Parshas Devarim

It’s In Our Hands! It Really Is!

“Who is a G-d like You, who pardons iniquity, and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not maintain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)

A secular Israeli University Professor was waiting to board a flight in the airport in Rome. He looked around and saw many non-Jews from around the world, who were also waiting for their flights. Then the professor spotted another Jew. The Jew that he had seen was a very religious Jew. That did not matter to the professor for it was reassuring to see a fellow Jew. The religious Jew looked familiar. The professor realized that it was the Ponevezher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman. The professor went over to the Rav, extended his hand, and greeted him in Hebrew. The Rav shook his hand in return. Looking at the bare head of the professor, Rav Kahaneman asked him if he was Jewish.  When the professor nodded that he was, Rav Kahaneman wrapped his hands around him and hugged him warmly. The professor, who was not religious, felt uncomfortable that such a holy man embraced him. He told the Rav,”If the Rav would only know what kind of sinner I am, he wouldn’t hug me.” Rav Kahaneman responded to these words by giving the professor another hug. Then he told the professor, “If you would only know how much Hashem loves you, despite the fact that you are a sinner, then you would not sin so much.” (Sparks of Majesty by Genendel Krohn)

Hopefully, we will be privileged to greet Mashiach, this year, before Tisha B’Av. If Hashem decides that it’s not the right time yet, is there anything that we can do to hasten the time?

We know that the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed due to unwarranted hatred. To rectify that, we must transform hatred into love. The question is, “How do we do that?”

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero zt”l (The Kabbala teacher of the Ari zt”l) says (in sefer Tomer Devorah) that when we embody Hashem’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, then Hashem acts accordingly and showers His mercy upon us. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero zt”l says that when we sin, Hashem bears our insult, and still sustains us and showers us with goodness. Similarly, we should emulate Hashem, and act accordingly. We should tolerate insults, and still grant goodness to the one who has harmed us. We should keep doing favors even for those who use those favors against us. That is the first of the Thirteen Attributes.  The second attribute is that Hashem sustains the destructive angel that we create when we sin. If Hashem would not, then the destructive angel would have to immediately punish or kill us. Following in Hashem’s ways, even if the damage which was done to us still exists in front of us, we should be patient with the sinner until he repairs the damage or until the damage disappears. The third attribute is that Hashem forgives the sinner and personally cleanses him of his sin. Similarly, we should forgive the sinner and repair the damage ourselves. We should do so, even if the offender harms us with the foreknowledge that we will repair the damage ourselves.

Even after one has considered the first three attributes of Hashem, one may still feel so offended or hurt to the extent that he finds it hard to restrain his anger because of the injustice that was done to him. What can he do? Perhaps he will be able to restrain his anger if he copies Hashem’s fourth attribute. The fourth attribute is that Hashem considers us to be His “family”. Similarly, all Jews are considered one family. But, even more than that. All Jews are part of one neshama, one soul. Every Jew has within him a portion of every other Jew’s soul.

When a person sins, he harms not only himself, but also the portion of a fellow Jew’s soul which is included within him. When one honors a fellow Jew, he also honors himself, as all Jews are one soul. In the Talmud, Rabbi Meir talks about one who uses a knife in his right hand to cut something and, inadvertently, cuts his left hand by mistake. Would he then take the knife in his left hand and cut his right hand to avenge himself? Obviously not. That would be so ridiculous. Yet, if you harm a fellow Jew, that is what you are doing. If someone harms you, you should be forgiving just as if you had caused harm to yourself. Be concerned for the other person’s welfare as you would be concerned for your own, since his welfare is your own. He is part of you, and you are part of him. So, why be jealous or why be angry? If you take revenge on others, you are really taking revenge on yourself. On the other hand, if you forgive others, you are forgiving yourself. We should love one another and be happy with the successes of another.

Imagine the following scenario: Your company was about to go bankrupt. The Chief Executive Officer of the company asked for your help. You worked very hard, day and night, for five years. As a result of your leadership and creativity, the company’s situation finally improved. You were about to sign a multi-million-dollar contract to benefit the company. Just before you signed the contract, the CEO of your company demoted you and hired an outsider to take your place. The outsider was your younger brother! How would you feel? A normal reaction would probably be anger and jealousy.

A similar scenario happened! For sixty years, Aharon HaKohen led the Jewish People in the darkness of the servitude in Egypt. He gave the Jews encouragement and hope. You would suppose that when the time came for the Jews to be redeemed with great miracles, Aharon would lead them. Yet, that was not what happened. Hashem chose Moshe, Aharon’s younger brother, to redeem the Jews. All those years, Moshe had been gone from Egypt and was not helping the Jews. As soon as Moshe returned to Egypt, he became the leader. It would not have been surprising if Aharon would have felt jealous and even angry. Yet, that was not the case. The Torah tells us (Shmos 4:14) that not only was Aharon not jealous, but he was even happy for Moshe!

This is the extent to which we should feel good about another person’s success. We should view it as our own, personal success because, in actuality, it is our success as well. When we act this way, we bring Hashem’s mercy upon us.

There is a second aspect of this fourth attribute. Since Hashem feels so close to us, as family, Hashem also shares our pain and suffering.

There were two aspects which led Hashem to redeem us from Egypt. The compassion that we had for each other, and our suffering and pain which Hashem felt for us. Both of those awakened Hashem’s love and compassion for us.

What act of compassion does this refer to? There were Jewish supervisors who were responsible to ensure that the Jewish slaves filled their quota of making bricks. They were told to beat any Jews who did not meet their own, individual quotas. Despite that, the Jewish supervisors could not bear to act cruelly towards their Jewish brethren. When the quotas were not filled, the Jewish supervisors were brutally beaten. They had such compassion for their fellow Jews that they willingly suffered in their place. They did so because they felt the suffering of Jewish slaves as their own suffering. Their act of compassion rose to Heaven, awakening Hashem’s compassion. Hashem also felt and shared the pain of the Jewish People.  These two things awakened Hashem’s mercy and the Jews were redeemed.

Our ultimate redemption will follow the same pattern as our redemption from Egypt.

Hashem’s mercy will be awakened by the compassion that we show to one another.

That, combined with the pain that Hashem feels for His “family”, will lead to our ultimate redemption.

That will bring an end to our sorrows and suffering.



(based on The Elucidated Tomer Devorah, adapted by Rabbi Shmuel Meir Riachi)