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Rabbi Elimelech Biderman shlit"a on Parashat Vaetchanan - Part 2

Mitigating the Din

There is a formula that turns around all difficulties and troubles so they become good. The formula is to combine din with chesed. The difficult situation is din, harsh justice. When one believes everything is chesed and ultimately for the good, this combines chesed with din. This combination mitigates the din, the problems are resolved, and everything becomes good. The Gemara (Shabbos 119) hints to this idea when it says, “Whoever says ויכולו [in Kiddush] with a כוס, cup, it is as though he became a partner with Hashem in Creation.” The Bas Ayin (Emor) explains that ויכולו is gematriya 72, the same as חסד, kindness. כוס is gemitriya 86, the same as אלקים, Hashem’s name for harsh justice, din. When one says ויכולו on a כוס, which means he recognizes that even din is chesed, he has combined chesed with din and made everything good.

Hashem initially wanted to create the world with the attribute of strict justice. He saw that the world won’t be able to exist like that, so he combined it with compassion. Therefore, one who says ויכולו על הכוס, is doing what Hashem performed by Creation. He is combining strict justice with compassion, and is thus a partner with Hashem in Creation. The Gemara (Eiruvin 54.) states that when one has physical pain he should learn Torah and he will be healed. We can explain this based on the Vilna Gaon’s commentary on Mishlei (22:19). The Vilna Gaon teaches: “Hashem gave the Torah to Yisrael, primarily so they will trust in Hashem.” The segulah of studying Torah and keeping the mitzvos is that they increase and enhance our emunah and bitachon in Hashem. We now understand how learning Torah leads to healing. Learning Torah increases emunah and bitachon, and that cures. The Tiferes Shlomo zt’l said that saying the prayer, written by the Or LaShamayim zt’l, is suited for parnassah. (The Tiferes Shlomo would say this prayer twice daily.) It is surprising that this prayer is suited for parnassah, as parnassah isn’t mentioned even once in this prayer. The explanation is, this prayer is about being aware that everything happens by Hashem’s Divine Providence: “Master of the World I know I am in your hands like matter in the craftsman’s hands…” And having faith and trust is suited for parnassah. Hashem sometimes mitigates problems by working around them. For example, if a person must lose one thousand dollars, and that decree can’t be changed, Hakadosh Baruch Hu may send him $100,000. The person will still lose a thousand dollars, but now it won’t bother him so much. Similarly, it states (Psalms 91:11-12), “Hashem will send His angels to protect you on all your travels. They will lift you on their hands, lest you hurt your feet on a stone.” One can ask, why do the angels carry him above the stones? They can simply remove the stones from his path. The answer is, everything is by Hashem’s Divine Providence. Even where a stone lies is part of Hashem’s plan, and sometimes it can’t be moved. The solution is to raise the person above the stones.

Similar wonders happen to people to protect them from distress and suffering, but there is one condition. The condition is to rely on Hashem. One must say, “You are my refuge” (as stated in this chapter, Psalms 91:9) and then Hashem will help him. The Metzudas Dovid writes, “When you say, ‘Hashem is my refuge…and you trust in Him…no bad will befall you…” This abridged verse hints that Hashem isn’t asking very much from us. You can say the abridged verse, “Hashem is my refuge,” that’s all that’s needed and Hashem will save you from all bad. It is the small things that make all the difference. It takes a moment to think, “Hashem is my refuge. I can rely on Him,” and it will be so. Rebbe Moshe of Kobrin zt’l taught that exile גולה, becomes redemption גאולה, when an א is added. When one believes that Hashem is with him in exile this turns exile into redemption. It isn't hard to say 'Hashem is my refuge,' or to remember that Hashem is with us in exile, and such thoughts changes the exile to be redemption, and removes all problems.

Wedding Dowry

Once, a shidduch was almost finalized, but there was a problem, as the girl’s father said he doesn’t agree to the shidduch before the boy’s father promises four hundred liras to the couple as a dowry. The boy’s father wasn’t certain he could afford it. The father spoke about his dilemma with Reb Chaim Brim zt’l. Reb Chaim Brim said, “Let’s ask the Chazon Ish together.” The father explained to the Chazon Ish that he is afraid he might not be able to keep this promise. The Chazon Ish zt’l replied, “We see that if one tries, Hashem helps.” The Chazon Ish asked for his name, so he could pray for him. The end of the story was that the father was able to pay up the entire sum without any hardships at all (Maaseh Ish, vol.2 p.160).

Once, two in-laws came to the Chazon Ish zt’l. Each of them argued that the other one should pay the lion's share of their children’s upcoming. When they left, the Chazon Ish said to his relative, Reb Shemaryahu Greineman zt’l, “Do you know what they were arguing about? They were debating who should get Hashem’s brachos. Each one said the other one should receive Hashem’s brachos…” (Because Hashem will help the one obligated to pay.)

Someone came to Reb Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt’l and said, “My daughter was recently engaged for marriage. But I discovered that the boy was deathly ill with a serious disease when he was a child.” “So what’s your question?” Reb Shlomo Zalman asked. “Do you want to break off the shidduch?” “No. Doctors say 99% the illness won’t return.” “So what’s your question? The doctors say the illness probably won’t come back, and you say you don’t want to annul the shidduch, so what’s the problem?” “It’s about the money. I promised a lot of money to the couple. If I knew the boy had an illness with a 1% chance of returning I wouldn’t promise so much money.” Reb Shlomo Zalman considered this to be very crooked. Uncharacteristically, Reb Shlomo Zalman took a broom, used it in a sweeping motion, and, “Get out of my house! Get out of my house!” Reb Shlomo Zalman, with his correct perception of right and wrong, couldn’t bear to hear this person’s plea.

Shema Yisrael

The Gemara (Chulin 91:) states, “Klal Yisrael are greater than angels…because Klal Yisrael say Hashem’s name after two words, as it ברוך אתה ה, Blessed are you Hashem (in Hebrew, Hashem is the third word), and the angels say Hashem’s name after three words, as it states, קדוש קדוש קדוש ה, Holy Holy Holy Hashem...” Rebbe Shlomo of Bobov zt’l (grandson of the Divrei Chaim zt’l) said that he was taught an explanation on this Gemara in a dream: We say Hashem’s name after two words. As we say, שמע ישראל ה. We say Hashem’s name after two words in blessings, for we say ברוך אתה ה. All of these are hinted at in the blessing of אהבה רבה said before Shema: “Our King brought us close to Him” closer than the angels, this is seen by when we say Hashem’s name. For the angels say Hashem’s name after three words, and we say Hashem’s name after two words.

אחד (One) is gematriya 13. אחד is written 13 times in Genesis, and אחד is written 13 times in Va'eschanan. The Rabbeinu b'Chaya writes that this indicates that the reward for saying the Shema is (1) Gan Eden and (2) to be saved from the fire of Hell. Another benefit gained by saying Shema is the destruction of Esav. It states (Ovadyah 1:18), Esav’s house [will be consumed in fire] like straw. When Klal Yisrael says Shema properly, Esav (the gentile nations that provoke us) will be destroyed and disintegrated like straw in a fire.

Shulchan Aruch (61:26) states, "Some say the Shema out loud; others say it silently. Regardless, the first verse should be said out loud, and that is the custom." In contrast, Shemonah Esrei is said in silence. Why is Shemonah Esrei different than Shema? We can explain this by means of an analogy: When one pleads to a king, entreating him for his needs, he doesn’t raise his voice. He speaks in soft, beseeching tones. But when a thief enters one's house, the owner shouts and hollers so the thief will run away. When we say Shemonah Esrei we are pleading to Hashem for wisdom, teshuvah, salvations, refuah, parnassah, and so on, and one pleads softly. When we say Shema, we proclaim Hashem is King. At this same time we shout at the yetzer hara, "Why do you lure me to sin? There is only Hashem in the world! Don’t cause me to forget Hashem!" Therefore, it should be said out loud.

A Torah student was once traversing a forest and was accosted by a thief. The student pleaded for his life, begging for mercy, but the thief didn’t care. However, the thief did grant him a final wish. The Torah student said he wants to say Shema. He closed his eyes and said Shema with total concentration. When he reached the words ה אלקיכם אמת, he opened his eyes and the thief wasn’t there. Relieved and joyous, he ran out of the forest and went to his Rebbe, Reb Yehudah Asad zt'l. The student asked, "Why did this happen to me?" Reb Yehudah Asad asked him, "Did you ever say kriyas Shema like that before?" The student said that he hadn't. "That's your answer. Heaven was showing you how kriyas Shema should be said. Now that you know, say it that way every day."

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