Parshas Ki Seitzei
The Chain Effect of Our Actions
Rashi in his commentary to this week's parsha emphasizes the idea of cause
and effect. Rashi points out that this is true in both a negative and
positive sense. In the words of the rabbis of the Mishna, a mitzva causes
other mitzvot to occur while a transgression automatically drags along other
sins in its wake. This is why the rabbis describe a wise person as being one
who can see the future consequences of events and human behavior.
It is not only the individual act itself that is of consequence and
importance. It is rather the sequence of behavior and related consequences
that flow from that individual act that are just as important. The Jewish
soldier who takes the captive woman unto himself in a moment of temporary
passion is not intending that the end result of this act will be enduring
domestic strife, hatred and eventually a dissolute and dangerous child.
But all behavior creates a ripple effect in life and many unintended
consequences are derived from an intentional act of poor judgment and base
desire. And the opposite is also true. A positive act of tradition and Torah
service brings to the person performing that act of goodness and kindness
unforeseen opportunities to perform other acts of goodness and kindness.
The performance of mitzvot leads to there being a protective fence that
surrounds one's home and is redemptive in so many other unforeseen ways.
Again, Judaism is committed to a far sighted view of life and behavior and
the understanding that nothing that a person does or says is truly to be
The charitable person will be given many continuing opportunities to be
charitable. The miser will soon realize that no one will frequent his home
or office. Initially he may feel relieved at this situation, but he will
eventually regret it for it brings with it a loss of stature, a poor
reputation and a loneliness of the soul.
The story is told about a wealthy man who, because of his wealth, gave much
charity and had many visitors and was held in great esteem in his community.
People came to him for advice and succor, though he was not particularly
noted for his wit or wisdom. One day he decided that he would no longer give
any charity. As this news spread, the visitors soon dwindled and eventually
stopped altogether. The man complained to his wife: "I don't understand why
people stopped coming. My funny jokes and good advice are still available to
People often mistake honors and attention paid to them as being their
personal right when that honor or attention is only given to them because of
their good deeds. It is clear that a person's actions and behavior propels
his reputation and standing in the eyes of humankind as well as Heaven.
The Psalmist put it most bluntly: "If only humans would be wise and
discerning and appreciate what their end will look like." It is not only
about our eventual mortality that the Psalmist speaks. It is also certainly
about the consequences here in our lifetime - of our acts, attitudes and
Rabbi Berel Wein