“And you will return to Hashem, and listen to His voice …” (Devarim 30:2)
It is said in the name of Rava (Rosh Hashana 17a), “One who is forgiving of others, Hashem forgives him.” Rashi expounds that a person who does not respond in kind to people who wronged him, Hashem likewise is not exacting with him.
The Talmud relates that when Rav Huna, the son of R’ Yehoshua, took ill, R’ Puppa came to visit and saw that his situation was very grave. Instead of praying for his recovery, R’ Puppa told the family members to make the necessary arrangements for R’ Huna’s burial. Yet, although he was indeed close to death, R’ Huna merited a great miracle and he recovered.
A while later when they met, R’ Puppa asked R’ Huna how he had merited to recover. R’ Huna told him, “In truth I had been judged for death, but Hashem said since R’ Huna is always forgiving of others, we too will overlook his transgressions and give him life.”
Our sages note that one is, in fact, forbidden to speak of death in the presence of a person who is gravely ill. One is not permitted to cause the ill person additional agony, and certainly one must avoid further distressing the family. How could R’ Puppa instruct the family members to prepare for R’ Huna’s burial? Why didn’t he pray for Rav Huna’s recovery?
The Divrei Mordechai explains that R’ Puppa’s comment was specifically intended at that moment to serve as a merit for R’ Huna’s recovery. Although R’ Huna heard R’ Puppa’s comment he disregarded it and did not get upset, even in such a critical hour. It was in this merit that Hashem nullified the decree on R’ Huna.
Being a forgiving person is not a one-time deal; it is a character trait that one develops over his lifetime to achieve the greatness of R’ Huna. It demonstrates that the person is a man of faith because he understands that the fault does not lie with the one who insulted him. It is his own soul that needs refinement.
Similarly, the Medrash Eicha relates that at the time of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, the forefathers all came before the Holy Throne to beg for mercy for the Jewish people. However, their entreaties were not answered. When Rochel Imeinu came, though, and spoke of her altruism in giving over the signs to Leah, overlooking her own personal distress and humiliation, the Divine compassion was immediately inspired and Hashem promised (Yirmiyah 31:16), “Your children will return to their border…”
A disciple of the Baal Shem Tov found an abandoned non-Jewish child, whom he took home and brought up as part of his own family. When the child grew up, the disciple gave him a sum of money and sent him on his way. The young man went into business, buying and selling wheat, and became extremely wealthy.
Many years passed and one day the disciple, who was also a wheat merchant, came to the city to buy wheat, unaware that the proprietor with whom he was dealing was the child whom he had raised. The dealer did recognize him, though, and instructed his worker to sell the grain at cost to his benefactor. Over the next few months the Jew bought a huge amount of grain.
One day the young man called over his worker and told him to bring the Jewish buyer to his office when he came the next time. When the Jew came in, he rebuked him for underpaying for the grain. The Jew respectfully responded that he had paid whatever the worker charged him and had no intention of defrauding him. The proprietor continued to censure him, accusing him of swindling him of his due profit. The wheat dealer then drew out a sword and threatened to kill the Jewish wheat merchant.
“If you bow down to the idol here,” he said, “I will leave you alone.” But the Jewish wheat merchant was ready to die al kiddush Hashem.
At that point, the wheat dealer’s expression suddenly softened, and he revealed to the Jewish merchant that he was the child he had raised with such devotion all those years. He explained, “I wanted to repay you for your kindness that you gave me all those years, and I therefore told my worker to sell you the wheat at cost. But when I saw that the money didn’t really matter that much to you, it was apparent that I had not succeeded in returning your kindness. I then thought of giving you the challenge of self-sacrifice (mesirus nefesh) because I had often heard you speak about the exalted spiritual level of one who is dedicated to G-d. I therefore threatened you with death al kiddush Hashem to repay you for your kindness.”
The Chibas Ha’Avodah points out that the wheat dealer presented this extraordinary nisayon (challenge) to the Jewish merchant in order to bring him an exceedingly great reward as payment for his kindness. One must always remember that when he is insulted or embarrassed by a friend it is not bad. Rather, the friend is doing him a great favor by presenting him with the inestimable opportunity to be maavir al midosav (forgiving of others).
Each year I undertake to collect money, especially for Yom Tov, on behalf of destitute people. I have established a special Yom Tov Fund that I personally administer and distribute directly into the hands of those who are most in need.
I humbly beseech of all our loyal readers of The Jewish Press and friends of Klal Yisrael to feel the pain of our brethren and to take a part in this great mitzvah. Let us give chizuk to families, individuals, and children in need. In the zechus of your contribution, may you merit blessing and success, a year of good health, nachas, happiness and prosperity.
Please send your contribution to Khal Bnei Yitzchok Yom Tov Fund, c/o Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1336 E. 21 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210. If you would like any special tefillos to be offered for a shidduch, shalom bayis, parnassah, or a refuah, please include the person’s name and the mother’s name.