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“May Hashem raise His countenance to you …” (Bamidbar 6:26)

The Talmud (Brachos 20b) tell us that the angels said to Hashem, “It is written in Your Torah (Devarim 10:17), Hashem Who does not show favor and does not accept a bribe, yet here You nevertheless show favor to the Jewish people.” Hashem replied, “How can I not show favor? I commanded (Devarim 8:10), You will eat and you will be satisfied and bless,’ and they [the Jewish Nation] are exacting with themselves and recite the Grace After Meals even if they have eaten a k’zayis or k’beitzah (the size of an olive or an egg).”


How do we understand the answer of Hashem? Obviously, this is not about monetary bribery. Does Hashem show favor by allowing the mitzvot that the Jewish people do to cancel their aveirot? If a person steals and kills and then builds an orphanage for the children who were left without parents as a result of his reign of terror, would his sins be forgiven?

The Ben Ish Chai explains with the following example. A father comes home tired and asks his son to bring his slippers. The son complies. The father then requests a glass of tea, which the son brings him. The son’s conduct is commendable, but not exceptional. There are sons who will intuitively bring the slippers and tea, unbidden, as soon as the father comes home. It is such conduct that demonstrates a true love for the parent and exceeds the mandate of kibbud av v’eim (honoring one’s father and mother).

Hashem tells the angels: I am only conducting Myself with them measure for measure. I asked My people to bless Me when they are sated, and they responded by blessing Me even if they only eat a portion the size of an olive (or an egg). They do so because they recognize that everything comes from their Father in Heaven, and they seek to give Me great pleasure in all that they do. Thus, they treasure even the k’zayis, which doesn’t have much physical value in and of itself.

This could be compared to the man who is meeting the king, and the button pops off his coat. The king offers him a safety pin, which the man accepts and wears with great pride, because it was a gift from the king. In truth, the safety pin has no monetary value at all, but its significance and worth are that it was a personal gift from the king.

Hashem tells the angels: The conduct of the Jewish people is like the relationship of a son to a father. It is a sign that My children love Me very much. How can I not reward them and treat them as they treat Me? Just as they favor Me I, too, show favor to them.

The Rambam explains in his Perush HaMishnayos that Hashem does not diminish the reward of mitzvot because of any aveirot one might have committed. Rather, retribution is administered for the sins that were committed, and the remuneration for mitzvot remains unaffected. The Arvei Nachal expounds that the punishment is fixed; the reward for mitzvot is unlimited and one can reap that reward in the world-to-come forever and ever.

So Hashem does not demonstrate favoritism by readjusting the reward for mitzvot to compensate for aveirot that were committed. However, if one is punctilious and rigorous in his performance of mitzvot by adding stringencies, then it is possible – says the Maharsha – to diminish the negative consequence for aveirot that were committed. In such a case, the additional reward that one will merit because of his stringency in the performance of a mitzvah could result in the reduction of his retribution. The discussion in the Talmud cited above is not with regard to saying the Grace After Meals as commanded in the Torah, but the stringency that the Jewish People have appended whereby they recite the Grace After Meals for a lesser amount of bread.

R’ Shimon Galai relates the following riveting incident concerning R’ Herzl Shaubi, one of the outstanding Torah askanim working in outreach in Sderot.

On the night of Hoshana Rabbah R’ Herzl dreamt that the Chofetz Chaim and his son-in-law, R’ Mendel Zaks, were adjudicating a ruling in halacha. R’ Zaks asked his father-in-law, “Should it be nullified or not?” and the Chofetz Chaim immediately responded three times in succession, “Nullified, nullified, nullified!” R’ Herzl awoke without understanding the meaning of this.

That night, Simchas Torah the hakafot were enthusiastic as usual. The next morning, on Shabbos, R’ Herzl woke about 6:00 in the morning and quickly made his way towards shul. He heard some rockets and explosions, but that was not out of the ordinary for the neighborhood, and he wasn’t perturbed.

As he began preparing the sifrei Torah before the congregants would arrive, he realized that he was now hearing gunshots and they seemed to be approaching closer. He tried to calm down, but as they became louder, he ran outside to see if he could help. He saw the rampage unfolding, the police station being attacked, and he quickly started running back into the shul. However, a terrorist on the roof fired at him, and R’ Herzl was struck in the back.

R’ Herzl fell and dragged himself into the shul, as he bled profusely. Feeling that these were his last moments on earth, he recited the Krias Shema. Suddenly a Yid came running in and saw him lying in a pool of blood. Seeing that he was still breathing, the Yid quickly picked him up, and under heavy gunfire, got him into his car and transported him to the hospital in Ashkelon.

R’ Herzl was taken into surgery immediately. A moment before he was put under, R’ Herzl saw the image of the Chofetz Chaim before him saying, “Nullify, nullify, nullify.” At that moment he understood the meaning of his dream. Afterwards, the doctors all attested that the bullet had entered very close to his heart and it was a miracle that he was alive.

R’ Herzl speculated that perhaps the decree had been nullified in the zechut that he always made sure to constantly speak of the laws of shemiras halashon (guarding one’s speech) and disseminating the stories and lessons of the Chofetz Chaim in his shiurim.

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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.