Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 23   No. 46

This issue is sponsored by an anonymous donor
in honour of the birthdays of his son and daughter-in-law.
mazel tov, ad meah v'esrim shana

Parshas Va'Eschanan

An Age-Old Question

"He pays those whom He hates in his lifetime, in order to destroy them, He does not delay for His enemy, in his lifetime he pays him. And you shall observe the Mitzvos, the Chukim and the Mishpotim that I am commanding you today to do them" (7:10/11).

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Rashi, commenting on the two last words, explains 'Today to do them, tomorrow to receive the reward'.

Here we have, in a nutshell, the answer to one of the oldest and most asked questions - Why many Resha'im have it good, whilst Tzadikim often suffer. The answer is hinted here in these two Pesukim. Despite the fact that Resho'im, by definition, are predominantly wicked, every Rasha has some good to his credit, whilst every Tzadik, however, righteous he may be, has sinned. Consequently, bearing in mind that this world is basically the world of action, and the world to come, the world of remuneration, G-d rewards the Rasha for the little good that he did in this world or on account of z'chus ovos (Seforno), in order to punish him in the world to come for all his sins. Likewise, He punishes the Tzadik for his few sins in this world, in order to reward him for the numerous Mitzvos that he performed in the world to come.

The Ba'al ha'Turim adds that this final point is hinted in the last words in this Parshah together with the first words in the next "ve'hoyoh eikev" (and it will be in the end) - in other words, "You shall observe the Mitzvos today (in this world), but the reward (mentioned later in the Pasuk) is only due at the end (in the world to come).

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Virtually the same lesson with regard to the Rosho, is expressed in Tehilim (92:8), where David ha'Melech writes "When the Resha'im bloom like grass, and all the doers of evil blossom, it is to destroy them forever".

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The Gemara in B'rochos (Daf 7a) cites Moshe Rabeinu, who went further. He asked Hakadosh-Boruch-Hu why it is that some Tzadikim have it good in this world, whilst others suffer, and on the other hand, why some resho'im have it good whilst others suffer?

Rebbi Meir there maintains that G-d declined to give him an answer, but merely commented 'I favour those whom I favour, even though they are unworthy, and I am merciful with those to whom I am merciful, even though they are unworthy'.

According to the Chachamim however, G-d answered by referring to two categories of Tzadikim and two categories of Resha'im - a total Tzadik and Ra-sha on the one hand, and a partial Tzadik and Rasha on the other.

It is the total Tzadik who has it good in this world, and the one who does not is is the partial Tzadik. Whereas the reverse is true regarding Resha'im, the Gemara explains; a Rasha who has it good in this world is the total Rasha; the partial Rasha is bound to suffer.

Without going into the definition of a total Tzadik and Rasha, it seems that Moshe's question and G-d's answer are an extension of the question that we discussed at the outset. If Tzadikim suffer here and Resha'im have it good, for the reason that we presented, then why do some Tzadikim nevertheless have it good and some Resha'im suffer?

Even though the line between total and partial is not clear, the message is: Some Tzadikim are so righteous that G-d does not see fit to punish them even in this world; whilst there are Resha'im who are so wicked that they have forfeited all rights to any reward, even in this world.

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Parshah Pearls

The True Meaning of Prayer

"Vo'eschanan el Hashem (and I supplicated to G-d)" (3:23).

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'Chanun', Rashi explains, is one of the ten expressions that denote prayer; it is an expression of 'a free gift'. Tzadikim have plenty of good deeds on which to hang their Tefilos, he continues, but they opt to ask G-d for a free gift, and to rely on His promise "To favour those whom He wishes to favour" (Ki Sisso, 33:19).

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One can explain the Tzadikim's choice of Techinah in a number of ways. Firstly, someone who asks for remuneration for one's good deeds in this world loses out on the concept of performing Mitzvos lishmoh (for the sake of performing G-d's will), which is the essence of a Tzadik. Secondly, it contravenes the mantra of Chazal that the reward for Mitzvos is due, not in this world, but in the world to come (Kidushin 39b).

But there is a deeper explanation as to why Tefilah must be in the form of 'a poor man knocking at the door (begging for alms)'. In a nutshell, Chazal describe Tefilah as 'Avodah she'ba'Leiv'; Tefilah must come from the heart, not from the brain. It is not a matter of give and take, a business-deal, where we have given G-d something, and He is under some sort of obligation to repay us. That is not what Tefilah is all about.

Tefilah is based on subjugating ourselves before G-d, and acknowledging that He is our Master, and we, His subjects. He owes us nothing, because even as we repay Him a little for the good He has performed with us, He bestows upon us another batch of kindnesses, leaving us with an ever-increasing debt that is impossible to repay. Consequently, it is only when one Davens on the understanding that G-d is our benevolent Master, who is able to grant our every wish, in spite of our unworthiness, that we have fulfilled the 'Mitzvah' of Tefilah and that we can hope that our prayers be answered.

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With All Your Soul

" with all your soul and with all your 'might (me'odecho)" (6:5).

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Assuming "nafsh'cho" to mean 'your body' and "me'odecho", 'your money', R. Eliezer in B'rachos (61b) explains that the Torah sees fit to mention both of these because there are some people whose bodies are more precious to them than their money, an others, who favour their money over their bodies. Therefore the Torah addresses both parties, and obligates them to sacrifice whichever is more important to them for the love of G-d.

Rebbi Akiva, commenting on "with all your soul", explains that 'even if G-d takes your soul, you must love him' (a Mitzvah that he put into practice when the Romans captured him and tortured him to death).

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The G'ro refutes the explanation of the Maharsho, that R. Akiva is coming to elaborate on Rebbi Eliezer's interpretation of "u've'chol nafsh'cho", and not to argue with him. Firstly, he says, the wording of the B'raysa implies that R. Akiva does indeed dispute R. Eliezer. Secondly, to suggest that a person gives precedence to his life over his money (as R. Eliezer would do if he were to explain "be'chol nafsh'cho" as 'with all your life', as R. Akiva does) is simply not plausible.

He therefore explains "with all your soul" to mean 'to exert one's body to the extreme'. Nobody would give up his life for his money, says the G'ro, but there are people who will go to all sorts of lengths to save their money.

In that case, R. Eliezer is not talking about giving up one's life for the sake of G-d, nor in his opinion, is one obligated to do so. And that is why R. Akiva adds that for the love of G-d, one must even sacrifice one's life.

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