A Tzaddik, or righteous person makes everyone else appear righteous before G-d by advocating for them and finding their merits.
(Kedushas Levi, Noach Bereishis 7:1)
The Ways of Hashem are Sweet
Hashem called the light "day"...
Our Rabbis state in the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 2:5) regarding the verse "Hashem called the light 'day,' " that "this [refers to] the actions of the righteous Tzaddikim. 'And the darkness He called "night" ' — these are the actions of the wicked. Which actions does He prefer? The verse gives the answer: 'Hashem saw that the light was good' (Bereishis 1:4)."
This midrash is perplexing. How can we doubt which actions Hashem would prefer?
We can answer by paying close attention to the Rabbis' holy words. They did not say, "Light — these are the righteous" and "Dark — these are the wicked." Rather they said, "This refers to their actions." Rabbeinu Yonah explains this idea in his commentary to the Mishnah, in the ninth chapter of Berachos (54a): "[The Mishnah says:] ' "Serve Him with all your heart" (Devarim 6:5) — with both inclinations, with the good inclination and the evil inclination.' How can someone serve [Hashem] with his evil inclination? This is how: because the attribute of the good inclination is to desire and pursue peace and draw Bnei Yisrael with goodness and pleasantness to serve Hashem, while the attributes of the evil inclination are anger and hatred. The evildoer utilizes his anger and hatred to oppose the will of his Creator, to hate and rage against those who serve Hashem. However, the righteous Tzaddik utilizes this very same negative attribute of the evil inclination to serve Hashem — to hate and rage against those who transgress His will. This is what it means to [serve Hashem] 'with both your inclinations.' "
Based on this, we can explain [our verse], "Hashem called the light 'day.'" It refers to the actions of the righteous Tzaddikim. They utilize their attributes only for good, to draw other Jews close in a pleasant manner with gentle words of mussar and rebuke that the heart can accept so that they will leave the path of evil. "And the darkness He called 'night'" — this refers to the actions of the wicked. This does not refer to the wicked themselves, who are not at all desirable, but rather to their actions, which are full of hatred and anger that they utilize for evil intent. Hashem looked at their actions — because with these actions they could serve Hashem and break away from their wicked efforts. Instead, the wicked must be forced to repent against their will; Hashem takes vengeance against them until they are subjugated and pushed to the ground and repent and say, "I shall go and return and repent" (Hoshea 2:9).
Since both the attributes and actions of the wicked and the righteous can be used to serve Hashem, we can now understand how the Midrash can ask, "Which actions does He prefer?" The answer is that even though [the attributes of the wicked can be utilized to serve Hashem], He prefers the actions of the righteous Tzaddikim, since they draw the entire world close to serve the Creator in a pleasant manner, and not through anger, until all repent and return to Him.
Therefore it says, " 'G-d saw that the light was good' — this refers to the actions of the Tzaddikim," that they utilize the goodness [in His service, and not the negative attributes]. Thus the verse states the reason: "ki tov — because it is good [and pleasant]." [Hashem prefers the actions of the Tzaddikim] because Hashem's ways and His attributes are goodness, and He desires that everyone will draw close to Him through goodness, as the verse says, "Its [the Torah's] ways are ways of pleasantness" (Mishlei 3:17).
The Delight of a Mitzvah Waters the Garden
And a river came out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided into four tributaries.
Our Rabbis say, "Be as careful with an easy mitzvah as with a difficult one, since you do not know the reward given for mitzvos" (Avos 2:1). This means that we cannot fathom the pleasure and delight that HaKadosh Baruch Hu receives from our performance of a mitzvah, but we can understand one thing [about the reward for mitzvos]: that is the shefa and sustenance we receive from performing a mitzvah, which provides an opportunity from HaKadosh Baruch Hu to perform another mitzvah. When HaKadosh Baruch Hu sees how much we desire to do a mitzvah, [He sends us more] opportunities to perform mitzvos and study Torah, like when a father sees that his son understands a piece of wisdom. This spurs the father to ask his son a question to elicit more words of wisdom.
This is the meaning of "A river came out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided into four tributaries [literally, 'heads']." [These tributaries or heads symbolize] the brain, which has four areas, since the third portion of the brain is actually divided in two, and the river symbolizes the shefa, which "comes out from Eden." The word eden hints at pleasure and delight [based on the Hebrew word ma'adan]. Thus the verse is hinting that we receive shefa due to HaKadosh Baruch Hu's delight [in our mitzvos]. And [we receive the shefa] in order "to water the garden" — this is referring to the fifty-three sedarim of the Torah [since the word for "garden," gan, equals 53 in gematria] — "and from there it divides into four tributaries [or, literally, heads]." The shefa enters man's intellect, which he can then utilize to understand new and novel interpretations of the Torah and perform many more mitzvos.
This is why the mishnah above says, "Be as careful with an easy mitzvah as a difficult one..." In truth, this statement does not make sense, since we do not know the reward for mitzvos, so how can we call one more difficult than another? It seems to me that "easier" refers to those mitzvos that can be done over and over again, such as Torah study, since if one misses the opportunity to do it at one moment, he can do it another time. And "difficult," refers to those mitzvos that can only be done once a year, such as sukkah [since if he misses the opportunity, he can't perform it again until the coming year]. Based on what we said above, we can now say that one must be as careful with an "easier" mitzvah [even though he knows he will soon have another opportunity to perform it] as with a difficult one [since we cannot fathom the pleasure and delight Hashem derives from our mitzvah performance].
Two types of Tzaddikim:
Those Who believe in themselves and those Who are too humble
These are the generations of Noach; Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations...
Let us analyze Rashi's comment [on Bereishis 7:7]: "Even Noach was among those of little faith." How could this be true? As we see here, the Torah testifies regarding Noach that "Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations" (Bereishis 6:9). Also, [if he was so righteous] why didn't Noach pray to Hashem to nullify the decree [against that generation]?
There are two types of Tzaddikim who serve the Creator. There is the Tzaddik who serves the Creator and desires nothing more; he believes that he has the power to run the higher realms and worlds, controlling them as he wishes, as our Sages teach: " 'A Tzaddik rules through the fear of Hashem' (Shmuel II 23:3) — who rules over Me? [says Hashem]. The Tzaddik. HaKadosh Baruch Hu decrees, and the Tzaddik nullifies the decree for the greater good" (Mo'ed Katan 16b).
The other type of Tzaddik also serves the Creator, but he is exceedingly humble and considers himself lowly. In his heart he thinks, Who am I that I should pray to nullify a decree? And so he doesn't pray to nullify [any decrees].
This is the meaning of the Gemara's statement "Nevuchadnetzar desired to sing and praise [Hashem] — he disparaged the songs and praises of David HaMelech" (Sanhedrin 92b). It is not clear what the word ginah, "disparaged," means in this context. However, based on our explanation above it makes sense. Nevuchadnetzar was wicked and evil, and he destroyed our Holy Temple the Beis HaMikdash. But he understood that the righteous have the power to transform the divine attribute of strict justice into mercy. He was worried that a righteous Tzaddik would pray that the Beis HaMikdash should be rebuilt. He therefore said [regarding Hashem], "He does as He wishes with the hosts of heaven and earth" (Daniel 4:32) — that He does as He wishes regarding the higher realms and the Tzaddikim are unable to abolish decrees. Therefore our Sages say, "Nevuchadnetzar desired to sing and praise [Hashem] — he disparaged the songs and praises of David HaMelech." Nevuchadnetzar desired to sing songs of praise that were the opposite of David's praises. David said, "He fulfills the will of those who fear Him" (Tehillim 145:19) — that Hashem runs the worlds according to the will of the righteous Tzaddikim [meaning that Hashem does the will of the Tzaddikim, who fear Him], and the wicked Nevuchadnetzar had the opposite intention, as we explained.
Even though Noach was a perfect Tzaddik, he considered himself small and lowly. He did not believe in himself, that he was able to abolish the decree. On the contrary, he thought of himself as no better than the rest of his generation. He thought, If I will be saved by entering the ark, and I am no more righteous than any of them, this must mean that they, too, will ultimately be saved. This is why he did not pray on behalf of his generation.
This then is the meaning of Rashi's comment that Noach was among those of little faith. Noach considered himself small and insignificant; he lacked faith in himself as a perfect, flawless Tzaddik who could abolish the decree. He did not consider himself important at all.
This is also the meaning of the verse "I will destroy them from the earth" (Bereishis 6:13) — I will do as I will, because there is no Tzaddik to abolish my decree, and therefore I will destroy them from the earth. And later it says, "I will establish My covenant with you" (Bereishis 9:9) — even though there is no Tzaddik praying to nullify decrees, I will establish this bris with you.
Self-Sacrifice for Kosher Food Cancels the Decree
Once, the Berditchever perceived that there was a terrible decree hanging over the heads of Klal Yisrael, and he went and immersed himself in the waters of the mikveh. He was on the way to pray to rescind the decree, when he passed a Jewish woman carrying a small package of meat and cursing her miserable lot under her breath.
"Why do you utter such oaths?" the Berditchever asked her.
"And why shouldn't I? I lead a poor and wretched existence, and my cupboards are bare! We hardly have any food, but at least for Shabbos I am able to buy a little meat to give my family some nourishment. That wretched butcher gives me little meat for a great sum of money, and half of it is bones!"
"So why don't you go to another butcher?" asked her the Berditchiver.
"What difference will it make?" she spat bitterly. "They are all the same!"
"Why don't you go to a gentile butcher then? Why, I bet you could get some treife meat for next to nothing. If you are so poor, buy some treife meat. It is much cheaper!"
The poor woman had no idea who this old man was, but one thing she knew: he must be either wicked or crazy. "You old fool!" she berated the Berditchever. "Even if I knew that I would starve to death, Heaven forbid, I would rather die of starvation than eat treife food!"
Hearing this, the Berditchiver turned away and left, and immediately pled his case to the Ribbono shel olam to cancel the decree, for now he had a good argument to bring before the court.
"Master of the world! Even a poor simple woman would rather sacrifice herself for You than eat treife!"
With this argument, he succeeded in rescinding the decree.
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim Publishing
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
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