world!" (Rashi: i.e. do not change your ancestors' custom).

It is a duty to pray in such an emergency, for Raba bar Chinena Saba said "Whoever is able to ask for pity for someone else and fails to do so, is called a sinner, for it says 'Also I would, Heaven forbid, sin to by refraining from praying on your behalf'" (Sef. Ch.).

Note: But do not pray for the cure of someone who causes others to sin or who prevents others from doing Mitzvoth. You may, instead, pray that such wicked person should mend his ways.

The Sages said: "Come and see the Almighty fills His world and the soul fills the body ..the Almighty is unique in His world - and the soul is unique [in the body]. The Almighty knows no sleep, nor does the soul sleep .. The Almighty sees but cannot be seen - and so the soul can see but cannot be seen. Thus the soul which sees and cannot be seen should come and praise the Almighty who sees and cannot be seen.."

Our Sages said (Zohar); "The Almighty said: From all the miseries which may beset you, I am able to save you by finding extenuating circumstances on your behalf - provided you refrain from engaging in evil talk down on earth, as this gives the Satan the possibility to denounce you before the Heavenly throne" - since it says:

  1. "They direct their mouths towards Heaven and their tongue roams on earth!"
  2. "You shall beware of the roaming tongue". (Rashi: of the Satan).

Repentance prevents punishment, for our Sages said "And Bileam said to the angel of the Almighty: 'I have sinned!': He was shrewd in his wickedness and knew that there is no protection against punishment except repentance; because whoever has sinned and says: 'I have sinned!' - the angel is not allowed to touch him!"

R. Abuha said "Ba'aleh Tshuvah rank higher than, [even:] accomplished righteous persons, as it says 'Shalom Shalom [first:] to the person who is far [but now returning; Targum] and [only second:] to the person who has been close'"(the righteous who keeps the Torah; Targum), i.e. since a Ba'al Tshuvah - in order to overcome his evil inclinations - has to exert greater will power [to refrain from sin] than a person who has never sinned: this puts him also on a higher level!

Because the Mishna says: Whoever hurts someone else has to compensate him for 5 things: damages, pain, medical costs, loss of working time and embarrassment" "although he pays, he also has to ask him for forgiveness to atone for his sin".

Therefore it is customary to tell a sick person who is close to death: "Say: 'I have sinned. I have done evil, I was careless. May my death atone for all my sins'".

A person who is careful not to sin, in the first place - is superior to a person who sinned and repents, for it says "Behold, fear of G-d is wisdom [Rashi: one needs the other since wisdom is incomplete without fear of G-d] but avoiding evil [in the first place] is - intelligence!".

Don't speak in an undignified way, for R. Yehoshua ben Levi said: "A person should never use a less dignified expression, for the Torah especially [rephrased a sentence and] added letters in order to avoid a less dignified word, as it says: 'From the pure animal and from the animal which is not pure'".

Note: If such an expression cannot be avoided, plan beforehand how to express yourself without getting involved in prohibited talk!

For it says "And you, man, speak to the House of Israel: you [i.e. Israel] spoke thus: are not our transgressions and our sins upon us, causing us to perish and how can we live?" - To this the Almighty answered "Tell them: By My life, says the Almighty, do I desire the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked return from his path and live; [thus] return from your bad ways, why should you have to die, House of Israel?"

This is the meaning (according to the Sef. Ch.) of the Gemara: "If thieves and loan sharks want to return [whatever they took improperly]: we must not accept from them; and if someone would nonetheless accept from them - this would meet with the disapproval of the Sages". The reason for this temporary regulation: because if they would have to return whatever they appropriated improperly (in order to atone for their sins) - there is a good possibility that they may be left with nothing - and thus refrain from repenting at all!

Our Sages have stressed that all suffering is an atonement for sins:

  1. R. Chanina said326 "No person hurts his finger down here [i.e. on earth], unless this has been decreed upon him from above [i.e. from Heaven], for it says 'From the Almighty are directed the steps of man''A person himself - does he understand his way?'"

  2. The Sages said "Everything comes from Heaven [Tos.327: i.e. occurrences such as sicknesses and calamities which are decreed upon a person and which he cannot avoid] - except for thorns and holes" (Tosf.: avoidable if one watches out).

Sometimes even minor suffering astones for sins, as it says "What constitutes minimal suffering?" (Rashi: what is the most minor matter which may still be considered as suffering):

  1. "R. Elazar said: If somebody has a garment made for him and it does not fit" (Rashi: Because it is not his size, and he feels annoyed);

  2. "Even if he intended to pour warm [liquid], and poured cold [liquid; - or if he intended to pour] cold [liquid], and poured hot [liquid]";

  3. "Even if his shirt [when he got dressed; Rashi] was put on inside out" (thus requiring him to put it on again correctly);

  4. "Even if he put his hand into his pocket to take out 3 [coins; Rashi] and took out only 2".

It has been said "No merit is ever exchanged [i.e. can make up:] for a sin, nor is a sin [being exchanged] for a merit, since reward is given for Mitzvoth and punishment for sins. However, regarding the merit of Torah study it says: "A sin [although it] may cancel a Mitzva [its reward; Rashi], but not Torah" (Rashi: studied prior to the sin; thus, the merit of Torah study protects more than the merit of other Mitzvoth).

Once a thief has repented and also has willingly taken upon himself suffering or deprivations (corresponding to the benefits or pleasure derived from the loot), he is not anymore liable to Heavenly punishment, as it says "And to exempt [you from punishment, sometimes; - but sometimes:] I shall not exempt you" Regarding such a person Resh Lakish said "Repentance is great: for sins done willingly, become merits!"

"R. Eliezer the Modaite said: He who desecrates sacred matters, and he who disregards the sanctity of [religious] holidays and whoever breaks the covenant of our Patriarch Avraham [i.e. disregards the Mitzvah of Brith Milah] and whoever interprets the Torah not in accordance with Halacha [according to diff. text:

  1. According to Rav and R. Chanina: whoever embarrasses a Torah scholar

  2. According to R. Yohana and R. Yehoshua ben Levi: Whoever insults someone else in front of a Torah scholar] and whoever insults someone else in public - even if he has the merit of Torah [knowledge or study] and good deeds to his credit: he will have no share in the world to come!" (unless he repents; Anaf Yosef).

Note: According to the Ramban this includes whoever worships Avodah Zarah or utters blasphemy (some add: atheists and incorrigibly wicked persons).

Our Sages said "The Minaites [Rashi: who misinterpret the words of ], the betrayers [who turn over Jewish property to Goyim], the apikorsim [who disparage Torah scholars], and those who do not believe in the [Heavenly origin of the] Torah, and those who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and those who have left the ways of the community [the ways of Israel], and those who scare others in the land [Rav Hisda (ibid): "the head of the community who frightens community members not for the sake of Heaven"], and those who sinned and cause many others to sin, e.g. Yerov'am ben Nevat and his associates: They descend into Gehinom and are sentenced to stay there for many generations..."

Regarding a person who cannot anymore make up for the damage done by his talk, it has been said "If he defamed his [I.e. someone's] name, this will never be forgiven" i.e. there can be no atonement, since it is impossibe for him to repair the damage done:

  1. Even if such slanderer repents and asks you for forgiveness for defaming you, and even if you forgive him, such forgiveness will not help him (except that you won't try to take revenge) to obtain atonement for his sin.

  2. Because in order to make up for the damage done, the slanderer would have to notify each and every person who may have heard him (even indirectly) slander you, that he lied then (Sef. Ch.). However, this is almost impossible for him to do:
    1. If he does not remember his lies; or
    2. If he does not remember where and to whom he publicized the lie; or
    3. If he cannot reach all those who had heard the lie (e.g. because they cannot be traced); or
    4. If such lies were printed on a poster or in the newspaper; or
    5. If such lies were publicized through radio or television; or
    6. If he does not know all those who either heard or read such lies; or
    7. If he slandered a righteous person and, because of this (in the eyes of people who believed such slander:), the Heavenly name was desecrated.

Likewise in our days in Eretz Israel: due to the fact that many Jewish girls married Arabs - - the only communal punishment to stop such assimilation was the Intefada!

For it says:

  1. "And they shall know that I am - not in vain did I decree such misfortune on them!"

  2. "or I shall send a plague to that country and I shall vent my anger on it in a bloody manner, eradicating man and beast. But Noah, Daniel and Iyov who are in its midst, by My life, spoke , - whether they will save boy or girl, - but they [i.e. people like Noah etc.], by their merit, will be saved!"

  3. "My sent His angel who closed the lions' mouths; thus they did not injure me because of the merit I had accumulated..."

The death of R. Akiva who was the outstanding personality of his generation: R. Akiva was killed (not because of any personal sin nor because of neglect of Torah study, but:) as an omen or a warning to others! (as it says in connection with the prophet Yehezkel "...and Yehezkel will be an omen for you!"): so that the community at large will be duly shocked and take the bad omen to heart by improving their behavior. However, in fact, they failed to accept the reprimand. Thus came the punishment: Jews were exiled or perished (Sef.Ch.)

If people treat a good leader with contempt - they will be punished with a bad leader who is unconcerned with the criticism of religious leaders. For it says in reference to the royal House of David - who treated people well: "Since this nation has despised the gentle Shiloakh waters [this refers to the House of David; Targum] - ..I am sending them 'turbulent waters' - the King of Ashur.." (Yesh. 8:6-7). It also says (Bresh. R. 89:8) "..this teaches you that the Almighty gives each nation in this world - 5 wise men to serve it [i.e. that nation] ... and when the Almighty judges the world [i.e. and wishes to punish a particular nation] He removes them [i.e. the wise leaders] from that nation as it says [Ovadya 1:8] 'And I shall remove the wise men from Edom..'"

In addition to the trend towards assimilation, antisemitism is also getting worse (according to the measure for measure principle) in response to:

  1. increased showing off and arrogant behavior - towards the outside;

  2. increased hatred within our people: since such unjustified hatred (even if done 'for Heaven's sake'; Netziv Dvarim 12:5), destroys not only the community from inside, but also reduces any merits the community may have!

Likewise, after an entire generation passed away while Israel was wandering through the desert: Since the Jewish nation then heeded the lesson meted out as communal punishment, by improving their ways, - they merited to enter Eretz Israel (Sef.Ch.).

For R. Shimon bar Yohai said: "When Israel act in accordance with the Almighty's wishes - their work will be done by others".

Be careful to do Mitzvoth and beware of committing sins - also, because of our obligation towards the Jewish people as a whole. For R. Elazar bar Shimon said "Since the world is judged by the deeds of the majority - so is the individual." In other words:

  1. "Whoever does a Mitzva: Good from him, for he moves himself and the whole world towards merit!"

  2. "Whoever commits a sin: Woe to him, since by his action he moves himself and the whole world towards demerit, as it says 'One sinner loses a lot of goodness'- since, because of an individual's sin, much goodness is being lost to himself and to the whole world". How much more so when the evil inclination (in each person) succeeds in causing thousands of Jews to transgress in such matters as evil talk, quarrels or desecration of His holy name.

Note: In this connection it has been said (Shab. 32a): "A merit is brought about by the deserving, but a demerit by the guilty" (e.g., a houseowner who failed to fence in a roof).

It has been said in the Talmud "The Lulav set includes four [i.e. different] kinds: Two of them [Ethrog and Lulav] bear fruit, and two of them [Hadas and Aravah] don't bear fruit".

  1. "Those which bear fruit - need those which do not, and those which do not [bear fruits] - need those which do bear fruit; and [the proof is:] a person is able to fulfill his duty [Mitzva of Lulav] only if all [i.e. 4 kinds] are united as one set; - likewise":

  2. "Israel can obtain forgiveness [Rashi: because, if they only fast, their prayer is not answered;] only when they are all united" [The wicked and the righteous (Rashi)] - so the righteous will shield the wicked (Maharshah). This is similar to those kinds which do bear fruits and those which do not (Rashi).

For it says "If someone teaches Torah to the son of a Torah ignorant person [such achievement is so great that], even if had decided [i.e. for some otherreason] to punish him [i.e. the person who teaches], He will cancel a bad decree, as it says 'If you persuade a wicked person to become righteous - you merit to have a bad decree cancelled'".

Note: Because if one does not reprimand transgressors, then (aside from the fact that transgressors will not stop their bad conduct) this will result in more evil.

For example:

  1. The children of the righteous may become friendly with those of the transgressors and copy their bad ways.

  2. The situation will eventually deteriorate to a point that transgressors will force the righteous to sin against their will (by means of persuasion or by threats involving their livelihood, etc.).

For it says: "For not having served the Almighty with joy and satisfaction about everything - - you shall have to serve your enemy!"

But it is forbidden to pray that the wicked be removed from this world, since - if the Almighty would have removed Terach from this world, who worshipped idols, Avraham would not have been born!".
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
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