Tuesday, March 17, 2020

rav chessed

I don't even know where to begin in terms of thinking about the mess we are currently in.  This is more an exercise in trying to wrap my brain around something that makes sense than anything else. 
The Netziv on last week’s parsha comments that when we say Hashem is “rav chessed v’emes,” the vav hachibur means that “rav” modifies both terms –- Hashem is both “rav chessed” and “rav emes.”  Meaning, when a person appears before a judge, the judge may say that while it’s true/emes that the law says that for crime X the punishment is Y, he will be merciful and give a lesser punishment.  Or the judge may refuse to hear any grounds for leniency -– no chessed –- and instead, dispense exactly the punishment on the books.  It's either or: either you get the letter of the law, or the law goes out the window and you get mercy in its place.  Hashem somehow –- and this is beyond our human capacity to understand –- shows both an abundance of mercy, he is “rav chessed,” and at the same time, does not deviate one iota from being “rav emes,” from dispensing exactly what the letter of the law requires (see post here.)
It is always nice when we see  b’isgalya the “rav chessed” and the “rav emes” is somehow behind the scenes where we don’t pay attention to it.  But sometimes “rav emes” is b’isgalya; we become painfully aware of the midas ha’din.  At times like these the challenge is to remember that there is always “rav chessed” b’itkasya operating behind the scenes at exactly the same time.
There is one thing everyone wants during this crises: for things to back to the way they were.  I leave it to the big gedolim to figure out what we are supposed to take away from this whole situation, but I don't think you need to be an adam gadol to say that the one thing Hashem ***doesn’t*** want is for things to go back to the way they were.  Were that to be the case, or should we make that the case, then this whole crises would be a meaningless exercise in futility and pointless suffering.  It seems to me to be a davar pashut that if something like this happens, it means change is needed.  What needs  to change and how to bring it about is where cheshbon ha'nefesh is needed.

Everyone is talking about the need for tefilah, so let me say something about it too:  We had in last week's parsha “v’chanosi es asher a’chon v’richamti es asher a’racheim.”  The gemara (Brachos 7) darshens on both of these phrases that Hashem will have rachamanus and show chanina “af al pi she’aino hagun,” even if the person does not deserve it.  Is there anything we need more at this time?  How can we be zocheh to that?
Seforno asks, Netziv asks: why does the pasuk use the double-language?  Why both “chanosi” and richamti?”  Tiferes Shlomo answers that the pasuk is speaking about two different people.  If you cry out to me, says Hashem, not for your own problems, not because you are in pain, but you cry out for your neighbor who is suffering, for your community, for others in your city, then “v’chanosi…,” I will take care of your own burdens even if you don’t deserve it.  And not only will I take care of you, says Hashem, but “v’richamti” as well on those for whom you are davening, even if they don’t deserve it either.

The Tiferes Shlomo teaches the same idea on our parsha as well.  The keruvim are "porsei k'nafayim," they have outstretched wings,  "u'pnei'hem ish el achiv," and they face each other.  The Radomsker writes that "porsei k'nafayim" is an allusion to tefilah, like the pasuk of "u'b'parischem kapeichem..." (Yishayahu 15).  Davening has to be done "pneihem ish el achiv," with an eye towards what a chaveir needs.  Put in a good word for someone else.

The Zohar famously looks askance on someone who uses tefilah simply as an opportunity to present Hashem with a laundry list of their needs -- someone who uses tefilah to become a “taker.”  When someone uses tefilah, however, to present Hashem with someone else’s needs, then they are in effect a “giver,” as they are interested in helping others. 
So don't just daven -- daven for others.  A tefilah of chessed is, it seems, a very good way to be zocheh to again see "rav chessed" openly.

1 comment:

  1. "If you cry out...for others...I will take care of your own burdens...[a]nd...[relieve] those for whom you are davening"

    shouldn't the order be reversed-- He will help those undeserving souls for whom Ploni pleads, and help poor Ploni too as a bonus for his social concern?

    Hashem says 'what can I do? this golem* cries out for everyone else; as the chacham's Chacham, I must answer as seichel** would have it!'

    *Avos 5:9, rishon rishon, acharon acharon

    **as for the wiseguy who puts others first only for the follow-up to himself, Hashem says 'mitoch shelo lishmah ba lishmah; there's a golem in him yet...'

    --the G-d's virus accesses the nucleus, or heart, of its host cell, converting that cell to a golem of darkness, as can only replicate horror ["A tefilah of chessed is...very good", end note]