Building On The Positive
By Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
The Mishkan (Tabernacle) that the Jews built in the desert was inaugurated
by representatives of each of the Twelve Tribes bringing offerings and
gifts on behalf of their tribesmen. All twelve envoys brought an identical
package of goods. The Midrash (Bamidbar Raba) explains how, despite the
fact that they all chose the exact same offering, each one had his own
unique reason for choosing this particular combination of gifts. They had
each chosen an offering that allowed them to express the unique character
that their tribe demonstrated in their service of G-d.
The Tribe of Shimon focused on their unique zeal to actively fight evil
when it appeared, as was demonstrated when Shimon attacked the city of
Shechem for the mistreatment of his sister. The Midrash concludes noting
G-d's pleasure regarding the intentions of this offering. This seems
curious since the Torah had previously recorded that Shimon's attack of
Shechem was wrong. Both immediately following the attack
(Beraishis/Genesis 34:30) and when blessing his children before his death
(49:7), Yaakov (Jacob) rebuked Shimon for attacking Shechem and allowing
his anger to control him. Indeed Yaakov told him that it was because of
this that Shimon lost the right to have his descendants be the future
kings of Israel. Was the attacking of Shechem right or wrong? If it was
right, why was Shimon chastised for it? If it was wrong, why did they
choose to utilize this character trait in choosing their expression of
their service of G-d, and why was G-d pleased with this?
The Talmud (Eruvin 131) notes, "It would have been easier for man if he
would not have been created; now that he has been created he should search
his deeds, and some say he should feel his deeds." Mesilas Yesharim (1)
expounds that to search one's deeds means to set aside time to ponder if
his actions are right or wrong, and if they are wrong to correct them. To
"feel" one's deeds means to delve deeper, considering the deeds done right
and realizing that even those deeds may have some negative motivations that
need to be rectified. It also means to think about the improper actions
one did that, although they certainly must be dealt with, perhaps contained
positive aspects that were actually good and should be maintained.
Yaakov was certainly correct that one must not let his anger get the better
of him, and that is why Shimon was reprimanded. Nonetheless, it is still
important to be zealous to eradicate evil rather than to be complacent and
allow wickedness to thrive. G-d saw that Shimon's progeny appreciated that
each act has numerous facets; they found the positive lesson within their
grandfather's error and capitalized upon it in their unique service of G-d.
This gave Him great joy and, thus, He accepted their offering.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) "Path of the Just", one of the most popular Mussar (introspective
Jewish self-improvement) works in Jewish literature; a moving, inspiring
work describing how a thoughtful Jew may climb the ladder of purification
until he attains the level of holiness; authored by Rabbi Moshe Chaim
Luzzatto, 1707-1746 of Padua, Italy, and Amsterdam.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig
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