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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pinchas, Bamidbar 27:18. Proof of Character

Moshe Rabbeinu was concerned about the succession of leadership.  (Unfortunately, just as almost every royal succession in Tanach involved bloodshed, almost every yeshiva since Volozhin has suffered horrible succession battles.  Why don't the Roshei Yeshiva prevent this?  Either because the founders believe that Darwinian struggle is the best determinant, or because planning is futile since the one who was not favored will always ignore the testament of the founder, or for simple negligence to make prudent and effective plans..)  Who would lead Klal Yisrael as they enter Eretz Yisrael and conquer and divide and settle the land?  Moshe hoped and expected that his sons would succeed him, but Hashem told him that Yehoshua would be the next leader of Klal Yisrael.  (I, personally, wondered why Moshe asked that his own children succeed him.  He knew very well that the job was deadly, and that every step during the next fourteen years would be like a blindfolded walk through a minefield.  This question of perspective actually manifests itself in the machlokes Amora'im in Brachos 31b, regarding the interpretation of Channa's prayer that her son be "זרע אנשים".  In any case, Moshe Rabbeinu did want his sons to inherit his position of leadership.  Evidently, his greatest hope was that his children be leaders of Klal Yisrael despite his perfectly clear awareness of the concomitant extremity of danger and hardship.  It is reminiscent of the Akeida of Yitzchak.)  

The Yalkut Shimoni (27:776) says:
 (Mishlei 27:18) קח לך מה שבדוק לך את יהושע בן נון ועליו מפורש  נוצר תאנה יאכל פריה ושומר אדוניו יכובד

Take the one whom you have thoroughly examined, Yehoshua.  Regarding him it says (Mishlei 27:18) "He who safeguards the fig tree will eat its fruit and he who watches his master will be honored."  

.שהיה משה סבור שבניו יורשין מקומו ונוטלין שררותו התחיל מבקש מאת הקב"ה יפקוד ה', אמר לו הקב"ה משה לא כמו שאתה סבור אין בניך יורשין את מקומך אתה יודע שהרבה שרתך יהושע והרבה חלק לך כבוד והוא היה משכים ומעריב בבית הועד שלך לסדר הספסלין ופורס את המחצלאות הוא יטול שררות לקיים מה שנאמר נוצר תאנה יאכל פריה.

Moshe thought his sons should inherit his place and take his mantle of authority, so he began his supplication, saying "Hashem, appoint...." Hashem told him "Moshe, not as you think.  Your sons will not inherit your place.  You know that Yehoshua greatly served you and honored you.  He came early and stayed late at your study hall in order to arrange the benches and lay out the covers.  He will take your authority, as it says, He who safeguards the fig tree will eat its fruit and he who watches his master will be honored.

I'd like to note something Rav Dessler says, as brought in the Michtav Mei'Eliahu (Vol. VII p. 107):
The Gemara (AZ 18a) brings that Rav Chanina ben Tradion was wont to publicly gather numerous students to teach them Torah, at a time when doing so was a capital crime.  When caught and sentenced to be burned together with his Sefer Torah, he asked Rav Yossi ben Kisma, "Am I worthy to merit Olam Habba?"  Rav Yosi responded, "כלום מעשה בא לידך", have you ever done anything extraordinary?  Rav Chanina answered that one time he inadvertantly commingled his own money and money he was entrusted for the poor on Purim, and he gave all the money to the poor, afraid to calculate how much was his.  Rav Yosi said "אם כן מחלקך יהי חלקי ומגורלך יהי גורלי", if so, may I share your portion, may I share your lot.


Odd, that Rav Chanina's mesiras nefesh didn't rate as highly as his decision to avoid even a vanishingly small risk of taking a penny from the poor.  Why was Rav Yossi so impressed?  And consider that Rav Yossi ben Kisma, who was so amazed, is the one that said (Avos 6:9)
אמר רבי יוסי בן-קסמא: פעם אחת הייתי מהלך בדרך, ופנע בי אדם אחד, ונתן-לי שלום, והחזרתי לו שלום. אמר לי, רבי, מאיזה מקום אתה? אמר לו, מעיר גדולה של חכמים ושל-סופרים אני. אמר לי, רבי, רצונך שתדור עמנו במקומנו, ואני אתן לך אלף אלפים דינרי זהב ואבנים טובים ומרגליות? אמרתי לו, אם אתה נותן לי כל-כסף וזהב ואבנים טובים ומרגליות שבעולם, איני דר אלא במקום תורה. וכן כתוב בספר תהילים, על ידי-דוד מלך ישראל, "טוב לי תורת פיך מאלפי זהב וכסף". ולא עוד, שבשעת פטירתו של אדם, אין מלוין לו לאדם כסף ולא זהב ולא אבנים טובים ומרגליות, אלא תורה ומעשים טובים בלבד. שנאמר, "בהתהלכך תנחה אתך, בשכבך תשמור עליך, והקיצות היא תשיחך". בהתהלכך תנחה אתך - ביולם הזה. בשכבך תשמור עליך - בקבר. והקיצות היא תשיחך - לעולם הבה. ואומר "לי הכסף ולי הזהב נאום יי צבאות".

Rav Yossi knew how trivial money was in the spiritual realm and in the reality of existence.  What so impressed him about Rav Chanina's act?  Why did he think that taking on a monetary loss meant anything at all where there was some spiritual benefit to be gained?

The answer is that you cannot judge a man on the basis of the great and premeditated actions he takes.  His true internal character and strength of spirit can only be discerened from little things that a person does without thought.  The Medrash (Shemos 2:3) says 
דבר אחר וּמֹשֶׁה הָיָה רֹעֶה הדא הוא דכתיב (משלי ל ה) כל אמרת אלוה צרופה אין הקדוש ברוך הוא נותן גדולה לאדם עד שבודקהו בדבר קטן ואחר כך מעלהו לגדולה הרי לך שני גדולי עולם שבדקן הקדוש ברוך הוא בדבר קטן ונמצאו נאמנים והעלן לגדולה בדק לדוד בצאן ולא נהגם אלא במדבר להרחיקם מן הגזל שכן אליאב אומר לדוד (ש"א יז, כח) ועל מי נטשת מעט הצאן ההנה במדבר מלמד שהיה דוד מקיים המשנה (ב"ק עט:) אין מגדלים בהמה דקה בארץ ישראל אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא נמצא אתה נאמן בצאן בא ורעה צאני שנאמר (תהלים עח עא) מאחר עלות הביאו וכן במשה הוא אומר וינהג את הצאן אחר המדבר להוציאן מן הגזל ולקחו הקדוש ברוך הוא לרעות ישראל שנאמר (שם עז, כא) נחית כצאן עמך ביד משה ואהרן:
Hashem does not bestow a position of greatness on a man until He examines him in a "Davar Kattan," a small thing.

It was precisely because Rav Yossi knew how trivial money is that he discerned from Rav Chanina's act that it was done without any careful analysis, and thus it revealed what Rav Chanina truly was.  (This ends Rav Dessler's thoughts.)

I think this is the pshat in another Gemara (BM 24a), that says
מר זוטרא חסידא אגניב ליה כסא דכספא מאושפיזא חזיא לההוא בר בי רב דמשי ידיה ונגיב בגלימא דחבריה אמר היינו האי דלא איכפת ליה אממונא דחבריה כפתיה ואודי 
The pious Mar Zutra's silver cup was stolen at an inn.  He saw a young student dry his hands on someone else's garment that was hanging on a rack.  He said "This is the thief.  He is indifferent to other people's property."  They pressured him, and he admitted that he was the thief.


See also the Gemara (Chagiga 9b)
א"ל בר הי הי להלל מאי דכתיב (מלאכי ג) ושבתם וראיתם בין צדיק לרשע בין עובד אלקים לאשר לא עבדו היינו צדיק היינו עובד אלהים היינו רשע היינו אשר לא עבדו א"ל עבדו ולא עבדו תרוייהו צדיקי גמורי נינהו ואינו דומה שונה פרקו מאה פעמים לשונה פרקו מאה ואחד א"ל ומשום חד זימנא קרי ליה לא עבדו א"ל אין 
The Gemara says that the difference between "one who serves Hashem" and "one who does not serve Hashem" is that the latter reviews his studies one hundred and one times, while the first reviews one hundred times.  The Gemara says they are both Tzadikim Gemurim, but the one who learns one hundred and one times is incomparably greater than the one who only reviewed one hundred times.  Why is that one time so important?  Precisely because it is not important.  It is that one time that reveals the person to be an  עובד אלקים.

Here too.  Yehoshua showed his true colors not in the great things that he did.  His true personality was revealed in the "tell," the things that he did without thinking, the things that he did automatically.  As Arthur Conan Doyle once said (although any competent editor would have changed "infinitely" to "by far",) in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes- A Case of Identity "It was most suggestive," said Holmes. "It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.  


Without being over on Lo Sechaneim, let me say that someone else once put it very nicely, as follows:
“Faithfulness in great things is not uncommon; faithfulness in little things is rare but most indicative of character. Almost any husband would leap into the sea or rush into a burning building to rescue his perishing wife. But to anticipate the convenience or happiness of the wife in some small matter, the neglect of which would go unnoticed, is a more eloquent proof of tenderness.
“Our lives for the most part are made up of little things, and by these our character is to be tested. There are very few who have to take a prominent place in the great conflicts of our age; the vast majority must dwell in humbler scenes and be content to do a more humble work. The conflicts which we have to endure either against evil in our own soul or in the moral circle where our influence would seem to be trivial are in reality the struggle of the battle for life and decency; and true heroism is shown here as well as in those grander scales in which others win the leader’s fame or the martyr’s crown. Little duties carefully discharged; little temptations earnestly resisted with the strength which God supplies... these all together help to form that character which is to be described not as popular or glamorous, but as moral and noble.”

(N.B. 
I think it's important to note that to the extent that I understand Rav Dessler's interpretation of the story of Rav Yossi and Rav Chanina ben Dosa, I don't agree with his pshat.  The great men that I knew lived minutely and meticulously examined lives, and Rav Chanina's concern about the Purim money certainly would have merited careful thought and a conscious decision even if he personally thought money was dirt.  I remember hearing from Reb Moshe that he paskens hundreds of shailos a day on his own behavior.  The Medrash that he brings does support his idea, though, because it involves things that are truly insignificant- how you treat sheep.  In any case, it goes without saying that Rav Dessler's point is true and important in regard to our own life experience.)

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