Tomer Devora- Real Truth #8

14 09 2011
 Based on a shiur by Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen 

Tomer Devora-Real Truth #8

The essence of Hashem is emet (truth) as the Gemara in Shabbat says, the signet of Hashem is emet. Hashem judges us with truth, justice, and straightforwardness. This mida of emet is actualized in every Jew. It is an inheritance from our forefather Yaakov of whom it says, “Titen emet l’Yaakov.” Yaakov represents truth. The Rambam writes that Yaakov is called tzaddik because he worked for Lavan with honesty. Although Lavan did not appreciate him and tried to trick him many times, Yaakov continued to serve him faithfully.

On the one hand we say Hashem is emet, which should imply pure justice, yet we find that He also shows us mercy even if we don’t deserve it. The evil inclination tries to convince a person that minor mitzvot and aveirot are not all that important. It tries to convince us that Hashem will overlook them. But this is not true. Hashem is “Kel emuna v’ein avel.” His actions are perfect and just. If so, where does mercy fit in?

The Mesilat Yesharim says that even if Hashem is compelled to chastise a sinner, he does so without anger and with pity. Similarly, the Tomer Dvora writes that Hashem is emet and mishpat but he is also rachamim and accepts our teshuva. Hashem doesn’t punish out of revenge, but rather out of love and compassion. The punishment serves as a tikun, to atone for sins. A person can repent and the sin becomes as though it never existed. A human judge is limited and must follow the letter of the law. But Hashem looks at a person differently. Man sins because he has an evil inclination and so Hashem gives him the opportunity to do teshuva and doesn’t punish him immediately. Emet means understanding a person’s situation; not deviating from justice, but still merciful.

The tenth mida in Tomer Devora is emet, the eleventh is chesed. Avraham represents chesed. He went lifnim meshurat hadin (beyond the letter of the law). Because Avraham exerted himself beyond his limits, Hashem dealt the same way with him. Similarly, if we restrain our natural inclinations, then Hashem too will go beyond the laws of nature with us.

Every Jew should try to reach a higher level in avodat Hashem lifnim meshurat hadin. We should attempt to be patient with others, understand their needs, and view every Jew as important in our eyes. We should love others even if they don’t deserve it, just as a parent loves his children. This is acting lifnim meshurat hadin (above the letter of the law) and it is what Hashem wants of us. The unique attribute of klal Yisrael is chesed l’avraham. When we go beyond what the law requires, we emulate Hashem and come closer to Him.


Tomer Devora-Examples of G-dliness

22 12 2010

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen

Examples of G-dliness

The sefer, Tomer Devora, is based on a verse in Micha, “Mi Kel komocha..”-Who is like you Hashem.  It describes how man should adopt Hashem’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, transforming himself from a mere human to a G-dly individual. This class focuses on the middah of chesed as expounded further in the verse, “Ki chofetz chesed hu..”-Hashem desires chesed.

In the heavens above, there are angels whose sole purpose is to receive and present the chesed of the Jewish people to Hashem, particularly in a time when they are not following the Torah. This chesed intercedes for them and sweetens the judgment. Even terrible sins punishable by death, merit forgiveness through chesed. Why is chesed so significant in the eyes of Hashem?

The Michtav M’Eliyahu writes that giving is the foundation of all mussar and machasava. It is a prerequisite for emunah and avodat Hashem. Chesed is a form of giving. When a person gives of himself, he indicates that he is investing in something spiritual and eternal. The Jewish nation distinguish themselves as being merciful, modest, and kind. We do not pride ourselves on our physical prowess or intelligence.  The Torah tells us “Vahavata l’reicha komocha…” Ahava comes from the root word “hav”-to give. We indicate our love by giving of ourselves. Our goal should be to give without expecting anything in return. Even those who hurt us, should be the recipients of our chesed. This is how Hashem acts with us and this is our basis for emunah.

The text in Micha reads further, “Yashav yerachameihu..”-Hashem is merciful to those who return. When one person sins against another, the level of love and respect for the other person can never be the same. In contrast, when a person does teshuva, he becomes even closer to Hashem. This is the level we should strive to achieve with those who wrong us. While a tzaddik can have a relationship with Hashem, a baal teshuva is in the category of a servant who is even closer to his Master.

The Midrash asks, why is Magen Avraham called Avraham’s bracha? Does it not say Elokei Avraham? Avraham brought Hashem’s existence into the world with his actions. Similarly, when we emulate Hashem’s middot, our divine like aspect comes to the fore. We glorify Hashem with our righteous actions and bring His presence into the world. May our efforts to perfect our inner selves sanctify Hashem’s name and bring atonement for all of Klal Yisrael.