This post appears to be very long. But unlike other posts on this site, it is not a logical progression that requires unwavering attention. It is composed of five parts which cite sources to support the premise in each section heading, culminating in Section VI which uses the accumulated information to resolve some questions and to raise others. One could read the Introduction and Sections V and VI and get the essence of what is being said here.
According to the sources we will cite, a Heavenly decree must come to pass. Nothing can prevent it from happening, not even Teshuva. But this does not mean that Teshuva does not make a difference. Teshuva makes all the difference in the world. While it can not annul the decree, it can prevent the prospective disaster and bring a blessing in its place. We find two streams of thought regarding the manner in which this change comes about.
The first approach is that an ominous decree is immutable: it has a specific connotation that must come true exactly as intended, but the target of the decree might change. We will call this idea "Re-Direction."
The second approach is that every decree is worded with sufficient elasticity such as to be amenable to various interpretations. While the decree must come true, its original ominous portent might be recast into either neutrality or actual benefit. Every frightening decree, every klala, carries within it the potential of blessing. We will call this "Re-Interpretation."
After a thorough presentation of these ideas, we will propose a reason for this inexorability of Hashem's decrees, a concept echoed in the כח הדיבור, the power of speech, of humankind.
The connection to our Parsha:
- Zohar Chadash Balak:
מֵחוֹבֵיהּ, הַשְׁתָּא אִתְיַקַּר אִיהוּ מִגַּרְמֵיהּ, וְקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא קָארֵי עֲלֵיהּ וַאֲמַר, מֵאֲשֶׁר יָקַרְתָּ, אַתְּ מִגַּרְמֵךְ יָקַרְתָּ.
- Rikanti in Vayeira:
- Bava Kamma 50a, the story of the daughter of R' Nechunia ben Hakana:
- Reb Chaim Kanievsky in his Taama De'Kra, in Behar, Vayikra 25:35.
- Tehillim 47:4-5:
- And in Parshas Va'eira 8:19, the Netziv says this as well, even more strongly:
If the idea of transferring the Gzeira to some bystander bothers you, let me quote Eli, who in private correspondence wrote "Regarding fairness, I'm not too worried - there are always plenty of deserving targets around."
- Bava Kamma 55a:
- In the מאורי המועדים מבית בריסק חידושים וביאורים בהלכה ובאגדה על עניני המועדים, mostly from Reb Dovid Soloveichik, on Purim, he asks, why do we call it Purim? The Pur was Haman's method of determining the date of his gzeira ra'ah on Klal Yisrael. We ought to call it Hatzalah, not Purim. He answers on the basis of the Beis Haleivi's Drush 14, where he says
☛I hope you noticed that the Briskers hold that even the Ribono shel Olam sometimes taitches ohp with a new pshat that is mamesh farhkert from pashut pshat.
- Sanhedrin 89b:
It's interesting that the ibn Ezra there in Yona doesn't agree with the Gemara's other pshat of נהפכת meaning שתעשה תשובה ותתהפך. He says that
It appears that where a person who cursed another person has some justification- that even the most minor injustice was done to one who curses, or the other person did not fulfill a duty to protect or help him- the klala has to be fulfilled, if not immediately, then in ten or a hundred years. We see this from the Klala of Avimelech against Sara, where he said הנה הוא לך כסות עינים", and a hundred years later it was fulfilled in her son Yitzchak, about whom it says "ויהי כי זקן יצחק ותכהין עיניו".
- Bava Basra 153a:
- Similarly, in Gittin 35a:
- We see this in Sanhedrin 48b:
In other words, a Klala with some justification will be fulfilled as under Heading II above- i.e., subject to reinterpretation. A Klala without justification will be fulfilled under Heading I- fulfillment exactly as in the original connotation, but with a change of target.
IV The Potential of Alternative Interpretation Applies to Brachos As Well
- Moed Kattan 9b:
- and Megilla 27b:
To a smaller extent, this applies to the words of a Hediot, because "מאן דנפח מדיליה נפח".
VI A Final Explanation, a Question, a Strange Answer, and The Language of the Universe
With Harry's pshat in mind, we have a way to understand the idea of Gzeiros having to come true, in one way or another. The Gzeira of the Ribono shel Olam is not what we think of as "words." The Gzeira is from מי שאמר והיה העולם, and as such, it is not words, it is an action, it creates a reality. The only way such a gzeira can be changed is by reinterpretation or redirection.
But if this is true, how can the target change? If the words of Hashem are like actions, what's done is done! In truth, This is a question that should have bothered us as soon as we read the mefarshim in Section I. If the dibbur of Hashem has to have a kiyum gamur, and the dibbur was addressed to Reuven, how can it be called having a kiyum gamur if it happens to Shimon? Does הרי את מקודשת לי of Reuven to Rachel have a kiyum in the chalos kiddushin of Reuven and Leah? I understand that by נינוה נהפכת, the word נהפכת can mean two things. But that's for Section II, Reinterpretation. What about Section I, Changing the Target?
Apparently, Re-Direction can take place only because the person was not named explicitly in the Gzeira. Hashem was talking to a person, or a nation, or about a person or a nation, when the Gzeira was made, but their identity was not explicit- you, he, they, it. I am sorry, but the only way I can explain this is by saying that the Gzeira was worded in pronouns instead of nouns.
And so, we have come to realize that Section I and Section II are not different at all. The only reason Hashem can Re-Direct the Gzeira is because of Section II, that the Gzeira, although pashtus it meant Reuven when it was stated, can be Re-Interpreted to mean Shimon.
Galeleo is reported to have said "Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the universe." That may be true. But the language of the higher spheres is davka words, with their inherent ambiguity.
1. On the topic of a Gzeira that was modified from its original and primary meaning, see here, an early post discussing the Gzeira of 400 years and the consequences of reinterpreting what 400 meant. The gist of that post is that while Gzeiros can be reinterpreted, the original and primary meaning of the Gzeira still has to express itself in some manner. This can be found in the Beis Halevi Drush 2.
2. Having said that reinterpreting is not a full solution, because the original meaning of the Gzeira still has to have some kind of Kiyum, we can say that options I and II are not mutually exclusive. Option II, reinterpretation, will prevent the fearsome Gzeira from being fulfilled, but it leaves a roshem that has to be paid over time. Option I is paid in full, albeit by a different person.
3. Eli is uncomfortable with the idea that the Ribono shel Olam would impose absolute constraints on Himself. He suggests that the path of a Gzeira- fulfillment as stated, re-interpretation, re-direction, or even total annulment, depends on the Zechusim/Zechuyot of the person involved. The dibbur of Hashem becomes the metziyus of the world, it becomes part of Teva, just as His dibbur created the world and Teva. And the world and the Teva can be changed by a nes nigleh that is le'maalah min hateva, like Kri'as Yam Suf. If the person is ra'ui lekach, there is no limit to the possibility of kaparah, and just as Zedonos can become Zechuyos, a Gzeira can turn into a Bracha Gemura. In his words,
once Hashem (and by extension a Tzadik) decrees something , this becomes part of nature laws. It might be later changed by Tefilla, Teshuva etc, but the bigger the change required in these laws is, the more 'difficult' is it to achieve, see Shabbos 32a פרקליטין גדולים. So practically, in many or maybe most cases, a decree is not fully cancelled, because the subject does not merit such a dramatic change of an existing decree כי כתב אשר נכתב בשם המלך ונחתם בטבעת המלך אין להשיב.While most mefarshim that write on the topic clearly do not hold like this, he has the pashut pshat in the Gemara in Sanhedrin brought down at the end of Section II.
4. great unknown made it known to me that this post can be construed as a form of Avoda Zara, or a form of Shtei Reshuyos. He refers us to the Ramchal's Daas Tevunos, Shaar HaYichud, as follows:
I can't reproduce the original here, because of formatting problems with word order and OCR issues. It would be best to just go to the source. Please read the pirush there as well.
I realized a very important thing- that both Eli and great unknown were making essentially similar points. In Eli's words, it is an artificial complaint that is inconsistent with our concept of the infinity of Hashem's Rachamim. In gu's words, from the Ramchal, it is a form of Avodah Zara.