Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Mishpatim, Shemos 22:21. Afflicting Widows and Orphans
כא כל אלמנה ויתום לא תענון. כב אם ענה תענה אותו כי אם צעוק יצעק אלי שמוע אשמע צעקתו. כג וחרה אפי והרגתי אתכם בחרב והיו נשיכם אלמנות ובניכם יתומים.
והיו נשיכם אלמנות: ממשמע שנאמר והרגתי אתכם, איני יודע שנשיכם אלמנות ובניכם יתומים, אלא הרי זו קללה אחרת, שיהיו הנשים צרורות כאלמנות חיות, שלא יהיו עדים למיתת בעליהן ותהיינה אסורות להנשא והבנים יהיו יתומים, שלא יניחום בית דין לירד לנכסי אביהם לפי שאין יודעים אם מתו אם נשבו:
The passuk says that if a person afflicts a widow or orphan, if they cry out to Hashem He will listen and His anger will burn and the oppressor will be killed, and his wife will be a widow and his children orphans. Rashi asks, if he is killed, then to say that his wife will be a widow and his children orphans is redundant. Rashi answers that there will be a double tragedy- that there will be no witnesses to his death, and his wife will never be able to marry for fear that her husband is still alive; his heirs will never be able to take over their estate because the court will require proof of their father's death. Thus, the passuk is saying that his wife will forever remain a widow and his children forever orphans. Their loss will be ongoing- they will never have the closure that would allow them to move on to a normal life.
For some reason, I feel a special desire to say something from Harav Baruch Sorotzkin. Here is a true mussar haskeil from Harav Baruch Sorotzkin, as relayed by Harav Shimon Kalman Goldstein, who learned with him bechavrusa second seder for seven years.
1. What is the Middah Ke'neged Middah underlying the terrible punishment here? What is it in his behavior that warrents the punishment that his wife will be left forever disconsolate and his children unable to use what he left for them?
2. Why are so many words repeated in these pesukim? ענה תענה, צעוק יצעק, and שמוע אשמע?
Harav Sorotzkin answered that when you hurt a regular person, the pain he suffers is from what you did to him. When you hurt a widow or an orphan, not only do they suffer the pain of the wound you inflict, but the widow knows that if her husband were alive, he would protect her- but he died. The orphans know that if their father were alive, he would protect them, they wouldn't be miserable and abandoned- but he died and left them alone. When you hurt a widow or an orphan, you are hurting them twice. Not only do they suffer the pain of what you did directly, but they re-experience their loss of their husband and their father, you open an old wound and multiply their pain. The Ribono shel Olam says, if ענה תענה, if you inflict this double pain, and צעוק יצעק אלי, then שמוע אשמע, I will do to you what you did to them. Your family will not only lose you, but the pain of their loss will never end. Your widow will never be able to re-marry, and your children never will gain access to what you put away for them. Every day they will be reminded that you are not there.