Parshas Ki Seitzei
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden
“Remember what G-d your Lord did to Miriam on the way when you were leaving Egypt” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 24:9). We are instructed to bear in mind that G-d punished Miriam for speaking derogatorily about her brother Moshe by giving her tzora’as, a spiritual affliction that physically manifested itself with skin blemishes that appeared like leprosy. This memory compels us to be vigilant not to speak lashon hara, slanderous speech, about others.
The Mishna (Tractate Sotah 1:9) informs us that Miriam was rewarded for the hour that she watched Moshe from afar to make sure he was safe when, as an infant, he floated upon the Nile River. She was rewarded over eighty years later, when afflicted with tzora’as: G-d had the nation wait seven days for her to recover before continuing to travel. The Talmud (Sotah 13a) explains that she prophesized that Moshe was to be the savior of the Jewish people. Her watchful eye over her brother was out of concern for the future of the entire Jewish nation.
With intentions so lofty, how was she was rewarded in this world? One who made such an effort to save the life of the savior of our nation would be given rewards in the world to come that are incomprehensible to the human mind. Yet her reward was reduced to a seven day delay to the nation’s travels.
Chasam Sofer (1) explains that when one speaks negatively of another person, that sin is rooted in not judging one’s fellow man favorably. If one judged people favorably, he would not have anything negative to pass on to others. G-d’s judgment always calculates reward and punishment measure for measure. One prone to judge favorably is treated by G-d the same way. The reverse is also true. Since Miriam did not extend to her brother a favorable judgment, rather she took his actions at face value, G- d did the same with her. Whereas she had the loftiest of intentions when she was waiting upon Moshe, she was rewarded only for her action. She waited for him, so the Jews waited for her. No more.
In the weeks before Rosh Hashanah, our annual Day of Judgment, we search for means to ensure a positive verdict. We need to regret past sins and improve ourselves by committing to fulfill G-d’s will. However, we must appreciate that how we are judged is very much contingent upon how we judge others. Let us begin to judge others favorably, so G-d will likewise give us a favorable judgment and bless us with a sweet year filled with His blessings.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) Rabbi Moshe Sofer of Pressburg, 1762-1839, acknowledged leader of Hungarian Jewry of the time
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