Monday, February 4, 2013

Story and Commentary

The Holy author of the Sefas Emes once retold of his first visit to Kotzk.

He observed that there was no order and no one watching and safeguarding the Kotzker's household and court. People and guests came and went and the doors were always open.

This lack of organization and supervision led to a series of "missing" objects which no doubt went missing along with those "missing" persons who had pilfered them.

The Shamash, the Kotzker's attendant was named Feivel, and his argument with the Rebbitzen was so loud as he bemoaned the missing, presumed stolen silver candlesticks on that erev Shabbos, that everyone in the house heard it. Even the Rebbe himself.

"Feivel what is all the commotion?!" the Kotzker demanded.

Reb Feivel was yelling "And why shouldn't they steal?! Eh? Why not? When everything here is hefker! Open and free for all!? Why should'nt they steal?!"

"What!" roared the Kotzker, "Feivel how can anyone steal, it says in the Torah "Thou Shall Not Steal!!!"

Years later the Sefas Emes related:

"Now when I heard the holy Kotzker roar those words it seemed to me at that very moment that there was no possibility of stealing anything at all because of the negative commandment not to do so!"

This is what the Sefas Emes took back with him from his first visit to Kotzk.

Siach Sarfei Kodesh - Yisro


There is a fine line between should not and can not. We are given free will and we are also challenged with the evil urges and temptations which try and test us to sin. We are free to resist and overcome temptation and thus be rewarded. We are free to give in and succumb to our desires and be punished for our misdeeds. The choice is ours. This is because we do not see or experience Divine revelation first hand. Hashem is hidden from us. We believe and our faith and emunah carries us to the strength needed to overcome those urges temptations and desires. However we do not see. If we did see or hear Hashem first hand we would automatically lose our free choice. There is no choice or freedom to disbelieve that which is clearly and plainly right in front of your eyes. If Hashem 's presence is first hand knowledge and you Hear him command, you are not free to disobey any longer.

It seems to me that the Sefas Emes was transported on that Erev Shabbos to Har Sinai. The holy tzadik, the Kotzker became a channel and a medium for the Shechina which spoke from his throat as he uttered the commandment "Thou Shall Not Steal." The Sefas Emes heard this mitvzva as is from Hashem Himself, and thus at that time for that moment he was transformed from a free willed chooser to one who has no choice but to obey. This is why he felt that at that moment he could not understand how anyone could steal?! How can you steal if Hashem tells you not to! It went from the meaning of "you should not steal" transformed into the words "you can Not steal." It is impossible to steal, it cannot be done, it simply is not a choice.

We all go through such stages in our lives. Our intellect and our logical reason tell us we should not do things, yet the evil urges tempt us beyond reason to do them and so we give in. However at the point where we strengthen our resolve an say, no I can not do this! At the point where we triumph and defeat the evil urge, then we lose the free will to choose evil and we transform the suggestion of "you should not sin" into "you can not sin."

Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim Publishing
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
Phone: 972-2-992-1218 / Cell: 972-54-842-4725
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