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Parshas Vayishlach

Kislev, 5768 -- Nov. '07

Ha'aros Vol. 7 #2

After many years, Yaakov and his family return home. After surviving a fearful encounter with Eisav, difficulties ensue. Dina is molested, Rivka, his mother, and Rochel, his beloved wife, pass away.

The commentaries find reasons for each calamity.

It goes without saying that we believe in Hashem's guidance in all earthly matters; there is an ultimate system of justice and right in the world. Even if we cannot see this system in operation, we believe that ultimately it is part of the plan. Thus, whatever happens to us in our lives, we accept and see in it Hashem's hand.

The Forefathers, however, were special. The Medrash states that even Moshe, our teacher, could not compare to the Avos. (See Gur Aryeh).

When tragedy befalls Dina, Yaakov's daughter, Rashi immediately knows that the Torah must allude to an error which precipitated the tragedy. How is it possible to know this, and from where is it to be derived? Answers the Maharal of Prague: The Torah will not speak flippantly or irreverently about the Patriarchs. If tragedy befalls them, not only must there be a reason, but the reason must be clearly detectable from the verses. There cannot be a suggestion that the Avos suffered without reason!

Some forty-five years ago, Rav Aharon Kotler discussed a similar concept at great length, in an address to educators.

The Rambam in Hilchos Me'ila (Laws of Abuse of Holy Articles, 8:8), makes the following point. Mundane materials can be sanctified by word of mouth. Thereafter, whoever uses these materials for ordinary matters violates the Torah's command called "Me'ila." If so, how much more so we must avoid treating lightly or irreverently the Torah's commands. If you don't understand them, don't speak mockingly or falsely. Don't think about them the way you think about profane matters.

Rav Kotler explains that the Rambam is telling us that the Torah is profound, and must not be reduced to our own limited perspective. We must not evaluate Torah with our own capabilities, but must accept the Rabbis' traditions of every aspect. Anything else, as the Rambam showed, is equivalent to violating the regulations of profaning holy entities.

Torah must be studied in purity and sanctity, according to the unaltered traditions passed down from generation to generation. Only in such a manner is it possible to truly comprehend. This applies to every area of Torah study. However, it is especially true regarding the narratives related in the Torah. Unfortunately, there is massive misunderstanding in this regard. This is especially tragic, for even the slightest error in understanding the Forefathers affects the basis of our nation.

Rav Kotler went on to explain that it is imperative to make clear to students that the Patriarchs were not ordinary people, and were free of ulterior motives. Just as we cannot evaluate angels, so we cannot evaluate the Forefathers.

Concepts and Mussar from Kelm -- translated from the original "Chochma Ummusar."
Rav Simcha Zissel Ziev
Tenth Letter, Part Two -- Student's Summary (Continued)

Eleventh point. We see the way a person stumbles. When he is inclined towards his own self-love and pleasure, he distorts the truth, then destroys himself -- and brings others down as well. How frightening and disturbing!

Twelfth point. In regard to the struggle to keep away from self-interest, it is not sufficient to rely on prior success. As long as a person is connected with public activity, he must exert himself, constantly without letting up -- and increasingly so. There may come a precious opportunity, a gift from heaven, to excuse himself from communal responsibility. Aside from the fact that he will be saddened by the loss for the community -- nonetheless, he will rejoice that he has been spared from a great worry. Constantly be on guard: keep an extreme distance from self-love.

Thirteenth point. The way of the wise --when working with the public is to endeavor to increase quality without increasing quantity, the reverse of the common practice. A small amount of clarity is truly vast in dimension.

Fourteenth point. Self-love is the idolatry in the depths of the heart, of which we are warned: "Do not have within yourself a foreign god." The main job is to uproot this idolatry. Many think that egoism is a minor fault, but it is not so...

Fifteenth point. The degree of approximation to the truth is dependent upon the degree of distance from self-love. This is an amazing test.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein Bais Medrash Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim Kiryas Radin Ramapo, New York 10977 845 362-5156

Text Copyright 2007 by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and



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