Chicago Chesed Fund

Monday, September 13, 2021

Haazinu. The Rock! His Deeds are Perfect.

הצור תמים פעלו   כי כל דרכיו משפט 

אל אמונה ואין עול   צדיק וישר הוא 

The Rock!—His deeds are perfect, Yea, all His ways are just;

A faithful God, never false, True and upright is He.

Just out of the goodness of his heart, Michael Kirshner, the owner of Star Catering, provides a kiddush in the shul kitchen after the early minyan.  I prefer to make kiddush at home, so I can eat something with my wife, but sometimes I go in to catch up on local news. Last week, I jokingly said to Michael, "Since you're sponsoring the kiddush, you really should say a dvar Torah." He shrugged and said "I'm not sponsoring! 'Ploni' is sponsoring this week!" 

I'm not friendly enough with Ploni to needle him for not saying a dvar Torah. But he said "I have something I want to say."  And this is what he said.

"I just spent Rosh Hashannah in West Palm Beach, and after Maariv, we wished each other "לשנה טובה תכתב ותחתם לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום"   and we went home. A while later, one person's wife came knocking on the Rabbi's door, because her husband had not come home.  They went to look for him, and they found out that he had been hit by a car crossing the street and was killed on the spot.  This young man, his name is Baruch, he was an unbelievable baal chesed. Many people come to the local hospital for medical procedures, and they stay at Gershon Bassman's (also at the kiddush,) Hachnasas Orchim, and Baruch would drop everything he was doing to take care of them - he picked them up, he found them food that was up to their kashrus standards - just Chalav Yisrael was not enough, one guy needed Super Chalav Yisrael - and he gladly did whatever he could to make them comfortable. And just after I wished him le'alter lechaim, he got killed crossing the street." 
And now, Rabbi Eisenberg is going to tell us how the Ribono shel Olam could do such a thing to this tzadik and to his family on Rosh Hashannah."

To make terrible even worse, this shul in West Palm Beach is across the street from Century Village, and there's an island in middle of the street. There is traffic on the street directly in front of Century Village, and there's a stoplight, but there's very little traffic on the street in front of the shul. So the light changes to go right and left out of Century Village, but you don't get a green to cross in front of the shul unless you press a button. So they have a security guard, who waits for the people and presses the button so they can safely cross. Baruch always stayed after davening to put sefarim back and straighten the place out, just for kavod beis haknesses. Rosh Hashannah night, the shul was full and people are in a hurry to get home, so he had extra straightening out to do, and by the time he finished, the security guard had left. That is why he was hit by the car - because on Rosh Hashannah night, he stayed late so that the mispallelim the next day would come in to a clean and beautiful shul.

This man, Ploni, had suffered a personal tragedy several months ago. His son, who lived in Detroit, was a rebbi, he learned Daf Yomi five times a day, and, as Rav Bakst said in his hesped, he was not just a Baal Chesed, he was beyond any definition of Baal Chesed, he was a gadol in chesed.  A young man, he died while learning the daf yomi.  After he said what happened to Baruch on Rosh Hashannah, he said that since his son died, his heart has been a block of ice.  So you realize that when he threw this question at me, it was not just because of Baruch. 

I was not in a good place. I had lightheartedly pushed someone to say a vort, as a result this man said what was on his heart, and then he throws the question at me, the question that bothered Moshe Rabbeinu and Iyov and all the tzadikim since Briyas Haolam.

In Melachim I 18:37, Eliahu prayed for a neis to show Hashem's power over the Neviei haBaal on Har HaCarmel and said
ענני ה' ענני וידעו העם הזה כי אתה ה' האלהים ואתה הסבת את לבם אחרנית
Rashi explains, 
וְאַתָּה הֲסִבֹּתָ אֶת לִבָּם. נָתַתָּ לָהֶם מָקוֹם לָסוּר מֵאַחֲרֶיךָ, וּבְיָדְךָ הָיָה לְהָכִין לְבָבָם אֵלֶיךָ. וּמִדְרַשׁ אַגָּדָה: אִם לֹא תַּעֲנֵנִי, אַף אֲנִי אֶהְיֶה כּוֹפֵר וְאוֹמֵר, אַתָּה הֲסִבּוֹתָ אֶת לִבָּם, וְכֵן אָמַר משֶׁה: אִם כְּמוֹת כָּל הָאָדָם יְמוּתוּן אֵלֶּה, אַף אֲנִי כּוֹפֵר וְאוֹמֵר, לֹא ה' שְׁלָחַנִי לְדַבֵּר אֶת הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת, וְכָךְ אָמַר מִיכַיְהוּ: אִם שׁוֹב תָּשׁוּב בְּשָׁלוֹם, לֹא דִּבֵּר ה' בִּי.

The Ribono shel Olam will not put a man in a position where he can not be expected to withstand the Sattan, the Yetzer Hara.  I think that in Beis Din shel Maalah, they decided that this Ploni had experienced things that would make it unfair to expect him to remain a maamin, and I had been maneuvered into the position to tell him what he needed to hear, to deliver a message that might help him deal with the terrible and tragic things he had seen. 

My mother in law, Rebbitzen Shelia Feinstein, עליה השלום, was a passenger in a car that had an accident.   When the first responders came and took her out of the car, she sat down waiting for the ambulance, and she asked my father in law Shlitah, "We're on our way home from a Bris and Nichum Aveilim. It says that שלוחי מצוה אינן ניזקין. How could something like this have happened?"  Soon after being taken by the ambulance, she lost consciousness and passed away ten days later, never having fully awoken. 

My son Harav Shlomo said in Reb Chaim Kanievsky's name that when a person's allotted years come to an end, (or if for whatever reason his time has come,) if that person was a tzadik the Ribono shel Olam will arrange that he will die in the midst of doing a Mitzva. It's not the pshat that the mitzva was not meigin. The pshat is that a mitzvah is meigin on a live person, but it is not meigin on a gavra ketilla. If the person has to die no matter what. Hashem gives him the great zechus of dying mitoch dvar mitzvah.

ויבוא אברהם לספוד לשרה (בראשית כ"ג ב') פירש רש"י שעל ידי בשורת העקידה מתה שרה. ויש לעיין הא קי"ל שלוחי מצוה אין נזוקין ולמה סבבו מן השמים שתמות עי"ז, 
וכעין זה יש להקשות בריש מדרש אסתר גבי אנשי אלכסנדריא שאמרו נדליק או לא נדליק ואמרו נדליק וכל דבעי ימטי עלן ועי"ז נתגלגל שנהרגו כולן, וקשה נהי שהיו חייבים עונש כדאמר בגמ' דעברו על לא תוסיפון לשוב וגו' אבל למה גלגלו שימותו דוקא ע"י מצוה שמסרו נפשם על זה. וכן קשה בשבת קי"ח ב' יהי חלקי ממתי בדרך מצוה וקשה הא שלוחי מצוה אינן ניזוקין. וקשה לומר דכל הני מקרי שכיח הזיקא. 
ונראה דהא דשלוחי מצוה אינן נזוקין היינו דהמצוה לא תגרום להם שום היזק, אבל אם הגיע זמנו למות בלא"ה, א"כ אדרבה זכות הוא לו שמסבבין מן השמים מיתתו ע"י מצוה, דהוי כמוסר נפשו על קידוש ה'. ולכן אנשי אלכסנדריא שהגיע זמנם ליענש ולפי שהיו צדיקים סבבו מן השמים שימותו ע"י מצוה, דהוי כמסרו נפשם עבור המצוה, דשכרו מרובה מאד, וכן הענין בשרה וכן בהא דכל כתבי, ובזה יתיישב בכמה דוכתי. 

(See addendum for text of the Medrash about the Jews of Alexandria.)

R' Shlomo added that it seems to him that it would not be stam a mitzva, it would be a mitzva that specifically reflects that person's gadlus in Avodah. (He said that in his grandmother's case, her gadlus was helping people make an honest assessment of who they are and what they are capable of doing, of making an honest cheshbon hanefesh. This is the greatest chesed anyone can do for another, holding up a mirror so they can see who they truly are and what they can become, like the Brachos of Yaakov and of Moshe Rabbeinu.  If her time had come, how appropriate it was that it came while she was oseik in a mitzvah that is a chesed with the living and with the dead, nichum aveilim.)

Sara did not die before her time. Sarah's years were over and her time had come. The Satan just used the Akeida as the instrument of bringing about that death (borrowing Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky's words as brought in the Tallelei Oros page 248. Reb Yaakov adds that this is why the words Chayei Sara are repeated - this was the number of years she was allotted and her time had come. When she was born, she was given 127 years. Those years had run out. This is also brought in the Kol Rom as something Reb Yaakov said to Reb Moshe when he came to be menachem aveil at his Shiva on his sister, Rebbitzen Small. I also just saw it in the Emes L'Yaakov, where he proves this is true, because later it says that when Yitzchak turned 123, he realized that he had to get moving on a shidduch for Yaakov, because a man needs to worry when he reaches a parent's age of death, and it was a couple of years before his mother's life span. All this proves that her death was not the result of a malicious act of the Satan, it was her predestined lifespan.)

Please note: According to Reb Chaim, this applies not only when a man reaches the end of his alloted years. In the case of the men of Alexandria, Hashem had made a gzeira that because the community was founded in contradiction to the passuk prohibiting choosing to settle in Egypt, it was to be destroyed; despite that sin, and in balance, they were tzadikim.  Although the destruction and death was inevitable, Hashem chose such circumstances that allowed them to die al kiddush Hashem.

When a man's time comes, there are many ways to die. He might die in middle of something absurd or embarrasing. One beautiful soul I know died of a heart attack in the shower, and remained there for twelve hours under a spray of hot water. Another person was shot and killed in middle of the night on Yomtov while playing Pokemon in the park off of Lake Shore Drive. But there are a lucky few, yedidei Hashem, whose end draws close, and the Ribono shel Olam gives them the opportunity to do a perfect mitzvah with ahava and dveikus just as their time runs out.  As Rav Avraham Bukspan said,  
רגלוהי דבר איניש אינון ערבין ביה - לאתר דמיתבעי תמן מובילין יתיה..

This is the Medrash (Eicha 4:22) Reb Chaim Kanievsky brought.

קַלִּים הָיוּ רֹדְפֵינוּ מִנִּשְׁרֵי שָׁמָיִם, טְרַכִינוּס שְׁחִיק עֲצָמוֹת יָלְדָה אִשְׁתּוֹ בְּלֵיל תִּשְׁעָה בְּאָב, וְהָיוּ כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲבֵלִים. נִשְׁתַּתֵּק הַוְּלַד בַּחֲנֻכָּה, אָמְרוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל נַדְלִיק, אוֹ לֹא נַדְלִיק, אָמְרוּ, נַדְלִיק, וְכָל מַה דְּבָעֵי לִימְטֵי עֲלָן יִמְטֵא. אַדְלִיקוּ, אֲזַלוּן וַאֲמָרוּן לִישָׁן בִּישׁ לְאִשְׁתּוֹ שֶׁל טְרַכִינוּס, אִילֵין יְהוּדָאִין כַּד יְלִידַת הֲווֹן מִתְאַבְּלִין, וְכַד מַיְית וְלָדָא אַדְלִיקוּ בּוֹצִינַיָיא. שָׁלְחָה וְכָתְבָה לְבַעְלָהּ, עַד דְּאַתְּ מַכְבֵּשׁ בַּרְבָּרְיִין בֹּא וּכְבשׁ אִילֵין יְהוּדָאין דְּמָרְדוּ בָךְ, סְלִיק לְאִילְפָא וַחֲשִׁיב לְמֵיתֵי בַּעֲשָׂרָה יוֹמִין וְאַיְיתִיתֵיהּ רוּחָא בְּחַמְשָׁא יוֹמִין, אֲתָא וְאַשְׁכְּחִינוּן דַּהֲווֹ עָסְקִין בַּהֲדֵין פְּסוּקָא (דברים כח, מט): יִשָֹּׂא ה' עָלֶיךָ גּוֹי מֵרָחֹק מִקְצֵה הָאָרֶץ כַּאֲשֶׁר יִדְאֶה הַנָּשֶׁר, אֲמַר לְהוּ אֲנָא הוּא נִשְׁרָא דַּחֲשֵׁיבִית לְמֵיתֵי בְּעַשְׂרָה יוֹמִין וְאַיְיתֵתַנִי רוּחָא בְּחַמְשָׁא יוֹמִין, הִקִּיפָן לִגְיוֹנוֹתָיו וַהֲרָגָן. אָמַר לַנָּשִׁים הִשָּׁמְעוּ לְלִגְיוֹנוֹתַי וְאִם לָאו אֲנִי עוֹשֶׂה לָכֶם כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁעָשִׂיתִי לָאֲנָשִׁים, אָמְרוּ עֲבֵיד בְּאַרְעָאֵי מַה דְּעַבַדְתְּ בְּעִילָאֵי, מִיָּד הִקִּיפָן לִגְיוֹנוֹתָיו וַהֲרָגָן, וְנִתְעָרְבוּ דָּמִים שֶׁל אֵלּוּ בְּדָמִים שֶׁל אֵלּוּ, וְהָיָה הַדָּם בּוֹקֵעַ וְהוֹלֵךְ עַד שֶׁהִגִּיעַ לְקִיפְרוֹס נָהָר.


  1. May Ploni find tanchumin.

    I can’t get to my Divrei Malkiel right now, but if I remember correctly he has a teshuvah discussing the minhag to bury women who died in childbirth in a separate section of the bris olam. He concludes that this is because HaShem granted them the great merit to be מתי בדרך מצוה (שבת קיח ב( and their holiness therefore precludes anyone else being buried alongside them. His point is that it is a zechus to die while engaged in a mitzvah, and no one else can enter the mechitzah of such a person. I don’t think he specifically adds Rav Chaim’s kneitch, so perhaps he explains with a differentl niggun, I.e., that while one cannot be harmed through performing a mitzvah, the merit of concluding his earthly mission during such a holy task is not a harm, but an inestimable gain.

    1. Right, Reb Chaim's thought is a big hosafa.
      This idea of a separate chelka for such women - on the one hand, it seems to contradict the Mishna in Bameh Medlikin. On the other hand, it justifies Yaakov's leaving Rachel out of the MhM. In any case, it is most likely like resorting to gilgulim when someone died young, mostly just utilitarian. But who knows?

  2. It is sad to hear of such tragedies and it's amazing you were able to think of what to say on the spot to give some nechama.

    But (you knew a 'but' was coming : ) I am not sure how your thesis fits a Rashi in our parsha. Rashi says that Hashem took Moshe from this world b'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh to prove that BN"Y were powerless to stop it from happening. But if when אבל אם הגיע זמנו למות בלא"ה then zechuyos don't work, how would BNY"s tefilos (like R' Chaim Shmuelevitz explains) or any other zechuyos work to keep Moshe in this world? Zechuyos work l'shitascha only for the living, not once a person's time is up and they are k'ilu a gavra k'teila?

    Gmar chasima tovah in advance!

    1. I really believe that the whole experience was scripted by hidden forces, like marionettes.
      You know the machlokes R Akiva and Chachamim on 49b-50a about אמלא versus והוספתי. So according to the Chachamim, he could get more; according to Reb Akiva, he must have been slated for more years anyway, and the idea was to let him live out his potential. So how is Reb Chaim K going to answer the shittas chachamim? Very simple. Just like he says by אנשי אלכסנדריא, that they had to die because of whatever, in that case because they settled in Mitzrayim, but they were tzadikim in general, so they died in doing a mitzva. By Moshe also, it's very yitachein that he had many more years, but he died young because of the gzeirah, and they thought their tefillos would overcome that.

    2. With all requisite modesty, ואחר בקשת המחילה, I am fairly confident that Rav Chaim’s answer to this question would be that the power of tefillah is not comparable to that of zechuyos. Hashem created a transcendental Koach hatefillah, which can supersede the natural order, and indeed the will of HaShem itself, as it were! In this vein, Rav Chaim quotes a Rav Yonasan Eybeschutz (on סכותה בענן לך) that HaShem “needed” to make Tish’ah B’Av cloudy, obscuring the haneitz, for otherwise the tefillos of the vasikin would have precluded the Churban! See also the sugya of שמא קידמנו אחר בתפילה, where the tefillos can divert - indeed pervert, given the Genara’s conclusion that it will not be a good zivug - the natural order of things.
      Here, too, the Bnei Yosrael’s tefillos could have, theoretically, diced Hashem’s Hand, so to speak.
      Gmar Chasimah Tovah!

    3. Apologies for typos. “Diced” should be “forced”

    4. שמא קידמנו אחר בתפילה is an interesting example, because over there Rashi learns that the effect of the tefilla will be her death.
      I would bring a proof from the Sfornon in Vayeira,
      ותצחק שרה שחשבה שהיה דבר המלאך ברכת נביא בלבד כענין אלישע לא נבואה ושליחות האל ית'. וחשבה שלא יושג זה בזקנים בברכת שום נביא כי אמנם להשיב הבחרו' אחר הזקנה הרי הוא כתחיית המתים שלא תהיה זולתי במצות האל פרטית או בתפלה משגת חן מאתו:
      On the other hand,
      בספר 'ארחות רבינו' (ח"א ע' של"ה) שהסטייפלר זצ"ל הורה על חולה שאין תרופה למחלתו על פי דרך הטבע, שאסור להתפלל על נס, שהוא כמי שמתפלל על תחית המתים, או כמי שמתפלל על קטוע אבר שיצמח לו אבר אחר
      Having said this, I respectfully defer to your assessment of what Reb Chaim holds on this matter.

    5. R Avrohom Wagner, in one bomb of a sentence in a personal communication, answers R Chaim's he'ara and my quote from the Steipler and the Sforno, and also explains how it can be that it is not just a waste of time to daven for a neis, it is, according to some, actually assur. What is the issur? Sheim levatala? You don't need to sheim to daven. He wrote,
      "I would suggest that הא גופא, since tefillah has the power to effect even a נס גמור, and the רצון ה׳ היותר מתמיד is for the natural order to prevail, we are forbidden to daven for such an open miracle."
      This may be well known to others, but to me, it was a הכל בחזקת סומין עד experience.

    6. >>>By Moshe also, it's very yitachein that he had many more years, but he died young because of the gzeirah

      Sefas Emes d"h "Yei'asef Aharon" writes that the principle that Hashem is m'malei shenoseihem shel tzadikim m'yom l'yom is not overturned by a gezeira.
      (I assume the logic is that otherwise what's the big deal of getting to one's birthday if that happens to be the day one's time is up anyway? It's only a big deal if for some reason one might not deserve to get there.)

      וְאָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי: יְהֵא חֶלְקִי מִמֵּתֵי בְּדֶרֶךְ מִצְוָה. Shabbos 118b Maharasha there asks what about shluchei mitzvah ainan nizokin.

      While this is of little comfort to those involved, maybe shluchei mitzvah ainin nizokin does not apply when you are up against baalei bechira like drivers and criminals, as it requires an inordinate zechus for Hashem to interfere with bechira.

    7. One heara: your idea, lishitascha of what you've been writing recently (e.g.,, that שלוחי might not apply vis a vis baalei bechira, is inconsistant with the Gemara by Shmuel and Shaul.

    8. That Sfas Emes is very strong, but one could say that when years are subtracted, at least he gets to the end of the year he ends up with, while a lesser person gets a year subtracted and dies in the beginning of that year.

    9. From R Avrohom Wagner:
      there’s an added wrinkle to Reb Chaim Brown’s suggestion re: baalei bechirah. Just as an inordinate zechus is needed to protect against a Baal bechirah, so should an inordinately strong Heavenly judgment be needed to supersede a Baal bechira’s natural precautions. Given the Chazon Ish’s stance (end of Orach Chaim) that tefillah is biy’dei Adam, that would seem to add more weight to the power of tefillah.

  3. >>>lishitascha... is inconsistant with the Gemara by Shmuel and Shaul.

    Take me out of the equation and ask on the O.C.: Even though Yosef was sent to find his brothers by his father and was a shliach mitzvah, O.C. says he had no protection from his brothers since they were baalei bechira.

    Maybe what makes the encounter with Shaul shchiach hezeika is precisely because Shaul is a baal bechira and dealing with a baal bechira is dangerous.

    >>>Given the Chazon Ish’s stance (end of Orach Chaim) that tefillah is biy’dei Adam, that would seem to add more weight to the power of tefillah.

    So just to put this in real world terms, are you saying that if we took a random sample population of religious people and compared it with a random population sample of not religious people (so we control for all variables except prayer), we would find that the pop of religious people is less prone to die of disease, for example, since they have more natural protection against harm?

    1. The answer to that question is above my pay grade, but by definition the benefits of prayer cannot be quantifiable in that manner, because that would subvert bechirah. (Cf. Douglas Adams’ babel fish, but not on Erev YK)

    2. Anyone that can idly gaze out of his basement apartment window and decide that the answer is 42 is good enough for me.