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Parshas Ki Seitzei

To Be Respected

By Rabbi Label Lam

If you build a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof, so that you will not place blood in your house if a faller falls from it. (Devarim 22:)

This is a simple enough and logical requirement, to put a guard rail on the roof or landing for the sake of safety. The “curve ball” is at the end of the verse. The “would be” victim of personal negligence in this case is titled as a “faller”. Rashi notes that one that falls is viewed as if he was meant to fall, and as a not entirely innocent victim of a malicious match made in heaven between the negligent home owner and the one deserving of a fall. It seems we are being told that on some sublime plane, ultimately, the tragic fall was no accident at all.

This all sounds awfully fatalistic, and it raises a host of questions. 1) Does this lesson lessen the responsibility of the one who failed to secure his roof? 2) When is it appropriate to employ the “Bashert” –card, with a claim “it was meant to be”?

Rabbi E.E. Dessler ztl. writes in the name of the Chassidic Masters, “Every power, talent, ability that has been invest in us has some purpose in service of HASHEM. Even the tendency for “Apikorsis”- heresy and denial of G-d has a reason for being and that is with whatever regards his friend he is not to declare, “HASHEM will help!” Rather he should try for his friend like a determined materialistic person strives for his own business concerns.” Somebody once asked Rabbi Avigdor Miller ztl, “When do you know when you have met your “Bashert” (destined bride)? His answer sparkled with whimsical wit while landing a heavy point. He said curtly, “When you’re standing under the Chupa!” Once you’re under the Chupa that’s your “Bashert”, and then it’s a non-negotiable fact of life to be accepted.

Now we have two important distinctions in place. 1) When it comes to doing for others and in advance, before the fact, we are to imagine that the entire yoke of responsibility rests on our necks alone. 2) Once something is done and it’s registered as a past event, then it can safely be called “Bashert”, a given, an accepted fact of life. Maybe this is all too obvious. Is it though?

I heard recently a story about a man that came to complain to a Rabbi about his life of woeful disappointment. The Rabbi sat quietly listening to and absorbing all the feelings and the details of the story of what had befallen this unfortunate fellow. After he was finished with his diatribe he looked up at the Rabbi for a response and oh boy, he got one. The Rabbi told him, “I can either sympathize with or respect you, but I cannot do both.” I know it sounds awfully sharp. What did he mean?

What is the result when one negligently reverses the two principles mentioned above and fatalistically cries “Bashert” when there’s yet something to be done while simultaneously turning a complaining eye of “Apikorsis” to what has already passed? There’s an aphorism floating in the street that goes like this, “Some people make things happen! Some people watch things happen! Some people say, “What happened?”” The result is a difference between heaven and earth.

We don’t want be victims nor do we wish to make of others victims. The spectator who passively observes the activities of life or the one that asks when it’s all over, “What happened?” is a sympathetic character. However, that responsible guy or gal that does what’s fitting and for others- doing so in advance, installing a fence in a timely fashion, is to be respected.


DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.


 


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