Bitachon and Melukhah

Perhaps it is just that we have been exploring these two topics simultanously, but I think there is an interesting relationship between them.

I wrote about bitachon that

Bitachon is awareness that the A-lmighty is acting in a covenental partnership with you. It is from there that Rav Dessler’s formula for hishtadlus emerges, one partner only picks up what he does not expect from the Other’s contribution. It is the Chazon Ish’s awareness that every event in our lives is part of a plan. And yet we can avoid simplistic dismissals of suffering. Yes, Nachum Ish Gamzutells us that everything is for the best, eventually. But since I must remember that no story, no “eventually”, is ever over, I can not find meaning or redemption in that fact. Pain remains pain. And yet, having bitachon demands that trust in “כחי ועצם ידי — my strength and the might of my hand” is misplaced, and through my activities I can not avoid the tragic. It is part of the role I play in the Divine Plan, and to not accept them as from Him and part of the covenant would be disloyalty to it.

And the melukhah of Malkhios can be seen as

אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר מָלַךְ בְּטֶרֶם כָּל יְצִיר נִבְרָא

לְעֵת נַעֲשָׂה בְחֶפְצוֹ כֹּל  אֲזַי מֶלֶךְ שְׁמוֹ נִקְרָא

Eternal Master Who was King before all things were created

Once He, with His Will, made all, then his name was called “King”.

In Shema, we are referring to “asher Malakh”. On Rosh haShanah the goal is to make that manifest in this world – “azai Melekh shemo niqra“. Not the theory of Kingship, but actually declaring Him as King. “Hashem E-lokeikhem” even before we reach the point of “Hashem Echad“.

Hashem is unchanging, He was King in some ideal sense even without creation. But to be a king, “ein melekh belo am – there is no king without a nation” declaring Him their King.

A Melekh need not impose His will in the same way that a Mosheil does. A Melekh, therefore, has the opportunity to act with kindness and mercy at times when a Mosheil could not. We therefore introduce High Holidays, the days of judgment, by declaring G‑d’s melukhah. By voluntarily accepting Him as king we obviate the need for G‑d to direct us on the right path through trials and tribulations. The point of Rosh haShanah is accepting Hashem as our Melekh not just in theory, but declaring our acceptance of His Reign, thereby changing His relationship to us from one of Mosheil to that of Melekh.

Comparing the two, it would seem that both are about the beris, the covenent by which Hashem is our constitutional Monarch. Bitachon is the trust we have in His contribution to the beris. In Malkhios we declare our willingness to contribute our share.

And with what? With a Shofar

אמר רבי יהודה משום רבי עקיבא … אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: … ואמרו לפני בראש השנה מלכיות זכרונות ושופרות. מלכיות: כדי שתמליכוני עליכם. זכרונות: כדי שיעלה זכרוניכם לפני לטובה. ובמה? בשופר.

Rabbi Yehudah said an idea from Rabbi Aqiva …: The Holy One, blessed be He said, “… say before Me on Rosh haShanah, Malkhios, Zikhoronos and Shoferos.
Malkhios: so that you shall make Me King over you;
Zikhoronos: so that your memories shall come before Me;
“And with what? With a shofar.”

- Rosh haShanah 16a

(Sidenote: There is a dispute as to what this implies as to the nature of the obligation. Rashi holds that these berakhos are mandatory from the Torah, if said with / as part of shofar blowing. He says that Malkhios is the essence of the day, as we see in practice we combine it with the usual holiday blessing for the day. And the words “yom zikhron teru’ah — a day of memory of horn-blasts” obligates us in Zikhronos and Shoferos. The Ritva in general holds that asmachtos, usually translated as mnemonic devices, are actually hints from G-d that an idea is a good one, but not mandatory. Thus a law from an asmachta is one that was suggested by G-d but made obligatory by the Chakhamim. Here, the Ritva says it’s an asmachta — G-d said “say before me”, but it wasn’t made mandatory until the Chakhamim codified it.)

מתנ': כל השופרות כשרים חוץ משל פרה מפני שהוא קרן אמר רבי יוסי והלא כל השופרות נקראו קרן שנאמר (יהושוע ו) במשוך בקרן היובל:

גמ': … עולא אמר היינו טעמא דרבנן כדרב חסדא דאמר רב חסדא מפני מה אין כהן גדול נכנס בבגדי זהב לפני ולפנים לעבוד עבודה לפי שאין קטיגור נעשה סניגור

Mishnah: Every shofar is kosher except for that of a cow, because it’s called “qeren“. Rabbi Yosi said: but isn’t every shofar called “qeren“,  as it says “In the middle of the qeren of the yoveil” (Yehoshua 6)?

Gemara: Ula said: What is the reason for the Rabbanan [the unnamed first opinion in the mishnah]? [Because they rule] like Rav Chisda. For Rav Chisda said: Why doesn’t the kohein gadol wear the bigei zahav — [his full uniform, including] the golden clothes when lifnai velifnim — before Me and within [the Holy of Holies]? Because a prosecutor can not be turned into the defense attourney.

- Rosh haShanah 26a

Rav Dovid Lifshitz addressed these gemaras in his pre-Rosh haShanah shiur of 1989. (See here for an entry that opens with another thought from that talk.)

Notice that the kohein gadol did wear the full bigdei zahav the rest of Yom Kippur, including when doing the other parts of the service of the very same qorban! The notion that ein qeteigor naaseh saneigor, that the prosecution can’t become the defense, is not a law in atonement, it’s a law in lifnai velifnim.

What then does it mean when this rule applies to shofar? Rashi points out that the gemara is assuming a comparison — listening to the shofar is tantamount to entering the Holy of Holies, only performed by the kohein gadol on Yom Kippur!

To add something of my own to this thought, in the Sifra’s version of the thought Rabbi Yehudah repeated from R’ Aqiva, it concludes, “ובמה? בשופר של חרות — And with what? with a shofar of freedom.”  As Yeshaiah writes (27:12) “יג וְהָיָ֣ה ׀ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא יִתָּקַע֮ בְּשׁוֹפָ֣ר גָּדוֹל֒ וּבָ֗אוּ הָאֹֽבְדִים֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ אַשּׁ֔וּר וְהַנִּדָּחִ֖ים בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם וְהִשְׁתַּֽחֲו֧וּ לַֽה’ בְּהַ֥ר הַקֹּ֖דֶשׁ בִּירֽוּשָׁלִָֽם׃ — And it will be on that day, he will blow a great shofar, and those lost in Ashur and those taken captive in Egypt will come and they will bow to Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.”

Similarly, the shofar‘s blow at the shemittah year declared the freedom of slaves. A slave who refuses his freedom, preferring to live under his master’s patronage, has his ear pierced.  The ear that heard “ki avadai heim — for they are My servants” (Vayiqra 25:42) should know “My servants — and not servants to my servants” (Bava Metzi’ah 10a).

Cheirus appears associated with the tablets, which rested in the ark in the center of the Holy of Holies.”חָר֖וּת עַל־הַלֻּחֹֽת׃’ “אל תקרי חָרוּת אלא חֵרוּת — ‘engraved (charus) on the tablets’ (Shemos 32:16) — don’t read ‘charus‘ (engraved), rather ‘cheirus (freedom).” Note also how Yeshaiah associates the shofar’s call with coming to the Temple Mount. The shofar‘s call to freedom would seem to be an echo of the freedom engraved on the luchos.

Back to rebbe’s shiur…

Remember the feeling when you first came to the Kotel. The wall which Hashem promised us would stand until the end of time, whose persistence is testimony to our relationship with Him. And you reach the stones, the wall around the Temple Mount, and the feeling is overwhelming. Picture the emotions one would have being able to actually enter the courtyard. To be a kohein entering the Temple itself. To be the kohein gadol, after a week of preparation, now on the holiest day of the year busy with the holiest of service, to enter lifnai velifnim.

That’s Shofar.

How does one accept Hashem as Melekh, and remember our faults so that He remembers our potential? At that moment — “with the shofar.”

(Rebbe actually presented this thought before giving a source. After the students were entranced with the rebbe’s great chiddush, his passionate novellum, he asked one of them to read the Rashi and Tosafos. Had they known it was “just a Rashi”, they wouldn’t have listened the same.)

Coronating G-d

(Significantly enlarged from the 2005 version. -micha)

I

Melukhah (kingship) is a major theme, if not the major theme of Rosh haShanah. Aside from the ubiquity of the word in our liturgy for Rosh haShanah and the Ten Days of Teshuvah, we find another indication in the Amidah for Rosh haShanah‘s Mussaf. Three blessings are inserted to the middle of that AmidahMalkhios (statements about G‑d being King), Zikhronos (about His acting on His “Memory”) and Shoferos (about shofar, about the glory and noise of divine intervention). Like every holiday and Shabbos, though, there also has to be a Birkhas haYom, a blessing about the day. For Rosh haShanah Mussaf, Malkhios is fused with the Birkhas haYom, because kingship is the message of the day.

When Yoseif tells his brothers his dreams, they ask, “מָלֹ֤ךְ תִּמְלֹךְ֙ עָלֵ֔ינוּ אִם־מָשׁ֥וֹל תִּמְשֹׁ֖ל בָּ֑נוּ?” (Bereishis 37:8), which the JPS translation renders “Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?” Usually this is taken to be a repeated question, the two halves meaning roughly the same thing.

The Ibn Ezra suggests otherwise. When commanding us to appoint a king, the phrase is “שׂ֣וֹם תָּשִׂ֤ים עָלֶ֨יךָ֙ מֶ֔לֶךְ – appoint for yourselves a king” (Vevarim 17:15). A melekh (king) is appointed by the masses, he rules by the acclimation of the people. This stands in contrast to the mosheil (ruler) who, however well intended, has to rule by imposing his (or His) will on them.

The brothers are saying that they weren’t ready to place Yoseif as a king over themselves. “You think you would be melekh, an accepted king over us? No, you would only stand as mosheil, in opposition to our will.”

The Vilna Gaon takes this idea and applies it to several verses we know from the siddur.

” כִּ֣י לַה’ הַמְּלוּכָ֑ה וּ֝מֹשֵׁ֗ל בַּגּוֹיִֽם׃ – For G‑d’s is the Kingship, and He rules over nations…” (Tehillim 22:29) Hashem has the Melukhah, in potential He is King. However, as the nations do not yet accept Him willingly as their King, Hashem serves for them as their mosheil.

” מַֽלְכוּתְךָ֗ מַלְכ֥וּת כָּל־עֹֽלָמִ֑ים וּ֝מֶֽמְשַׁלְתְּךָ֗ בְּכָל־דּ֥וֹר וָדֹֽר׃- Your kingship is a kingship for all eternity; and/but your rule is in every generation and generation.” (Tehillim 145:13, said in “Ashrei“) Malkhus is truly eternal. Memshalah will only last from generation to generation, through the course of history.

At the culmination of history, ” וְהָיָ֧ה ה’ לְמֶ֖לֶךְ עַל־כָּל־הָאָ֑רֶץ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא יִֽהְיֶ֧ה ה’ אֶחָ֖ד וּשְׁמ֥וֹ אֶחָֽד׃ – Hashem will be King over the entire world, on that day Hashem will be One, and His reputation will be One.” (Zechariah 14:9, Aleinu) In the messianic age, after the “generations”, Hashem will be Melekh over the other nations as well. At that time, “veyei’asu kulam agudah achas la’asos ritzonicha… – and they will all make a single union to do Your will” (High Holiday Amidah) as willing subjects of the King.

II

In Pachad Yitzchaq for Rosh haShanah (ma’amar 11), Rav Hutner notes a curious question in the gemara. (I discussed this earlier, in the class I gave on VeHayah im Shamo’ah, you can listen to it here.)

The first paragraph of Shema is said as a daily acceptance of G-d as King. Qabbalas ol malkhus Shamayim – accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of [the One in] heaven. However, nowhere in the paragraph does the word “Melekh” actually appear! In what sense is Shema accepting Hashem’s Kingship?

The gemara in Rosh haShanah describes the structure of the Mussaf Amidah for the day, and tells us that each of the three additional berakhos should be buttressed with 10 verses from Tanakh: three from the Torah, three from Kesuvim, three from Navi, and a final verse from the Torah. In practice, this last verse is the opening verse of Shema. But the gemara, while our norm was still developing, asks whether that verse, “Shema Yisrael…” may be used as one of the verses for Malkhios. (Rosh haShanah 32b)

Rav Hutner asks: What’s the question? If we say this very verse every day for the sole purpose of accepting Hashem as King, how could it not be viable for the very same declaration on Rosh haShanah?

More so, the gemara’s source-text on the previous page (32a) for saying Malkhios altogether is from the end of Shema, “ani Hashem E‑lokeichem – I am Hashem your G‑d.” How can this be the entire basis of the obligation, and yet the words “Hashem E‑lokeinu Hashem Echad” are not only non-ideal, but the gemara can ask whether they are even sufficient to fulfill it?

Third, in order to fulfill the mitzvah of qabbalas ol Malkhus Shamayim that is part of Shema, one must also say the words “Hashem Echad“. So then why is the source for Malkhios given as “ani Hashem E-lokeichem“, a formulation that doesn’t declare Hashem as One? Why wasn’t the first verse of Shema cited?

It would seem that the manner in which this daily acceptance of ol malkhus Shamayim without actually calling Him “Melekh” is fundamentally different in kind than what we are trying to accomplish on Rosh haShanah.

Rashi explains Shema as saying, “Listen and accept Israel, Hashem, Who is our G-d now, in this world, will be, in the World to Come, One G-d [accepted by all].” In what way is G‑d’s presence in this world not unified? We do not perceive Him as One. As we learn in Pesachim (50a), it is because we do not perceive Hashem as one that we have two distinct blessings. When something good happens, we say “haTov vehaMeitiv – the Good and the Bestower of good”, but when something bad happens we say a berakhah that calls Him “Dayan haEmes – the Judge of truth”.

(As we saw in another essay, the Ketzos haChoshen understands this berakhah as accepting G‑d’s judgment as to when to hide truth, and when to allow it to be visible. The process of revealing the truth, of letting “the truth spring forth from the ground” is what we call ge’ulah. And so, this judgment of the truth only occurs before the final redemption.)

In the redeemed world, we will be able to see the good in everything, and thus Hashem’s Oneness. As we quoted from Zechariah, ” וְהָיָ֧ה ה’ לְמֶ֖לֶךְ עַל־כָּל־הָאָ֑רֶץ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא יִֽהְיֶ֧ה ה’ אֶחָ֖ד וּשְׁמ֥וֹ אֶחָֽד׃ – Hashem will be King over the entire world, on that day Hashem will be One, and His reputation will be One.”

In the first verse of Shema, we are speaking of this future time, when Hashem will be King over everything. For this idea, speaking of the latent “Hashem Echad” which we know is there, but can’t be perceived, is a critical component of the obligation. The gemara’s conclusion, that the verse may be used for Malkhios after all (which we do, as the last, 10th verse) is based on the clarification given in the rest of the paragraph, “Ve’ahavta — And you shall love Hashem your G-d and serve Him…” that the intent is also making that Platonic Kingship manifest in this world. Even though this is not explicit in the verse itself.

We also touched on this kind of Kingship along the way in our previous discussion. On the verse “כִּ֣י לַה’ הַמְּלוּכָ֑ה וּ֝מֹשֵׁ֗ל בַּגּוֹיִֽם׃ – For G‑d’s is the Kingship, and He rules over nations…” my explanation took it for granted that when speaking of malkhus as Hashem’s possession, we were referring to Kingship in potential.

Similarly, we say in Adon Olam,

אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר מָלַךְ בְּטֶרֶם כָּל יְצִיר נִבְרָא

לְעֵת נַעֲשָׂה בְחֶפְצוֹ כֹּל  אֲזַי מֶלֶךְ שְׁמוֹ נִקְרָא

Eternal Master Who was King before all things were created

Once He, with His Will, made all, then his name was called “King”.

Hashem is unchanging, He was King in some ideal sense even without creation. But to be a king, “ein melekh belo am – there is no king without a nation” declaring Him their King.

In Shema, we are referring to “asher Malakh”. On Rosh haShanah the goal is to make that manifest in this world – “azai Melekh shemo niqra“. Not the theory of Kingship, but actually declaring Him as King. “Hashem E-lokeikhem” even before we reach the point of “Hashem Echad“.

This is why the gemara can be unsure if Shema can be used for the obligation of Rosh haShanah. It describes the ideal of Kingship but lacks an outright statement of calling Him “Melekh“.

III

Why is it so essentially part of Rosh haShanah to declare our active acceptance of Hashem as King?

As we saw from Adon Olam, this is one of the reasons for which man was created. The shift from Asher Malakh before we existed to “Melekh” shemo niqra. We therefore declare His Kingship on the anniversary of the creation of Man, Rosh haShanah.

It’s interesting to note that the man-Melekh relationship is a sub-theme in Purim as well. There is no over mention of G‑d in the book of Esther. However, the Talmud tells us that each occurrence of the word “melekh” that appears in that book (without naming the king) can be understood midrashically as a reference to G‑d. When Esther approaches the king, which is apparently Achashveirosh but has some parallel in her approaching the King as well, she opens her request with the word “Uvchein” (“therefore” or “with this”). Similarly as do a number of requests in the blessing of the day for the High Holidays (and therefore the Rosh haShanah Mussaf berakhah about Divine Kingship).

When Moses asked “הַרְאֵ֥נִי נָ֖א אֶת־כְּבֹדֶֽךָ׃ – Please show me Your Glory” (Shemos 33:18), Hashem’s answer was to give to him the 13 terms describing the aspects of Divine Mercy. Hashem’s Glory is his Mercy. And so, on Rosh haShanah we ask, “Meloch al kol ha’olam kulo bichvodecha –  be King over all the entire world in Your Glory” (Siddur). Thus, his “throne” is Mercy, as we say in Selichos “Keil Melekh yosheiv al kisei rachamim – G‑d, King, “sitting” on the throne of Mercy.

A Melekh need not impose His will in the same way that a Mosheil does. A Melekh, therefore, has the opportunity to act with kindness and mercy at times when a Mosheil could not. We therefore introduce High Holidays, the days of judgment, by declaring G‑d’s melukhah. By voluntarily accepting Him as king we obviate the need for G‑d to direct us on the right path through trials and tribulations. The point of Rosh haShanah is accepting Hashem as our Melekh not just in theory, but declaring our acceptance of His Reign, thereby changing His relationship to us from one of Mosheil to that of Melekh.

We, on the anniversary of Hashem creating His subjects, declare Him as King, and thereby enthrone Him as a Merciful one.

Bitachon: Trust that …?

There are three basic models of bitachon:

1- Bitachon is the belief that everything will turn out okay. This message is taught in an entire genre of stories which create the image that if you only are properly observant and had sufficient bitachon, the only airplane you would ever miss is one that ch”v is going to crash.

This notion is not as absurd as I just portrayed it.

Rav Dessler gave a famous formula: The amount of hishtadlus (pragmatic effort) one must invest to solve is problems is only to compensate for a lack of bitachon. To try harder than that would imply a lack of faith. For example, when Yoseif asked the wine steward to remember him to Par’oh, he was punished for the lack of faith by having to wait another two years for rescue (Chazal, as repeated by Rashi ad loc). For us, such effort would be fine, but for someone on Yoseif haTzadiq‘s level, such hishtadlus was beyond the appropriate. Notice the implication: Bitachon gets you what you otherwise would have been working toward in more physical ways — getting what you want, what makes you happy.

2- The big problem with the previous model is that it doesn’t stand up very well to real world experience. Which then leads to a second version of the idea: that bitachon means that everything works out for the best. I may never know how and why Hashem wants me to experience some challenge, but as Nachum Ish Gamzu would say, “gam zu letovah– this too is for the best.” Or, to quote his student, Rabbi Aqiva, “Everything which the All-Merciful does, He does for the good.” Everything that happens is from G-d and therefore good, but I don’t always know what “good” is, and therefore often want something else. In the long run, it’s “letovahfor the good” even if the short-term event itself doesn’t seem so good.

3- The Chazon Ish (Emunah uBitachon ch. 2) not only differs, he calls both of these positions “wrong”.

This view of trust is incorrect, for as long as the future outcome has not been clarified through prophecy, that outcome has not been decided, for who can truly know Hashem’s judgements and providence? Rather, bitachonmeans realizing that there are no coincidences in the world, and that whatever happens under the sun is a function of Hashem’s decree.

Bitachonis the denial of the concepts of randomness, happenstance and accident. Not that everything is for my good, even if in some unfathomable way, but everything is according to Hashem’s plan and wisdom. The Chazon Ish has a problem with our assuming that something is good, since we never will know when an event’s story is complete, when we can judge it with full hindsight.

Rav Soloveitchik (e.g. in his disussion of the Holocaust in Qol Dodi Dofeiq) would state this more vehemently. One can’t deny the experience of suffering. Entering a meta-level, in which suffering is good by providing some reason for it, is either intellectually dishonest or emotionally frigid, and often both. The power suffering can have in our lives is when it is experienced as suffering. As he titled his essay “Uviqashtem misham“, from the pasuq in VaEschanan, “וּבִקַּשְׁתֶּ֥ם מִשָּׁ֛ם אֶת־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּמָצָ֑אתָ כִּ֣י תִדְרְשֶׁ֔נּוּ בְּכָל־לְבָֽבְךָ֖ וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃ — And from there you will seek Hashem your G-d andyou will find Him, if you pursue Him with all your heart and all your life-soul.” (Devarim 4:29)

The Chazon Ish is not denying “gam zu letovah” (in the sense of the 2nd definition of bitachon, above), rather he is excluding it from the concept of bitachon in particular. As he writes later

There is another aspect to bitachon — that there rests a ruach haqodesh upon a person who possesses unique bitachon. It is a spirit of confidence that Hashem will help him, as King David says: “אִם־תַּֽחֲנֶ֬ה עָלַ֨י ׀ מַֽחֲנֶה֮ לֹֽא־יִירָ֪א לִ֫בִּ֥י; אִם־תָּק֣וּם עָ֭לַי מִלְחָמָ֑ה בְּ֝זֹ֗את אֲנִ֣י בוֹטֵֽחַ׃ – If a camp encamps against me my heart will not fear; if a war arises against me…” (Tehillim 27:3). This aspect is relative to this special person’s unique bitachon and special measure of his sanctity.

This confidence is not bitachon, it is the inspiration, the almost-prophecy of ruach haqodesh that emerges from bitachon. And, it would seem, the confidence will not always be met by the reality of how things unfold.

In sum then, how would I define bitachon?

In Rabbi Chaim Brown’s observation that motivated these three posts on bitachon, we actually find a union of these ideas. We are taking a lesson, meaning we are aware that the insecurity we feel due to the current financial climate is from G-d. Following Rav Elchanan’s words about the Great Depression, we are assuming it is middah keneged middah, repayment in kind, for relying on one’s own efforts for success. Trusting the wine-steward, as Yoseifdid. And so, Hashemshakes the institutions we consider our means for self-made success in order to remind us that we need His assistance.

Bitachon is awareness that the A-lmighty is acting in a covenental partnership with you. It is from there that Rav Dessler’s formula for hishtadlus emerges, one partner only picks up what he does not expect from the Other’s contribution. It is the Chazon Ish’s awareness that every event in our lives is part of a plan. And yet we can avoid simplistic dismissals of suffering. Yes, Nachum Ish Gamzutells us that everything is for the best, eventually. But since I must remember that no story, no “eventually”, is ever over, I can not find meaning or redemption in that fact. Pain remains pain. And yet, having bitachon demands that trust in “כחי ועצם ידי — my strength and the might of my hand” is misplaced, and through my activities I can not avoid the tragic. It is part of the role I play in the Divine Plan, and to not accept them as from Him and part of the covenant would be disloyalty to it.

Emunah and Bitachon

There is a halakhah of semikhas ge’ulah letefillah, that one must finish the last berakhah after Shema, that about the redemption, immediately before the Shemoneh Esrei, with no interruptions. The Mishnah Berurah even advises that in Shacharis the chazan should whisper the end of the berakhah to himself, so that the congregation would not be obligated to interrupt between their own birkhas Ge’ulah and Shemoneh Esrei by having to answer amein.

In Ma’ariv, we insert “Hashkiveinu“, a berakhah about peace, and outside of Israel most communities also say “Barukh Hashem leOlam“. These are generally justified because Hashkiveinu is also on the broader subject of redemption, and Barukh Hashem leOlam is a surrogate for Shemoneh Esrei. So the concepts of ge’ulah and tefillah are still juxtaposed. A full discussion is off topic, but even in the case of Ma’ariv, R’ JB Soloveitchik would limit his responses to the intervening Qaddish to just “Amein. Yehei Shemei rabba…” and the final “amein” since these interruptions are mandatory, whereas the other reponses to Qaddish are custom.

Why the need to so closely preface ge’ulah to tefillah?

Ga’al Yisrael speaks of past redemption. We point to the miracle at the Red Sea and other redemptions as a source of emunah, of belief in the existance and involvement of the A-lmighty. We establish the foundation that there is a G-d capable of aiding us and we know this because He has in the past. It is only with that concept that Hashem is Omnipotent and involved in human affairs that it is meaningful to engage in the praise, requests and thanks of tefillah, to expect His involvement in our own lives.That’s bitachon, the belief of Hashem’s actual involvement in the present and future, that He can be relied upon..

Lehman Brothers and Bitachon

During last night’s commute home, someone asked me how my preparations for Rosh haShanah were going. I had to admit, not well, as I had no thoughts as to which particular issues were calling for my attention this year, which were the battles to choose to fight.

Thank G-d, this morning I saw the following by R’ Chaim Brown on his blog “Divrei Chaim“:

… Sometimes a ma’aseh turns out so badly that it seems only Divine intervention can explain what happened. When you consider a 158 year old company (Lehman Bros.) drive to bankrupcy in the course of weeks, insurance giants (AIG) reduced to nothing, banks one after the other on the verge of failure, one is faced with either assuming the best minds in business simultaneously have all been overtaken by a bout of very contagious stupid disease, or someone up there is pulling the strings in ways that are just out of everyone’s control.

R’ Elchanan in one of his ma’amarim, which if I recall correctly has no date attached but must have been written in the ’30s, writes that the failing of the economy (at the time of his writing) was not caused by a lack of money, as plenty of people still had fortunes and great wealth. The economy failed because of a loss of confidence in the institutions of finance – a loss of faith in the economic system. What was true then is certainly true today, as the credit crunch is primarily a loss of confidence and trust. The key to understanding this phenomenon is the principle of middah k’neged middah. R’ Elchahan writes that a loss of faith in worldly institutions comes about because of the greater loss of faith in our spiritual institutions – a failing of emunah. And only through the strengthening of emunah can we find the tools to emerge from such a crisis.

As I spend much of my waking hours providing software support for traders, the air I’m breathing is thick with this insecurity. And then to note that our self-confidence is being shaken within Elul… I’m not sure how Hashem could have made His point much clearer.

This isn’t an attempt to play prophet, to claim one knows the reasons G-d chooses to do something. Rather than prophecy, this is wisdom, as in “איזהו חכם? הרואה את הנולד — Who is wise? One who sees upcoming consequences.” (Tamid 32a) The conclusion emerges from simply looking at the impact of the events — we are now worried about our own financial stability, about our savings for the future, of the stability of all the support systems we usually rely upon. To not use that emotional shift in our avodas Hashem by leveraging it with a constructive alternative would be foolhardy.

Shalom Aleikhem!

I

I once cited a thought from Rav Dovid Lifshitz about the nature of shalom. Shalom goes beyond peace in the sense of a cessation of violence. It’s the same root as sheleimus — wholeness. Beyond “world peace”, a vision of universal shalom means one in which all the nations “will come together in a single union to do Your will with a leivav shaleim, a whole heart.” Sheleimus within each heart being expressed as sheleimus within humanity as a whole.

I recently had an opportunity to listen to a shmuess from Rav Dovid given the week of selikhos right before 5760. He opens the talk with another point related to shalom and sheleimus.

For Ashkenazim the last berakhah of “Shemoneh Esrei” at minchah and ma’ariv (which Chassidim only say at ma’arim) begins with a request that “שלום רב על ישראל עמך תשים לעולם– place great shalom on Israel Your nation for eternity”. Beyond simply asking for shalom, we ask for shalom rav.

What is shalom rav?

שָׁלוֹם רָב, לְאֹהֲבֵי תוֹרָתֶךָ;    וְאֵין-לָמוֹ מִכְשׁוֹל.

Shalom rav is granted those who love Your Torah, and they have no obtacles.

- Tehillim119:165

Shalom rav is the unity and wholeness of self that eliminates all obstacles from the path of the lover of Torah.

The rule with respect to tzara’as is “אין אדם רואה נגעי עצמו – a person [a kohein, since no one else is empowered to determine tzara'as] does not inspect his own afflictions”. This has become a rabbinical aphorism, “people don’t see their own faults”, which is probably the motivation of the law of tzara’as.

Rav Dovid elaborates on the impact of this truism. Because I can not make a realistic assessment of my own shortcomings, I can not succeed without participating in a healthy community. Thus, there can be no pursuit of sheleimus without shalom and no shalom without sheleimus! One is simply another manifestation of the other.

This is what is meant when Jews greet each other “Shalom aleikhem!” “Aleikhem shalom!” We pledge to work together for the sheleimus of us all as individuals, and as a whole.

II

Which brings me around back to the mitzvah of tokhachah, usually translated as “rebuke”. I started looking at it in a discussion of the prohibition “do not hate your brother in your heart”. That entry opened:

Do not hate your brother in your heart;לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ;
you should surely rebuke your neighbor,הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֨יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ
and do not carry a sin because of him.וְלֹֽא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא׃

- Vayiqra 19:17

There are a number of questions about this verse that need to be addressed before we can understand it.

First, is this verse describing one mitzvah, or two? Is it a commandment to rebuke others rather than hating them in one’s heart? Or are they two distinct mitzvos – hatred and rebuke being less related. On the one hand, they do appear in the same verse. On the other, there is no conjunctive between them telling us a kind of relationship Hashem would give them.

Most of the rishonim discussed then concluded that hating someone in your heart includes acting on it; in other words, “[even if only] in your heart” and of course if you then act on it. And thus giving tokhachah is in contrast to non-productive ways of handling hatred.

The Kesef Mishnah understands the Rambam to say that the first part of the verse is only when it is in one’s heart. The prohibition against venting hatred is “lo siqom velo sitor — do not take revenge and do not carry a grudge”. Therefore there is no implied contrast between tokhachah and other actions. As I wrote then:

A side point about rebuke.  The nature of the obligation to give constructive criticism differs depending on whether the verse is understood as linked, or as distinct mitzvos.

According to Rashi et al, the focus of tokhachah is to clear the air and avoid hatred. Thus, the primary mitzvah is on things the other did to wrong you in particular. According to the Kesef Mishnah’s understanding of the Rambam, the obligation is broader — preventing future sin. Someone who could rebuke and doesn’t will “carry the sin for him” who wasn’t corrected. This can include rebuke for the sake of the wrongdoer learning otherwise, for making sure the sin doesn’t become an accepted part of the culture in general, or even just to reinforce one’s own’s resistance and avoiding emulating him. That too is a discussion among the rishonim, but too far off point.

The Rambam describes tokhachah as follows (tr. Emanuel O’Levy):

ו כשיחטא איש לאיש–לא ישטמנו וישתוק, כמו שנאמר ברשעים “ולא דיבר אבשלום עם אמנון, למרע ועד טוב: כי שנא אבשלום, את אמנון” (שמואל ב יג,כב); אלא מצוה עליו להודיעו ולומר לו, למה עשית לי כך וכך ולמה חטאת לי בדבר פלוני: שנאמר “הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך, ולא תישא עליו חטא” (ויקרא יט,יז). ואם חזר וביקש ממנו למחול לו, צריך שימחול; ולא יהא המוחל אכזרי, שנאמר “ויתפלל אברהם, אל האלוהים” (בראשית כ,יז).

6: If one is sinned against by someone else, then one should not hate him secretly, for regarding wicked people it says, “And Absalom spoke neither good nor bad to his brother Amnon, for Absalom hated Amnon”. It is a commandment to make one’s hatred known to the person who wronged one and to ask him why he did what he did and why he wronged one in the way that he did, for it is written, “You shall definitely rebuke your fellow”. If he request forgiveness, one has to forgive him. One who forgives should not be too harsh, for it is written, “So Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants, and they bore children”.

This is tokhachah as we have been looking at it until now — a conversation that clears the air, that
1- explains the other person’s side of the story, or
2- explains to him why it was hurtful
and thereby enables rapprochement.

לא חרבה ירושלים, אלא בשביל שלא הוכיח זה את זה.

-שבת קיט, ע”ב

Jerusalem was only destroyed because they didn’t give tokhachah to each other.

And yet, as is often repeated, we know (Yoma 9b) that the destruction was because of sin’as chinam (baseless or pointless hatred)! One causes the other. Because they never aired their greivances, anger was never resolved and turned into destructive hatred.

In the next halakhah, the Rambam gives a second kind of tokhachah:

ז הרואה את חברו שחטא, או שהוא הולך בדרך לא טובה–מצוה להחזירו למוטב, ולהודיעו שהוא חוטא על עצמו במעשיו הרעים: שנאמר “הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך” (ויקרא יט,יז).

7. Upon seeing someone else committing a sin or following a way which is not good, it is a commandment to return him to doing good and to make it known to him that he is sinning against himself, for it is written, “You shall definitely rebuke your fellow”.

Here it’s not the wronged party trying to clear the air, but someone speaking out of concern for the others well-being. That unity of “Shalom Aleikhem“.

Then the Rambam continues by giving some of the methodology “בין בדברים שבינו לבינו, בין בדברים שבינו לבין המקום — whether in matters between him and him or in matters between him and G-d” of both kinds of tokhachah, the rules that allow someone to accept your criticism constructively.

המוכיח את חברו–בין בדברים שבינו לבינו, בין בדברים שבינו לבין המקום–צריך להוכיחו בינו לבין עצמו, וידבר לו בנחת ובלשון רכה, ויודיעו שאינו אומר לו אלא לטובתו, ולהביאו לחיי העולם הבא. אם קיבל ממנו, מוטב; ואם לאו, יוכיח פעם שנייה ושלישית. וכן תמיד חייב להוכיח, עד שיכהו החוטא ויאמר לו איני שומע; וכל שאפשר בידו למחות ואינו ממחה, הוא נתפס בעוון אלו כולם שאפשר לו למחות בהן.

When rebuking someone, whether in matters between him and others or between him and God, one should do so in private, speak to him in repose and soft tones, and make sure that he understands that one is speaking to him for his own good, and [thereby] to bring him to life in the World To Come. If one’s words are accepted then it is good, but if not then one should rebuke him a second and third time [or as many times as necessary]. Similarly, one is obligated to rebuke a sinner until he hits one and tells one that he isn’t listening. Anyone who has the opportunity to protest but doesn’t is transgressing these sins, for he could have protested against them.

In the rest of halakhah 7 Rambam lists the following required of tokhachah:

  • speaking to him when you’re alone
  • in pleasant tone and calm language
  • being clear that you’re speaking for their best interest, and to bring them to the world to come
  • to bring it to him repeatedly if necessary until the other party grows angry (the measure is angry enough to hit him)

The question of whether you have to actually continue until hit, or continue until he curses you, is a dispute between Rav and Shemuel (respectively; Eirkhin 16b). The Rama cites both opinions (O”Ch 608:2). The Biur Halakhah cites the Chinukhthat even according to Rav, you may stop when he is ready to hit you, before being hit. The Mishnah Berurah (Shaar haTziyon, ad loc s”q 13) rules that one can rely on this opinion.

In halakhah 8 the Rambam addresses the need to navigate the obligation of tokhachah and the prohibition against embarrassing others (malbin penei chaveiro, literally: whitening his friend’s face).

So far, a clear and consistent picture emerges. However, the Rambam closes closes this discussion of embarrassment by writing:

במה דברים אמורים, בדברים שבין אדם לחברו; אבל בדברי שמיים–אם לא חזר בו בסתר–מכלימין אותו ברבים ומפרסמין חטאו ומחרפין אותו בפניו ומבזין ומקללין, עד שיחזור למוטב: כמו שעשו כל הנביאים לישראל.

This is talking about matters concerning Man and his Fellow, but concerning matters between Man and God, if he did not repent [when one rebuked him] in private, one should rebuke him in public, publicise his sins, and aggravate him to his face. We should pour scorn on him and curse him until he returns to the ways of good. The Prophets of Israel used to do this.

Why? Does it fit either of the Rambam’s categories of tokhachah, repproachment or helping the person correct themselves to continue in this loud and manner that isn’t likely to win him over?

III

On Beitzah 30a, Rava bar R’ Chanin asks why it is that the masses clap on Shabbos and no one speaks up about it; the mishnah prohibited it lest someone tune and play an instrument. Abayei compares it to the problem of why no one lectures the person who sits at the opening of an eiruv (where the possibility of  something rolling away and the person picking it up when outside the eiruv is too likely). In both cases, the reason is that we do not expect the people to listen, and therefore “mutav sheyihyu shogegin, ve’al yihyu meizidin — better they be doing it in ignorance than they do it intentionally.” (There were Litvisher Rabbanim who gave a similar explanation as to why few married women in pre-war Lithuania covered their hair. It wasn’t that it is permissable, but the rabbis had to choose battles they could win.)

The gemara adds that this idea applies to deOraisos as well. The example given is starting Yom Kippur early, which is a Torah law derived by derashah. And yet, people in those days ate until the last moment before sundown. (Today we are used to “licht bentching” being 18 minutes before sunset, which thereby captures this obligation.)

Looking at the Rashba, the Rosh and the Seifer haIttur, there is a limitation in the gemara. When it says the notion of “mutav sheyihyu…” applies to deOraisa law, the gemara only means those laws not explicitly spelled out in the Torah even though they were given with it. Such as in the case of adding to Yom Kippur, where the source is a derashah. This is also the way the halakhah is decided in the Rama (O”Ch 608:2).

Rashi explains the distinction. Laws explicitly written in the Torah are agreed upon by both us and the Sadducees. These mitzvos that are not in contention are defended differently than other mitzvos.

A possible outcome of this Rashi is that the applicability of “mutav sheyihyu…” may change with time. In the days of the mishnah or the rishonim, the masses accepted the notion of mitvah, and the sectarians (Tzeduqim or Qaraim) questioned rabbinic authority. Since Reform became large, one might argue that all all of halakhah is in the same category as the mitzvos that weren’t explicitly written in the Torah.

The issue here is a third kind of tokhachah. We spoke about avoiding a rift with someone you felt wronged you, and about helping someone acheive sheleimus. Here, the concern is for the masses. This is why the attitude of general society toward the halakhah in question matters. If a mitzvah is commonly accepted and nothing is done when people start violating it, that common standard will erode. Another role of tokhachah is to hold on to that standard.

And it could very well be that kind of tokhachah that the Rambam is discussing in halakhah 8. The scufflaw needs to be ostracized if that’s the only way to prevent his actions from creating a new norm.

IV

אמר רבי טרפון: תמה אני אם יש בדור הזה מי שיכול להוכיח [לקבל תוכחה], אם אמר לו: טול קיסם מבין שינך!’ אמר לו: ‘טול קורה מבין עיניך!’ אמר רבי אלעזר בן עזריה : תמה אני אם יש בדור הזה מי שמקבל תוכחה. אמר רבי עקיבא: תמהני אם יש בדור הזה שיודע להוכיח.

-ערכין טז, ע”ב

Rabbi Tarfon said: I wonder if in this generation there is anyone who can give rebuke . (The Shitah Mequbetzes records a second variant, “… who can receive rebuke.) If you tell him, “Take the splinter from between your teeth!” He can reply “Take the beam from between your eyes!”

Rabbi Tarfon does not appear to be speaking of rapproachment, but rather tokhachah in order to correct an error. Nor is he speaking of the case where tokhachah is to uphold a standard. Because even if the speaker himself is the only one capable of hearing what he has to say, the standard is upheld. However, R’ Tarfon’s words do severely limit the role of rebuking other individuals.

We all live in “glass houses”; we can’t rebuke others constructively, instead we are effectively invited them to criticize those of our flaws which are bigger. And so, the gemara advises:

קשוט עצמך ואחר כך קשוט אחרים.

-בבא מציעא קז, ע”א

Polish yourself, and after that polish others.

כשם שמצווה לומר דבר הנשמע, כך מצווה שלא לומר דבר שאינו נשמע.

-יבמות סה, ע”ב

Just as there is a mitzvah to say that which will be heard, so too there is a mitzah not to say that which won’t be heard.

Given Rabbi Tarfon’s words, “mutav sheyihyu” is the norm. And the Chazon Ish (Yoseh Dei’ah end of siman 2) takes this one step further. Because there is little room today for rebuke, there is no situation in which it is permissible to hate another.

However, in contrast to Rabbi Tarfon’s general rule, we have this counterexample.

אמר רב יוחנן בן נורי: מעיד אני עלי שמים וארץ שהרבה פעמים נלקה עקיבא על ידי שהייתי קובל עליו לפני רבן גמליאל, וכל שכן שהוספתי בו אהבה, לקיים מה שנאמר (משלי ט, ח’): אל תוכח לץ פן ישנאך, הוכח לחכם ויאהבך’.

-ערכין טז, ע”ב

Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri said: Heaven and earth can testify about me that many times [the future Rabbi] Aqiva was punished because of me. Because I would report on him to Rabban Gamliel. And each time he loved me all the more, as it says [in Mishlei], “Do not rebuke the scoffer lest he hate you; rebuke the wise and he will love you.

A key difference is the setting. Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri had a preexisting relationship as peers in Rabban Gamliel’s shiur.

When we say to someone “How are you?” we rarely want an answer. We could define the word friend as someone who, when they ask you how you are, they really want to know. (By that definition, to how many people are we good friends?)

Among the students of the Mussar school of Novhardok, when one asked the other “How are you?” they were told how their friend was doing in the terms that mattered the most to them, their middos. They would discuss how each of the middos they were working on at the time are faring, their recent successes and setbacks. This was their understanding of one of the key elements of Rav Yisrael Salanter’s Mussar program, the mutual support provided by the mussar friendship.

שָׁלוֹם רָב, לְאֹהֲבֵי תוֹרָתֶךָ;    וְאֵין-לָמוֹ מִכְשׁוֹל.

Shalom rav is granted those who love Your Torah, and they have no obtacles.

- Tehillim119:165

Rabbi Aqiva, an oheiv Torah, lived in that world of shalom rav. A key lesson for us to take from him is that when he and Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri said “Shalom aleikhem!” they were bonding together in a mutual quest for sheleimus that comes from shalom and shalom that emerges from the unity of sheleimim. And so, rebuke both came from and was taken as an expression of that bond.

V

I wrote this blog entry because my mother‘שתי asked, back when I wrote the one titled Hatred, just how one is supposed to give tochakhah. The answer seems to be that the word really means three different things:

  1. Avoiding letting anger grow into hate by talking it out.
  2. Helping someone else by giving them constructive criticism. This is limited to those with whom you already have a relationship with that is built upon a real belief in “shalom aleikhem” and to pick those battles worth fighting.
  3. Standing up for what’s right when someone is eroding excepted values. And here too, the values must be sufficiently accepted that you will do more good than harm. Mitzvos that are so self evident, even the heterodoxical movements still embrace them.

How one handles each is very different.

I would like to close with two examples that more directly address my mother’s question.

The following story was sent on the “RavFrand” email list around a decade back. It was transcribed from a lecture by Rabbi Yissachar Frand at a forum trying to prevent the opening of the Baltimore JCC building on Shabbos. I believe the speaker in the story who went to Maimi is Rabbi Berel Wein.

There is a famous story about the Chofetz Chaim. Actually, it is a story about a Rabbi who came to Maimi Beach, Florida, on the Chofetz Chaim’s Yahrtzeit, to say divrei [words of] Torah from, and stories about, the Chofetz Chaim. The Rabbi was hesitant whether to offer one of the stories, since he did not really know how it ended. Nevertheless, he decided to tell the story.

This story was about a young man who was a student in the Chofetz Chaim’s Yeshiva [Rabbinic School] in Radin. The young man was caught smoking on Shabbos. The other students reported the incident to the staff of the Yeshiva, and they decided to expel the student.

When the Chofetz Chaim learned what had happened, he asked to see the student before he was expelled. The student came in to the Chofetz Chaim, only to emerge after a short while – not only to remain in the yeshiva, but to remain a shomer shabbos, a Sabbath observant Jew, for the rest of his life.

The Rabbi stopped the story at that point, since that was all he knew. The Rabbi lamented, if only he knew what the Chofetz Chaim told the student about Shabbos. If only he knew, then we would know how the Chofetz Chaim convinced that boy to remain a Shomer Shabbos, and we could do the same.

The Rabbi finished his talk, and the lecture hall emptied out, leaving no one – except for one old man who remained in his seat. He was crying – literally shaking from crying. The Rabbi went over to the man and asked what was bothering him. The man asked the Rabbi, “How do you know that story?” The Rabbi replied that he had heard it from others, that was all. The old man continued, “I have something to tell you. I was that bachor [student]. This is a story that goes back many many years, and I was that bachor.”

So the Rabbi asked his burning question: “What did the Chofetz Chaim tell you, that made you into a Shomer Shabbos?” The old man responded, remembering the incident as if it had happened the day before.

He walked into the Chafetz Chaim’s house, which was sparsely furnished; the great scholar lived in what many people would consider abject poverty. He remembered that the Chafetz Chaim was very short, barely coming up to his shoulders, and was a very old man at that time. “The Chafetz Chaim took my hand in his hand, and he closed his eyes; when he opened his eyes again, the Chafetz Chaim was crying.” The man said that he remembered, until that very day, the hot tears falling on his hand. The Chafetz Chaim said three words, “Shabbos, Heiligah Shabbos [Shabbos, holy Shabbos].” That was all he said. But from then on, the student remained a shomer shabbos.

I must confess I gave Rav Dovid Lifshitzזצ”ל a number of opportunities to give me a little tokhachah. Rav Dovid would do so after class. He would sit you down, look in your eyes, let his hand lovingly rest on your arm. Generally he spoke in a modern Hebrew, with enough English thrown in to make sure you didn’t get lost in trying to translate. His pain at watching a beloved student err was written in his eyes and tempered his voice.And rebbe would tell you of your gifts, whatever Hashem happened to bless you personally with. And of your potential. And he would explain how someone of that stature could do so much better.

I think, therefore, that my mother’s question must be rephrased. It’s not about how to give tokhachah, but how to become a mochiakh, to be able to say “shalom aleikhem” and mean it.