Parshas Shoftim 5757 - '97
Outline # 50
Judaism does not recognize dual powers in the universe. There is One Source for everything. Nonetheless, right and wrong, good and evil surely exist, and it is up to us to weed out the good from the bad. If everything stems from the One Source, how does the evil exist?
Ultimately, everything comes from the One Source; at various periods, the One Source intervenes, to direct or redirect. Most of the time, however, the world is on its own; nature "runs its course." The "good" is that which is most compatible with the Source; the "bad" -- the least compatible. Let's strive to be more compatible...
Much of today's world, though, cannot accept that choices between "good and bad" exist. Such individuals fail to choose; instead, they are content to let nature "run its course." The problem is that people want a convenient, easy life, and do not have the vision of "obstacles" that our forefathers had.
The forefathers did not bequeath land or material substance; rather, the promise of land and spiritual substance. Until the promise would be fulfilled -- they said -- there would be hardship, servitude and suffering.
The Tzemach Tzedek wrote in his responsa something that seems forgotten today, but is actually a basic Jewish doctrine. The fierce arguments between the Chasidic movement and its opposition -- the Misnagdim -- are well known. How many realize that the Tzemach Tzedek expressed gratitude for the opposition?
Similarly, we find that one of the early Chasidic leaders, the Shpole Zeide, was antagonistic to Rav Nachman of Breslov. When some of the Zeide's students heckled Rav Nachman, the Zeide censored them. Every movement needed opposition, he explained. He had been providing a service.
We learn from opposition, from obstacles. I always remember a childhood incident. I had been ill, and had missed a physical endurance test. When I returned to school, I had to run the 600 yards -- alone. From nowhere, a classmate started running alongside. He had been a mean child, always taunting. Yet -- suddenly it was clear -- he was running under his capacity, trying to encourage me to keep up with him... When the race was over I was certain that I had improved because of the challenge.
This helps to put in perspective the comments quoted last week: The Bnei Yisaschar explained that reciting praises during the davening "prevent accusations." (The Shofar, as well, is said to confuse the adversary [Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 16b]; the Zohar, cited in Sidur Hagra, explains that the prosecution's claims are thwarted.) The inconsistencies of our character and actions, arouse accusations. We must recognize the challenge, and not rest nor indulge ourselves, until we have found the strength to overcome the deficiencies which lie within us. Just as the athlete who slackens in his training, cannot seriously expect promotion -- so too, we cannot reach our goals unless we keep up our workouts at full capacity. The accuser is not an independent force, but Hashem's agent. By repelling his accusations by means of consistent character and action, we show the validity of his role.
In Sefer Yechezkel (Ezekiel chapter 2), the prophet was told to record the day that the siege of Jerusalem was to occur. This day was later incorporated as a fast day -- the Tenth of Teves. The language of the verses, however, is unusual.
"Write the name of the day, the essence of the day..." (Yechezkel, 24:2). In Hebrew, there are no names of the days of the week. If so, what is the meaning of "write the name of the day..." The excellent English Commentary to Yechezkel by Rav Moshe Eisemann raises this difficulty, but does not resolve the problem.
See however, the Drashos of Chasom Sofer part 1, p. 93:
There is a difference between the date of the month and the day of the week. The date of the month is arbitrary; there is no inherent reason as why today is the third of the month instead of the forth. The fixing of the months are determined by the court, and can vary. The court can alter the days somewhat, or add on another month.
This does not apply to the day of the week, however. Shabbos is eternally fixed, and the days of the week are simply counted from the Shabbos.
The phrase "the name of the day" indicates that the actual day of the week, not only the date (tenth of Teves) is essential. Thus, we find an opinion in Halacha that states that the Tenth of Teves would be observed even on Shabbos, because the day of the week on which the fast occurs has special significance.
This year, Yom Kippur occurs on a Shabbos (Oct. 10 -11, `97). Although one is ordinarily not permitted to fast on Shabbos, Yom Kippur overrides the ordinary laws of Shabbos. The phrase "the essence of the day" is found in regard to Yom Kippur as well... Similar to the Tenth of Teves, the Tenth of Tishre has some intrinsic relationship to the day of the week in which it occurs, and cannot be exchanged for another day. (Yom Kippur is the only major holiday that was never observed for two days [by the masses].)
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Last Revision: January 27, '97