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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Zechus Avos, and the Heck with the !!**#%*!! Market, PART II

Abba Lo Mezakeh Bra.

As noted above, this is from the Gemara in Sanhedrin 104a, which says that a Father's merits do not help his son. It also appears in the Sifri in Haazinu, Devarim 32:39. The passuk says "Ve'ein miyadi matzil," nothing will save you from My hands, and the Sifri brings the statement of Bra mezakeh abba, abba lo mezakeh bra. I don't care if your father is a tzadik gamur yesod olam with twenty letters after his name; you sin, you pay. Zechiso Yugain Oolaini? Sorry, Charlie. Your father won't save you, your brother won't save you, even the Rebbe won't save you from Me. Similarly, in Koheles Rabba 6, it says "Kol amal Adam lefihu, velo lefi be'no."


The Rashba in Teshuvos 5:49 was asked: Why is it that we ask for favor because of Zechus Avos, when Abba lo mezakeh Bra? The whole concept of Zechus Avos, he was asked, contradicts the rule of the Gemara Sanhedrin 104a. Second, he was asked, how can we benefit from Zechus Avos, or, how can a righteous son benefit his father, when Chazal say "mi shetarach erev Shabbas yochal beShabbas," metaphorically meaning that one only has, in the world to come, what he prepared when he was alive, and nothing can be done to benefit a person that has already died. How, then, can anyone benefit from the righteousness of his ancestors, and how can a person who has died already benefit from the righteous acts of the son that survives him?
In his answer, the Rashba teaches us three very interesting things.

I The Rashba, in passing, mentions that we do not hold like Shmuel, but rather like the Medrash/Yerushalmi, that Zechus Avos remains intact.

II The Rashba says that the first question is based on a false assumption; the assumption was that the word "Zechus" in Zechus Avos and the word "Mezakeh" in Abba lo mezakeh bra mean the same thing. This, the Rashba says, is incorrect. Zechus Avos only helps for matters that take place in this world, for Olam Hazeh. Abba lo mezakeh Bra refers to one's position in Olam Haba. For Olam Hazeh, certainly Abba mezakeh Bra. A son is, in a sense, thirty three percent his father, because "shlosha shutfim be'adam." Therefore, in matters of this world, whatever a father achieves accrues to his son as well, just as his property is inherited by his son. But regarding the Olam Haba, a son is not a part of his father in the world of Neshamos. A father does not create, from his own body, his son's neshama, and a son's neshama is not part of his father's neshama.
So: according to the Rashba, Abba lo mezakeh bra only in Olam Haba, and it doesn't require tefilla to work. But when you get to Olam Haba, the greatest yichus isn't worth a dime, and that's was Abba lo mezakeh bra is referring to. But Abba is certainly mezakeh bra in matters of Olam Hazeh, and this is what we are talking about when we ask for Zechus Avos.

This fundamental idea is also stated in the Shelah, Sha'ar Ha'osiyos, Derech Eretz 16, and Rabbi Krasner cites the Avos D'rav Nassan as saying this, but I haven't found it there.

So, theoretically, you can keep saying Zechiso Yugain Oolaini about your Rebbe. The truth is, there are plenty of Gemaros that say that so long as a particular tzadik was alive, like Rav Tzadok, and Rav, whose piety and suffering protected the community and prevented many catastrophes.

That's in Theory.
Theoretically, there's no difference between theory and reality. But in reality, there is. And unfortunately, the Arvei Nachal in Yisro Drush 4 says you can forget about relying on the Rebbe's zechus. He says that to protect others, you have to be in the category of "Hevel she'ein bah cheit." He says that in our time (actually, his time), there are no tzadikim that can protect others, and they are lucky to protect themselves.

III The Rashba then says that with Tefilla, everything changes. With Tefilla, Abba mezakeh bra, a father can benefit his son, (and kal vachomer, a son can benefit his father,) even in Olam Haba, and he brings a proof from the story (Sotah 10b) of David and Avshalom.

This idea is also found in Ibn Chaviv's Tosfos Yom Hakipurim in Yoma 87a, where the zechus of Aharon saved Elazar and Isamar;

Please note that according to the Rashba in II, in the neshama world, a son and a father are unrelated. If so, why would tefilla of one help the other more than for any stranger? Apparently, for the Rashba in III to be consistent with the Rashba in II, we will have to say that he holds that with tefilla, one can help any stranger in Olam Haba, and not only a father to a son. So you can hire that guy to say kaddish, and perhaps the sayer of kaddish would be categorized as a chiyuv. This would not only contradict the Rama brought below in the discussion on Tosfos in Sotah part II, but it's also not like the the Shvus Yaakov, who, as noted below in Tosfos in Sotah III, only applies this to family members.

Tosfos in Sotah

The Gemara in Sotah 10b says, as noted above, that through tefilla, David Hamelech saved the damned soul of his rebellious son, Avshalom, from the lowest pits of Hell and elevated it to Gan Eden.

Tosfos there asks, but what of the rule that Abba lo mezakeh Bra?
As we have seen, the Rashba's approach answers this question. However, Tosfos does not use the Rashba's teretz, and offers three of his own.

I Avshalom died an awful and unnatural death; he got what was coming to him; in cases like that, it doesn't take much to bring him to Gan Eden, and WITH TEFILLA, Abba mezakeh bra.

II The rule that Abba lo mezakeh bra only applies to individuals that worship idols, (though Tosfos doesn't say why that would be the case.) Since Avshalom didn't do Avoda Zarah, there is no rule of Abba lo mezakeh bra, and his father's zechusim saved him. In this teretz, he doesn't mention the need for Tefilla; he simply says that Abba lo mezakeh bra does not apply here, and therefore, Abba is mezakeh bra.

This approach is also found in the Teshuvos Shevus Yaakov, YD II 93. The story behind the teshuva is this.
The Rama in Darkei Moshe YD 376 brings Teshuvos Binyamin Ze'ev as saying that a father who is saying Kaddish for his son has no priority or standing vis a vis someone who is saying kaddish for his parent, because Bra mezakeh abba, so a son's kaddish is meaningful, while Abba lo mezakeh bra, so a father's kaddish for a son is really not effective, and so he doesn't have the status of a "Chiyuv".
The Shevus Yaakov argues. He says, as we see in Tosfos II, that Abba lo mezakeh bra is only in cases of the worst aveiros, such as Avoda Zara, which result in Ein lahem chelek le'olam haba. But for the run of the mill resha'im, certainly Abba mezakeh bra!
He proves this from the Gemara in Shevu'os 39; the Gemara there says that when a person r'l deserves 'pur'anus,' payment is exacted from him and from his family. So, he says, since midda tova is meruba, it must be that when a man merits reward from Hashem, that his family also shares that reward.
Please note that the Shvus Yaakov only applies to family, like a father for a son. Hiring a stranger would not really mean anything according to the Shevus Yaakov. According to the Rashba, as we will have seen, hiring a stranger to say kaddish might have validity, although I doubt he has any dinei ke'dima, even according to the Rashba, and certainly not le'halacha, since the Rama holds like the Binyamin Ze'ev, deligitimizing even a father saying for a son.

III The rule that Abba lo mezakeh bra only means that the mere zechus of the father does not prevent the son from being listed among the most abominable resha'im. But certainly a father's tefilla could save his son. This sounds like the Rashba's III, but I'm not convinced it is the same teretz, because if it were, then the introductory business about "le'mon'o bein resha'im gemurim" is just irrelevant to this teretz and misleading. If he held like the Rashba, Tosfos would simply have said that ALMB is stam, but where the father is mispallel, he is mezakeh his son. Certainly Teretz I is not like the Rashba, because it combines missa meshuna with tefilla. So it's not likely that teretz III is like the Rashba.

IV Not really in Tosfos, but in the Mahrsha there on Tosfos:
Normally, Abba lo mezakeh bra. But here, David Hamelech's own behavior 'contributed' to Avshalom's rebellion and downfall; after the sin of Bas Sheva, Hashem told David "Hineni meikim alecha ra'a mi'bei'secha" (Shmuel II 12:11) Since the downfall of Avshalom was, to some extent, David's fault, David's tefillos and teshuva were able to save Avshalom.

This approach is also found In R' Ibn Chaviv, which I partially cited above. He says that the reason that in Yoma 87a, the Gemara says that Aharon's zechus saved Elazar and Isamar from a fate similar to that of Nadav and Avihu, despite the rule of ALMB, is that the deaths of Aharon's children was, to some extent, Aharon's fault, for his actions at the time of the Egel Hazahav. Therefore his teshuva and tefilla was able to save his sons.

Part III coming soon, I hope.


Barzilai said...

So, Lakewood Guy, who's getting married?

LkwdGuy said...


The brother of a co-worker. My co-worker asked me if I know of any good sites online for ah shticle torah. Yours was the first that came to mind.

A bit of advise: Don't worry so much about who is reading your site. Keep posting quality, those that appreciate it will keep reading.

On an unrelated note, do you care to surf over to hirhurim and check out his post regarding Rav Moshe and handshaking. I would love to see if you have anything to add one way or the other to that story.

Barzilai said...

Reb Moshe's shitta on that was nuanced, as evident from his personal behavior and his writings on the subject. Even to properly understand what he writes requires experience with his derech of psak and his derech of writing. I once asked a serious shailah to a local posek, who is among the gedolei haposkim now. He said that he was meshameish Reb Moshe, and he knows the Igros better than (Reb ploni), and Reb Moshe held so-and-so. A little while later, the last cheilek came out, in which Reb Moshe clearly says, le'halacha, exactly fahrkehrt from this posek, upon whom, baruch hashem, I hadn't relied pursuant to the advice of (Reb ploni).

As far as my compulsively snooping-- I can stop any time I want to, I really can....

What I find most interesting is the ebb and flow of what people are looking for. There's the wedding seasons, (my first hits for Sheva Brachot make it feel like the teams are warming up in Arizona) the droshos for Yomtov seasons, the teshuva season, and so forth. And you wouldn't believe how many people do searches on "Why don't Jews own dogs" "Divorce Jewish" and "geir geirut halacha".