Illuminations #189, Tevet, 5779, Parshat Vaeirah

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Illuminations #189, Tevet, 5779, Parshat Vaeirah

Torah Gems

After Moshe Rabbeinu came to convey Hashem’s message to Bnei Yisrael that they were going to be taken out of Mitzrayim, the passuk tells us that they didn’t listen to Moshe, “due to their shortness of breath [caused by their stress (Rashi)] and their hard work.” We know, explains Rav Gamliel Rabinovitch, shlita, that the Torah does not just tell us stories for no reason (Zohar Hakadosh III 149b); every single event has a lesson for us to learn from and internalize. If so, what is there for us to learn from this? The answer is, continues Rav Gamliel, shlita, how great the obligation is to judge every person favorably. The Torah here is explaining the reason Bnei Yisrael didn’t (couldn’t) listen to Moshe: it was only “due to their shortness of breath caused by their stress and their hard work.” The Torah tells us, “One should judge His Nation righteously” (Vayikra 19:15), which Rashi explains to mean that one should judge his friend – giving him the benefit of the doubt. This is repeated in the Oral Torah as well. The Mishnah in Avot (1:6) teaches us: “One should judge every person favorably.” If we see that a person stumbles in a certain matter, continues Rav Gamliel, shlita, we should not immediately disqualify him; rather, we should seek to understand which weakness caused this to come about and find justification as to why it may not have been his fault. Here the Torah is giving us direction that we should try to understand what brought this person in those particular circumstances to sin. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean that he was one hundred percent right. It could still be that he was wrong, but at least we should try to understand what led him to do what he did. Especially if someone seemingly did something against us, if we would try to understand what brought him to do it, it would help soothe the situation.

Parsha Pearls

 Rashi (6:26), based on the Midrash, explains that the reason sometimes Moshe is mentioned before Aharon and sometimes Aharon is mentioned before Moshe is to teach us that they are equal! But how can they be equal? How can we equate Aharon to Moshe Rabbeinu who was the greatest of all neviim who lived on Earth, the leader of Klal Yisrael and the one who brought down the Torah? Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, offers a beautiful explanation with a powerful lesson for us as well. Both Moshe and Aharon always carried out exactly what Hashem Yitbarach wanted from each of them. They are therefore equal in Hashem’s eyes. Yes, there was more for Moshe to carry out than there was for Aharon, but that’s only because that was Moshe Rabbeinu’s tafkid – purpose for being on earth. Since Aharon did his best with all that was expected of him – he had perfected himself – he was therefore just as important as Moshe. When we reach the Next World they aren’t going to ask us why we weren’t like this one or that one; they are going to ask us why we didn’t fulfill our own potential. May we all be zocheh to use our abilities to the fullest!

Glimpses of Greatness

Perhaps nothing better attests to the paramount importance that Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky placed on his wife’s needs than his willingness to break his own minhagim to keep from hurting her feelings. Shortly after his second marriage, Shavuot fell on Friday. The Rebbetzin prepared an elaborate milchig Kiddush including a number of cheese dishes. She was unaware that Reb Yaakov had a family minhag not to eat cheese on Friday, and that he scrupulously followed this mining. His discomfiture must have shown as they  served the Kiddush because she immediately asked, ‘Is something wrong?’ He quickly regained his composure and replied, ‘No, no, nothing. l just wasn’t prepared for such a beautiful Kiddush. As soon as the Rebbetzin left the room, Reb Yaakov turned to three talmidim and asked them to be matir neder (release him from an implied vow not to eat cheese on Friday) so that he could eat the cheese dishes. He explained to them that a heter was appropriate since he would never have accepted the minhag upon himself if he had known that one day it would cause someone else pain. Since it was their first year of marriage, during which a wife is particularly eager to please her husband, he felt that mentioning his minhag then would be perceived as a criticism — even though there was no way that the Rebbetzin could possibly have known of it. At the appropriate time, Reb Yaakov informed his Rebbetzin of his custom of not eating cheese on Friday, which he continued to observe.

Halacha Weekly

Q. Can one rely on a miraculous sign if there is an independent reason to fear danger? [1 YD 10-262-263]

A. Tefilah le’Moshe (3-19, R. Moshe Levi ) writes that  a person who fears that evil will come through some unexpected occurrence (sign) that may happen to him, whether it is for  good (and he does not act on it), or it is not for good (and he refrains from action because of it), it is prohibited for him to rely on this occurrence (sign). He should conduct himself so that his actions oblige him to trust in The Holy One Blessed be He, and conduct himself in the manner that he is accustomed to act on any other day.  However, what happens if the sign is clearly miraculous? What should he do?

Tefilah le’Moshe  (there) says that if a miraculous occurrence happens and he does not conduct himself according to the sign (simon) alone,  but he responds by adding to the sign (or occurrence) other additional reasons to act [in the manner which the sign indicates] in addition to the sign (simon), then it is permitted [to take action in accord with these additional reasons].

For example, Chashukei Chemed (Pesach  308,  R. YitzchokZilberstein) brings the following case:  A person has tickets for travel [to some destination] and a miracle occurs and the tickets are destroyed by fire. Is it permitted for him to refrain from traveling or is there a suspicion [in refraining from going on the trip] of [transgressing the prohibition of] Nichush (Divination)?  He concludes  that if the occurrence occurred to him in a miraculous way there is [actually] a concern for him and therefore it is permitted to suspect that the miraculous sign has substance. (However, this is only the case if only the tickets for the travel were burnt, and nothing else which clearly indicates a miraculous sign of Divine origin has actually occurred to him.)