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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Slichos and the Thirteen Middos of Hashem

Rosh Hashanna 17b: Rabbi Yehuda says, It is an executed covenant that they aren't sent back empty handed.  Rashi- that if Klal Yisrael invokes them in their fast day prayers, they aren't sent back empty handed.

I want to point out two things, one of which I discussed a while ago.

I.  Many Mefarshim ask, are we expected to believe this when empirical evidence does not support it?  We see many people and many communities that face disaster and calamity, and they say the Thirteen Middos till they are blue in the face, and it doesn't help them at all.  They (Shelah, Alshich, Tzror Hamor, who experienced exactly that in their own lives,) answer that saying it doesn't do a thing unless you live it.  You can't invoke the Middos of Hashem when your behavior does the opposite in this world.  You're asking that Hashem express his midda of mercy, and you're cruel?  You're asking that Hashem forgive, and you hold a grudge forever?  Not only does such an attempted invocation have no positive effect, but it can have the opposite result- it can ignite Hashem's anger.  אבל אם הם אכזריים ועושי רשעה, כל שכן שבהזכרת י"ג מידות הן נתפסין.  The Alshich says this is why, when Moshe said the Thirteen Middos after the sin of the Meraglim, he skipped some.  Moshe didn't say Emes, because the Meraglim lied, and attempting to invoke Emes would be a disaster.

II.   How many things do we find that Chazal promise benefit?  As far as I remember, two.  Saying the Thirteen Middos, and tithing your income.  Please note that both of these involve Bein Adam L'chaveiro.  Nowhere will you find that if you wear nice Tefillin, or shake a fantastic Lulav and Esrog, or eat a Brisker Matza, that you are promised a benefit in this world.  Even Ketores is not a promise, just a segula.  For promises, only Bein Adam L'chaveiro.  Maaser is obvious.  Saying the Thirteen Middos, as explained by these Mefarshim, involves "Vehalachta Bidrachav," trying to emulate Hashem's middos.  And what are these middos?  Every one of them involves kindness, forbearance, patience, honesty....these are middos that express themselves in our interpersonal relationships.  As far as life in this world, if you want peace and tranquility, you have to focus on Bein Adam L'Chaveiro.

This is not to say that Achav should be your paradigm.  Obviously, an Eved Hashem does what his master tells him to do.  (Coincidentally, Rav Shternbuch in his Taam VoDaas in Parshas Nitzvim 29:18 brings from the Kotzker that this is the pshat in the passuk והתברך בלבבו לאמור שלום יהיה לי כי בשרירות ליבי אלך למען ספות הרווה את הצמאה, that a person convinces himself that if he's a man of friendship and peace bein adam le'chaveiro, he can go wild and ignore all the dinim bein adam la'makom, he is bichlal arrur.  We are not Christians; we have Taryag mitzvos, and the Torah is still binding.)  But I'm just pointing a reality out.  Do what you want with it.

More importantly: Let us think for a moment about the approach of the Shlah/Alshich/Tzror Hamor, that unless you fulfill והלכת בדרכיו your recitation of the Middos won't help.  What is the pshat in that?  Is the והלכת בדרכיו requirement a Sibbah or a Tnai?  In other words, is the pshat that if a person fulfills והלכת בדרכיו, then that is the reason that his tefilla will be answered?  Or is the pshat that it's not the והלכת בדרכיו that brings the answer to his tefilla.  It is the act of recitation of the Middos that brings the answer to his tefillos, but if he doesn't fulfill והלכת בדרכיו, then the Middos won't work.   Again: is the requirement of והלכת בדרכיו for the bris of the Middos the Reason the recitation of the Middos works, or is והלכת בדרכיו necessary so that his recitation is a kosher recitation, so that nothing passels his invocation of the Middos.  I think it's the latter.

Chaim B reminded me of the Gemara in Shabbos 23b,
אמר רב הונא הרגיל בנר הויין ליה בנים תלמידי חכמים הזהיר במזוזה זוכה לדירה נאה הזהיר בציצית זוכה לטלית נאה הזהיר בקידוש היום זוכה וממלא גרבי יין
and that there are several mitzvos in the Torah that are שמתן שכרה כתובה בצידה.  I don't have a strong response, other than to say that it seems to me that the promises by Maaser and the Middos are far more emphatic and general than the others, especially since the others might only refer to Olam Habba, as we know from the story of Acheir in Chulin.

III.  In light of the He'ara that Vehalachta Bidrachav seems to focus on Bein Adam Le'chaveiro, here is the wording of the sign that was placed on the door of the Beis Medrash of the Talmud Torah in Kelm by the Alter.
 הערה זו היתה תלויה על דלת ישיבתו בקלם במשך כל ימי חודש אלול, כהכנה לימי הדין.

 הנה מהידוע אמרו ז״ל <ר״ה לד, ב): ״אמרו לפני וכו׳ מלכיות כדי שתמליכוני עליכם״, וכאשר נתבונן על תוקף קיום מלוכה של בשר ודם הוא רק כשעבדיו כולם כאיש אחד לעבודת המלך, זהו קיום המלכות, ואם ח״ו יפול פירוד בעבדי המלך ניתק קשר המלוכה.

You all know they said "Say 'Coronations' before me... so that you make me king over you."  When we think deeply about what comprises a mighty and powerful human kingdom it is manifested by unanimous dedication to the service of the king.  This is what makes a royalty firmly fixed.  If God forbid dissension among the king's servants arises the bonds of royalty are undone.

 וכבר כתב ר״ת ז״ל בספר הישר כי מעבודת מלך בשר ודם ניקח דרך עבודת מלך מלכי המלכים הקב״ה. 
וממילא נבין כי עיקר ״שתמליכוני עליכם״ היינו אחדות עבדיו ית׳, וכענין שנאמר (דברים לג, ה): ״ויהי בישורון מלך ־ אימתי ־ בהתאסף ראשי עם יחד שבטי ישראל״ (ילקוט שם) ולפניו ית׳ הסתר כבגלוי.

Rabbeinu Tam writes in his Sefer Hayashar that from human royalty we learn how to serve the King of Kings, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and so we understand that the primary means to "make Me king over you" is unity of His servants, as it says "and it will be in Yeshurun the King..."  When?  "upon the gathering together of the Tribes of Israel." Before God, the hidden is like the open.

על כן חובה עלינו קודם יום הדין הבא עלינו לטובה לקבל על עצמינו לעסוק בכל השנה במצות עשה דואהבת 
״ואהבת לרעך כמוך״(ויקרא יט, יח) ובזה יהיה אחדות בין עבדי ה׳ ית׳, ויעלה יפה בידינו מלכיות, שנכוון עיקר קיום תקפו של מלכיות, ובזה יבוא זכרוננו לפניו לטובה. ואם ח״ו עון בידינו של שנאת הבריות, איך לא נבוש ולא נכלם להיות דובר שקרים ח״ו נגדו ית׳ לבקש: ״מלוך על כל העולם כולו בכבודך״ ואנחנו לעצמנו לא הכננו עיקר קיום של מלכות שמים עלינו בתקפו, הרחמן יצילנו, ונקבל על עצמנו עסק אהבת הבריות ואחדות. ההערה הנ״ל אל תזוז 
מנגד עינינו כל השנה בל״נ. ונזכה כולנו כתיבה וחתימה טובה בתוך כל ישראל אכי״ר
Therefor it is incumbent upon us before the coming Day of Judgment to accept upon ourselves to endeavor, a whole year, to fulfill the commandment "love your fellow as yourself."  And through this will be the unity among the servants of God, and our coronation will be done well.  We should properly understand what firmly establishes a kingdom, and through this we will be remembered for the good.  If, God forbid, we carry in our hands the sin of antipathy to other men, how can we not be ashamed and embarrassed to stand and say lies before God, asking "Be King, oh god, upon all the world, in Your honor,"  and we ourselves have not made the fundamental basis of the Kingdom of Heaven upon ourselves in a truly powerful manner, may the Merciful One save us.  Let us accept upon ourselves this matter of love of fellow man and unity.  This awareness should not move away from our eyes the entire year....and we will merit a Kesiva Vechasima tove among all our fellow Jews.

טוב לייחד מקום, לחשוב מזה המאמר בכל יום בתפלה. והמקום המבואר בתפלה הוא באמת ויציב, ״על שפת הים יחד כולם״ הוא אהבה ואחדות, ואז ״הודו ־ כולם ־ והמליכו ואמרו״ ובל״ז ח״ו אין קבלת מלכות שמים שלימה, ע״כ יש לנו להשתדל תמיד בזה. ונזכה לקבלת מלכות שמים שלימה בתוך כלל ישראל.

I would like to suggest a minor point.  Part of being Zocheh during the days of din is to be a part of the tzibur.  Caring about the tzibur is, therefore, a great zechus.  Contrariwise, one who is separated from the tzibur is judged individually, and that is an extremely dangerous position. As Chazal say (RH 16a,) א"ר יצחק ג' דברים מזכירין עוונותיו של אדם ואלו הן: קיר נטוי, ועיון תפילה ומוסר דין על 


Micha Berger said...

I think the problem is that people have come to expect rishonim to share today's penchant for magical thinking. In a more classical philosophy, when you read Rashi saying "שאם יזכירום ישראל בתפלת" we don't mean merely saying them, but internalizing them while davening. IOW, someone who commits during the prayers of the fast day to emulate Hashem's Mercy will not be left empty-handed.

Similarly, it's magical thinking that "שאינן חוזרות ריקם" means that the person gets what they desire, as though their desires outrank Hashem's knowledge of what's best for us.

This simply isn't the way rishonim thought about avodas Hashem.

Chaim B. said...

>>>How many things do we find that Chazal promise benefit?

What do you mean? There are many other gemaras that say things like "Do X and you will having banim talmidei chachamim" (just to take one example).

The difference I think is that in most of those places Chazal spell out that it refers to someone who is "zahir" or "ragil" in a particular mitzvah. Here, the plain reading does seem to imply that the 13 midos are a magical formula that turns back evil. (Don't we have such things too? What about Aharon using ketores to fight the malacha ha'maves?) Kah mashma lan that this is no different than those other cases and more than just lip service is required.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Micha. You are addressing an issue I was trying to avoid. As you indicate, many people read Rashi to mean a mere recitation, or at least, a recitation with Kavana. You don't accept that, and you learn Rashi to mean what the other Rishonim say. I'm not convinced that Rashi holds like that. First, Rashi says that it only works on Ta'aneisim. In fact, the Drushei HaTzlach says that Rashi means specifically and exclusively on Yom Kippur, because it is the only real Taanis, and because Rashi holds that the original event of Hashem saying the Middos took place on Yom Kippur. (Some, taking things a little too far, ask, if it was Yom Kippur, why was the Ribono shel Olam wearing Tefillin?) If it is a din in Yom Kippur, and we pasken that Itzumo shel Yom is mechapeir, which is magical thinking, then it's not unreasonable to say the same about the Middos.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Chaim- I remember Rabbi Weinberg in NIRC was saying a shiur, and a bochur asked him a kashe, and he thought very seriously, and said, "You're right" and closed his Gemara and walked away from the amud.

I'm not quite ready to do that, but I'm thinking about it.

Nonetheless, in Kelm, the signs they put up during Elul all were in regard to bein adam l'chaveiro.

Micha Berger said...

RCB quotes: "How many things do we find that Chazal promise benefit?"

And then he asks: "What do you mean? There are many other gemaras that say things like 'Do X and you will having banim talmidei chachamim' (just to take one example)."

But the language isn't that it's guaranteed or promised. It's more a statement of causality -- providing an environment with X in is conducive to raising talmidei chakhamim.

And I'm asserting that until the acharonic period, people didn't think in those terms. Recall that the tradition that would become published by the Zohar didn't have a chance to influence too many people yet; we're reading rishonim after influences few if any of them ever experienced.

Qemei'os and other such formula rarely -- if ever -- appear in the Y-mi. And in the Bavli, it's not clear if Chazal took them seriously or as placebos, but in Sassanid culture it was part of Natural Philosophy (what later becomes science), not metaphysics. That's how they can talk about the power of wolf's teeth while banning lechishah -- one is science, even if not by our findings, the other is magic.

Itzumo shel yom isn't mechaper the person who ignores that it's Yom Kippur. Izumo shel yom of YK itself denands the person has to accept and be willing to be changed by. Again, not magic, but being changed by the Yom Kippur environment.

Micha Berger said...

R JB Soloveitchik was known for admitting he was wrong and ending the shiur early, coming in the next day, and reteaching the sugya differently. I don't know if I just heard the same story dozens of times, or if it happened more than once over the decades. In any case, the intellectual honesty that is (supposed to be) central to the academic mindset, is a major theme in RJBS's expectations of his talmidim.

As for the centrality of teshuvah BALC in Kelm... what else would you expect from the mussar movement?

But to validate the notion: I too can forgive many offenses against myself when committed by someone who I know cares for my children.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

As I understand Micha's distinction between the "Test me by giving Maaser"/never return empty handed group and the Neiros is a segula for children talmidei chachamim group; Micha said that the latter, namely the Gemara in Shabbos 23b- Ragil b'neir (Rashi- Shabbos and Chanuka) will have sons talmidei chachamim; zahir in tzitzis, nice clothes; zahir in mezuza, nice house, only means that you create an environment that is conducive for Bracha, a beis kibbul. Whereas the former seems like a general guarantee.

I do think there's a difference. I think the latter is like those mitzvos in the Torah that "matan scharan ksuva b'tzidan." As Acheir saw in the end of chulin, there's no guarantee there either. The ones I brought are "test me!" and "Bris krusa."

Avraham said...

Why do we assume that enan chozros reikam means you get everything you requested for? If that was the meaning, surely Rashi could say it a bit clearer. Seems like it simply means that it will certainly have some effect.

I think that given the empirical evidence of all the promises of Chazal and even the Torah itself for example in the paragraph of Shema in vehaya im shamoa or in bentching velo raiti tzadik neezav - we tend to take these statements as some kind of magical formula which we don't understand or can't see in this world in any event.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Avraham, I said that the Bris is that we don't go back empty handed, not that you get whatever you want.

I'm not so excited about the use of the term magic in this discussion. The recitation of the Middos is an act we are supposed to do, words we are supposed to say. They only have an effect if our lives don't contradict the middos. But just being a holech bidrachav isn't enough. You have to do "kaseder hazeh," with the tallis, with these words. Call it magic if you want. I don't call that magic, I call it tefilla with a bris kerusa.

Micha Berger said...

Personally, I consider magic to include any appeal to metaphysical causality that can't be explained in terms of either reward and punishment or of changing outcome by changing reality and thus the path from the real to HQBH's Plan.

But then, I'm an intellectual child (grandchild?) of Litta.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I understand that you mean Littah as a rubric for rationalism, but Littah was not as monolithic as some think. That would be more the Hirschean school.

My son's yeshiva, Yeshivas Kodshim, under Rav Tzvi Kaplan, is doing slichos tomorrow morning at four fifteen. Why? Besides the many Yamim Nora'im austerities in that Yeshiva, it's also because the Brisker Rov was makpid to say the Thirteen Middos twice before Alos Hashachar on Erev Rosh Hashanna. And I'm not talking about Reb Yishmael's Thirteen Middos she'ha'torah nidreshes bahem.

Micha Berger said...

Actually, when I said Litta, I meant Litta. Three of my grandparents were Litvaks, and my greatgrandfather was a talmid and ben bayis of R' Meir Simchah haKohein miDvinsk.

I learned under a talmid of R' Shimon Shkop's -- Rav Dovid Lifshitz. My own derekh, more due to nostalgia and disappointment with current options than having been influenced at the time, is that kind of Telzherish-Mussarish end of Lithuanian thought.

So I meant "Litvak" in the sense of those who maximize the concept of "tamim tihyeh im Hashem E-lokekha".

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Full house beats three of a kind.

My mother grew up in Kelm, my father (originally from Varzhan) in Slabodka under Rav Yechezkel Berstein. My mother's brothers learned in Telz, one was Rav Gifter's chavrusa, and they were dear friends of the Ponovezher Rov. I learned in Telz, and then under Rav Rudderman (Slabodka)/Rav Dovid Kronglass (the Mir)/Rav Weinberg (Chaim Berlin) in NIRC. Rav Kreiswirth and Rav Dovid Lifshitz were good friends of the family. From my point of view, it is not the pshat that they rejected such concepts. They just didn't use them as a crutch or to avoid the hard work of Tikkun Hamiddos and Ameilus and Amkus BaTorah.

Micha Berger said...

Yes, my quote about "tamim tihyeh" is about not invoking non-avodah metaphysical causality, not that it doesn't exist. But then, so was my original comment. I didn't say magic is fictitious, I said that it wouldn't be the way I would view the beris behind the 13 Middos.

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I like that approach. Not that it doesn't exist, but that it's at least extraneous and perhaps even detrimental to the proper focus of our efforts and vision.

I heard from Reb Moshe many times that application of Tamim Tihyeh.

Micha Berger said...

And going back to my choice of terms...

Doesn't "[n]ot that it doesn't exist, but that it's at least extraneous and perhaps even detrimental" describe how Chazal view magic?

And so, that's the word I chose!