Thursday, September 01, 2016

consequences, not punishments

1. When my kids do something wrong and have to correct the mess they created, my wife likes to tell them that this is not a punishment, but rather a consequence.  Our parsha teaches the same idea.  The Midrash quotes the pasuk, “Mi’pi elyon lo teitzeh ha’ra’os v’ha’tov,” Hashem does not bring about both good and bad things, and explains that when we do good, we benefit as a consequence, and when we do bad, we suffer as a consequence.  If a person puts his hand in a fire, he gets burned not because Hashem at that moment decreed this punishment upon him, but rather because nature is such that if you stick your hand in a fire, you get burned.  The same is true when a person suffers because he/she has done aveiros.  Hashem has not decreed some arbitrary sentence -- the suffering is just a natural consequence of the path the individual has chosen for him/herself.  (If you run a red light, you only get a ticket if a policeman is watching.  It's not like sticking your hand in a fire  -– there is no natural consequence.  Maybe mitzvos/aveiros work that way?  See this post from a decade ago on this issue. [I can't believe this blog has been up for 10 years!]) 

("Mi’pi elyon lo teitzeh ha’ra’os v’ha’tov” -- see the Harchev Davar on why tov is in the singular but ra'os is in the plural.)

2. A beautiful question from the Meshech Chochma: The Meshech Chochma (13:4) quotes a Sifri (based on the GR"A's pshat) that teaches that the prophecy of a navi sheker is not disqualified retroactively.  In other words, you don't say that if Ploni gave a nevuas sheker today, the nevuah he gave yesterday must also have been a lie.  It could be that Ploni was a tzadik up until today, and things for whatever reason suddenly changed.

The gemara (Chulin 10) has a whole sugya discussing the source for the din of chazakah.  Why, asks the Meshech Chochma, does the gemara not use this as a makor?  Just like in the case of an eid zomeim (a little tie in for those learning Bava Kama) we rely on the chezkas kashrus of the eid and do not retroactively disqualify any of his testimony, so too here, we rely on the chezkas kashrus of the navi and do not disqualify any of his prophecy retroactively, and here we have a limud from the pasuk?    

3. Is it Elul already?!


  1. See pp 42-44 where I cite more sources. (You didn't mention Eikhah this time.)

    However, see also pp 50-52 where I argue that it is equally valid to argue that Hashem rewards or punishes in response to the person's action. Rather than setting up a causal system. It's just a matter of perspective. Since Hashem is outside of the flow of time, the difference between saying He set something up during creation or performs acts during the course of the timeline is a matter of which angle of looking at things is more useful for a given question. The reality, as with most theological question, is beyond human comprehension. We just have approximating models. At times, those models will contradict.

  2. re "Is it Elul already?"
    Yesterday someone where I daven emphasized a passuk from the Shir shel Yom by singing it in its distinctive niggun. The passuk was tiku bachodesh shofar, bakesseh....
    I made an announcement after davening that we will appreciate it if in the future he just leaves Elul for Elul.

    1. In my kehilla, we leave Elul for Adar.