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“If you cause pain (aneh se’aneh), for if he shall cry out (tza’ok yitzak) to Me, I shall surely hear (shamo’a eshma) his outcry” (Shemos 22:22).

Our sages ask: What is the meaning of the double expressions in the pasuk?


It is explained that when an orphan is insulted or humiliated it calls painful attention to his plight. Not only is he anguished by the torment itself, but he is further distressed that his parents are no longer in his life to prevent this from happening, and he has no one with whom to share his pain. The widow feels similarly that if her husband were still alive the situation would be different and her pain would be mitigated.

Thus, we find that the pain inflicted on an orphan or a widow is twofold. There is the insult or offense itself, and there is the revived awareness that the individual has lost his parent or her spouse. The double expressions allude to the dual grief of the orphan and the widow for which they cry out to Hashem, and Hashem takes all of their agony into account when He listens to their outcry.

The Vilna Gaon cites the Talmud (Bava Basra 16a), “R’ Levi says: The actions of [both Satan who brought accusations against Iyov and] Penina who tormented Chana, the mother of Shmuel HaNavi, were intended for the sake of Heaven.” We learn (Shmuel I, 1:6), “Penina provoked Chana in order to irritate her, for Hashem had closed her womb.” Our sages tell us that Penina would get up early for her children and taunted Chana, “Why aren’t you up yet? Don’t you have to wash and dress your children for school?” Hours later, she would ask Chana, “Aren’t you going to welcome your children from yeshiva?” Rashi expounds that her words were meant to incite Chana to pray for children.

Yet, this dialogue is very hard to understand. How could Penina, who had ten children, be so cruel to Chana, who had no children, and aggrieve her so deeply?

Our sages tell us that her intentions were pure and intended for the sake of Heaven. Penina knew that it was imperative for Chana to pray from the depths of her heart, and it was for that reason that she provoked her with such painful words. Yet, Penina was severely punished, as the pasuk says (Shmuel I, 2:5), “The barren woman bears seven; the one with many children becomes bereft.”

Rashi explains that Chana gave birth to three sons and two daughters. With the birth of each child, Penina lost two of her ten sons. With the birth of Chana’s four children, Penina had buried eight of her ten sons. When Chana gave birth to her fifth child, Penina prostrated herself at Chana’s feet and begged for mercy. The remaining two sons lived and they were recognized as Chana’s children.

The Vilna Gaon concludes that this particular situation is suggested in our pasuk. If you will cause pain, and he shall cry out to Me” – even if you are causing the individual distress so that he should cry out to Me, as Penina did to Chana – “I shall surely hear his outcry.”

R’ Chaim Shmulevitz would refer to the sages’ saying [ibid.] at Kol Nidre – that Penina’s actions “were intended for the sake of Heaven” – and ask: If so, why was she punished so harshly? R’ Chaim would cry out that when dealing with interactions that are between man and his fellow man (bein adam l’chaveiro) it’s a fire that can burn the individual, even if his actions are solely for the sake of Heaven.

R’ Shmuel Gantz was a very distinguished member of the Vishnitzer Chassidim, a great talmid chachom and deeply respected. Every Friday night at the tisch of the Vishnitzer Rebbe, the Yeshuos Moshe would give him the honor of leading the assemblage in the very special Shabbos song Az Bayom Hashvii Nechta at the conclusion of the seudah. He would sing each stanza, and the gathering would answer responsively line by line. This custom continued for many years.

When R’ Shmuel got older, though, he informed the Rebbe that he no longer had the strength to sing the entire niggun every Friday night. As he had slowed down a lot, he was unwilling to trouble all those present to wait for him for as he slowly sang the words of the niggun. R’ Shmuel suggested that perhaps he could start off the niggun, and then the assemblage could sing the niggun in its entirety along with him.

From that day on, R’ Shmuel asserted, that niggun was no longer sung at the Friday night tisch.

As the years passed, and R’ Shmuel was already an elderly gentleman, he found that he could no longer remain at the tisch for so many hours, and he would leave before the seudah was over.

When the Rebbe was informed that R’ Shmuel no longer remained at the tisch till the end of the evening, the niggun was once again sung at the Friday night tisch. When R’ Shmuel was notified about this, he was able to appreciate the depth of the sensitivity of the Vishnitzer Rebbe. The fact that the Rebbe had reinstated the singing of the Az Bayom Hashvii Nechta at his tisch demonstrated his great yearning to include that specific niggun at his tisch. However, in his overriding concern not to offend the honor of R’ Shmuel, or to foster any ill will, he stopped including the special Az Bayom Hashvii Nechta, despite the fact that R’ Shmuel had been agreeable to having the gathering sing along with him.

Everyone knows that the Yeshuos Moshe never omitted any of the zemiros or niggunim that were customarily sung at the tisch. Yet, for those years that R’ Shmuel could no longer sing the entire niggun when he attended the tisch, the niggun was not sung at all.

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Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a prominent rav and Torah personality, is a daily radio commentator who has authored over a dozen books, and a renowned speaker recognized for his exceptional ability to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.