Thursday, August 18, 2011

quid pro quo

Two quick comments on the parsha:

I think two questions asked about the opening of our parsha resolve each other:
1. "V'haya eikev tishme'un es hamishpatim ha'eileh..." Why the focus on mishpatim as opposed to chukim or other categories of mitzvos?
2. "V'shamar Hashem Elokecha lecha es habris v'es hachesed asher nishba l'avosecha." Why does the Torah need to reiterate that Hashem will keep his word and deliver all the chesed he promised to the Avos -- if Hashem makes a promise, surely he will keep it?!

The Torah is perhaps telling us that even if we obey Torah only because it makes sense to us -- when we see halacha as mishpat, just and fair laws -- but we lack the commitment to obey even when things don't make sense, still, Hashem will keep his word to deliver the full measure of reward he promised to the Avos who had a far superior level of emunah. No wonder the parsha opens with "V'haya," a term of simcha!

On a different note, in the comments of the post on matnas chinam from last week the important point was made that matnas chinam means recognizing that there is no quid pro quo with G-d. A person can't say that because he/she did good deed X, therefore G-d "owes" them one and they deserve some particular reward in return, so special treatment (and the abuse of so-called segulos in this regard goes without saying). Moshe Rabeinu did not demand entrance to Eretz Yisrael in "exchange" for all the good deeds he had done. So here's an amazing Ksav Sofer on this week's parsha that hits the same theme:

"...HaKeil hagadol hagibor v'hanora asher lo yisa panim v'lo yikach shochad." (10:17)
"Oseh mishpat yasom v'almanah v'oheiv ger...." (10:18)

What does it mean that G-d doesn't take bribes -- how could you even try to bribe G-d? And is Hashem defender only of the weak, the widow, the orphan, the convert? Doesn't Hashem do chessed for all of us?

Ksav Sofer writes that the pasuk is not talking about Hashem -- it's talking about people. It takes someone special to go out of his/her way to defend and protect those who everyone else in society ignores and has no pity for. You might think that someone like that deserves "protektziya," deserves to be treated a little differently than everyone else, deserves to have some failings overlooked, deserves to have some special requests granted. But, says the Ksav Sofer, Hashem doesn't do things that way. A good deed done in one area doesn't excuse a lapse in another -- G-d is not a horse-trader. The pasuk should be read as one sentence: "V'lo yokach shochad," Hashem does not take bribes, "Oseh mishpat yasom v'almanah," from those who do charity and good deeds for the widow and orphan. Charity and kindness are important, but they cannot be used as a means of "buying" off G-d to get a favor in return or to excuse lack of attention to other areas of Torah and mitzvos.


  1. Thank you. Excellent.
    And here's my present in return.
    הדרך לתשובה
    ספר המדע הלכות תשובה פרק ג הלכה שם
    ויש עון שהוא כנגד כמה זכיות. דבר חדש ופלא מחדש הרמב"ם בפיהמ"ש באבות פ"ד (משנה כ"ב) שאין לקב"ה מקח שוחד, והיינו אם יש לאדם אלף מצות ועבירה אחת, לא יכבה העברות, רק יגמלוהו על הטובות וייענש על העבירות ע"ש, והר"י שושן דחה שיטת הרמב"ם, שעבירה מכבה מצוה וכ"ש מצוה מכבה עבירה, וגם רבינו יונה חולק עליו, ובזוה"ק נשא (קכ"ג:) שבזכותא בטלין מיניה ייסורים ע"ש, ונראה שאפשר שגם לרמב"ם עבירה מתבטלת באלף מצות לאחד מני אלף אם איכותם שוה, וכוונתו רק שלא נמחק לגמרי וא"ש, (ועיין ס"ח סימן תר"ו).

  2. anon19:09 AM


    the ksav sofer in that piece quotes that rambam

  3. I should have realized he wouldn't have missed it. But at least it's interesting to see the opinion of Reb Yosef ibn Shoshan, a contemporary of and correspondent with the Rivash.

    I wonder how the Rambam shtims with the balance scale of Rosh Hashannah. If you did teshuva, the aveira is erased. If you didn't, then the mitzvos and aveiros are weighed and the majority rules. If you say that's only to pasken tzadik or rasha, but even a tzadik pays for his sins, then what's the nafka minah if he's called tzadik or rasha? I'm sure it's an elementary question, but lo habayshan lamed.

  4. Isn't your question in effect the same as that of the Ba'al haTanya in the very first chapter of his sefer?

  5. My rosh yeshiva, Rav Rudderman, kept a Tanya on his nightstand, a secret only known to his mekuravim.

    My nightstand, lehavdil, has Isaiah Berlin's essays, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy five part trilogy, and a volume of Ogden Nash's verse, Bad Riddance.

    Vedai Lechakima....