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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mishpatim, Shemos 22:6. The Oath of the Custodian

The Torah here teaches the duties of shomrim (custodians, bailees, people with whom a pikadon- a bailment of any property- is entrusted.)   They are the Shomer Chinam (Gratuitous Bailee,) the Shomer Sachar (Bailee for Hire,) the  Shoeil (Borrower,) and the Socher (Renter.)  

כִּי יִתֵּן אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ כֶּסֶף אוֹ כֵלִים לִשְׁמֹר וְגֻנַּב מִבֵּית הָאִישׁ אִם יִמָּצֵא הַגַּנָּב יְשַׁלֵּם שְׁנָיִם. אִם לֹא יִמָּצֵא הַגַּנָּב וְנִקְרַב בַּעַל הַבַּיִת אֶל הָאֱלֹקים  אִם לֹא שָׁלַח יָדוֹ בִּמְלֶאכֶת רֵעֵהוּ. עַל כָּל דְּבַר פֶּשַׁע עַל שׁוֹר עַל חֲמוֹר עַל שֶׂה עַל שַׂלְמָה עַל כָּל אֲבֵדָה אֲשֶׁר יֹאמַר כִּי הוּא זֶה 

The Likutei Shichos (1962) here brings and expands upon the Tzemach Tzedek. The Ribono shel Olam entrusted each and every Jew with a precious and beautiful thing: his neshama.  He is given the pikadon of a perfect neshama and obliged to keep it in perfect condition, even to elevate it to a higher level of kedusha.  He accepts this stewardship with an oath, a shevuah— שמשביעין אותו תהי צדיק ואל תהי רשע (Niddah 30b) be righteous, do not be wicked!  

If the soul is damaged, this is because its steward was negligent.  He was poshei’ah, — “al kol dvar pesha.”   How does such a thing happen?  “Al shor al chamor al seh ve’al salmo,” for the cattle, for the sheep, for the garment;  all these things lead to “al kol aveida,” to losing the holiness of the G-dly soul, because “asher yomar ki hu zeh”, he mistakenly thought that the ‘ki’ was ‘zeh.' he thought the means were the ultimate purpose, he thought that the appearance was the reality.  He explains that ‘zeh’ can only refer to the Ribono Shel Olam, (Mi Hu Zeh, Zeh Eili Ve'anveihu) because nothing else has any real being.  
‘Shor,’ the ox, refers to the destructive instinct, the evil impulse that exults in destruction, that drives a man to destroy himself and others; 
'Chamor,' the donkey, refers to ‘chamra afilu bitekufas Tamuz kerira lei,’ a donkey is cold even in the time of intense heat, which means that even in a time of clear hashgacha pratis, self evident divine providence, he remains cold and unmoved; 
‘Salma,' the garment, is the trait of rebelliousness, as it says “ubeged bogdim bagadu (which shows that the word 'beged' is a homonym for both 'garment' and 'rebellion'); This is the resistance to  the concept that we are servants of Hashem and should accept the direction of Gedolei Torah.
‘Seh,’ the sheep, is “seh pezura Yisrael,” sheepishness.  This is when the Jews adopt the character of the nations in which they are mixed, and forget their unique mesora.  

What is the best strategy for a person who sees that he is being poshei’a in the pikadon, that he is failing in his stewardship of his soul?  He should go to the gadol hador, to Elohim, to beis din, and learn to do teshuva.  His teshuva is “yeshaleim shnayim lerei’eihu."  A chozeir betshuva has to do twice as much as others do, as it says in the Iggeres Hateshuva “ragil likros daf echad yikra shnei dafim;" if he used to study one page, now he must study two.  If he does this, then these nefesh habehamis qualities will turn to avodas Hashem: when he does so, all these powers that drove him away from Hashem will change to methods of greater service to Hashem.  Rav tevu’os bekoach shor; Yisachar chamor garem; Rei’ach salmosa’yich ke'rei’ach levanon (Shir Hashirim 4:11), and instead of seh pezurah, mashceini achareicha, and he will serve Hashem with both yetzarim.

My father zatzal often quoted the Gemara there in Nidda later on that daf, and when I told this to him, he expanded on it and added it to this vort.  Tehillim 24:
מִי יַעֲלֶה בְהַר ה' וּמִי יָקוּם בִּמְקוֹם קָדְשׁוֹ. נְקִי כַפַּיִם וּבַר לֵבָב אֲשֶׁר לֹא נָשָׂא לַשָּׁוְא נַפְשִׁי וְלֹא נִשְׁבַּע לְמִרְמָה
מִי יַעֲלֶה בְהַר ה who will go up on the mountain of Hashem?   נְקִי כַפַּיִם— even one unjust penny stains the hands, and only a person with clean hands can go up.  וּבַר לֵבָב— this is about what the person thought about doing to other people.  Only a person with a pure heart, a person whose desire was to help others, not to take advantage of them.  לֹא נָשָׂא לַשָּׁוְא נַפְשִׁי— who is saying this?  If it is the person talking about his own nefesh, which fits into “nafshi,” then it should say “asher lo nasasi,” not “lo nasa.”  It is the Ribbono Shel Olam, who says eidus that the person didn’t use the neshama for nothing.  It is called nafshi because “mahn denafach migarmei nofach,” the neshama comes from Hashem.  What did the person use it for?  To eat kugel?  Every animal eats straw, and since people are smarter, they eat better straw!asher lo noso lashov nafshi velo nishba lemirma.  The Ribbono shel Olam gives each person a neshama for a purpose.  The purpose is to use it to accomplish good in the world, to become an adam gadol, to be mizakeh the rabbim.  Hashem has to be able to testify that this person לֹא נָשָׂא לַשָּׁוְא נַפְשִׁי, he did not carry around the holy neshama ‘lashav’, for nothing, that he accomplished his tafkid in the world.  And, as the Gemara in Niddah says, he did not make a Shevuas Shav, a false oath, when he promised to be a Tzadik.

NG added something nice to his discussion.  He mentioned that according to the Shem Mishmuel in Beshalach, we can explain the passuk in 22:14, אם בעליו עמו לא ישלם, if the owner is with him, he shall not pay (see Bava Metzia 94).  According to the Shem Mishmuel, this means that even if a person has failed in his duties to his neshama, even if he has sinned, if he achieves Dveikus with the Ribono shel Olam, he will be absolved.  If he comes to a dveikus of בעליו עמו, his slate is wiped clean, לא ישלם.


NG said...


Chatzkel said...

The connection of salma to begged to bagad/rebellion is a stretch, even for drush. I like the idea, that one of the natural problems we have is that we can’t bend our necks, we resist being told what to do. But I can’t find a convincing way to use the word salma to express that idea.

I would use salma differently. Salma, a garment, is often used in Tanach as an metaphor for middos. If a person doesn’t make a serious effort to develop good middos, he’ll end up being a savage. Or it can mean superficial or duplicitous.

great unknown said...

The difficulty in the simple meaning of the Shem Miahmuel is that one who is a dovek can "get away with murder." Is this true? If it is, here is justification for the Kabbalah Center and Rebbetzin Madonna-Ester [on purpose: an ester is a compound of an organic acid and an alcohol].

Is it literally and simply true that, "kol ha'posaiyah daled amos be'Eretz Yisroel nimcholim lo kol avonosav?" Just make sure to walk daled amos after every murder, rape, idolatry... at most, one would be left with one avon.

Please tell me it's true...

b said...

והוא כעין השקה שע"י חיבור באה הטהרה

I see you hedged your comment by saying that it is the simple meaning of the Shem MiShmuel that is absurd. There is, then, a deeper and correct meaning that is fine. Right.

I assume he means that dveikus is so inconsistent with sinning that it brings mechila. Who says only teshuvas hamishkal works? Maybe Ahava works even better?

Ester, what a great observation. Ro'ui to be on the Volokh Conspiracy comments.

b said...

The more I think about it, the more I like it. Dveikus, true dveikus, is a state in which aveira is unthinkable. So if a person comes to reject and abhore his aveiros because of dveikus, what's the problem? Who says he has to go through the whole teshuva thing? Maybe there are alternatives to shame and disgust. Dveikus brings you to the same condition of hakaras hachet, charata ahl ha'avar, and kabala ahl ha'asid. So it's not the dveikus per se that brings kapara, it's the rejection of sin that is a concomitant of real dveikus that brings kapara.

great unknown said...

I think it was the Ba'al Shem Tov, assuming he was not a fictional character as a great man in my life once postulted, gave a moshol illustrating precisely that point - how a king brought a derogating opponent so close to him that the opponent realized how great and good the king really was - which lead to his abject mortification over how he had previously insulted the king.

b said...

Funny how you can get away with things like that on the net. Some years ago, I was talking to someone and said "they say in the name of the Baal Shem, whether or not he ever existed...." and it was as if I had insulted the guy's mother.

But as far as the vort is concerned, I can appreciate it in theory. I still hesitate to accept the reality of the method, because it's so easy to fool one's self into thinking he's daveik with the Ribono shel Olam when he's actually just drunk or in a poetic ecstasy. It certainly can be misunderstood and misused be'yodim ube'lo yodim.