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
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
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
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
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