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Rabbi Elimelech Biderman - Torah Wellsprings - Shoftim

It states (20:1) "When you go to war with your enemy and you see horses and chariots, a nation larger than yours, don’t be afraid…" The Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvah 3:32) writes, "This is telling us that if a person sees some problem approaching in his life, he should be confident with Hashem's salvation…" One should practice thinking, “Hashem will help. Things will work out. Don't be afraid.” The reward for bitachon is immense. In Olam HaBa, we will be immensely rewarded for each time we trusted in Hashem. In addition, bitachon grants us good in this world, as Hashem helps those who trust in Him and He directs them on the right path.

When one is afraid and worried, the worst things can happen, chalilah. In Shemonah Esrei we say, "Those who slander shouldn’t have hope…" Afterwards, the blessing states, "they should be uprooted and broken…" It seems we should begin with those harsher expressions. Why do we begin with stating that they shouldn’t have hope? We can answer that the primary prayer is that they shouldn’t have hope, for when a person loses hope everything bad can befall him.

The Chasam Sofer zt’l (Toras Moshe, Ekev, Shma) explains that Hashem could have made people without needing anything, but then they would never turn to Hashem. The greatest kindness, therefore, are that they lack things. He teaches this lesson on the brachah Borei Nefashos. He writes, “Hakadosh Baruch Hu does a great kindness with His creations to enable them to quench their thirst. But this kindness is because they were created lacking, that they thirst for water. If Hashem would have created them without needing anything, they wouldn’t be thirsty, and they wouldn’t need water. So what is the purpose of this blessing? The truth is, this is the greatest kindness in the creation of man. He was created lacking so he will recognize his Creator, serve Him, and earn both worlds. His lacking is therefore the greatest benefit.

The Sefer Ha'Ikrim explains that the person who has bitachon should be confident that Hashem will certainly help him. You wait, you pray, and you hope for your salvation, and have no doubt that it will come. The Sefer Ha'Ikrim compares this to someone who aspires for morning to come. He’s anticipating something he knows will surely come. So shall we believe that Hashem's salvation will undoubtedly arrive. Otherwise, the Sefer Ha'Ikrim writes, the aspirations and hopes aren't good for us. As it states (Mishlei 13:12), "prolonged waiting creates heartache." It isn't healthy to be always waiting and hoping. It can cause despair. The avodah of bitachon should therefore always come along with confidence that eventually Hashem will surely help you.

The Brisker Rav taught, trust in Hashem and feel joy and pleasure even before the salvation comes because you are certain that Hashem will help you, and in the merit of your high level of bitachon, Hashem will grant you all your heart’s desires.

One shouldn’t think that only tzaddikim can trust in Hashem, but how can a person who has many sins trust in Hashem? Perhaps Hashem doesn’t want to give him His kindness? The Chofetz Chaim proves that bitachon isn’t solely for the tzaddikim from the verse (Tehillim 33:18): "Hashem's eyes [and providence] are on those who fear Him; for those who trust in His kindness." The verse states that Hashem’s providence is on two categories of people: (1) Those who fear Him, (2) Those who trust in Him. The second group doesn’t yet fear Hashem, but Hashem will nevertheless watch over them because they have bitachon.

Having bitachon is a praise for Hashem, as bitachon means that you trust in Hashem's strength, compassion and kindness. This is alluded to in the verse (Tehillim 71:14), "I will always trust in You and I will add onto all your praise." This hints that trusting in Hashem is greater than all praises.

It states (Tehillim 65), for You, silence is praise. This can mean when one silently turns to Hashem, that is to praise Hashem. Bitachon is as though you vowed and brought a sacrifice.

Someone goes over to his friend and says, "Can you watch a bag of precious gems for me?" He doesn’t agree. No one would. Who would want to take on this responsibility? Why should one risk being responsible for so much wealth? But if someone tosses the bag at his friend and as he quickly runs away, he says, “Watch this for me. I’m rushing to catch the train,” his friend will guard the bag of precious gems for him. What else can he do? Similarly, the verse is implying that when one flings his bag of worries onto Hashem and he doesn’t leave himself with even the smallest worry, it is certain that Hashem will take care of him.

On that topic, we share the following story: A person came to his rav and said, "I have recently become a doctor, but no one is coming to my office. I keep waiting in my empty office, wondering why I chose this profession…" The rav advised that when someone calls to make an appointment, he should say that there are no appointments available, and he can only see them in a few weeks. “People will think you are a busy, sought after doctor, they will tell others, and eventually, you will become a popular doctor.” The plan worked; many people began coming to him. One day, the rav wasn't feeling good. He remembered he has a student, a doctor, so he called him to make an appointment. The doctor told him the next available appointment is in six months. The rav said, "Are you going to pull that trick on me too? Don’t forget who made you famous." The nimshal is Hashem gives a person wealth and success; the person becomes busy and he doesn’t have time to go to the study hall to pray and to learn. Hashem says, "Don't you have time for Me? Don’t you remember who made you so busy?"

Temimus means being at peace with everything that happens to you because you believe that everything is exactly as it should be. And those who take this outlook, they are with Hashem. As Rashi writes, "then you will be with Hashem and His lot."

The Divrei Yisrael zt’l describes the essence of temimus: A child doesn’t worry about the future. He trusts in his parent's abilities and compassion. This is as how one should trust in Hashem. As Dovid HaMelech says (Tehillim 131), “I silenced my soul like a child who nurses from his mother.”

A child builds a castle from Lego, and then someone comes along and breaks it, bringing the child to tears. A thirteen-year-old bachur laughs at the child for crying over such foolishness. But that bachur has his set of problems. He is upset and crying because his mashgiach rebuked him. An older bachur sees how the younger bachur is upset at his clash with his mashgiach, and he laughs at that problem, because he has far greater problems to deal with. He is in shidduchim, and a shidduch he was hoping for fell through, and he is very upset about that. A yungerman sees the older bachur upset that he lost a shidduch, and he thinks to himself, "Is that a reason to be upset? One shidduch doesn’t go through, the next one will. But I have a family to support. He has no idea about the struggles of shalom bayis, chinuch habanim, parnassah that yungerleit deal with on a daily basis. He doesn’t know what true problems are. Someone older sees this yungerman bemoaning his fate, worried about his parnassah, etc., and he laughs at those sufferings, because he claims that he is going through much harder times. He is in the midst of marrying off his children, and he has to pay large sums of money each year. David HaMelech says, "Hashem, how many are my hardships. I know what troubles are, because I've been through all types. Therefore, if I say that I have a problem, you can be certain that the problem is very great. Nevertheless, even in those circumstances, Hashem will help him.”

Many people think it is impossible for them to do teshuvah, because they know how hard it is to change. Therefore, we must inform them that Hashem helps us with our teshuvah. Our abilities are definitely limited, but if we try, Hashem will help us, and Hashem can do anything. Change is therefore very possible.

The Torah says, "When you go out to war on your enemy, and you see horses, chariots, a nation that is greater than yours, don’t be afraid of them, because Hashem your G-d is with you…" (Devarim 20:1). The Or HaChaim explains that the verse is alluding to the greatest war of all – the war against the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara is stronger than people because, (1) He has more experience in “the great battle” (2) Human nature desires those things the yetzer hara is selling us, (3) after a person commits many sins, the yetzer hara becomes even stronger than before. With these factors working against us, it seems we will never succeed overcoming the yetzer hara. The verse however tells us not to worry. When you go out to war against the yetzer hara, the horse represents the yetzer hara who is trained in warfare, the human body desires sin and forbidden pleasures. The strength of the yetzer hara has increased, since the person listened to him so many times in the past. Taking into account all of the above, how can one change his ways? The answer is, don’t be afraid, Hashem is with you and He will help you. The Or HaChaim writes, "It is true that if you would be battling with your own power, you don’t have strength to win this war, but since Hashem is with you, His great strength will save you.”

Rebbe Mottele Slonimer zy'a writes (Maamar Mordechai p.342): Two tzaddikim made a pact that whoever dies first would come tell his friend in a dream what happened to him in his judgment. One of them was niftar, and soon afterwards came to his friend in a dream. He said, "When the court reviewed my deeds, they saw that everything was perfect. But I had one sin, the sin of shochad (taking bribes). Once, while serving as av beis din, one of the parties placed money into my pocket without me knowing. For this, I was told that I would need to go to Gehinom. I told the court that I don’t want to go there, so they brought me to a very large building, gave me a small hammer, and said, 'Demolish this building with the hammer. When you finish, you will go to Gan Eden.' "I was devastated. It seemed that I would take many years before I succeed in demolishing this great edifice. It was a very large, sturdy building and I only had a small hammer to work with. "But then I thought: ‘Why did I wear tallis and tefillin every day during my lifetime? Why did I study Torah and keep the mitzvos? It was because I wanted to do Hashem's will? Right now, it’s Hashem's will to destroy this large building with this hammer. So I will do it with joy — even if it takes many years.’ With a joyous heart, I raised the hammer and swung it at building with all my might. The entire building collapsed, and I was swiftly brought to my place in Gan Eden." This story reminds us that sometimes a deed seems very difficult, but if you set yourself to doing it, you see that it wasn’t so hard. Similarly, doing teshuvah sometimes seems impossible, but if you try, and Hashem helps you, you will attain your goals much quicker than imagined.

The difficulties related to change are only at the beginning. As Chazal tell us, "all beginnings are hard." Eventually, your new behaviors become second nature and easy to perform.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (1:4) writes, "After a person practices [getting up early] four or five times, it will not be hard for him [because] when one desires to be pure, he is helped [from Above]." Similarly, all bad habits can be overcome with practice.

On Shabbos, at Minchah, we read the parashah of the upcoming week, but we don’t finish it. On Monday and Thursday, we start reading the parashah again, but both times we don’t finish it. And then, on Shabbos we begin the parashah a fourth time, and this time we complete it. This teaches us to keep on trying. If at first one doesn’t succeed, try again, in the end you will succeed.

On the verse, the Kedushas Levi writes, "Hakadosh Baruch Hu judges the Jewish nation on the day of the great judgment [Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur] with compassion and kindness. But we, below, must arouse these attributes. How can we arouse the attribute of compassion in heaven? When we, from below…judge every Jew favorably, this will arouse that attribute…and Hashem will judge all Jews favorably." The judgment Above, was given into your hands, because Heaven mirrors how you judge others. The Torah therefore urges us to judge everyone favorably, and then you, and the entire Jewish nation, will be judged favorably on Rosh Hashanah.

One way to be acquitted in judgment and earn a good year is by turning yourself into a public person; someone devoted to helping others. Reb Yisrael Salanter zt'l explained this with a parable: There was this luxurious hotel; only the very wealthy could afford to go there. Even they would only go for a weekend, or for a few days. No one stayed longer; it was simply too expensive. Once, a wealthy person decided to splurge and go to this hotel. He met another person at the hotel, someone he knew from years back, and was surprised that he had become so wealthy that he could afford a stay at this hotel. After making small-talk, he asked, "When did you come, and when are you planning to leave?" "I've been here for twelve years now, and I'm not planning on leaving." "How could that be?" the wealthy person asked him. "How can you afford it?" "I'm the janitor," the man replied. The message is that when one is 'working here,' he can remain around longer. The judgment of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is awesome and fearful. For some the heavenly court will decree life, and for others… For some, the celestial court will decree wealth and tranquility; others will not fare as well. But if a person dedicates himself to helping others, Heaven will judge him favorably for their sake. Hashem wants him to remain in this world, and to have all his provisions, so he can continue devoting himself to doing kindness for others. The Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvah, 3:13) teaches, "There are mitzvos in the Torah that most people aren't careful with them…. [One] is gemilus chasadim. It is a mitzvah from the Torah… Chazal say, the world stands on three pillars, Torah, avodah, and gemilus chasadim… This mitzvah is among the severest and most fundamental principles that Hashem requests from mankind. As it says, 'What does Hashem ask from you? Only to do justice, and to love chessed' (Michah 6)."Think about the forms of chessed you are particularly talented in, and consider increasing them. Doing chessed isn't always very difficult. Often, a few kind words and a bright smile can do wonders for your fellow man.

Rebbe Tzaddok HaCohen zy'a explains these ideas in a rational manner: It is known that a person's stamina is influenced by his mood. When a person is happy, he has more energy. Therefore, when a person leaves a city, it is important to give him food and to walk with him part of the way, as this shows that people care about him. Now, should he be attacked, he will have the fortitude to escape or to fight back. If the people of the city didn’t supply food and escorting, they will be held responsible for his death, because the melancholy feelings he had when he left the city ultimately brought on his death. When thieves or murderers met with him, he didn’t have sufficient courage to fight them off. We should learn from this the importance of giving encouragement to our fellow man. Many people are suffering silently and we will have an immense mitzvah to give them joy. A small gesture like a smile and a few kind words, tell the person that he isn't alone. It lends encouragement. Now he is empowered to face the challenges of life. Most mankind often conceal their feelings. How can we know who is suffering so we can cheer them up? The answer to this question, Rebbe Tzadok HaCohen says, is found in the laws of eglah arufah: The city closest to the corpse brings the eglah arufah. Sometimes, the corpse is found exactly between two cities and it is hard to determine which city is the closest. When this occurs, the beis din of Yerushalayim measures the distances, and determines which city is closer. The Mishnah (Sotah 45:) states three opinions how to measure: "Reb Eliezer says they measure from the stomach. Reb Akiva says they measure from the nose. Reb Eliezer ben Azarya says they measure from the throat." Reb Tzaddok HaCohen explains: Reb Eliezer ben Azarya says that we measure from the throat, because one can know what his fellow man is going through by what he says. Reb Akiva says that he is measured from the nose, because many people conceal what they are going through, but if you look closely at the person's nose, you will see it turned down. Reb Eliezer said that we measure from the stomach. Because there are people who keep everything bottled up in their stomachs, and there is no sign that they are going through hard times. We should therefore bring happiness to everyone, for one can never know who is in need for a kind word and encouragement. As it states in Pirkei Avos, "Greet every person with happiness" (Avos 3:12) because you can never know who needs it.

Reb Yisrael Salanter zy'a taught that someone who goes around with a sour face will be held accountable for all the people who become distressed because of him. Reb Yisrael calls him a pit in a public domain. He is damaging others, causing them to be sad together with him. By contrast, those who are happy will be rewarded for all the people who become happy as a result.

Mr. and Mrs. S. found a home that was large enough for their needs and in the right location, so they were thinking of buying it. "What about the neighbors?" Mrs. S. asked the seller. "Are they friendly?" "Of course," the seller told them. "You won't have any problems with them. They are all helpful and caring people." "Good, otherwise, I don’t want to buy it." A moving truck brought over all their furniture. As Mrs. S. came to the front door, she saw one of the neighbors glaring at her. She quickly called the original homeowner and said, "Why did you trick us. You said that we'll have good neighbors, but now I see that the neighbors are glaring at us. It is evident that they are upset that we moved here." The original homeowner told her, "Put a smile on your face, and you will see that the neighbors are good." She did this, and this time she saw that the neighbor was smiling back at her. She looked closer, and saw that she was looking into a mirror. When she frowned, the mirror frowned back. When she smiled, the mirror smiled back.

The Tzlach teaches, "Whoever has a synagogue available to pray in, but chooses to pray at home is a bad neighbor. Even if there are ten people in his home and he prays there with a minyan, it still can’t compare to prayer in a synagogue. A synagogue is a mikdash and Hakadosh Baruch Hu resides there. The kedushah of Eretz Yisrael is there. The prayers go up to heaven… The (angel) of chutz le'aretz doesn’t reign there…. When a person enters a synagogue, the yetzer hara departs from him…. When he prays at home, he loses all these benefits."

The Tzlach elaborates, "In galus, the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed and the Shechinah doesn’t have where to be. Nevertheless, Hakadosh

The Tzlach elaborates, "In exile, the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed and the Shechinah doesn’t have where to be. Nevertheless, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, with His immense mercy, left us with a remnant, as it states (Yechezkel 11:16), 'I will be with them in a small sanctuary,' which the Gemara (Megilah 29.) says are the synagogues and study halls. The Shechinah rests in them. Therefore, to speak in a study hall or synagogue is a very severe sin. There isn't a greater rebellion against Hashem's Kingship than to speak idly directly in front of Him, in his abode. He is making the holy air of the study hall impure, just as the Greeks made the altar impure. He is placing an idol on the Mikdash…"

The Mishnah Berurah (56:1) writes, "One must be extremely careful not to speak in the middle of Kaddish or Kedushah. In Misechta Derech Eretz it states that Reb Chama saw…thousands of camels loaded with anger and rage to punish the people who speak during Kaddish and Kedushah… The Sefer Chasidim writes, 'A chassid (a righteous person) saw another chassid after his death, whose face was all green, and asked him about that. The other replied: This happened to me because I would speak during Kaddish and when the chazzan would say Vayichulu (on Friday night). The Matteh Moshe (414) tells of a student who saw his rebbe in his dream, and noticed a mark on his rebbe’s forehead. "Why did this happen to you?" "I spoke during Kaddish."

Reb Yeiva teaches: (Shemos 14:14), Hashem will fight all your battles, but on the condition, that you be silent and don’t speak during prayer. Your power of prayer is dependent on your remaining silent during prayer.

The Chida (Psach Einayim) writes, "Someone who speaks idle talk in the synagogue, it would be better if he didn’t come at all, because he is sinning, and he is causing others to sin. The Satan accuses and says, 'The day is too short for him. He has no other time to speak other than during prayer.' Even to learn Torah while others are praying isn't proper. Their shouts, as they discuss their pilpulim, disturb those who are praying. Although nothing is more important than Torah study, nevertheless, there's a time for learning and there's a time for prayer. Furthermore, the am ha'aratzim in the beis medresh will make a kal vechomer [and they will say, if talmidei chachamim speak, they certainly may] and they won't be silent, not even to hear the shaliach tzibbur…"

The Zohar (Terumuah 131:) states, "Whoever speaks idle talk in the synagogue, woe is to him… He doesn’t have a portion with the G-d of Yisrael, as he is showing that there is no G-d, and that He isn't there [in the study hall]…and that he isn't afraid of Him…"

Reb Chaim Vital zt'l writes, "My teacher (the Arizal) would never speak in synagogue, even when it wasn't in the midst of prayer. The Tanya (Igeres HaKodesh 24) writes, "With permission from Chazal, and in their name, we declare a decree that everyone can keep: to withhold from speaking from when the chazzan begins until the final Kaddish. This is for Shacharis, Minchah, and Arvis. Whoever transgresses purposely and speaks should sit on the ground and ask three people to remove the niduy (ban) that was placed on him from Above. He should repent, and he will be cured…"

Chazal (Bava Kama 60:) state, "If there is a plague in a city, one shouldn’t be alone in a synagogue, because the angel of death stores his tools there." Derech Moshe (on Sefer HaGan) asks, why does the angel of death store his tools specifically in the study hall? It's because the angel of death gets his strength to harm people from those who speak in the study hall."

Shulchan Aruch (124:7) states, "Don't speak idle talk during chazaras hashatz. If he speaks, he is sinning and the sin is too great to be forgiven, and you should shout at him.'"

A wealthy person didn’t have children for several years. He underwent various painful treatments, to no avail. One year, during Selichos, he came to his rebbe and cried about his sorrows, expressing how intensely he desires to bear children, and how hard it is for him and his wife to be barren. The rebbe said, "I understand that you came to me because I am your rebbe. But if I would tell you about a great rebbe whose blessings take effect would you go to him?" "I would." "And if that tzaddik would ask you to do something very difficult to do, in order to merit bearing children, would you agree to do so?" "I would." "How much money are you ready to give?" "Rebbe! I am ready to give away all my money! I'll do anything to bear children." The Rebbe said, "A tzaddik of many years ago has a solution, and if you will follow it, you will be blessed with children. I mean none other than the great tzaddik, the Tosfos Yom Tov zt'l. As is known, during the massacres of 1647-1648 the Tosfos Yom Tov perceived that these tragedies were caused because people were speaking during prayer. He composed a prayer — said in many congregations on Shabbos right after kriyas HaTorah — "Whoever guards his mouth from speaking during prayer…he will merit healthy children, and to raise them to Torah, marriage, and to good deeds…' Since you said that you are prepared to pay any price to have children, I recommend that you follow the Tosfos Yom Tov's counsel, and accept on yourself to never speak during prayer…" He followed this counsel, and a year later, Selichos time, he had a child. He said that holding back from speaking during prayer was more difficult for him than all the treatments he tried until then. It is hard to remain silent when people around you are speaking and they don’t understand the severity of the matter. But he passed the test and in this merit, he bore a child.

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