Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Shoftim 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת שופטים תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Shoftim 5769

Judges and kings
In this week’s parashah we learn of the mitzvah of appointing Shoftim, judges, and subsequently we learn of the mitzvah to appoint a king over the Jewish People. While the function of the judge is to adjudicate rulings between quarreling parties, the function of the king is to rule over the people in a fair but firm manner. The question, however, is why the Torah mentions a reward for the people if they appoint proper judges, whereas there is no mention of any benefit to the people if they appoint a worthy king. To compound this issue, the Radak (Shmuel I 8:5) elaborates on the issue of why HaShem was disturbed when in the times of Shmuel, the Jewish People asked for a king, if the Torah itself lists the appointment of a king as a mitzvah. The Radak suggest that the fault of the people was that they requested a king for their own purposes and with this they demonstrated a lack of faith in HaShem. There is, however, another issue that must be examined regarding the two mitzvos of appointing judges and of appointing a king.
Justice creates kindness
It would seem that the two mitzvos of appointing judges and appointing a king are mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, given the fact that both of these mitzvos are enumerated consecutively in the same parasha, the Torah may be alluding to a profound idea that is applicable in our daily lives. The appointment of judges is necessary as people are by nature contentious, and the judges will be able to arbitrate disputes. The necessity of a king, however, is not as apparent. It is said (Mishlei 29:4) melech bimishpat yaamid aretz, through justice a king establishes a land. The Sfas Emes (Shoftim 5654) notes that the world was created with kindness, so it would seem that justice is the antithesis of the world’s existence. The answer to this question, writes the Sfas Emes, is that when we mete out justice amongst ourselves, and certainly when one judges himself by reflecting his ways, then HaShem is aroused to mercy and the justice is sweetened. Thus, it is essentially through justice that the world is sustained.
A king leads to fear of Heaven
Let us then examine the function of the king. In essence, the king performs the same function as the judge, and that is to arbitrate justice. Yet, the Torah does not mention any aspect of justice regarding the appointment of a king. Rather, the Torah focuses on the king carrying a Sefer Torah with him at all times, so that he will learn to fear HaShem. The Sfas Emes (Ibid 5664) explains that the Jewish People only required a king when they were lacking in their fear of Heaven. The king himself would draw his fear of Heaven from the Torah. Thus, Shmuel rebuked the nation for requesting a king, because if they had the proper fear of Heaven, they would not need a king. Once they did not have the requisite fear of Heaven, a king for a king was a mitzvah as by having a king they would gain fear of Heaven. The Sfas Emes adds that through the fear of a gentile king, one could come to fear of punishment, whereas through a Jewish king, one can attain the level of fear that is referred to as yiras haromimus , fear of the exalted one. The reason of this is because HaShem chooses the Jewish king and the people are then afraid of the king, and this leads them to fear the exaltedness of HaShem. Ultimately, every Jew is required to have this yiras haromimus so that the fear of HaShem permeates everyone that the person comes into contact with.
The Shabbos connection
Based on the words of the Safes Ems regarding the function of a king, we can better understand the juxtaposition of the two mitzvos of appointing judges and appointing king. The appointment of judges is so that fear of punishment is instilled within the people. Appointing a king, although not desirable, achieves the result of instilling in the Jewish People a fear of HaShem’s exaltedness. In a similar vein, throughout the week we perform mitzvos and desist from sinning because we are afraid of HaShem’s punishment. On the Holy Shabbos, however, when, in the words of the Zohar, kol dinin misabrin minah, all judgments depart from her, there is only love of HaShem and fear of His exaltedness. It is for this reason that in the Shabbos prayers we constantly recite the words yismichu vimalchuscha, rejoice in Your kingship, as on Shabbos we need not be afraid of HaShem’s Divine Justice. Rather, we fear HaShem for His exaltedness, and this fear facilitates our outpouring of love for HaShem.
Shabbos Stories
Shabbos belongs to every Jew
When the fourth Gerrer Rebbe, the Beis Yisroel, lived in Haifa, his chassidim would gather under the balcony to his house every Seudas shlishis (third meal on Shabbos), and the Rebbe would give over his most inspirational words of Torah for the week. On one particular Shabbos, after the Chassidim had congregated under the balcony, the Rebbe was nowhere to be seen. His Chassidim looked around until someone spotted the Rebbe at the corner, bent over, talking to someone in a car at a red light. Word spread among the group, and no one could believe the site! There was the Rebbe talking to someone in a car on Shabbos! A few Chassidim rushed over, and overheard the following being said by the Rebbe in a voice of great enthusiasm: “Yes, it’s yours too! It doesn't only belong to me; it belongs to you as well! Shabbos is for every Jew. It doesn’t matter that I dress one way and that you dress another. Each one of us is a tzelem Elokim (created in the image of G-d). Perhaps you’ve never been privileged to experience the joys of Shabbos, so now it is time!” With that the Rebbe invited the man in the car over for the following Shabbos. He pointed to the house, and told him that he would be in for otherworldly pleasures if he were to come. The man became a frequent guest of the Rebbe and, in time, became shomer Shabbos.
Kindness will work better
In a similar story a number of years ago there was a young rebel who decided to go speeding through the streets of Mea Shearim on a Shabbos afternoon with his radio at full volume. As you could imagine, the indignant shouts of “Shabbos, Shabbos!” could be heard block in and block out. The indentations on the car from the stones hurled by angry Chassidim had already become evident after a few blocks. But at the end of a long street, up which this driver was heading, stood a Chosid. Bedecked in shtreimel, bekishe, and full Shabbos regalia, he stood firmly and resolutely in the middle of the street with his hand straight out. The driver had no choice but to stop. The Chosid let down his arm, and walked to the driver’s side of the car. “How would you like to come to my house for a Shabbos meal?” he asked warmly with a bright smile on his face. “How would I like to what???” asked the driver. The Chosid repeated, “How would you like to come to my house for a Shabbos meal? I would LOVE to have you at my house for a Shabbos meal.” The driver was dumbfounded! What happened to all of the yelling? What happened to all of the hateful stares? He literally didn't know how to react. The Chosid continued, “Perhaps you’ve never celebrated a Shabbos in full form. I want to show you what it's like. I would really love to have you over next week.” After a few more minutes of convincing, the driver really didn’t know what else to do but accept. He took the address, managed to find a yarmulke the next week, and actually made it to the chosid's house for Shabbos. The rebel had no idea that one day he would become shomer Shabbos.
A father to the community and a Rebbe at home
Shortly after he had arrived in America, a young Chassid was discussing the naming of his newly born son with the Satmar Rav, in the presence of another rabbi. “My grandfather was a very good Jew,” he said.
“His name would be a fine choice for your son,” commented the Rebbe.
“But several of my nephews and cousins already carry his name. On the other hand, my father-in-law has no one named after him.”
“That should certainly be taken into consideration.”
“However …”
And so it continued. After the young father left, the other visitor asked the Rebbe why he permitted himself to become so involved with trivia.
“In the old country, I was a father at home, and could be a Rebbe in the city. But here,” the Rebbe sighed, “this is simply not suitable. I have to be a father to my community, and a Rebbe at home.”
A limit to the teasing
An alumnus of a Lithuanian-type yeshiva in Israel sat near the Rebbe at his Pesach Seder. The Rebbe was amused at his guest’s pompous measuring of the precise portion of food and drinks required for the rituals (even though the Rebbe himself was no less fastidious). As the guest prepared his matzos, the Rebbe asked him, “Are you sure it’s the right shiyur (required amount)?” Similarly, after he ate the marror, and later when he eyed his afikomen before consuming it, the Rebbe smilingly asked, “Is it the shiyur?”
Finally, the fellow put down his matzah and said, “Rebbe I’m not sure. But isn’t it the shiyur of tcheppen (teasing)?”
The Rebbe was deeply disturbed that he had actually offended the man with remarks that he had only meant as a friendly exchange. He begged his forgiveness again and again, as was his habit when he felt he had mistreated someone. Finally he asked him, “Please see me right after Yom Tov.”
When the man reported to the Rebbe, he asked, “Why are you here? Why did you come to America?”
“I’m here because I must raise five to six thousand dollars to marry off my daughter.”
“I’ll get the money for you. And please - any children that you will be marrying off in the future - come here and I’ll take care of your financial needs.”
The Satmar Rav was not satisfied until he had financed the weddings of the man’s four daughters.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Shoftim 5769
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, an hour before Mincha
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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