Thursday, September 12, 2019

a want that can't be explained

We once discussed different answers to the question of why G-d thwarted Bilam's attempt to curse Klal Yisrael and changed his words to bracha. Why not just let him say whatever he wants and ignore him?

Chasam Sofer in our parsha offers another answer. "V'lo avah Hashem Elokecha lishmoa el a'heivcha Hashem Elokecha." (23:6) When you love someone, you don't want to listen to bad things being said about them, even if the words are meaningless. Hashem loves Klal Yisrael; therefore, He did not want to even give Bilam the chance to speak.

The Ohr haChaim has an interesting comment on the language used in this pasuk. The word "AVAH," writes the Ohr haChaim, means having a desire for no reason. Earlier in sefer Devarim (2:26-30) Moshe relates how he sent messengers to Sichon asking permission for Klal Yisrael to pass through his territory, and even offering to buy food and drink from the Emori despite the fact that Klal Yisrael had mon and the be'er and didn't really need anything.  "V'lo AVAH Sichon.. ha'avireinu bo..." -- Sichon did not **want** to let Klal Yisrael pass through.  This was was a want that made no sense -- hence the use of "lo AVAH."  Sichon could have avoided war, he could have made money for his people, but he still did not give in. Here too, Bilam pointed to the misdeeds of Klal Yisrael, to their rebellions, to the cheit ha'eigel, and still, Hashem did not want to allow him to harm Klal Yisrael. Why? How do you justify that?   "V'lo AVAH" -- we can't explain it.  Can you explain love? 
Now that we know this Ohr haChaim, we have a deeper insight into the parsha of yibum at the end of our sidra (25:7-8). The Torah tells us, "V'im lo yachpotz ha'ish lakachas es yivimto," if the man does not want to do yibum, "V'also yivimto ha'sha'ara," the woman comes to beis din and declares, "... lo AVAH yabmi." Beis din then responds: "V'kar'u lo ziknei iro v'dibru eilav," they give the guy a talking to. If he responds and says, "Lo chafatzti likachta," I don't want to marry her, then they perform chalitza.  We have a whole shakla v'terya here -- he says, she says, beis din says, and then he responds again.  What's going on?

The key to the parsha is the one word AVAH.  Malbim explains: the man whose brother died says, "Lo **chafatzti** likachta" -- I have nothing to gain from marrying this woman -- chafeitz = desire for something that is beneficial in some way -- and don't want to be involved. But what the woman hears and what she presents to beis din is "lo AVAH yabmi" -- he has no good reason for his refusal.  It's just a whim.  So beis din comes to investigate. The man then reiterates to them "lo chafatzti..." -- it's not just some nonsensical behavior, but rather it's that I dont see this match as being beneficial to either of us. It's "lo chafatzti" -- not "lo AVAH" like she said.  That's a different story, and beis din now gets involved in arranging a chalitza.

Back in sefer Braishis, when Avaraham sends Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak, Eliezer ask Avraham what to do if, "Lo tOVEH ha'isha laleches..." Eliezer was a good negotiator and whatever reason the girl might give for not wanting to go -- money, questions of yichus, kavod, etc. -- he had an answer for. But what if "lo toveh" -- what if she refuses on a whim and has no good reason? You can't argue with a whim, so what am I to do? 

So we have a few good examples of this Ohr haChaim in action where it gives us new, deeper insight into pesukim. Now for an example that has me baffled. In parshas Nitzavim the Torah speaks about the evil person who rejects the bris of Hashem and says "bi'shrirus libi eilech," I'll go my own way and be fine. The Torah tells us, "Lo YOVEH Hashem sloch lo," Hashem will not let him off the hook (29:18-19)  "Lo YOVEH?"  Hashem on a whim, for no reason, turns away a person???  Surely Hashem never turns someone away for no reason, and here, the reason this person is punished is clear from the pesukim.  I'm stuck -- how do you explain this pasuk?


  1. "Hashem on a whim" refuses to forgive?

    the odd repetition, Hashem Hashem, commencing the 13 attributes, has something of fifty:fifty about it, an element of whim, if you will. will He have compassion on Ploni 'Wormwood' Almoni after the sin*, through the second Name? no. without weighing the matter at the time of commission, He inexplicably decides, now, that He will stop at the first Name.

    also the blessing of shehakol, that all things came to be by His word. 'all' far exceeds undistinguished foods, to include far more multitude multitude, and far more variety variety, than we can at once discern, allowing Him some degree of latitude, or >whim<, as to anything/everything; [all is] a term so indefinite to us that, by its regular utterance, we have given Him room to operate contract-free [to choose "for no reason"]!
    {in the given case, defector Wormwood fails, so to speak, to use the properly specific ha'motzi to bless Hashem in his heart, but instead uses shehakol for a generalized blessing, or blessing-at-large, on all the other gods}

    *rather than loving Hashem, than serving Him with all his heart, he turns that heart to other gods

    1. When you say "Ploni "Wormwood" Almoni," I assume that you're referring to CS Lewis' character. Perhaps "the Patient" would have been a better choice.

    2. "wormwood" as in the final word of Devarim 29:17, la'ana. copacetic? (Rambam's golden mean between nightly visits to the Copacabana nightclub, and ascetic avoidance of the same [which could imply that the "desires and whims" identified by great Unknown at 10:52 a.m., though illicit, are quantitatively moderate])

  2. The posuk doesn't say "Yoveh Hashem lo lisloach lo", which would imply your understanding. What it does say is that Hashem will suppress the natural whim to forgive a Jew and hold the Jew to the letter of the law. [Possibly, to protect Klal Yisroel and ultimately the miscreant himself.]

    1. Actually, this would be a midah kneged midah: the person thinks, everything will be copacetic for me when I follow my desires and whims, not because he is a kofer, which is a different issue, but because he depends on HaShem's ne'tiyah klapai chesed, which Hashem says he will not follow in this case.

      HaShem desires the sha'as za'am every day [a part of the new bri'ah everyday, recreating the original creation which was b'din; and the ARI z"l says that it is the rega of za'am which allows Jews to replenish their yir'as shomayim (which might weaken with the constant awareness of chasdei HaShem). Indeed, points out HaRav Moshe Yoffen, the lack of the sha'as za'am was the reason for the Jews being nichshal with the bnos Midyon, when the Torah immediately points out that in Mitzrayim for centuries, they were not nichshal in arayos.]

      However, in the case of Bil'am, even though HaShem's "Avah" was to listen to him, as HaShem did in other cases when Bil'am invoked curses - a concomitant of the very essence of sha'as za'am, this time, "Lo Avah" and therefore HaShem eliminated the sha'as za'am min haShittim ad haGilgal.

    2. טוב לי תורת פיך מאלפי זהב וכסף, especially the word "copacetic," a bizarre word of unknown origin, rarely used today, which some have associated with "hakol b'seder," an absurd etymology.
      I like the idea of לא יאבה to mean that Hashem would supress His natural love for the Jews.

    3. "HaShem desires the sha'as za'am everyday ...recreating the original creation which was b'din" (great Unknown, 10:52, 2nd paragraph)

      yet rejects the individual who not only welcomes that desire, but who operates from a rigid din mentality full-time: though 21:18 speaks of aviv and ee'mo, only ish is mentioned in its opening phrase. why? because the 'him' who is stoned at 21:21, ur'ga'mu'hu, is the father! any man who would not only initiate this prosecution of his own son, but also >see it through to conclusion<, must die, and all Israel shall hear, and fear...

      {might it be that Hashem will allow the ben sorer u'moreh to be killed (and the father spared!) only if, as one more precondition for execution to proceed, the parents made their accusation at "the rega of za'am", at the exact moment of Anger?
      [so the moment must occur in daytime (when the court convenes)?]}

  3. The entire issue of HaShem acting "on a whim" even punitively, is embodied in :ברכות ז, in the שיטה of R'Meir: 'וחנותי את אשר אחן אע"פ שאינו הגון וכו and the implied converse, which is, after all the topic of the sugyah. See the explanation of the [מלבי"ם [חידושים על הש"ס who presents an explanation based on the [apparent] conflict between mazal and mishpat. Ultimately, HaShem's hanhaga is based on the overall infinite blueprint for creation, and so we have יסורין של אהבה and the like, which appear to be erratic and "whimsical", but are actually applied with absolute justice from the overall and ultimate perspective of reality which is beyond us.

    1. maybe the world of original din/"absolute justice", that became a world where justice is an issue and an ideal, was itself born of Whimsy*, of whimsical Will?**

      *if Hashem were called 'Weirdo' (He is not), it would account for everything... ... ...

      *He cast lots...(Yeshayahu 34:17)-- He decided to create our world from Self-applied (reflexive) "mazal"; and [then] His hand a line (34:17)-- with "mishpat", through the kav that followed tzimtzum (premeasured shatterings of keilim included)

      **two worlds: Bereishis perek 1, a Monologue to man. period. perek 2, a Dialogue wherein man may talk back to G-d, and back talk*** Him too. {in after days, will our mouths be silent (silenced?), or filled with laughter?}

      ***but not talk behind his back, b'emes {or did Moshe, alone among men, have the option, once, to do so (33:23)?}

    2. I've told people that Hashem's cheshbonos are so complex, and involve so many dimensions that we cannot be aware of, that the resultant actions are, to us, indistinguishable from random.