Vol. 6 No. 21
The Fear of G-d
Parshas Ki Sisso
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)
"The fear of G-d prolongs days, whereas the years of the wicked are curtailed" (Mishlei10:27).
Shlomoh ha'Melech is teaching us here that a man's years are lengthened or curtailed according to merit or demerit. In fact, this is a hidden miracle. For there are two types of miracles: open ones, of which the whole world is aware, such as the ten plagues, the splitting of the Reed Sea, the Mon, the quails and the producing of water from the rock, all of which involved changing the laws of nature; and hidden ones, such as the events which occurred to the Ovos, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Ya'akov - for example, Avrohom's battle with the four kings and his subsequent victory. This may well have given the appearance of being a natural event, but it wasn't. It was a miracle! And it is to this latter calibre of miracle to which the lengthened days of the righteous and the curtailed life of the wicked belongs.
Under normal circumstances, worry and fear tend to weaken a person and to hasten his death. Shlomoh therefore informs us here that those who fear G-d and worry about their sins will live longer - a hidden miracle.
And so it is with the wicked, whose lives will be curtailed, in spite of the natural tendency for the pleasures of life to create contentment, which in turn, prolongs a person's life. That is why Shlomoh wrote "The fear of G-d prolongs life, whereas the years of the wicked are curtailed," to teach us that whether a person's life will be prolonged or curtailed, depends entirely on merit and on demerit. That is why there were only eighteen Kohanim Gedolim in the time of the first Beis ha'Mikdosh, but three hundred in the second - because the former were totally righteous, whereas most of the latter were wicked.
This does not mean to say that all tzadikim live long and that all resho'im die young. We often see tzadikim dying young and resho'im living to a ripe old age. What Shlomoh means is that G-d does sometimes grants a tzadik long life, like He did with Chizkiyohu, when he added fifteen years to his life; and He sometimes curtails the life of a rosho, like He did with ben Hadad, King of Syria. The fact that this is not always the case, is either because the tzadik in question is not complete in his righteousness, nor the rosho complete in his wickedness, or because, even if they are, G-d prefers to give them both their respective deserts in the World to Come, in order to increase both the reward of the tzadik and the punishment of the rosho in a more meaningful manner.
Be that as it may, prolonging a tzadik's life on the one hand and curtailing that of a rosho on the other, are hidden miracles, since they are hidden from the eyes of people, who perceive only the natural order of things.
And this is one of our major fundamental beliefs, for a Jew who does not believe that everything that happens to him is a hidden miracle (the work of G-d) does not have a portion in the Torah of Moshe Rabeinu. There is no such thing as a natural phenomenon - not individual and not collective - because everything is Divinely determined. A person who performs mitzvos will succeed because of those mitzvos, and a person who sins will be cut off because of those sins. That is why the Torah speaks about blessings and curses. And it is important to know that every Jew experiences hidden miracles 'every day' - miracles of which he is often unaware, as Chazal expressly stated in Nidah (31a). And it is in order to stress this point that they said in Bovo Metzi'a (42b) 'Someone who enters his barn to measure his crops, should say 'May it be Your will ... to send a blessing to this pile (of corn). Should he recite the b'rochoh only after he has measured it, it is considered a futile b'rochoh, since G-d only sends His blessing on something whose quantity is unknown, not on something that has been weighed or measured. That would constitute an open miracle, and not everyone merits open miracles.
Besides, the ayin ho'ra will have an adverse effect on things that have been measured, counted or weighed. And it is for the very same reason that the Torah commanded Moshe not to count Yisroel directly, only through Shekolim. It is because G-d wanted Yisroel to be blessed with many children by means of a hidden miracle. So, in order to counter the Ayin ho'Ra that would result from counting them directly, he ordered each person to give a half-shekel 'to ransom his soul', in which case their numbers would become known through counting the Shekolim rather than the people.
Adapted from the Chofetz Chaim
The Great Gift
"To let you know that I am the G-d who sanctifies you" (31:13). The Gemoro in Shabbos (10b) writes (in connection with this possuk, which refers to the Shabbos) that G-d told Moshe to go and inform Yisroel that He was about to take out a great gift from His storehouse and to give it to them - that gift was called 'Shabbos'.
Shabbos is the greatest of all the gifts that G-d gave to Yisroel. It is like the ring that the choson gives to the kalah when they get engaged, says the Chofetz Chaim. No matter how estranged they have become or how many rumours abound, as long as the kalah wears the ring, everyone knows that they are still betrothed. But should she return the ring, that is a different matter. From then on, everyone knows that the engagement is broken.
And so it is with the Shabbos. Shabbos, like the ring, is what testifies to the bond that exists between Yisroel and their Father in Heaven. It is the everlasting covenant for all their generations. The moment they give up the Shabbos, it is a sure sign that they have severed the connection between themselves and G-d.
The Heart of Judaism
Shabbos is the heart of Judaism. It can be compared to a sick person who suffered from many ailments, explains the Chofetz Chayim. Many doctors were examining him, each one the limb on which he specialised. Until the heart doctor arrived and said to the other doctors "Why do you take the trouble to seek cures and write prescriptions for parts of the body that are not connected with life-danger. Allow me to examine the patient's heart, because unless his heart is in order, all your work will be futile.
Without Shabbos there is no Judaism. It is not for nothing that the mitzvah of Shabbos is repeated no less than twelve times in the Torah. Apart from cursing G-d, it is the only sin for which G-d punishes personally.
So Few Sinned
In the days of Ezra, Yisroel were destined to experience miracles like the ones that they experienced during the time of Yehoshua bin Nun. Their sins however, prevented this from happening. Which sins?
'Their 'sins' pertained to the three hundred men who had married non-Jewish wives., explains the Chofetz Chayim. Three hundred men, out of a total of forty-thousand - less than one per cent! And because of that one per cent, they had to wait another thirty years until the Jewish state was finally proclaimed and condoned by the King of Persia.
Imagine, points out the Chofetz Chayim, if, because of so few people who married out, the building of the state was delayed by thirty years, then how much more so will the desecration of Shabbos on the part of far more than one per cent (and the Chofetz Chayim wrote this many, many years ago) delay the redemption and the coming of Moshi'ach.
The Blessing of Shabbos
And if we examine carefully the cause of the blatant chillul Shabbos, we will discover that it is because people believe that, by resting on Shabbos, they cut off their own source of income.
However, this is nothing but an illusion, the work of the Yetzer ho'Ra. If anything, the opposite is true. It is on the merit of keeping Shabbos that a person's business is blessed and his income increases, to the extent that he makes up for any 'losses' sustained on Shabbos, during the week.
And we see this with the Mon, where those people who went out on Shabbos to look for Mon, failed to find anything. On the other hand, whoever obeyed G-d's command, found that on Friday he received a double portion - for Shabbos as well as for Friday (see following article).
Nor did the Shabbos Mon go bad or wormy, as Mon tended to do when left over from the previous day. G-d was merely demonstrating that He gave us the Shabbos, and that it is a gift from which no harm can result.
The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos (in Parshas Beshalach) at first suggests that a double portion of mon would fall on Friday - four loaves, two for Friday, and two for Shabbos. They would eat one loaf on Friday morning, and be left with three, one for each Shabbos meal.
But in that case, he asks, they would have had lechem mishneh both on Friday night, and on Shabbos morning, but not for Se'udas Shlishis, and it is customary to use lechem mishneh for se'udas shlishis too?
So he prefers the explanation that after they had eaten one loaf on Friday morning, the three remaining loaves would double, and they would eat, not one loaf for each Shabbos meal, but two. In this way, they would have lechem mishneh at each meal.
It seems to me that there are additional reasons to learn this way: firstly, because, on account of the extra Neshomoh that one merits on Shabbos, it seems more logical that one eats more on Shabbos than during the week. Secondly, because Chazal have said that everything on Shabbos was double, the Korban Musaf, the Shir, the punishment, and the loaves (see Da'as Zekeinim, Parshas Pinchos 28:9).And thirdly, because of the Mechilta, which, with reference to the possuk in Bereishis (2:3), explains that Hashem blessed the Shabbos with mon and sanctified it with mon.
According to the Da'as Zekeinim's first explanation (i.e. that a double portion of mon fell on Friday, but that they had nothing extra on Shabbos), it is unclear what is meant by "Hashem blessed the Shabbos with Mon". Whereas according to his second explanation, Hashem sanctified the Shabbos inasmuch as no mon fell on it, and He blessed it by doubling their quota of mon miraculously.
And You will Gather Your Corn
It is you who will gather your corn, explains Rashi, and not your enemies. This also implies that no enemies will attack you, or at least, that they will not succeed in obtaining your crops - it is an indirect promise of peace.
And Rashi cites additional blessings: ... that the rain will fall 'in its time' - when it is convenient for you, i.e. at night-time or on Friday night; the second rain, which will cause the ripening corn to grow to even larger proportions; ... that because of the abundance of grass available to your animals, you will be able to graze them at home, and will not be forced to go and search for grazing grounds further afield; ... and that you will be able to trim your crops during the winter season, again and again, in order to maintain a steady supply of animal fodder. And then, thirty days before the harvesting season, you will cease doing this, so that, when the harvest season arrives, you will reap a bumper harvest as if it had been growing throughout the winter months.
This parshah presents a most powerful description of hasgochoh k'lolis (Divine providence vis-a-vis the community), describing clearly G-d's reward to K'lal Yisroel should they obey His commands and the harsh retribution that awaits them if they fail to do so.
There is no middle path, because either we listen to G-d's voice, or we don't. Many times the Torah speaks of two paths, but not of three. There is a path of mitzvos and a path of aveiros - no third path is ever mentioned.
And besides, one mitzvah leads to another. Consequently, when Klal Yisroel set out on the path of mitzvos, they go right to the top, but if, on the other hand, they choose to go on the path of aveiros, then they go to the bottom.
All this goes to prove that Klal Yisroel are placed directly under Hashem's supervision, with the result that their destiny is governed by their behaviour, though this is confined to those who live in Eretz Yisroel, as will soon become apparent, because that is where G-d has chosen to rest His Shechinah, and to retain it under His Divine jurisdiction.
Indeed, it is clear from the second half of this paragraph, as well as from the pesukim that precede it, that the Torah is speaking about Eretz Yisroel, and about Eretz Yisroel only. In fact, Eretz Yisroel plays a dual role here: it is at one and the same time, the source of all the blessings and of all the curses contained in this parshah. When Jews live in the other countries of the world, then, due to the fact that G-d has chosen to delegate their jurisdiction to other heavenly Powers, their destiny is bound to that of their host nation, and is not totally dependent upon their observance, or their non-observance, of the mitzvos. Consequently, they stand to rise when their host's economy is booming, and to fall when it fails. This is true up to a point - but it is not absolute! G-d's intervention on behalf or against His people, is generally more limited than it is in Eretz Yisroel and is not performed as openly. 'He supervises (our affairs) from the windows (when we are in Eretz Yisroel but) peeps through the cracks (when we are in exile)".
When we are in golus, the laws of nature are prevalent; when we are in Eretz Yisroel, G-d rules supreme.
Strictly speaking, we should not refer to the positive aspects of Divine Providence mentioned in the first half of this parshah as 'reward', since Chazal have said in Kidushin (39b) 'There is no reward for the performance of mitzvos in this world!' - for it is impossible to repay spirituality with physicality. The true value of mitzvos can only be assessed and can only be paid in a world which is spiritual - in the World to Come. It would be more appropriate therefore, to refer to the 'reward' which the Torah describes, as an aid to perform mitzvos unimpeded, as the Kli Yokor explains. If we go in the way of the Torah, then we will be blessed with all our needs - money, good health and peace -the tools which will enable us to strive towards greater levels of observance. Whereas if we do not, then the ensuing punishment will also strip us of those tools.
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