Thursday, February 12, 2015

Righteous, Average, and Evil People

By Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh

One of the main features of the special Torah reading and Haftarah for this week, Shekalim, is the unity of Bnei Yisrael. The unity in a partnership is different than the unity in a community. A partnership is a number of individuals who have banded together into a large entity, but a community is a single unit, all of whose organs are linked to each other, drawing sustenance from each other and complementing each other. And that is why every person in Bnei Yisrael gives half a Shekel, to teach us that every Jew is not whole without being linked to his colleagues.
There is even room in a community for evil people. It has been noted that the word "tzibur" – a community – is an acronym for "righteous, average, and evil." The evil people are bound into the same community, using "and" as a link. We cannot ignore them, because if they are missing there will be a general lack in Bnei Yisrael. It is written, "A fast day which does not include anybody from among the sinners of Yisrael is not a valid fast day" [Keritut 6b]. The proof is from the spice "chelbonah," which has a bed smell but which must be included in the incense in the Temple. "The same is true for combinations in general, where the sinners are supervised and also give off a bad odor." And if the chelbonah is missing it will be noticed, because "it has the ability to bring out the odor in other spices." [Meshech Chochma – the Haftarah of Devarim].
However, there are times when things are much worse and they become topsy-turvy, as is hinted in the Torah portion. "If you see your enemy's donkey kneeling down (rovetz) from the weight of its burden..." [Shemot 23:5]. "Instead of the normal situation of 'tzibur," where the tzadik (righteous one) is first and then we can tolerate evil ones in our midst, a terrible complication comes about and the evil ones are first, and then the operating word is not tzibur but rovetz. We might develop a desire to flee, heaven forbid. However, we are told, 'You cannot ignore them' [ibid]. It is our country, it is our government. 'And would you stop helping him?' Heaven forbid! 'You cannot ignore them!' We are intimately linked to the entire nation of Yisrael, including its many problems." [Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook].
That Talmud in Pesachim asks about the verse, "And if you see the donkey of your enemy..." Doesn't this contradict the verse, "Do not hate your brother in your heart" [Vayikra 19:17]? The answer is that a person who has seen another one commit a sin is allowed to hate him. The Talmud sets priorities: If an enemy needs help unloading a donkey and a friend needs help to load, the mitzva is to first help the enemy, in order for us to learn to control our evil inclination. The Tosafot explain that the hatred because of a sin starts out as scolding but it might develop into real hatred. There is therefore a mitzva to help the enemy load his donkey first, in order to calm the evil inclination and thereby avoid the pitfall of absolute hatred.
The wise men of Yisrael explain that the mitzva to hate one who has sinned is only valid if we have first fulfilled the mitzva of rebuking the sinner. But since the sages have taught us that today nobody knows the proper way to rebuke, we are not allowed to hate another Jew. As the Chazon Ish wrote: "The law that an evil person should be put into a pit and not be given help to extricate himself is valid only when the Divine supervision is openly revealed, but at the time when it is hidden and the simple folks have lost their faith... And since our main goal is to mend the situation... We must bring them back with strong bands of love and stand them up in a ray of light, as far as we can go."
At this time when the political parties are struggling against each other, it is appropriate to remember the words of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook: "It is a bad sign for any party to feel that it and only it holds the key to the source of all wisdom and all honesty, and that everybody else is only pure vanity and blowing 

No comments: