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Shelach: The Merit And The Meritorious

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One aspect of Divine Justice stipulates that through the decisions we make we help shape the world around us. Good deeds bring in their wake positive outcomes and the reverse is also true. In the mitzvah of the Second Pesach (Pesach Sheni), Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, develops this understanding and finds that Hashem manipulated history specifically for the purpose of making such outcomes happen.

“And those men said to him, why should we be held back from offering the offering of Hashem?” (9:7). Why did Hashem not teach the law of Pesach Sheni to Moshe immediately when the general laws of Pesach had been taught, and why had it been necessary to wait until these men put the question to Moshe?

This was Hashem’s stratagem to teach a lesson and bestow honor on the righteous ones. “A meritorious matter is caused to be brought into being by means of meritorious men” (Shabbos 32a). Hashem intentionally omitted any mention of Pesach Sheni when He spoke to Moshe on the laws of Pesach, and Moshe was caused by Hashem to refrain from inquiring. This “hiatus” in the Pesach laws awaited the virtuous men who would be honored by having their inquiry and Hashem’s reply recorded in the eternal Torah. Similarly, “Harm is caused to be brought about by guilty ones” (ibid).

The decree to keep the sons of Israel as wanderers in the wilderness for 40 years was actually planned beforehand but was not made known until the sin of the spies, in order to impart the lesson that the sentence of 40 years in the wilderness was caused by the guilty meraglim. Similarly, “Moshe proved worthy, and he caused the public to become worthy” (Avos 5:21): Because Moshe was the most virtuous, he was made the agent of causing the Exodus and the Giving of the Torah, though these events were foreseen and been intended from the beginning (Bereishis 9:27, 15:13-14).

In this episode Hashem teaches another principle as well: Even when a man is absolved from any obligation to perform a mitzvah, he should desire the opportunity to be obligated. These men had not been able to participate in the Pesach sacrifice and they were therefore blameless, according to the principle “The Torah absolves in unavoidable circumstances” (Bava Kama 28b). But it is not sufficient to be absolved, for the loss of the positive achievement is in itself a cause of intense regret in the minds of the righteous.

Because of the merit of these righteous men who longed for opportunities to be obligated in mitzvos, Hashem arranged that the subject of Pesach Sheni be revealed at their instigation. Otherwise, had they not inquired, Hashem would have taught the laws of the second Pesach offering to Moshe together with the laws of the first Pesach offering (Shemos 12).

Similarly, the poor man who has no money should regret the loss of opportunity to perform the mitzvah of charity to the poor. Jews in exile should regret the loss of the mitzvah of terumah and maaser. “The early chassidim longed to bring a sin-offering” (Nedarim 10a) which they could not do because they did not sin. And today we declare our regret that “We are not able to go up and to… do our obligations in Your chosen House” (Mussaf of Yom Tov). In a certain sense, the failure to perform a mitzvah is more regrettable than the sin of performing a transgression.

In Gehinnom the sinner is cleansed of the stains of his iniquities after a period of chastisement, and then he goes on to enjoy the reward for his mitzvos in eternal happiness. Thus the punishment for some sins is limited, but the payment for mitzvos is unlimited and eternal. (Journey Into Greatness)

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

About the Author: The Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, was founded and authorized by Rabbi Miller to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com. For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.


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