CHASSIDUS PARSHAS MISHPATIM
THE SECRET OF PAST LIVES AND REINCARNATION
"And these are the Mishpatim, (statutes) that you shall place before them" (Shemos 21:1).
The Zohar comments on this pasuk: Da raza degilgulta – "These are the secrets of reincarnation."
Rav Yechezkel Shinover explained the Zohar's cryptic remarks based on a story about the holy Berditchever Rav:
There were once two good friends in Berditchev, one of whom owned a large store. As he grew older, he decided to sell all his worldly possessions to his good friend in order to live off the proceeds while serving Hashem without the concerns of this world. He thus sold him all his business concerns, goods, and merchandise. They shook on the deal, not bothering to draw up any contract or summon any witnesses, since they trusted one another completely. The bargain was that the sum was paid up in full; in a few days, as soon as arrangements could be made and completed, the other would come to pick up all the goods.
Sadly, soon after, the business owner passed away. When the friend who had purchased all the merchandise came to collect his goods, he found his way barred by the orphans.
"What do you think you are doing?" they asked.
"Your father sold me all his merchandise and I have paid up in full. I am only collecting what is mine!" he declared emphatically.
"Where is the bill of sale? Where is your receipt?" demanded the orphans. Since there was no bill, no deed, no receipt, papers, or witnesses, they refused to believe his story.
The matter ended up in Beis Din before the Dayan, the Berditchever Rav. Rav Levi Yitzchok was in a quandary, for he truly believed the merchant, whom he knew to be a sincere individual with a sterling reputation. But this was unfortunately an open and shut case! The halacha clearly favored the yesomim (orphans). The halacha is that without any shtar chov, with no bill of sale, deed, receipt, or witness, the man could not touch the property left as an inheritance to the orphans even by swearing an oath. This ruling was clear-cut, yet the matter bothered the Berditchever Rav. Where was the justice in this case? How could the halachic ruling based on Toras Emes prevent the rightful owner from claiming his property?
As he sat pondering the matter, he dozed slightly and had a dream. In his vision, the heavenly tribunal revealed that although the merchant was indeed speaking the truth, there was a higher purpose behind the proceedings. Indeed, in a past life, he had owed his dead friend a sum of money, for in their former lives he had been in debt and had not repaid it. Now, in this life, the halacha had come to rectify the matter and have him pay up his former debt from his past life. He was reincarnated in this life to pay back his debt by losing this case and thus the merchandise that he had paid for in full!
When the Kedushas Levi awoke, he explained the matter to the litigants as he handed down the ruling.
"And this," explained the Shinover Rav, "explains how it might seem to us that when a Din Torah rules one way and somehow the guilty party is truly innocent or the innocent party is deemed guilty and this seems to contradict the truth, actually due to gilgulim (past lives and reincarnations) the matter has come to be so that one may repay a debt from a former life. Now we understand why the holy Zohar deems the Mishpatim as the secret of gilgulim, for if you were troubled as to how the Torah rules that the guilty may be innocent or the innocent guilty, the Zohar answers – do not be troubled, for this is the secret of gilgulim!"
NEVER GIVE UP HOPE
Often, when someone asks my Rebbe, the Clevelander Rebbe, Shlit"a, of Raanana for a beracha for someone sick, he repeats the pasuk and the Gemara as explained and related below.
"And he shall surely heal him" (Shemos 21:19).
"From this pasuk we deduce that a physician is granted permission to heal the sick" (Talmud Bavli Bava Kamma).
Some talmidim came before the Vilna Gaon and related that the doctors had despaired of healing a certain sick Jew. "The doctor has given up any hope of saving his life! He says there is simply no cure – surely he will die and not live!" they said.
The Gaon heard this and replied, "Who gave the doctors permission to say such things?! To give up hope and give up his life?! Chazal said that the pasuk gave permission to physicians to heal, yet nowhere does it say that there is no hope and no cure! Who gave them permission to say that?! (Divrei Eliyahu, Mishpatim)
My Rebbe, Shlit"a, adds, "May Hashem guide the physician's hand to heal and care for the sick. The doctor has been given permission to heal, not to mess up or make mistakes!"
"And he shall surely heal him" (Shemos 21:19).
From this pasuk, we learn that a physician is granted permission to heal the sick. (Bava Kama)
Rav Baruch of Gerlitz (Yahrzeit Rosh Chodesh 1 Adar see below) comments that there seems to be some kind of contradiction between this statement and another statement in Bava Basra 116a, where we learn that whoever has someone sick in his home should go to a sage to ask him to pray and beg for mercy. This sounds like healing does not depend on a doctor at all but rather on Hashem's salvation alone.
The Gerlitzer explained that as a Rav when someone brings the lungs of an animal for him to examine and rule if they are kosher, he sees them, examines them and rules based on the principles of halacha and based on what he has seen and examined. However, a doctor cannot always look inside a person. He must probe, question, and work out a diagnosis based on wisdom, intellect, and deduction. In order to arrive at the correct diagnosis, therefore, and to give the best treatment and medicine, he needs divine assistance. We thus see that both are needed! You must go the doctor and ask for Hashem's mercy to guide him to the right diagnosis.
IT'S A DOG'S LIFE
"Cast it to the dogs" (Shemos 22:30).
A maskil (a so-called "enlightenment Jew," a wicked opponent of all traditional Judaism) once came before the Sochatchover Rebbe, the Avnei Nezer, and brazenly jested to the Tzaddik, "Rabbi, I know you rule on matters of kashrus. So next time someone brings you a perfectly good chicken or cow and you examine it and rule that it is treif (non-kosher), please don't throw it away – give it to me so I can enjoy it!"
As the good-for-nothing chuckled to himself and sneered, the Tzaddik replied with a barb of his own. "Let me tell you a story: When our forefathers Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen stood before the Egyptian palace of Pharaoh in Mitzrayim, their entry was blocked by the vicious dogs that stood guard, barking and gnashing their sharp teeth.
"'Halt!' barked the dogs. 'Pharaoh feeds us meat and so we are duty bound to guard his palace gates. Be gone!'
"'Is that so?" said Moshe to the dogs. 'Well, let me let you in on a little secret. Pharaoh eats the choicest, most succulent cuts of meat and only gives you the scraps and bones from his royal table. Now I can make you a much better deal. Listen up to my offer! We are here to release the Jews from slavery. After the Exodus, when we leave Egypt behind, we will gather at the foot of Har Sinai and receive the Torah. In the Torah it is commanded that any carcass and even any slaughtered meat or fowl that is deemed non-kosher is to be "cast to the dogs." Even the choicest cuts shall be all yours!'
"The dogs agreed to the bargain and allowed Moshe and Aharon to pass and enter. Afterward, the promise was indeed fulfilled, the Yidden left Mitzrayim, received the Torah, and fulfilled the mitzvos – and the dogs received their reward of neveilos and treifos.
"Years passed and a new generation of Jews arose – wicked, wayward maskilim whose sole intent was to abolish the Torah and abandon the ways of our forefathers. They began to consume the very neveilos and treifos that were promised to the dogs!
"So the dogs could not sit idly by and see their livelihood endangered. They took the maskilim to court and sued them! The representative of the maskilim stood before the judges and presented his case: 'Your Honor, the Torah says that the neveilos and treifos should be cast to the dogs! This is true. Now where does it specify dogs that walk on all fours? We are dogs that walk on two feet, and we may also consume such meats!'
"The judge turned to the dog lawyer. 'Well,' said the dog lawyer, 'I certainly agree that they are dogs just like us. However your honor, I disagree with his other premise that they deserve our meat. You see, the Torah related clearly that when the Jews left Egypt the dogs did not (Shemos 11:7); they were silent and held their tongues. However, you wicked maskilim,' barked the dog, 'all you do is bark at the sages and Tzaddikim! You never shut your despicable mouths full of false accusations, libels, and conniving schemes!' The judge banged down his gavel and ruled in favor of the dogs.
"And now," concluded the Avnei Nezer to the shamefaced maskil, who stood downcast before his rebuke, "now you surely understand why the dogs deserve the neveilos and treifos and not you?!"
FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE
A SLIGHT DELAY
Rav Elimelech Biderman related:
In the days when the Bach was the chief Rav of Cracow, there lived in town a wealthy and respectable Jew who was learned and kind of heart. He would donate nice sums to charity and was known as a ba'al tzedaka and machnis orchim. He had a time set aside to study together with the Rav, and the Bach guided him how to properly give tzedaka based on the halacha, and how to conduct his business according to the Torah. One day, a Jew who was downtrodden and very distressed came to the Bach and asked for his help. His sole source of livelihood was through renting the local squire's property, a common practice in those days, and he eked out a living by running an inn as well as a tavern known as a kretshma. Now, however, someone new had approached the poritz and offered him a greater sum in exchange for the rights to rent the property. This proposition threatened the Jew's entire livelihood and he begged the Bach to somehow help him – he was simply at his wits' end. The Bach sent for his wealthy congregant and advised him to help out the poor Jew.
When the wealthy ba'al habayis heard the reasons behind the Jew's distress, he assured him he would help. "Not right now, however. You see, I am in the middle of myriad preparations for my upcoming trip to Leipzig for the annual trade fair. This requires a lot of advance preparations and I am simply too involved to deal with the poritz now. As soon as I return from Leipzig, I promise to speak to the poritz about the matter," he explained.
The Jew, whose entire livelihood depended on this rental, could not hold back. "Please!" he begged. "Please do not delay this matter or push it off! Who knows what will transpire in the interim?"
The wealthy man reassured and comforted the worried Jew. "Not to worry! Don't fret about a thing! I assure you that as soon as I return, I will help take care of the matter! Try to put it out of your mind and be at ease!"
When the Jew came home, his wife was none too understanding. "What do you mean – push it off?! Who knows what will be? Perhaps the poritz will agree to the other offer and leave us out in the cold! How could you let this happen? Think of your poor starving children! How will we survive without this parnassa?" She continued to muster every form of dire prediction, miserably foretelling their bleak future and berating him for being a lazy, good-for-nothing husband and father, who was ignoring his duty and shirking his responsibility! The poor Jew was even more downcast as his wife heaped scorn and a tirade of complaints and worries upon his head daily for weeks while the wealthy man was away at the fair.
Finally, the day came when the wealthy man returned and kept his promise. Before he even set one foot upon the steps of his own home, he went straight to the poritz, met with him and succeeded in convincing him to keep the Jew as his tenant. He went straight to the Jew with the good news and only then did he finally retire to his home.
Days, weeks, months and years passed and the wealthy, learned ba'al habayis from Cracow went the way of all flesh – his soul left this world for the next. He appeared to the Bach in a dream and described his judgment and his wandering above.
The heavenly court had ruled that due to his many charitable deeds he had indeed earned his reward in Gan Eden among the Tzaddikim and he should continue on there to his rightful place. When his neshama came to the gates of heaven, however, he was confronted by an angel who obstructed him.
"Sorry – not so fast!" the angel stopped him at the gates.
"Who are you and why are you barring my entry?" asked the neshama of the wealthy Jew.
"I am the good angel created by the mitzva you did when you helped the poor Jewish tenant rent his kretshma from the poritz. However, I cannot allow you to enter because of your delay in fulfilling the mitzva. Don't you realize how much disharmony, discord, and dispute you caused in the home of that Jew while you were away and kept him in suspense?" No amount of pleading and begging helped.
The matter was placed once again before the heavenly tribunal, who ruled that he would surely enter the gates of Gan Eden, yet he must wait at the gates for the same amount of time he made the other Jew wait before he helped him.
"I cannot tell you how long I stood there waiting," he concluded to the Bach in the dream. "What I can tell you is that the passage of time seemed eternal to me as I stood watching the pleasure of the righteous Tzaddikim in Gan Eden, waiting for my turn to enter!"
That day the Bach gathered all the Jewish townsfolk of Cracow and related his dream, admonished them to be careful not to delay the fulfillment of a mitzva and put it off!
THE POWER OF SHOVAVIM
Rav Aharon of Zhitomir teaches us that the days of Shovavim are equivalent to the ten days of repentance (aseres yemai teshuva) in that our tefillos are just as accepted during shovavim as they are during the aseres yemei teshuva. (Toldos Aharon, Shemos)
The Imrei Noam of Dzhikuv (Rosh Chodesh Shevat #1) teaches us that the days of shovavim are a segula for purity and tahara which is hinted to in the gematria of the word shovavim which is numerically equal to the gematria of mayim tehorim (pure water). SHOVAVIM equals 360 (shin+vav+beis+beis+yud+mem = 300+6+2+2+10+40=360) and MAYIM TEHORIM also equals 360 (mem+yud+mem = 40+10+40=90)+(tes+hay+vav+reish+yud+mem = 9+5+6+200+10+40=270) = 360.
HOW TO HARNESS SHOVAVIM
The holy Shela HaKadosh, teaches us (Shovavim Ta"t #2-3) that Shovavim Ta"t alludes to and hints at four walls that act as barriers to block out impurity and that guard, surround and protect us within. These four walls of kedusha (sanctity) are: teshuva, tefilla, tzedaka and Torah (repentance, prayer, charity and Torah study). The four walls are hinted at by the name of these days Shovavim Ta"t (Shemos, Va'eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yisro, Mishpatim, Teruma and Tetzave (during a Jewish leap year)). Shovavim alludes to the pasuk (Yirmiyah 3:14) "Return and repent O' wayward children – banim shovavim." How do we return? The letters Ta"t represent the answer: through teshuva and tefilla and also through talmud Torah. The letters tav and tav also spell the Hebrew word teis, which means to give, alluding to nesinas tzedaka (giving charity).
GUARD YOUR EYES AND DAVEN
One of the most important forms of avoda (divine service) is guarding our eyes. My Rebbe, the Clevelander Rebbe, Shlit"a, of Ra'anana, often quotes a well-known teaching from Rav Asher Yeshaya of Ropshitz, the author of Ohr Yesha. Rav Menachem Mendel of Rymanow said something cryptic: "All we heard at Har Sinai was kametz alef." Just like a child learning the alef beis in cheder begins with kametz alef – that is what we also heard at Har Sinai. The Zera Kodesh of Ropshitz has many explanations of this idea. His son-in-law, Rav Asher Yeshaya, explained that we can understand kametz alef to mean that we must hold tight and squeeze the ALEF. The word kametz also means to squeeze tight and hold onto in your fist. ALEF here alludes to the roshei teivos (acrostic) for the words ozen, lev, peh – the ears, the heart, and the mouth. All three equal the gematria of the eyes, einayim (with the kollel):
Ozen (alef=1+vav=6+zayin=7+nun=50=64) = lev (lamed=30+beis=2=32) = peh(pei=80+hay=5=85), together totaling 181, which is equivalent to einayim (ayin=70+yud=10+nun=50+yud=10+mem=40) = 180+kollel=181.
These gematriyos teach us that one of the messages of the Torah given at Har Sinai is to guard our ears, heart, mouth, and eyes. Since the gematria of ears, heart, and mouth equal eyes, we see that guarding our eyes is the primary way of guarding our other senses.
Sometimes we see things by accident – not on purpose. Perhaps our gaze wanders or something passes by. Such things might leave a blemish. What can we do against accidental and involuntary sights? The Toldos Yaakov Yosef (Vayishlach) instructs us to daven to Hashem (Tehillim 119:37) Ha'aver einai meir'os shav – "Avert my eyes from seeing negative matters." Through this tefilla we can merit to save any of our limbs and senses that are not under our control, such as our eyes.
Thus we daven for two things: First, we ask, Ribbono Shel Olam – Hashem – Ha'aver einai meir'os shav – "Avert my eyes from seeing negative matters." The Tur in Orach Chaim Siman Alef explains that guarding our eyes is difficult because, as we have said, the eyes see all the time. How easy it is to accidentally see something we didn't mean to see as it goes past, without our ever having intended to see it. So we daven and ask Hashem, "Please guard and avert my eyes from seeing unwholesome, negative things. Please, Hashem, guard my eyes so that those things do not come my way at all!"
Second, Rav Yehoshua of Belz taught that we must daven that even if we have, heaven forbid, seen things that are inappropriate and damaging to our souls – Please, Hashem, prevent such sights from leaving a blemish upon me and from searing their influence on my mind. Ha'aver einai meir'os shav – "Avert from my eyes from seeing those negative sights." Even if I saw them and their image was seared and burned into my retina, please purify and sanctify my eyes so that those visions leave no mark or blemish; may they rather be erased and forgotten!
This is the time and place to remind all of my readers whom I love with heart and soul – please do not be offended by my words of advice and my strong call to action! The streets of the world and the Internet and its inner world are full of dark passages, filthy and impure places. Yet if and when you must tread there for parnassa, please guard your eyes and your souls. Daven to Hashem and take action. Please, if you have not yet done so, please consider installing filters on your computers and phones. May Hashem save us from seeing the wrong things and through our eyes gazing at the light of divrei Torah, may He restore our sight and enlighten our eyes – Amen!
Rosh Chodesh 1 ADAR
RAV BARUCH HALBERSTAM OF GERLITZ,
SON OF RAV CHAIM OF SANZ
The fifth son of the Divrei Chaim was named Baruch, after the Divrei Chaim's father-in-law, Rav Baruch Frankel Te'omim, author of the Baruch Ta'am. He traveled with his father to the Sar Shalom of Belz and Rav Meir of Premishlan. Rav Baruch married the daughter of Rav Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum of Sighet. When, sadly, she passed away at a young age, he married the daughter of Rav Shmuel Shapira of Lanzcut, the son of the Bnei Yissaschar. For some thirty years he served as Rav of Rudnick, where the Divrei Chaim had held his first rabbinic position. After his first father-in-law left Gerlitz for Dorhovitch, he took his father-in-law's place until the Divrei Chaim ordered him to vacate the position for the older Rav, Rav Shmuel Teitelbaum, the older brother of the Yetev Lev. When the latter passed away, Rav Baruch once again took his place as Rav of Gerlitz, where he served for seventeen years till his petira, and where he is buried.
He followed in his father's footsteps, staunchly observing all his customs even when they appeared to contradict halacha. He was adept at concealing his loftiness and only the greatest were able to see past the veil and discern his hidden stature. He was a fiery opponent of the Zionists and Maskilim and his zealotry and staunch pursuit of emes (truth) caused many to misinterpret his nature.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
When he was a young child in shul and the sefer Torah passed him by, he refused to kiss it as all the other boys did. When asked about his refusal, he answered, "I don't love the Torah, so why should I kiss it?" Everyone present was visibly distressed by this answer, and they related it to his father, the Divrei Chaim.
The Sanzer was at ease and said, "This is a proof that he is a sincere ish emes – a man of truth! How can he love the Torah yet? He has never studied it! Once he learns Torah and sees its sweetness then he will learn to love the Torah and kiss it!" (Baruch She'amar p. 56. Others relate this story about his brother, the Shinover.)
Of all the Divrei Chaim's sons, none was as attached and bound to Rav Chaim as was Rav Baruch – so much so that they called him a true Sanzer Chassid (in the name of Rav Tzvi Hirsch of Rudnick). From childhood he did not leave his father's side, imitating all his father's ways and customs and acting as his father's constant companion on all his journeys. The affection was reciprocal and the Divrei Chaim openly demonstrated warm affection for his son, Rav Baruch, praising him in appreciation of his wisdom and sharp intellect.
"There has not been such a soul in this world for some three hundred years!" declared the Divrei Chaim. Because of their close relationship, Rav Baruch influenced his father in many ways. Often the Divrei Chaim would ask his son's opinion on matters. Despite their closeness, however, Rav Baruch admitted that his father's ways were so lofty that he failed to truly imitate him, try as he might.
JEST AND REBUKE IN DISGUISE
When Rav Chaim Reisher Hirschman came before Rav Aharon of Belz and introduced himself as a Gerlitzer Chassid, Rav Aharon responded that his father, Rav Yissachar Dov of Belz, said of Rav Baruch that "no hint of laughter was ever seen on his holy lips!" This despite the fact that he was known to jest and poke barbs of rebuke at many of the Tzaddikim of his own generation! We must conclude that these "jokes" and "barbs" had a hidden purpose and were not to be taken at face value. (Rabbeinu HaKadosh MiSanz Vol. II p. 331)
Rav Baruch greatly admired his older brother, the Shinover Rav. In their youth they would arise early and study Torah at dawn before daybreak lishma (for its own sake), purely to give nachas ruach (satisfaction) to Hashem!
He once described the difference between themselves as follows: "My brother greatly admires truth and I simply detest falsehood. When my brother sees a matter that is full of falsehood and lies, if he still finds an ounce of truth in it, he honors and respects the matter and draws it close, because of this small truth which he values so highly. However, if I find a matter in which I discern even an ounce of falsehood, I cannot stand it!" (Vayaged Yaakov, Vol. IV Intro.)
As was his custom, his sharp barbs of rebuke were reserved for his brother as well. A Shinover Chassid once spent a Shabbos in Gerlitz and listened in pain and distress, as jibe after jibe was aimed at his beloved Rebbe, the Shinover Rav! All Shabbos, Rav Baruch referred to his brother the Shinover mockingly as the Dybbuk, [because he had previously chased out a Dybbuk from someone] until the Chassid could no longer control his emotions and simply could not hold back, yelling, "Enough!"
Rav Baruch gave him a stern knock on the head and remarked, "Fool! Don't you know the meaning of Dybbuk? It means that he is constantly davuk – bound and attached to the Ribbono Shel Olam!" (Ateres Chaim, Vol. I Intro.)
When his own Chassidim asked him why he seemingly spoke against his brother when there were many more deserving of his rebuke, he replied, "When I arrive before the heavenly court and they rule against me that I deserve Gehinnom because of this, they shall ask me to face my brother, the Tzaddik against whom I spoke and – don't worry – when he sees me, he himself will be the one to redeem me and take me out of there as a favor!"
The Stropkover once told Rav Chaim Meir of Vizhnitz that Rav Baruch would pause before reciting the Shabbos Kiddush on Friday night, relating some jest or barb of rebuke as a joke against one of the Tzaddikim of the generation. Even his nephew, Rav Shlomo of Bobov, was no exception. He too was the brunt of his uncle Rav Baruch's comic comments. During Rav Shlomo's last years, Rav Baruch's sister, Rebbetzin Nechama Rubin, begged and pleaded that he desist. He finally listened to her. Not long after, Rav Shlomo passed away while in Badenheim for his health. His body was recovered from the resort town to be laid to rest and that Shabbos, many Chassidim who had traveled from far and wide spent Shabbos in Gerlitz. No one wished to reveal the matter to Rav Baruch until he questioned his son, Rav Sinai of Zemigrod, as to the reason for the unusually large number of Shabbos guests. At first Rav Sinai tried to avoid the matter; yet when his father commanded him to fulfill the mitzva of Kibbud Av (the biblical command to honor one's father) he had no choice but to tell him the truth. When he heard the sad news he cried out in pain and distress, "I told her [my sister] to leave me be and not stop me! I kept him alive all these years and now – oy vavoy!"
Before he passed away, he asked his attendant for a cup of tea and recited the beracha shehakol – that everything was created by Hashem's words. He drank half the cup and began to recite words of Torah, returning his neshama in the middle of reciting the derasha [see Avos DeRabbi Nosson 25:2 that this is a good sign] on Rosh Chodesh, 1 Adar Tav Reish Samech Vav, at the age of seventy-six. (Based on Al HaTzaddikim ve'al HaChassidim, p. 45–49, Tzaddikei Olam, p. 116–122)
FROM PAST YEARS:
MISHPATIM CHASSIDUS ON THE PARSHA MONETARY LAWS & GILGULIM
"And these are the laws and judgments" (21:1).
The Ba'al Shem Tov's grandson, in his sefer Degel Machaneh Ephraim, explains based on the statement of the Holy Zohar that teaches that this pasuk refers to the cycle of gilgulim - reincarnation and transmigration of souls. He asks the obvious question, how can the Zohar understand this verse to be referring to secrets of gilgulim if the verses thereafter continue explaining the laws of torts, damages and various mundane monetary laws?
What connection can these topics possibly have to do with gilgulim?
He explains that when there are two parties who come to Bais Din and the rabbinical court, who base their rulings on the Shulchan Aruch, rules in favor of the guilty party - this procedure calls into question the entire corpus of Torah law. How can a law that is Divine, G-dly, pure, true and, whose ways are those of pleasantness – Darkei Noam, rule against truth and in favor of the thief or the wrongdoer and have such a false verdict rendered by true judges?
The answer lies in our Emunah. We believe and know that the Torah is true and its Divine truth is above all human understanding and comprehension. When we perceive to have been wronged and see that even the Torah does not seem to grant justice, but instead, seems to rule against it, Chas VeShalom, we must seek deeper and look past the façade. Beneath the façade of what we are seeing, surely lies events from the the past history of the litigants souls' and previous reincarnations.
Back then, it was the other way around, and he who seems to have lost and been wronged at this trial, was surely the one who was the wrongdoer in the past. In a past life, he was the one who owed his fellow litigant money and did not pay up, and the Torah's ruling of today is making up for that. This however, doesn't exempt the other party who has taken his money through trickery today. He will also pay for it one day either in this life or the next, for there is no false judgment before Hashem and His Torah.
This is why the holy Zohar tells us that within the seemingly mundane laws of monetary damages and business dealings, lie the secrets of gilgulim and reincarnation for the Torah's laws are
true and they compensate and fulfill the Divine plan. Even if they seem false to us, Chas VeShalom, they are playing out the truth of past lives and debts that need to righted and repaid.
The Devarim Arevim tells the following tale:
Once, the Ba'al Shem Tov sent the Maggid of Mezritch to a stream bordering a forest, and informed him that there, he would observe firsthand the secret of reincarnations that the Zohar teaches about in our parsha.
The following scenario played itself out before his eyes:
An armed soldier on horseback, who was tired from his journey, ate and drank by the bank of the stream and then, after resting, continued on his way. Without realizing, he absentmindedly left his moneybag by the stream. Along came another man, and sitting himself down by the stream, found the soldier's forgotten moneybag, which he took and continued on his journey. Not long after, a third man came along. He was pauper, dressed in rags. He sat and drank from the stream's clear waters, ate his brittle bread, rested and fell asleep. No sooner had he dozed off, the first man, the armed soldier, galloped back to the well where he had forgotten his moneybag. He roused the sleeping pauper and asked him where his pouch was. The pauper claimed that he honestly knew nothing of its whereabouts and pleaded his innocence. However, the armed soldier grew violent, and in a fit of rage, he dealt the poor man with a deadly blow.
The Maggid repeated all he had beheld to the Ba'al Shem Tov, who explained to the Maggid the secret of these people's past lives.
In his previous life, the first man, the armed soldier, owed a sum of money to the second man and through trickery and deceit, he never paid it back. The third man, the pauper, was the judge who failed to try the case properly. He did not crossexamine the thief and asked for no proof or testimony he simply dismissed the case. Now, in this cycle of life, the first man lost his money, the second person found it and he was justly paid back. The third man, the pauper, got his deserved punishment for failing to judge the case properly. Each man in this cycle of life got what he deserved, based on the deeds of his past life. This is the secret of reincarnations and gilgulim. Through the laws of judgment, torts, damages and monetary compensation, this is how Hashem's Divine Providence provides righteous justice and runs the world. (Ba'al Shem Tov, Mishpatim 1)
"Do not lend a hand to the wicked by acting as a cruel and evil witness." (23:1)
Rav Mordechai of Neshchiz taught (Rishpei Aish, Mishpatim), that we should never speak negatively about another person and never judge another Jew wrongly. When one speaks negatively about a fellow Jew, he pairs up with the Satan, who up until then is a single witness. However, with another person, they become a pair of witnesses valid of testifying in the heavenly court. This in essence, causes the speaker to become a wicked and cruel witness along with the Yetzer Hara.
The following story illustrates this best: Rav Avraham Mordechai of Pintshov told his soninlaw, Rav Eisek of Komarna (Yahrzeit 1st of Adar), the following story:
The Holy Ba'al Shem Tov was praying together with his disciples on Rosh HaShana, when one of the disciples dropped his snuffbox. Even though he was in the midst of his prayers, he bent down, picked the snuffbox up from the floor and took a pinch of snuff. One of his friends saw this and felt that his actions were inappropriate. "How could he do such a thing in the middle of Rosh HaShana davening?!" he thought, judging his friend's actions as wrong and offensive. This thought caused a great uproar on High, and a prosecuting angel succeeded in having it ruled that the offender would not live out the year!
Our Master, the Ba'al Shem Tov, saw all this with Ruach HaKodesh, and his soul ascended on High to the supernal realms and came before the Heavenly court to plead his disciples case on his behalf. "How can you pronounce such a harsh judgment of death for such a small offense?!" was his argument. But to no avail. He could not succeed in changing the judgment. None of his arguments helped, and he was greatly distressed.
Then, on the night of Hoshana Rabbah, his prayers succeeded having the heavenly court rule that if the very same disciple who had judged and prosecuted against his fellow disciple were himself to change his own mind, judge him favorably and give him the benefit of the doubt this would sway the judgment, and tip the scales of judgment in his favor.
Our Master, the holy Ba'al Shem Tov, then used his spiritual powers and he removed all the "mochin" all the spiritual prowess and power of mind from this disciple so that his mind was weakened, and he felt no strength to learn and study. This caused his mind to wander and his thoughts eventually settled on the odd phenomenon why anyone sniffed tobacco and why snuff was so popular? He came to the understanding that there must be some souls who are so refined and so lofty that nonetheless, require some rectification. And the only way this can be achieved for them is through yichudim, spiritual methods of meditation and unifications of the Divine Names, using the most refined of senses the sense of smell. As it says, regarding the sacrificial offerings in Vayikra, that they caused a pleasing fragrance a Reyach Nicho'ach.
Then he thought of his fellow disciple, and how he had perhaps misjudged him. Perhaps he had some great merit, and who knows why he took snuff during the prayers?
Who knows what great tikkun he might have accomplished?!
That Hoshana Rabbah, our Master, the Ba'al Shem Tov, was in a great mood and he answered any question that was posed to him. Among them was this disciple as well, and he asked the Ba'al Shem Tov why people sniff tobacco. The Ba'al Shem Tov asked him back, "Nu, you tell me. What do you think the reason is?" The disciple proceeded to say the idea that had thought about earlier that day. "Now," encouraged the Ba'al Shem Tov, "go on and tell us what other thoughts you had…" The disciple proceeded to judge his fellow favorably and explain his actions during davening in a positive light. At that moment, the harsh heavenly decree was annulled and the verdict was overturned. Afterwards, the Ba'al Shem gently confronted his disciple about his original negative thought and instructed him to always give the benefit of the doubt and to judge others favorably.
The Rav Moshe of Pshevorsk said that when the Satan ascends on High to prosecute against a Jew, his testimony is overlooked, since the Torah requires testimony to be given by two witnesses and alone, he is only one. The Yetzer Hara waits for the opportunity to seize us as witnesses… If someone speaks lashon hara, badmouthing other Jews, judging them negatively and speaking badly about them, the evil one seizes this opportunity and he joins up with them as a team of two witnesses to bear testimony. This is the meaning of our verse do not lend your hand to the wicked evil one and be a cruel, wicked witness alongside the Satan and prosecute against other Jews. (Ba'al Shem Tov on the Torah, Mishpatim 7)
The Holy Ba'al Shem Tov told the following parable:
There was once a king, who had many wonderful treasures, and he stored them in various secret vaults within the royal palace. The more valuable and important treasures were hidden deeper, in a more secret manner than the others were. For example, he hid them behind a false wall, which had some slight mark that only someone truly wise might discern. Then, even deeper and more discreetly, he hid the more valuable and important treasure in such a subtle way, that only the wisest men could detect such a faint trace of something hidden. The king had only one son. As the king grew old, he hid all his treasures in various secret locations within the castle. He then summoned his heir, the prince, and commanded him saying, "Take heed! Pay attention and take note, for my hidden designs and secretive manner have a design and an intended goal. If you seek my treasure with wisdom you shall discover it!"
When the king passed away, his servants and ministers ransacked the castle; any treasures that were left lying about were immediately claimed and taken. Whatever treasures that were not skillfully hidden were also quickly uncovered and taken. After they had left, the prince, the king's only son the true heir, went down to the cellars, and he took his father's advice and began to search for clues.
Soon, he detected a faint trace of a façade and a false wall, and sure enough, there he discovered an important and valuable treasure. However, he remembered his father's advice and he was not content to stop there. He continued searching until he again detected an even fainter, harder to trace secret vault, that was so well hidden and concealed that it was almost unnoticeable and undetectable. There, he discovered a treasure more valuable than all the others!
Thus it is regarding Hashem's treasures. Wisdom, the Chochmos Chitzoniyos, all forms of external wisdom [such as the sciences, mathematics, geometry, astronomy, poetry, literature, rhetoric, music, art etc.], were all snatched up by the nations of the world. They snatched these treasures which lay out in the open or were ill concealed and not well hidden. However, the only son, the prince Am Yisrael, searched and found the concealed and hidden treasures of Yiras Hashem. And then beneath that, they discovered another, even greater treasure, the immeasurable treasure of Ahavas Hashem, Love of Hashem! (Toldos Yaakov Yosef – Behar – Ba'al Shem Tov
FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE
WHAT DOES HASHEM WANT FROM ME?
Rav Elimelech Biderman told a story about the Pnei Menachem of Ger:
A sad and downtrodden young man who was beset by suffering, once walked into the Pnei Menachem's room. He poured out his woes to the Rebbe, crying about how long he and his wife had yearned and prayed for a child. Finally, their son, the apple of their eyes, was born. A short while later, he suddenly grew ill, only to pass away from his sickness. And so, here the young man stood before the Rebbe, crying and asking why Hashem had taken away this precious gift and what Hashem wanted from him?!
The Pnei Menachem answered him with the following story:
In my childhood I once entered the bank and I saw a Jew enter with a large sum of money, which he handed to the teller and left. My heart went out to the poor soul. How terrible he must have felt giving away all his money and being left with nothing! Then, I saw another person come in after him, and after signing some papers, he was given a large sum of money. I was so happy for him! Here was a Jew, who just received a great gift!
How foolish and childish I was back then. For what I did not realize, was that my childish notions of the workings of a bank were in fact based on a completely false understanding of what went on before my eyes. The first gentleman, who I had felt so sorry for, was in fact the happier of the two.
His good fortune had allowed him to amass a tidy sum, which he could put away for safekeeping. His large deposit would earn him interest and dividends and he would become a
wealthy man. The second fellow, for whom I had been so happy, had sadly fallen on hard times and had no choice but to take out a bank loan at high interest. This is how I learned that not everything we see with our eyes, tells the full tale. Often, there are stories "behind the scenes", hidden, concealed and secret information which we do not know.
Sometimes, it may seem to a person that he has incurred a loss, when really, he has gained and profited. Therefore, I say, do not allow yourself to sink into depression, asking yourself, "What does Hashem want from me?" Rather, remember that Hashem did not take anything from you; he is constantly giving you, even if your human eyes may not see, nor discern this.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
Often, we hear people say about themselves and their connection to their Judaism, things like "I don't know… I just don't find that inspiring," "it doesn't move me," or, "I don't feel that that speaks to me." What they are really saying is what does this mitzvah or minhag do for ME? What is Judaism doing for ME? In reality though, we must ask ourselves the opposite question, since after all, when is going to shul to daven and learn or doing any mitzvah, about us? Aren't we doing this for Hashem? Isn't HE the One Who commanded us to do these things?
Hence, 'what about ME?' has no place here. The real outlook has to be 'what about Hashem?'
The Nesivos Shalom says that this is one of the messages taught to us in this week's Parsha by the Eved Ivri, the Jewish slave. If he is a true Eved Ne'eman, a faithful servant who loves his Master, then he serves his Master day and night. He doesn't select the easy tasks and ignore the difficult ones. He takes upon himself the seemingly heavy burden, and like an ox pulling a yoke, he serves Hashem, day and night, whether he feels enlightened, shining with the light of Torah and a feeling of delight and pleasure or even at night, in the darkness and the gloom, where his avodah is bland and tasteless. A real Eved Hashem is not deterred but the lack of spiritual enlightenment he may sometimes be missing when performing the mitzvos. He remains a faithful servant and serves Hashem through it all.
This is the meaning of the pasuk that says, "He shall serves six years and on the seventh go free." Six days a week we toil, and yes, sometimes it is hard work, it is bland and sometimes we don't feel inspired, moved or geshmak. Yet as servants of Hashem, we must remain steadfast to our service of Hashem. Just as a faithful servant does his duties day and night, so must we. Then, after the six days of the workweek are behind us, the pasuk tells us, "On the seventh day we go free." Shabbos comes and we are free of the burden!
Eventually, we feel the sweetness of Torah, mitzvos, Avodas Hashem and how sweet Shabbos is! Then, we experience the light and the delight of Hashem and His Avodah. May we all be zoche to that sweet reward, Amen!