“Rosheich alay k’Karmel v’dalas roseich k‘argaman…” (Shir haShirim 7:6) taken literally is a description of the beauty of someone's head and the braids of hair. The Midrash, however, reads the pasuk as describing the beauty in G-d’s eyes of even the worst members of Klal Yisrael. “Rosheich” is read by the Midrash as “reishech,” from the word “rash,” meaning poor person – not poor financially, but poor in good deeds; “dalas” is taken by the Midrash as a hint to the word “dal,” another synonym for a person who is wanting. The pasuk is telling us that even the poorest miscreant in Klal Yisrael is as valuable as Eliyahu haNavi, who challenged the idolators of Ba’al at Mt. Carmel; even the poorest no-goodnik is as great as David haMelech, as Zecharya haNavi tells us (12:7), that one day even the “nichshal,” the one who is weak and stumbles, will be like David haMelech.
R’ Bloch (in Shiurei Da’as, “Rishonim K’Malachim”) asks how it can be that Hashem values someone who is spiritually impoverished as much as he values Eliyahu haNavi or David haMelech. Imagine there is some kind of big scale where we can weigh people’s merits. If you were to put me on one side of that scale and David HaMelech or Eliyahu on the other side, there is no question in my mind that their merits would outweigh mine. So where is the fairness in Hashem saying that in his eyes it’s all the same?
R’ Bloch answers with an analogy. Imagine there is a race course that stretches thousands of miles long and you have two runners racing along the course. Even if one person has travelled 2 miles and the other has travelled only 2 yards, does it really make a difference when measured against the total distance that needs to be covered? Kal v’chomer if the distance that needs to be covered stretches to infinity. It’s true that Eliyahu HaNavi, David haMelech, accomplished so much more than any of us could dream of accomplishing in our own avodas Hashem. But that does not mean we should despair or that our avodah has no value. When measured against the scale of infinity, the tremendous gulf of difference between our achievements is insignificant.
Afar ani tachas kapas raglav, but I cannot help but find R’ Bloch’s answer here less than satisfying. Even if one grants the validity of the question, it seems that the far simpler answer is “l’fum tza’ara
agra.” Hashem does not judge our net accomplishments
alone; he judges us according to our abilities. What little we accomplish given our
circumstance and limitations may indeed be as precious as what greater people were
able to do given their specific gifts and talents.
What we see with our limited perspective is far from the complete
But there is an even simpler answer I think, and perhaps it appeals more to a chassidic mindset than a mussar mindset. The whole question R’ Bloch raises is predicated on the assumption that Hashem should value less those who achieve less. It seems to me that the whole point of the Midrash is to undermine that very assumption. Hashem’s love is unconditional. He extends it freely to the lowest sinner as well as the greatest saint. He is the ultimate rachaman who is willing to overlook all our failures, all our shortcomings, all our deficiencies, and accept us all equally. As parents, most of us pay lip service to this idea of loving all our children equally, even those who aggravate and annoy us to no end (trust me, I have a few). If we can recognize the value of turning a blind eye to the faults of our children and loving them all equally, surely we can appreciate the concept of G-d turning a blind eye to our faults and extending unconditional love to each of us equally.