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"We have called this meeting of the neighbors to discuss an important matter. We are all residents of courtyards that open onto one alley. Our private alley is being used by travelers as a shortcut to pass through our town. These travelers do not live in our town. We propose to seal up one end of the alley to prevent them from passing through. Do we have everyone's approval?"
"I understand everyone's concern, however, we must consult with the travelers first. If they object, then we are not allowed to do this. Once travelers have become accustomed to using our alley, we are not permitted to deny them access."
"What? This is our private property! We can do whatever we want!"
"I'm afraid not."
The question is:
Are the neighbors allowed to seal off the alley if the travelers object?
The answer is:
This case is discussed in the Gemora Bava Basra 12a. Rava Bar Bar Chana says in the name of Rebbe Yochanan that the travelers are allowed to prevent the sealing off of an alley that has become their shortcut. They may do this even though the do not live in the city, and even if there is an alternative route. Why? Because Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav rules that a route that has become an established traveling path for many people cannot be sealed off. Tosafos adds that the travelers must have had permission to use the alley. The residents must have consented in the beginning.
The Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 162:2 and 377 rules that if the travelers object, the owners of the alley may not seal off an alley that has become an established traveling path in a permissible way.
This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.
"Did you hear the news about Mr. Finagler?"
"No, what happened to him?"
"He has been appointed Secretary of State."
"I am sure he is very happy."
"He certainly is. He has been maneuvering in political circles for years to get an appointment like this. He works day and night going to all of the party's functions - dinners, campaigns, and fund raising events. He pushes himself to the limit doing 'favors' for the right people, trying to gain their approval. He has one singular goal in mind - to get close to the president. Now, with all of his efforts, he has reached a pinnacle. He is the Secretary of State."
"It is amazing what people will do to get close to someone in a powerful position. They are willing to sacrifice tremendous amounts of time and effort. Mr. Finagler should be an inspiration for all of us."
"Really? A politician? Inspiration? I would have thought the opposite. The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (1:10) tells us to hate being in a position of power, and warns us not to be friendly with government authorities. Another Mishnah (2:3) heeds us to be careful around government officials. They only act to serve their own interests. Mr. Finagler is the epitome of someone acting only for his own interest."
"True. However, I was speaking about another aspect of his rise to political power. The Chofetz Chaim in his sefer 'Torah Ore,' chapter seven, uses the politician to illustrate an important concept. He begins by elucidating a verse in this week's parasha. 'You shall be holy, for I Hashem am holy; and I have separated you from the nations to be Mine' (Vayikra 20:26). A person's madrayga (spiritual level) in olam habo is dependent upon how much holiness he acquires in this world. When he sanctifies himself, by learning Torah and performing mitzvos, he brings himself closer to Hashem's holiness, as the verse states, 'You shall be holy, for I Hashem am holy.' How does this work? The Almighty draws us as close to Him as we want to be. As we become holier, He responds in kind by drawing us nearer to His Holiness. The Chofetz Chaim adds, 'You should know that bringing one's soul close to the Almighty is the greatest possible pleasure that can possibly exist in the universe. This is what Dovid HaMelech requested (Tehillim 27:4). "One thing I ask of Hashem; that I shall seek. May I dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of Hashem and to visit His Sanctuary." To sit in Hashem's house and behold His sweetness is the greatest pleasure of eternal delight. We have no way to measure its value.'"
"That alone should be motivation enough to get close to Hashem."
"You are right, however, the Chofetz Chaim concludes with the parable of the politician. We see how he works day and night to try to advance himself closer to the president. He pursues even the smallest possibility of success with all of his might. If this is how a person conducts himself with an earthly ruler, who is mere flesh and blood, how much more so should we make our way closer and closer to the King of Kings! We must learn His Torah and perform His mitzvos with all of our might, all of the time. That is the way to move up the ladder into Hashem's inner circle. He will respond in kind by coming closer to us, and in so doing give us the greatest pleasure possible in the universe."
Kinderlach . . .
Who wants pleasure? Everyone. Where is the greatest pleasure? At the top. The top of what? The top rung of the spiritual ladder to success. There you will find the ultimate closeness to the Almighty. Just as the politician puts all of his effort into climbing the political ladder to success, so too we must put our full strength into ascending the spiritual ladder. Just as each step brings the politician closer to the president, so too each mitzvah brings us closer to Hashem. Get to the top, kinderlach, and fulfill Dovid HaMelech's ambition. Dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of your life, to behold the sweetness of Hashem and to visit His Sanctuary.
Kinder Torah Copyright 2013 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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