Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim
A verse in his week's portion reminds me of a terse retort that American
politician, Senator Henry Clay, made to his antagonist, Virginia's John
Randolph, right before their infamous duel in April of 1826.
The two were walking toward each other on a narrow footpath, with little room
to pass. One would have to give way.
"I never make room for scoundrels," sneered Randolph.
"I always do," Clay smiled as he stepped off the paved path to let Randolph
In commanding us not to revenge nor bear grudges, the Torah alludes to two
distinct character flaws.
"You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the
members of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself -- I am
Hashem" (Leviticus 19:18).
What does the Torah mean, " You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear
a grudge," what is the difference?
Rashi explains: If Joe says to David "Lend me your sickle", and David
replies, "No!", and the next day David says to Joe, "Lend me your hatchet",
and Joe retorts, "I am not going to lend it to you, just as you refused to
lend me your sickle" - this is avenging; and what is "bearing a grudge"?
Rashi continues. "If Joe says to David, "Lend me your hatchet", and David
replies "No!" and on the next day David says to Joe "Lend me your sickle",
and Joe replies "Here it is; I am not like you, because you would not lend
me" - this is called "bearing a grudge" because he retains enmity in his
heart although he does not actually avenge himself."
In both cases, the avenger and the grudge bearer have committed a sin. They
have transgressed a negative commandment of the Torah.
But what about the initial denial of the loan? What is the punishment for
the men who initially refused to lend their sickles or hatchets? Neither
punishment, nor even a warning is issued to them. Why is the grudgingly
generous man treated worse than the outright denier of kindness and sharing?
A famous tale that circulates among disparate fund-raisers, goes as follows:
The Rabbi came to the millionaire in search of a contribution for his
Yeshiva. The man took him in warmly, but after the rabbi made his pitch, the
man began a semi-tirade.
"Do you know that I have a brother that is in a wheelchair? His five children
have no means of support!" The rabbi shook his head, apologetically.
"And," continued the magnate, "Did you know that I have a nephew with 12
children in Israel?
The rabbi began to stammer; he was unaware of all these obligations. The
rich man cut him short. My mother is still alive in a nursing home that
charges 1200 dollars a week! And my sister's home just burnt down and they
have no place to live!'
The rabbi began backing away sure that there was surely no funds left for
his's Yeshiva, but the broad grin on the man's face stopped him.
"And, Rabbi," continued the mogul, "I don't give a penny for any one of them,
so why in the world should I give something to you?
The Chofetz Chaim explains:=A0 The Torah's objective in this mitzvah is to
train us not to be hateful or spiteful. Cheap is cheap.And it's tough
to do something about that. It is a character flaw, but it is not hatred.
Some of the nicest most warm, friendly even loving people do not like to
give or lend. They will offer you their ear, their home and their time.
will not give something that they physically possess. The Torah, does not
deal with them the same way as the person who would be generous, but for the
animus in his heart, or the one who does give, but, his openhandedness is
shrouded snide remarks, and a harbor of hate. That overbearing enmity,
despite his tainted giving is worthy of a Torah transgression.
Though the Torah tries to get us to control our emotional responses, it is
more important for us to be kind, loving, and compassionate than generous
with a hateful heart.
Dedicated by Dr. and Mrs. Keith Staiman -- L'Rfuah Shlaimah
Yehuda Boruch ben Sora Menucha
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