שבת טעם החיים וארא תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vaeira 5771
Why we recite Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuso
וארא אל אברהם ואל יצחק ואל יעקב בקל שקי ושמי ה’ לא נודעתי להם, I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov as E-l Sha-ddai, but with My Name Hashem I did not make known to them. (Shemos 6:2)
In this week’s parasha it is said (Shemos 6:2) וארא אל אברהם ואל יצחק ואל יעקב בקל שקי ושמי ה’ לא נודעתי להם, I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov as E-l Sha-ddai, but with My Name Hashem I did not make known to them. What was the difference between the manner in which Hashem conducted Himself with the Patriarchs and with the manner that He conducted Himself with Moshe?
The Gemara (Pesachim 56a) states that when Yaakov wished to reveal to his children the End of Days, the Divine Presence was removed from him. Yaakov was perturbed, and he queried his sons regarding what he felt was a spiritual deficiency in their character. The brothers responded with the timeless declaration of שמע ישראל ה’ אלקינו ה’ אחד, hear O Israel, HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is one. Upon hearing this proclamation Yaakov responded ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד, blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity. The Gemara poses a dilemma. What should we do in practice regarding the recital of Baruch Shem? If we say it, Moshe did not say it, so it would be demeaning to Moshe. Yet, if we do not say it, it would be an insult to Yaakov who did recite these words. The Gemara therefore offers a compromise, and requires us to say Baruch Shem, albeit quietly. Let us understand a number of difficulties with this Gemara. First we need to understand why Yaakov responded with the words Baruch Shem. We are accustomed to reciting Baruch Shem subsequent to the recital of Shema Yisroel. In Yaakov’s time, however, no one had recited Baruch Shem, so why did Yaakov choose this particular response? Furthermore, what is the difficulty of the Gemara regarding Moshe not having recited Baruch Shem? Is this omission sufficient grounds for us not to be required to recite Baruch Shem?
The Chidushei HaRim said that the word שכם is an acrostic for the wordsשם כבוד מלכותו. What is the meaning of this cryptic statement? The Gemara (Sanhedrin 102a) states that Shechem was a location that was prepared for adversity. The brothers sold Yosef in Shechem, the Schechemites violated Dinah, and in Shechem the kingdom of Dovid was divided. The simple explanation of this statement in the Gemara is that Shechem was doomed from the onset of creation. The Chidushei HaRim shows us, however, that there is nothing that is eternally doomed. Rather, one must seek out the glory of HaShem even in the lowest places. The Patriarchs underwent trials and tribulations which would cause the average person to despair of any hope and salvation. It was for this reason that Avraham and Yaakov prayed specifically in Shechem, as their prayers reflected their optimism even in the darkest of times. When Yaakov heard his children declare Shema Yisroel, he understood that they were of the opinion that the End of Days was imminent. For this reason Yaakov responded with Baruch Shem, to demonstrate to his children that there would be a long exile. Nonetheless, a Jew must always seek out the glory of Hashem, even in the most difficult times. Moshe, however, had a different perspective. When HaShem informed Moshe that the Jews would suffered in the Egyptian exile and in future exiles, Moshe requested that HaShem not mention future exiles. We can suggest that the reason for this is because Moshe always had an optimistic approach, and in Moshe’s worldview the Jews would be redeemed immediately and forever.
The Sfas Emes elaborates on the distinction between the perspective of the Patriarchs and the view of Moshe. The Patriarchs, writes the Sfas Emes, conducted themselves with the belief that HaShem even gives life to the wicked that are distanced from holiness and light. Moshe, however, was the source of Torah in this world, and HaShem revealed Himself to Moshe with His Name which reflects the essence of life. In this existence there is only freedom and all concealment and darkness is absent. For this reason, the Sfas Emes posits, Moshe was unable to tolerate the exile. Nonetheless, HaShem’s desire was that the Jewish People follow in the footsteps of the Patriarchs, and seek out His glory even in the darkest of places. HaShem foresaw that the Egyptian exile and the redemption from Egypt would encompass all future exiles and redemptions. Hashem therefore determined that the Egyptian exile would be extended and the Jewish People would only be redeemed through the Ten Plagues.
We can now understand why Yaakov responded with Baruch Shem and why Moshe did not recite these words. Baruch Shem is a declaration that one acknowledges the darkness of the exile and is optimistic that there will be redemption. Moshe had such intolerance for the exile that he refused to invoke these words. Nonetheless, the Gemara states that we recite Baruch Shem, because Yaakov conducted himself with the view that we must always seek out HaShem’s glory, even in times of darkness and concealment.
Shabbos with the Sfas Emes and the Rebbes of Ger
The Bais Yisroel (5721) writes that Shabbos is the gift of Moshe to the Jewish People. Regarding Shabbos the Torah states (Shemos 16:29) ראו כי ה’ נתן לכם השבת, see that HaShem has given you the Shabbos. Furthermore, it is said (Ibid 31:13)) לדעת כי אני ה’ מקדשכם, to know that I am HaShem, Who makes you holy. Thus, we see that through Shabbos one can “see” and “know” Hashem. When one can see and know HaShem, he experiences the redemption of his soul from Egypt, as one is required every day of his life to remember the redemption from Egypt.
[There is a mitzvah in the Torah called “Judging others favorably.” This means if we see someone in a wrongdoing, we must first to stop, think, and consider if perhaps we are missing one crucial factor that changes the story from the way it appears.]
Take pleasure in making people look good: A virtuous man was walking with his students and they chanced upon the dead carcass of an animal. The students said, “What a foul odor is coming from this carcass!” the virtuous man said, “How white are its teeth!” (Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar Hacniya, chap 6)
Which was true? Which was more obvious?
Both observations were true. Even though the white teeth were much less obvious and easy to overlook in the face of the offensive, overpowering odor of a dead carcass, the virtuous man found something nice to see and to say. He chose to concentrate on the positive. If this can be said concerning a dead animal, how much more so should we try to find the good in a human being?
The Chafetz Chaim reiterates this idea: “A person should try to perfect his character so that he can be counted amongst the worthy, and not the unworthy. What are the traits of the worthy? They help others whenever they are able; they conceal other peoples’ weaknesses, as they would their own. And if they see a person angry at another, they try to calm him, by giving him an understanding of the other person’s position…
“The unworthy do the opposite. They harm others and are happy when others fail. They reveal their faults, and if a person makes a mistake, they interpret it as intentional wickedness. They cause fights and incite one person against his friend and think they are clever for all this!”
The Chafetz Chaim goes on to ask: What is considered true wisdom and strength? A person who sees his friend at the edge of a roof and gives him a push, or one who sees his friend falling and tries to catch him? One who finds his friend down and kicks him, or one who finds his friend already in the pit and tries to pull him out?
This is the essence of judging favorably. It means that if we find our friend in a situation where it seems he has already “fallen,” when suspicions of guilt surround him, we use our mental resources to lift him out of that mess, both in our own mind and in the minds of others. This is what finding merit is about. This is the character trait to which we are asked to aspire. (Shemiras HaLashon)
Fulfillment of this mitzvah offers us another benefit: It counteracts the evil of slander.
Lashon hara, literally “evil talk,” refers to a statement which belittles others or causes them damage or embarrassment, and serves no constructive purpose even though it may be true. The mitzvah of judging favorably is directly followed in the Torah by a warning concerning lashon hara, to teach us that judging favorably and refraining from speaking lashon hara are closely connected. (Leviticus 19:15, 16)
The Chafetz Chaim tells us: The more we judge favorably, the less slander we will speak. (Shemiras HaLashon)
If we don’t think negatively about others in the first place, then we are not in danger of such thoughts ever being expressed. When we are constantly battling with negative thoughts, there is always the possibility that they will prevail and be articulated. If we can obliterate or at least neutralize suspicions as they arise, by judging favorably, then there remain no negative thoughts lurking in our mind waiting for a chance to escape in the form of slander.
The connection between judging favorably and slander is illustrated with the biblical story of the spies:
The spies were sent to tour the Land of Israel before the whole nation entered for the first time. When they returned, they gave a negative report about what they had seen. The people believed them, and because of this the entire Jewish nation was penalized by having to spend 40 more years in the desert, corresponding to the 40 days of travel by the spies.
We know that punishment is given measure-for-measure. Why then did the nation have to spend 40 years in the desert when slander was spoken only once? Where’s the justice? Where’s the “measure for measure”?
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that they were punished for the root of the sin — 40 days of seeing the negative aspects of the land. If they hadn’t seen the negative, they wouldn’t have come to speak negatively. Thus the punishment was measure-for-measure. (Sichos Mussar)
Almost all the cases of slander in the Torah occurred because people did not judge favorably. (Sefer Chafetz Chaim) For example, Miriam spoke against her brother Moses to her other brother Aaron: “We are also prophets, yet we did separate ourselves from our spouses — why did Moses?” We are told that she misjudged the situation because she lacked information: She did not know that Moses’ level of prophecy had no equal, and therefore his actions were justified. (Sefer Chafetz Chaim)
We think we know, it seems clear, and yet sometimes…
Tova Rothman needed a baby sitter. She had been calling girls all evening, but everyone was either busy or not home, and it was getting too late to make any more calls. By now she was desperate. One of her daughters said eagerly, “Hey, Ma! What about my friend’s sister, Dassy Engel?”
“That’s worth a try. We haven’t used her in a long time. Do we still have her number?
A minute later she was dialing the Engels.
“Oh, Dassy, I’m so glad you’re home. I hope you can do me this favor. I need a baby sitter for two o’clock tomorrow afternoon. It’s very important and I must leave at exactly two o’clock. Are you available?” Tova was thrilled when Dassy agreed and she hung up with a sigh of relief.
The next day at two o’clock Tova was standing with her coat on, ready to walk out as soon as Dassy arrived. The minutes ticked away and no bell was ringing. No one was knocking or calling to say she’d be right over. It was 2:05 and still no Dassy. Tova called the Engels, but their line was busy.
Dassy seemed like such a nice girl. How could she be so irresponsible? Tova let her family know how she felt about a girl who gives her word and then lets you down. She gave them an earful! — and they were only spared the rest by the ringing of the telephone. Tova dashed over. It was her husband. Whatever she hadn’t managed to say till now to Dassy’s discredit she let out on Mr. Rothman. And for good measure she threw in a few choice observations about the Engels. Tova might have said more, but she cut herself short so she could try the Engel’s phone again. This time it rang.
Imagine Tova’s astonishment when Mrs. Engel answered and in reply to her question, “Is Dassy home?” said, “Oh, are you the one who called her about babysitting? You hung up and I guess you didn’t realize that you never gave her your name!”
Judging favorably is not only the leading remedy for our inclination to speak slander, it also offers the primary relief for another related “illness,” one that is undiagnosed, unacknowledged, and particularly insidious because of its anonymity: accepting and believing slander without clarifying its validity.
Chapters have been written by the Chafetz Chaim on this topic bringing to us the ageless wisdom of the Torah: Be wise, be discerning, and don’t believe everything you hear. Be willing to challenge your perceptions and be willing to reconsider.
It was late Tuesday night when the phone rang. A good friend of mine by the name of J.P. was calling. “Perhaps you can help me,” he said. “I’m making a wedding soon, and I’d like you to recommend a good photographer.”
After giving it some thought, I gave him the name of a man who is both an excellent photographer and is also very reasonably priced. “I’ve heard about him,” was my friend’s reply, “but I was also told that he was unreliable.”
“Oh, really,” I said, quite surprised. “What makes you say so?”
“Well, I’m told that he was recently hired for a bar mitzvah and he first arrived after it was half over. He missed half the affair. There’s no way I’d hire a person who is so irresponsible,” J.P. said. (J.P. is not required to hire this photographer even though this decision is based on an unproven suspicion. However, he was wrong in accepting this rumor as absolute truth.)
It’s certainly a severe charge, I thought to myself. “Are you sure about it?” I asked. “That’s a very strong accusation!”
“I’m quite positive,” was his reply. “Yisroel was the head of the band that night, and he told it to me himself. In fact, I met someone else who attended that same affair, and he verified the facts. I’m not making it up. It’s 100% true! Go check it out yourself.”
“I sure will,” I said. I’ve learned to be very skeptical as to the authenticity of any story, and I also knew that even if perfectly true, there might be a good explanation.
“Maybe due to unforeseen circumstances he was delayed?” I said to the caller, trying my best to judge favorably. “Perhaps there was some sort of emergency. What makes you so sure that it was a case of negligence or pure laziness?”
“Perhaps you’re right,” replied J.P., “but I just can’t risk it. Besides, there is no reason in the world for coming late. He should have started out early enough so that even if his car broke down he could have taken a car service and made it on time. There is absolutely no good excuse for a photographer to walk in after half the affair is over!”
It was hard to argue with him. He had a strong point, and my defense wasn’t too convincing. When I hung up the phone I found myself in a real quandary. Could I really recommend someone who is unreliable? Was it truly negligence on his part? Was my argument in his defense just a cover-up for his lack of responsibility? Truthfully, I wasn’t really convinced myself of his innocence, so how could I convince someone else?
Firstly, I decided to check out the story on my own to see if it was really true. I called the musician, who was a close friend of mine, and he verified the entire story. There was no question as to its authenticity.
The very next day, I bumped into my good friend, the photographer. I brought up the subject of the bar mitzvah in question.
“Is it true that you arrived halfway through the bar mitzvah?” I asked.
“Yes, it certainly is,” he said. “But why are you asking?”
“I just recommended you for a job, and the people refused to take you. They claimed you were unreliable because you didn’t come on time.”
He looked at me in disbelief and shock, and then began telling me his story. I listened very carefully.
“The job was not mine at all,” he began. “The photographer who had been hired for the job failed to show up. I received an emergency call in the middle of the affair to come down immediately. Despite being very busy at that moment, I dropped everything I was doing and raced down to the hall as quickly as possible.”
With a hurt look written on his face, he added, “I only did it as a personal favor to them.”
The more we practice judging people favorably, the less likely we are to speak against them, because…
– the more insight and comprehension, the less disapproval.
– the more we consider possibilities, the less we will censure and blame.
– the more we make an effort to reconsider, the less chance there will be to pass hasty, superficial judgments…
because understanding and condemnation are mutually exclusive.
When you hear a report of slander, act like a judge in court who isn’t allowed to pass judgment until he hears both sides. You can’t believe what was told to you until you consider the other side of the story.
Giving the benefit of the doubt is also an effective method for dealing with anger (Erech Apayim). So many fiery outbursts could be avoided, so many prolonged resentments and grievances could be redressed and even prevented from developing in the first place if we were willing to use this tool.
When we feel ourselves churning and burning, cooking and steaming, we are harming ourselves physically and emotionally. Much has been written and documented about the negative effects of anger and grudge-bearing: High blood pressure, ulcers, lower back pain, tension headaches — the list is long. Trying to understand the other side of the story frees us from our imprisonment in the gloomy darkness of condemnation and resentment. It’s the key that unlocks the door to a room full of light. When understanding comes in, anger almost automatically leaves through the back door.
I’m enrolled in a program in a hospital in Jerusalem, and I’m receiving credit from a school in America that sponsors this program. I have a supervisor here who gets paid from the institution in America.
One day in January, I came into the office as usual at about 9:00 a.m. My supervisor, Ofra, was fuming. She was stomping around the rooms and muttering under her breath. I asked her what was the matter, and she said she didn’t want to tell me because it wasn’t professional. I was sure it wouldn’t take Ofra too long to become unprofessional, and, sure enough, 15 minutes later she couldn’t contain herself anymore.
She told me that she had just gotten her paycheck for supervising me. Now mind you, I had been part of this program since October 1993, and it goes until June 1994. Ofra told me that the reason she was so angry was that the people in charge had the chutzpah to send her a check dated November 1, 1994. She could not understand how they could have the nerve to give her a check postdated for almost a year later. I said I personally couldn’t believe it because I go to this school and I’d never heard of such a thing. But she really let go, and she was screaming and yelling and telling everyone the whole story.
Now it was already 10 o’clock, and she said she was going to go to the National Association to consult with one of the counselors there to ask them what she should do. She wanted to put in a complaint about this program and how they send students here to be supervised and how their supervisors are paid, or, rather, not paid.
Ofra kept calling the number of the National Association. I was a little embarrassed, because I felt that maybe I should call somebody in America to let them know before she put in a complaint about them. If they got a big complaint about the school, who knew what could happen.
So she was calling and calling, and the phone stayed busy. Finally she got through and they said no counselor was available. Ofra was willing to leave work and go to this organization to show them the check and file a complaint about the whole situation, but they told her not to bother to come because no one was there to help her. By now it was already 11 or 12 o’clock. Ofra was furious. She didn’t even want to talk to me.
Well, finally it was one o’clock and time for me to leave. Ofra still hadn’t calmed down. Finally, I said to her, “Are you sure that’s what the check says — November 1, 1994? Can you just show me?” She just got more annoyed. “You think I can’t read?” And then she said, “You know, I don’t think you believe me! I’m going to take out that check and show you.”
She took out the check, and the check read: 1.11.94. “This check is for January 11, 1994,” I told her.
“What?” She looked at me, obviously confused. Then Ofra remembered that European and American dates are reversed. In Israel, 1.11.94 means November 1, 1994.
She was very embarrassed. For five hours she had done nothing but rant and rave. Now she was left muttering, “For this I raised my blood pressure? For this I got so angry and missed a day’s work?”
“Yehoshua ben Perachyah says: Appoint a teacher for yourself, acquire [buy yourself] a friend, and judge everybody favorably” (Avot 1:6).
The fact that these seemingly unconnected statements are grouped together indicates that there is a special relationship between them. And so we learn that the acquisition and retention of an educational mentor and guide, as well as harmonious companionship, depend to a great extent on our ability and willingness to judge favorably…
Can friendship survive on a long term basis if we’re not willing to judge our friends favorably? Even between friends, and especially between close friends, there are many opportunities for misunderstanding. The closer we are, the more shortcomings we see and the more tests we face… (www.innernet.org.il)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vaeira 5771
Is sponsored by Rabbi and Mrs. Avrohom Adler of Cleveland in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of their dear son Zevy. They should see much nachas from Zevy and from all their children.
Mazel Tov to the grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Simcha Shuck from Monsey and to Rabbi and Mrs. Shmuel Adler from Chicago.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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