Reliving The Pain
"My wrath shall blaze and I shall kill you by the sword, and your wives
will be widows and your children orphans"(22:23)
The Torah prohibits Bnei Yisroel from exploiting the
vulnerability of a widow or orphan. Hashem warns that if He will hear the
cries of widows or orphans, He will kill their oppressors by the sword and
render their wives and children, widows and orphans. The necessity for the
Torah to state that the wives and children of the oppressors will become
widows and orphans implies that this is an integral part of the punishment;
not only will the sinner be killed, but his wife and children will suffer
because of his actions. Axiomatic to all of Hashem's punishments is the
principle of "midah keneged midah" - "quid pro quo"; Hashem punishes with a
severity commensurate to the offense. Why is death by the hands of heaven
not a sufficient response for the mistreatment of widows and orphans? The
Torah's stress on the children and wives becoming widows and orphans implies
that there are two responses, death and bereavement of kin, for one action,
the mistreatment of widows and orphans.
Rabbeinu Yona explains that the Hebrew word for widow, "almanah" is rooted
in the word "ilem" - "mute", for with the death of her husband the widow is
silenced, i.e. she has no one to defend her. Similarly, the word "yatom" -
"orphan" correlates to a word found in Bereishis in the verse "vayitom
hakesef"- "and the money was depleted". When a child loses a father his
confidence is depleted, for he senses that he has no one to champion his
cause. Every time widows or orphans are oppressed, they are forced to relive
the loss of their husband or parent. They become acutely aware that if their
relative, who in the past would defend them, were alive, they would not be
forced to endure the current mistreatment. The Torah therefore warns the
oppressors that as a result of their actions they will cause their own wives
and children to experience the pain and suffering which they have inflicted
1.Rabbeinu Yona cited by the Shaarei Aharon 2.47:15
What About The Starving Children In India?
"You shall worship Hashem, your G-d, and He shall bless your bread and
The Torah teaches that upon entering Eretz Yisroel, we are
commanded to destroy all vestiges of idolatry and show complete allegiance
to the Almighty. Doing so insures that He will bless our bread and water.
The Talmud states that we should not read the word in the verse as
"u'veirach" - "and He will bless" (your bread, etc.), rather as "u'vareich"
- "and you shall bless" (prior to partaking of your bread and water). This,
continues the Talmud, is a Scriptural allusion to the requirement to make a
blessing before eating or drinking.1 In an earlier section in the
same Tractate, the Talmud records that no Scriptural source is necessary for
the obligation to make a blessing, for it is obvious that prior to receiving
benefit from Hashem's world we must ask permission in the form of a
blessing.2 How do we reconcile these two sections of the Talmud?
As a rule, when the Sages offer an alternative reading for a word in the
Torah, it is not to contradict the original interpretation, rather to shed
light upon it. How does changing the meaning from "He will bless" to "you
shall bless" accomplish this goal?
The Talmud states that a person who does not make a blessing prior to
partaking from this world steals from his father and mother. His father,
explains the Talmud, is Hashem, and his mother is the Assembly of
Israel.3 What is the notion of stealing from the Assembly of Israel?
According to some commentaries the root of the word "beracha" - "blessing"
is "berech" - "knee", for when reciting a blessing, we are figuratively
kneeling before Hashem, submitting ourselves to Him as the Creator of the
world; we ask His permission prior to benefiting from that which is His. The
Rashba offers another interpretation for "beracha", saying that it stems
from the word "beraicha" - "pool" or "source"; an object can only be blessed
when it is connected to the source from which all abundance emanates, i.e.
When reciting a blessing we are asking for permission to benefit from
Hashem's world, as well as being cognizant of the fact that by benefiting,
we are causing the depletion of some of the world's resources. We therefore
appeal to the source of all blessing to restore this lost resource, ensuring
that others may benefit from it as well. Reciting a blessing over an item
that we are about to consume connects it back to its source so that the
blessing of abundance can be bestowed upon it, enabling this resource's
Failing to recite a blessing results in two wrongdoings: We are stealing
from our Father by taking that which is His without permission, and we are
also stealing from our mother, i.e. society, for we are depleting the world
of a resource without ensuring its replenishment. It is concerning the first
notion, the requirement to request permission prior to partaking from
Hashem's world, that the Talmud comments that no scriptural source is
necessary. However, the requirement to ask Hashem to restore the depleted
resource is not an idea that we would have derived had it been left to our
own intellectual capacities. Therefore, for this second notion a scriptural
source is presented. The verse states "He will bless you (with abundance)"
but it can be read "you shall bless". There is no contradiction between the
two, for both ideas coalesce. For us to receive Hashem's blessing of
abundance we are required to bless our food. By connecting our food to the
source of blessing, the blessings of abundance will be bestowed upon us.
1.Berachos 48b 2.Ibid 35a 3.Ibid 35b 4.Responsa5:51 See Nefesh Hachayim II: 2