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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Te'tzaveh, Shemos 28:30. The Urim Ve’tumim.

Ho’Urim ve’es HaTumim Vehoyu al Leiv Aharon. The Urim Vetumim were on the heart of Aharon. This phrase, “ahl leiv Aharon,” does not merely describe the placement of the Urim Vetumim. As we will explain, it describes the condition necessary for the Urim Vetumim to function.

The Yalkut here: R’ Shimon Ben Yochai says, the heart that rejoiced when Moshe was elevated to greatness will wear the Urim Vetumim. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz here in the ma’amar “Sheves Achim Gam Yochad” says that this means that a heart that feels such empathy for others is fit to wear the Urim Vetumim. To understand the messages that come through it, one has to have complete sensitivity and sympathy for Klal Yisroel.

The Choshen only serves to amplify and augment that intrinsic empathy, which enables the wearer to correctly understand its messages. He connects this to the story in Brochos 31b with Eli Hakohen. When Eli told Chana that she was a drunk— shikora— she answered “lo adoni...” And the Gemora there explains “lo odon atto bedovor zeh, giliso be’atzmecho she’ein ruach hakodesh shoreh olecho sheteida she’eini schuras yoyin.” You are not a master in this matter, you have revealed that the divine spirit is not resting on you, for then you would know that I am not drunk, but rather I am overwhelmed with emotion and I am praying with total concentration. The pshat is that if Eli did not have the necessary sympathy to discern that she acted as she did because she was davening with great kavono because of her emotional desolation, he could not correctly interpret the message of the Urim Vetumim. He thought it said "shikora," drunk, when it actually said "kesarah," like Sarah, who also prayed to have a child.

The lesson is that you need the “leiv Aharon” in order for the Urim V’tumim to work. I once heard a nice story about empathy from my father shlitah. The Baal Shem Tov once said that he learned ahavas Yisroel from a drunken peasant. Two drunken peasants were staggering through the street, holding on to each other, saying "John, you are my best friend!" "Ivan, you are my best friend!" Suddently, John pushes Ivan away and kicks him. Ivan, shocked, said, "John, why did you kick me? I am your best friend!" And John said, "I was sick last week, why didn’t you visit me!" Ivan answered, "But John, my best friend, how was I supposed to know you were sick? I didn’t know you were sick, I don’t see you every day!" John yelled at him, "You call yourself my friend? Why didn’t it hurt you when I was sick?"

On the topic of empathy: see the Radvaz in the Rambam Aveilus 14:1. The Rambam talks about the mitzvos of gmilus chasodim, and the Radvaz says that the mitzvah to be mesamei’ach choson vekallah is tied to the five kollos of matan Torah (Brochos 6b), and then he brings the Gemora in Shabbos 31 from Hillel that “desoni loch lechavroch lo sa’avid.” The Radvaz means to explain the connection between the mitzvah of being mesamei’ach choson vekallah and the kabolas hatorah— that desoni means that you have to feel the other person’s feelings as if they are your own. Since desoni is such an essential part of the Torah, as Hillel said, a person that really feels the ‘sharing of the joy of another person’ and who, by sharing the joy of the choson and kallah increases their simcha, is zocheh to Torah.

My son’s Sheva Brochos recently took place during a terrible snow storm. People were stuck on highways all over, cars were in ditches, and walking five inches outside was challenging, to say nothing of driving. Despite all this, most people that were invited did come to the Sheva Brochos. I was very moved by this unambiguous demonstration of caring and love, and the first thing I spoke about was the mitzvoh of Birkas Hagomeil. The Gemora in Brochos 44 says that if a friend sees you and says a birkas hagomeil on your recent recovery or redemption, and you say omein, you are no longer obligated to make your own birkas hagomeil. The gemora asks, but you need a minyon? And answers, yes, there has to be a minyon there. And the gemora asks, but you need sheim umalchus? And answers, yes, he used sheim umalchus. This is brought in Orach Chaim 219:4. The Ramoh adds a very interesting thing. He says that the friend’s brocho is not l’vatoloh, even though we don’t find that people have to make such brochos on their friends’ nissim, since it is a birchas shevach v’hodo’oh “ahl tovas chaveiro she’somei’ach boh.” The Mishneh Bruroh in 18 brings the Taz that explains that with the words "she’somei’ach boh” the Ramoh limits the relevance of this halochoh to a relative or friend who is truly happy about the recovery or salvation of the person; if, however, he is not truly joyful in his heart, and he only made the brochoh for appearances sake, for the sake of being social (mipnei hasholom), then it is a brochoh l’vatoloh, and he had better not use the sheim umalchus. The Taz makes us face an obvious but unpleasant fact. It is not natural for us to rejoice in our friends’ successes. Nobody questions our sympathy and commiseration for a friend’s loss, but that is a feeling that is relatively easy to achieve. Who knows? Maybe, deep down, we think, better him than me, and are relieved at our escape, maybe it’s a little schadenfreude. But whatever it is, the fact remains that it’s easier to sympathize with a friend’s misfortune than to rejoice at his success or recovery or redemption. The initial and natural emotion upon seeing a friend’s success is envy. It sounds sick, but that’s the fact. R’ Mottel Pagremansky is quoted as saying that to sympathize, you need to be a mentsch, but to be happy with another’s success, you have to be a maloch.

Think about how this plays out in our daily lives. We all know of families that know each other, and who each have a daughter in shidduchim. One girl goes out with a boy, and immediately the other family resents it. We heard about him first! How did they get him and we didn’t! They must have paid someone off! Instead of thinking, Boruch Hashem, it should be with hatzlochoh, we will find what is bashert for us, they think they have been cheated.

But this is not what the Torah wants. For us, the foundation of the whole Torah is “veohavto l’rei’acho komocho.” Besides the issur of coveting a neighbor’s property, the Torah says we must rejoice in his successes as if they were our own.

Some readers will say to themselves that this is a ridiculous and naive idea, and that no human being can feel this way. We would be lucky if we feel that close to our immediate relatives. But to feel this way towards anyone but your spouse or your children is unnatural and abnormal. They are probably right. But we are obligated to overcome this natural feeling and become Torah people, not just natural people. This is the trait that Aharon represented, towards which we should aspire, and which we should all work to achieve.

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