Rabbi Elimelech Biderman - Torah Wellsprings - Matot-Masei
People think that what happens to them is the result of their travels. They say that since they traveled to such-and-such, and met with so-and-so, this and that happened to them. They attribute what happened to them, to where they went. Actually, because those things had to happen to them, it was destined for them to be in those places. As the Beis HaLevi said to someone who lost a lot of money in an investment, "It isn't because you invested in there that you lost money. It's because you had to lose money, that you thought to invest in there."
The Baal Shem Tov zt'l taught that every Jew goes through forty-two in his lifetime (Degel Macheneh Efraim, Matos).
Rebbe Dovid of Lelov zt'l said that in the future everything that happened to a person will be explained to him; all his travels, and the reasons they had to be. Everything will be explained well. And then he will laugh that he was so concerned all the time, because then he will see that everything was only for his favor.
Rebbe Boruch of Mezhibuz zt'l taught, “who is wise will wait patiently until he understands the reason behind everything that happened to him.” “Then he will know that everything was Hashem's kindness” (Tehillim 107:43).
There are circumstances in life that seem negative, and sometimes we feel that someone is trying to bury us alive, but ultimately we grow from all those hardships, as everything is planned soley for our benefit.
Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin zt'l explains, "One should never feel that the place where he is isn't good." Hashem arranged for you to be in that place and under those circumstances because He wants you to serve Him particularly from there. Recognize that the place you’re at is a good place.
There was a loyal servant, who loved the king and yearned to serve him. When the king asked him to travel to a certain country to run some errand for him over there, this servant was overjoyed and began getting ready for the voyage. But just as he came to the port, he saw the ship pulling out. He had come too late. He shouted to the sailors, "Come back. I want to go too.” He watched in agony, as the ship sailed away. "When will the next ship leave for that country?" he asked the porters. "There won't be another boat for at least a half year.” The loyal servant will now have travel to that country by horseback, by camel, by walking, and by any other means necessary, so he could fulfill his mission. It would be a long arduous trip, he realized. And the worst part was his remorse for not having arrived at the port on time so he would reach his destination easily and quickly. He calculated that it would take him three months until he reaches that country. Throughout this long period of time, he will feel that he isn't really serving the king; he’s just correcting an error Had the the servant known that the king initially asked the ship to leave early so that the servant would have to travel by foot, by camel, and by horseback, etc., and not by ship, the servant would rejoice with every step of his way, because he would know that he’s doing exactly what the king desires. The nimshal of this story is to recognize that also the hardships are destined by Hashem, and are part of the mission Hashem gave us. When we know that, we are happy even with those hardships, because with them we serve Hashem. They are not negative, and they are not deterrents from Hashem’s service. It is Hashem’s will that we serve Him amidst those trying situations. They are the essence of Hashem’s will.
The Mishnah (Makos 11) states, "The mothers of the cohanim gedolim would supply food and clothing [to the people in arei miklat] so the residents of arei miklat shouldn’t pray that their children die." Those who kill by accident must remain in arei miklat until the cohen gadol dies. Therefore, they might pray for the cohen gadol's demise, so they could go free. To prevent them from saying such prayers, the mother of the cohen gadol would give them food and clothing, so they would feel content living in arei miklat, and they wouldn’t pray for her son's death. The question is, arei miklat is like a prison. The murderers are forbidden to take one step out of the arei miklat. Was the food and clothing that the cohen gadol's mother sent them sufficient, that they weren't interested in leaving anymore? Wouldn’t they still pray for the cohen gadol's death? Furthermore, why was the cohen gadol's mother so afraid of their tefillos? Apparently, these unintentional murderers weren't the greatest tzaddikim, as they have this grave sin on their shoulders. The answer is, when one prays with all his heart, his prayers are effective. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you pray with all your heart, the tefillos bear fruit. The cohen gadol's mother was aware of that, and therefore afraid of their tefillos. So she would supply them with food and clothing. The people in arei miklat still wanted to leave, but the food and clothing made living there a drop more bearable. Now, even if they pray for the cohen gadol to die, they won't daven with a complete heart.
The Gemara (Yoma 53:) states that when the cohen gadol was in the Kodesh Kadashim on Yom Kippur, he would pray, and one of his prayers was that Hashem shouldn’t listen to the tefillos of travelers when they daven that it shouldn’t rain. Why was this prayer so important? Why did it have to be said in the Kodesh Kadashim, on Yom Kippur, by the cohen gadol no less? It's because when one travels, and it begins to rain, he feels helpless (especially if his merchandise is getting ruined) and he knows that he has nowhere to turn but to Hashem. Therefore his prayers are very powerful. Only the prayers of the cohen gadol on Yom Kippur, in the Kodesh Kadashim, could prevent those prayers from being answered. Because when one knows that no one can help other than Hashem, he places all his heart into the tefillah, and he prays sincerely.
Reb Eliyashav's mother was childless for several years after her marriage. She and her husband, Reb Avraham, traveled a distance of two weeks to the medical center in Vienna to find a remedy, so they could bear children. But the doctors told her, "There's nothing we can do." Her hopes were shattered. But she was strong and she didn’t cry on her trip home. She didn’t want to make a scene in front of strangers. When she came home to Humla, she went to the silo where she could be alone, and she cried copiously. Then she went home. Her father (author of Leshem) saw that her eyes were red. He asked her about that. She gave an excuse, but her father wanted to know the real reason. She admitted that the doctors didn’t find a solution for her. She held back from crying for two weeks and now she poured her tears out. The Leshem told her, "It states (Tehillim 145:18), Hashem is close to those who pray to Hashem with truth. How does one pray to Hashem truthfully? When one is in a situation like yours, and knows that there's nowhere to turn to, other than to Hashem, that is a true prayer. At these times, Hashem is close and listens to your prayers…" A year later, she gave birth to Reb Eliyashav zt'l, who enlightened the world with his Torah.
When one prays for a healing, he often thinks perhaps a doctor will help me. He doesn’t feel totally reliant on Hashem, and he doesn’t pray with full concentration. But when one knows that only Hashem can help, that is when you pray with all your heart; that is when you say a perfect prayer; and such prayers bring about wonders.
Psalms (107) discusses four categories of people who pray at a time of distress, and Hashem saves them. They are: People lost in a desert; those traveling in a stormy sea; the ill; the imprisoned. The Malbim (107:6) takes an analytical look at these verses and shows differences between the people who were lost in a desert or who were at sea in contrast to the people who are ill or who are imprisoned. About those who crossed a desert, and those who sailed a stormy sea, the verse states, they shouted to Hashem, which represents a heartfelt, intense prayer. The result was, Hashem saved them. Whereas, for the ill and for the imprisoned, the verse states that they also shouted to Hashem, but it isn't as a profound prayer. The result was also a lesser salvation, as it states, Hashem saved them, but it wasn't a full salvation. We can explain that when people are thirsty, and lost in a desert, and similarly people at sea in the midst of a storm that threatens to throw them into the ocean, they know that no one can save them other than Hashem. Where should they turn to, if not to Hashem? That prayer is therefore profound and powerful and the result is a complete salvation. However, those who are ill pray, but they also trust that medicine and doctors might help them. Similarly, people in jail think that a good lawyer or a compassionate judge might help them win their freedom. Their prayers are on the level of a lower type of salvation than those lost in the desert or traveling in a stormy sea.
Siddur Rokeiach writes, "From the time the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, Hakadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t give goodness to Bnei Yisrael without prayer."
There was once a wealthy couple who didn’t have children. The husband sent his wife to Rebbe Meir of Permishlan zt'l, to ask him for a blessing for children. He told her to tell the Rebbe that he even agrees to become poor, if that's what's needed, as long as they can have children. When the woman came to the Rebbe, she stumbled on her words, and she said, "My husband said that he agrees to remain wealthy, as long as we can have children." The Rebbe laughed, as he understood her mistake, and he said that she had spoken correctly. Because why should one limit Hashem's abilities? Hashem is able to give both: children and wealth too.
The Gemara says that prayer stands in the highest places in the world, but people don’t respect it. My father zt'l, explained that although people believe in prayer, and they cherish prayer, but to some extent they don’t believe that their prayers are effective, and therefore they don’t put enough effort into their prayers.
This lesson is also alluded to in the following Gemara (Brachos 5), which says, "One should always battle with the yetzer hara. If he succeeds, all is well. If not, he should learn Torah… If he succeeds, it is good. If he fails [and the yetzer hara is still overcoming him] he should read Shema. If this also doesn’t work, he should remind himself of the day of death." For kriyas Shema is a place of refuge, where we can be protected from the yetzer hara.
When someone murders someone by accident, he must go to exile, to one of the city of refuge, and he must remain there until the cohen gadol dies, for that's when he attains his atonement. Some will be in city of refuge for a long time, while others will be there for maybe just a day or two, depending on when the cohen gadol dies, after they are convicted.
The Noam Megadim writes in the name of the Mishnas Chasidim (I Shmuel 20:26) if someone says that matters happened by chance, that person is impure. He lacks the fundamental awareness that everything is planned by Hashem.
The Sefer Chasidim (186) states, "There are people who live solely because of others who benefit from him." Heaven keeps him alive, because people need him.
There was a man who cared for his ill daughter day and night. A month after his daughter passed away, the father passed away. Reb Yisrael Salanter zt'l said, "We thought that the father was supporting his daughter, but now we see that she was supporting him." Because he was granted life so he could care for her.
It states (Psalms121:5), Hashem is your shadow," and Chazal explain, just as a shadow mimics the movements of man, similarly, Hashem is your shadow, and Hashem as it were mimics a Jew's behavior. Therefore, if you will do kind deeds to others, Hashem will do kind deeds for you.
The holy books advise that if one is going through a hard time, he should do kindness with others. That will arouse Hashem's kindness on him, and he can be saved from his problem.
The Arvei Nachal explains that Yosef helped the sar haMashkim, purpose being to arouse Hashem’s compassion. He purposely acted with compassion with others, so Hashem would act kindly and compassionately with him. Mordechai and Esther would do kindness with one another, and therefore Hashem did kindness with them and with the entire nation. For Hashem is your shadow, and just as you act, that’s how Hashem treats you.
Chazal (Bereishis Rabba 38:6) state on the verse (Hosheia 4:17) even if the Jewish nation worship idols but they are united, Hashem doesn’t punish them.” Whereas, (Hosheia 10:2) if they are divided, [they will be punished]. This also occurs for individuals. If two people befriend each other with perfect love…until each one doesn’t consider his own benefits, only the benefit of the other, this creates a similar reaction from Hashem. Hashem, as it were , will leave all His “obligations”, and think, 'How can I bestow goodness for these people?' Chazal teach this from the verse, 'Hashem is your shadow,' for how man acts, that's how Hashem acts with him. However, when people aren't united with perfect love – even if they don’t hate each other, but each person is only thinking about himself and he doesn’t strive to help his fellow man – Hashem will similarly not seek their benefit, G-d forbid. Therefore, whenever a person is going through a hard time, G-d forbid, he is recommended to befriend someone, or to befriend many people… Hakadosh Baruch Hu will [in turn] seek to do goodness with them, and he will be saved. This is what happened to Mordechai and Esther. Mordechai didn’t think about what he could gain, only what will be good for Esther. Therefore, when he heard Bigson and Sheresh's plot, and knowing that whoever saves the king from death will be immensely honored, he told Esther about it [so Esther would be rewarded]. Esther, however, only wanted to do kindness with Mordechai, and therefore she told Achashveirosh in Mordechai's name. Therefore Hashem saved them, and the entire Jewish nation. This is the Alshich's interpretation… Now, behold, Yosef was in distress [for he was in prison. He sought to fix his problem by befriending someone. However, since he was in Mitzrayim, where they were all resha'im…baalei gaavah and baalei taavah he didn’t have anyone to befriend. So he chose the best person he could find under the circumstances. He saw that the sar hamashkim was also in a great sorrow, as his life was in danger, and he was very humbled [by what happened to him], and his gaavah left him. And [one day] Yosef saw them sad, and he considered it an opportune time to befriend them [and to help them]. They would be saved, and also he would be saved…" In conclusion, help others and Hashem will help you. This happened to Yosef HaTzaddik, and to Mordechai and Esther (and to the entire nation in their merit) and this happens to each individual when he cares about someone else, and strives to help them. So seek opportunities to do chessed; you will only gain.