As we are all aware, we are fast approaching the Yom HaDin, and we know we will all be judged on the upcoming year regarding all aspects of our lives, including life itself. Thus, it is the most serious period of the Jewish calendar, a time of trepidation, at least on the subconscious level. Accordingly, it is now fitting to research how are we going to win favor in the eyes of the judge. What tactics and strategies can we use to help make our case.
We know that Hashem judges with middah k’neged middah. This is generally understood that if one did a certain wrongdoing, Hashem will punish according to the same measure of the sin. However, there is a positive aspect of this method that can impact us favorably.
There is a Gemara in Rosh Hashana 17a that says, kol hamaveir al midosav, ma’aveirim lo al kol pishosav – anyone who does not exact punishment with others, and lets things go, or is not makpid on every wrong doing that others do to him, then in Shamayim they will let him go on all of his aveiros. Not that he will be forgiven for them, but they will let them go as well. This too is a form of middah k’neged middah.
The Gemara immediately cites a related story that illustrates this point, where Rav Huna brei d’Rav Yehoshua became ill and was about to die. Rav Papa was there and saw the situation and said bring the tachrichim. And then he became better and had a full recovery. Rav Papa asked him what did you see, he said I saw that they did in fact pasken that I was to die, but then Hashem said since I was not makpid on my middos they should let me live. We see that even after the psak was given this can change it around.
Sounds like a plan, except that the Gemara adds a caveat. This won’t work for everyone. It will only work for one who is humble. So, this strategy must be coupled with the characteristic of humility for it to be effective.
There is a similar concept that we learn from the parsha of an ihr hanedachas, of all places. An ihr hanedachas is a city where all of the inhabitants worship idols, Rachmana litzlan. The entire city is to be put to death, and all of the animals and belongings, everything in the city must be destroyed as well.
At the conclusion of these halachos the Torah writes, v’nasan lecha rachamim v’richamcha – and Hashem will give you mercy and have mercy on you (Devarim 13:18). The Ohr HaChaim explains that a person’s actions have an effect on his own nature. We can in fact alter and impact our natures, qualities and characteristics. When one is involved in killing, even though it is a mitzvah, it can lead him to develop the wrong middos, and character traits. For this reason the pasuk provides a havtacha – a promise – that one who is involved in the mitzvah of eradicating an ihr hanedachas will not become a cruel person; on the contrary Hashem will give him rachamim. Hashem who is the source of rachamim will extend an extra measure of rachamim to him, ensuring that these seemingly cruel acts will not negatively impact his nature.
The Ohr HaChaim continues that the conclusion of the pasuk is puzzling. The pasuk implies that only after Hashem extends his rachamim to this person and he is able to remain a compassionate person, will Hashem have rachmanus on him. The Gemara in Shabbos 151b says that Hashem only has rachmanus on compassionate people. If one is compassionate to other creations, Shamayim will be compassionate towards him. That is why the pasuk concludes that once Hashem has ensured that he will remain a compassionate person, will Hashem have mercy on him. Otherwise, had Hashem not extended His mercy as a matter of his promise in this pasuk, and had the person become cruel, Hashem would not act merciful towards him. Because Hashem is only merciful to a merciful person. It’s not a punishment per se; it’s an effect of middah k’neged middah.
There is a story brought in the Gemara in Baba Metziya (85a) that illustrates this point. A cow was being led to be shechted, when it ran over to Rebbe (Rabi Yehuda HaNasi) and put its head in his clothing and cried for it did not want to be shechted. Rebbe then said to it, “Go; for this you were created.” In Shamayim they said since he did not show mercy on this animal, let suffering come upon him, and so it was, Rebbe suffered for a long time.
Rebbe’s suffering continued until the following episode occurred: the Gemara continues, one day Rebbe’s maidservant was sweeping the house and she noticed a group of baby weasels. She was going to sweep them up, when Rebbe said to her, “Leave them as it says ‘Hashem has compassion on all of his creations.’” Immediately it was said in Heaven that since he has shown mercy let us show him mercy and he was healed of his afflictions.
We see from this Gemara that a person is treated in Shamayim in an analogous manner to the way he treats others. As the saying in English has it, “What goes around comes around.” The source for this adage is clearly from this Gemara, and it is indeed a powerful message. Rabi Yehuda HaNasi, one of the greatest men in Jewish history, suffered terribly because he did not show compassion to an animal! And was only cured when he changed his middah.
Additionally, we see that we have the ability change the way Hashem treats us by changing the way we treat others. If a person acts with proper middos it will fortify and enhance his character. Consequentially, as a person with improved middos Hashem will reciprocate and treat him according to the way he treats others.
As we approach the Yom HDdin we should internalize these strategies, and with this may we all have a k’siva v’chasima tova.