Vol 28.18 - Chukat 2 Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Chumash|
1. In our Parsha (the section of the Copper Snake) the Torah tells us:
“The people spoke against G-d and against Moshe . . The L-rd sent against the people the venomous snakes . . The people came to Moshe and said, ‘We have sinned . .Pray to the L-rd that He remove the snakes from us’. So Moshe prayed on behalf of the people.”
Rashi comments on the words “So Moshe prayed” and states,
“From here (we learn) that someone who is asked to forgive, should not be cruel from forgiving”. (שלא יהא אכזרי מלמחול).
And some say that the text is “cruel to forgive” (אכזרי למחול).
The source of this comment is in the Tanchuma. There it states:
“This tells us of the humbleness of Moshe. For he did not tarry in seeking mercy for them. It also teaches us the power of Teshuvah. For as soon as they said ‘we have sinned’, he immediately was appeased, for one who forgives should not become cruel. So it states: Avraham prayed to G-d, and G-d healed Avimelech and etc.” (And afterwards, he cites another verse which is stated regarding Iyov).
According to this, one must understand:
Why does Rashi state, “From here we learn that someone who is asked to forgive, should not be so cruel from forgiving” when it is possible to learn this from a previously verse, “And Avraham prayed to G-d, etc.” which is proven from the Tanchuma?
(Moreover, this lesson from Avraham is a Mishnah is tractate Bava Kamma, as it states:
“Despite the fact that the assailant who caused damage gives to the victim all of the required payments for the injury,
(When one injures his fellow, despite that which he pays him all five recompenses)
his transgression is not forgiven for him (from the pain of shame that he is shamed by) until he requests forgiveness from the victim, as it is states (G-d told Avimelech after he had taken Sarah from Avraham): “Now therefore restore the wife of the man etc.”.
And from where is it derived that if the victim does not forgive him that he is cruel?
(or like the second version “And from where is it derived that a victim should not be cruel?”
As it states: “And Avraham prayed to G-d; and G-d healed Avimelech etc.”
According to this, it is puzzling:
Why does Rashi explain, according to the simple understanding of the verse, that this is learned “from here”, namely by Moshe, and not (like the Mishnah, that it is derived from) “And Avraham prayed to G-d etc.”?
Moreover, in the episode of Avraham, there is a greater innovation in the manner and aspect of forgiveness:
2. Seemingly, one could answer:
According to the simple meaning of the verse (Rashi learns) that specifically in our Parsha, is there an aspect of requesting forgiveness:
The Yidden said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the L-rd and against you. Pray to the L-rd etc.”.
Whereas by Avimelech, there was no requesting of forgiveness.
“What have you done to us, and what have I sinned against you, that you have brought upon me and upon my kingdom a great sin? Deeds that are not done, you have done to me. . What did you see, that you did this thing?"
did not contain the subject of requesting forgiveness. On the contrary - it was an expression of a claim against Avraham.
(This is also apparent from the plain wording in the Tosefta. Namely that regarding Avimelech, there was no requesting of forgiveness, as it states:
“When one injures his fellow, even though the assailant does not request forgiveness from the victim, the victim must request mercy for him (the assailant) as it is states: “And Avraham prayed to G-d”).
Therefore, Rashi states that specifically “from here” (do we derive that) “someone who is asked to forgive, should not be cruel so as not to forgive”.
However, one cannot answer so, for then, on the contrary, the puzzlement is even stronger:
Why do we not learn from “And Avraham prayed to G-d” that even without requesting forgiveness, one must not be “cruel so as not to forgive” – (and how much more so that one should not be cruel after one asks for forgiveness)
(We also cannot learn according to the aforementioned) that from, “And Avraham prayed”, that there is no proof at all, that he forgave him.
For it is possible that Avraham did seek mercy on Avimelech’s behalf – without Avimelech requesting Avraham’s forgiveness, similar to his prayer for Sodom etc. (and so may also learn the explanation of the Tosefta) -
For (in addition to the difficulty of explaining that Avraham requested mercy for him, even though he did not forgive Avimelech, it is) if so, there is no proof for deriving it from our Parsha, where it states the exact same wording, “So Moshe prayed” just like Avraham (“And Avraham prayed”).
Therefore, one must say that from “and he prayed”, there is a proof that there was an aspect of forgiveness. Therefore, one can derive from “And Avraham prayed”, just like one derives from “So Moshe prayed”. Thus, the question returns, as aforementioned)
3. Seemingly one could say, that according to Rashi, one cannot derive from “And Avraham prayed”. For there, it did not demand any requesting of forgiveness (from Avimelech) and (therefore) no forgiveness on Avraham‘s part:
Avimelech‘s claim was,
“With the innocence of my heart . . have I done this"
and G-d accepted this as it states,
“I too know that you did this with the innocence of your heart, and I too have withheld you from sinning to Me; therefore, I did not let you touch her.”
In other words, Avimelech did not intend to do wrong (עוולה) Avraham. Therefore, the aspect of requesting forgiveness (and forgiveness itself) was not applicable.
This is also apparent from the verse containing G-d’s words to Avimelech,
“And now, return the man's wife, because he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and (you will) live”
All he had to do was return Sara (this alone would be sufficient, that) “he will pray for you and (you will) live”,
And as Rashi explains,
“Return the man’s wife: And do not think that perhaps . . or that he will hate you and not pray for you. . because he is a prophet: And he knows that you did not touch her; therefore,“ he will pray for you.” .
However, from the verse,
“And Avimelech took flocks and cattle and menservants and maidservants, and he gave (them) to Avraham”,
on which Rashi comments,
“in order to appease him so that he would pray for him.”,
it is understood that requesting forgiveness and an appeasement was indeed demanded from Avimelech – and indeed appeasement from Avraham. This is also proven from that which we do not find that Avraham did not refrain from accepting Avimelech’s present.
It is plainly understood why requesting forgiveness and) appeasement was required. For since, in the end, Avimelech sinned (and with a very severe sin) against Avraham (and Avimelech’s intent did not change (ענדערט)), Therefore, it required Avimelech’s requesting forgiveness, and the appeasement from Avraham.
Thus, the question is still in force:
Why should we not learn from “And Avraham prayed to G-d” – that “From here we learn that someone who is asked to forgive, should not be cruel so as not to forgive”?
4. One can understand this by prefacing an examination of the precise wording of Rashi, “From here we learn that someone who is asked to forgive, should not be cruel from forgiving”. (שלא יהא אכזרי מלמחול) “.
In the Tanchuma, the wording is as aforementioned, “the forgiver should not become (to them) cruel (שאין המוחל נעשה (להם) אכזרי), and ”the forgiver should not be cruel (שלא יהא המוחל אכזרי), and so forth. The same is also in the Mishnah.
Rashi, however, changes and states, (not ”the forgiver should not be cruel (שלא יהא המוחל אכזרי), but rather) he “should not be cruel from forgiving”. (שלא יהא אכזרי מלמחול) “
One could say that this innovation is (not so much in the actual forgiveness, but rather) in the manner of the forgiveness. The reasoning of this is:
Forgiveness can be for many things. Among them are:
In a slightly difference manner:
The practical difference between them is:
5. In this, there is a difference between “And Avraham prayed” - the forgiveness of Avraham ; and the forgiveness in our Parsha:
Regarding Avraham it states “And Avraham prayed to G-d, and G-d healed Avimelech . . and they gave birth ”. Avraham‘s prayer and request concerned the healing of Avimelech etc., namely, that the punishment, that was visited on Avimelech and his household, should be removed.
Whereas in our Parsha, it states (not just plainly that “Moshe prayed to G-d”
(like the Avraham’s prayer, “And Avraham prayed to G-d”)
Rather, the verse adds and emphasizes, “Moshe prayed on behalf of the people”. Moshe was concerned for the condition of the people. He endeavored, not just to nullify the punishment (of the snakes etc.) but also that the condition of the people be rectified (נתתקן).
Therefore, the verse continues, that on this G-d answered, “Make yourself a serpent” (עשה לך שרף). “yourself”, according to the simple meaning of the verse means “from your own” (משלך) (similar to that which Rashi explains on the verse “Make for yourself two silver trumpets” (“From your own resources”)).
Seemingly, since this regards Yidden, who “spoke against G-d and against Moshe”, it would have been more fitting that the snake should specifically be theirs, from the community.
However, with this, G-d showed Moshe that he should act in a manner of (yourself – from your own). Namely, that it should be recognizable that the matter concerns him.
Which shows that he is in this, on their behalf.
This was the purpose of making the Copper Snake. Not (just) to accomplish the healing of the Yidden, but to awaken that Yidden should be “look heavenward and subject their hearts to their Father in heaven”. Namely, that they should do Teshuvah, not just with regard to the speech and what is related to it – but the subjugating of the heart to Heaven (which was why the command was to “put it on a pole”, and “whenever a snake bit a man, he would gaze upon the copper snake and live”, as Rashi explains these verses in the continuation of the Parsha.
This is the reason why the healing did not immediately come after Moshe‘s prayer, like it was with Avraham, as it states, “And Avraham prayed to G-d” (and immediately afterward) “and G-d healed Avimelech etc.”. Rather it came through “Moshe made . . and put it on a pole”. For the intent is not just the removal of the punishment, but (also) to bring the Yidden to do Teshuvah - to “subject their hearts to their Father in heaven”.
6. This is why Rashi precisely writes, “From here we learn that someone who is asked to forgive, should not be cruel from forgiving”. (שלא יהא אכזרי מלמחול)” and not plainly, ”the forgiver should not be cruel (שלא יהא המוחל אכזרי).
(Namely, that the one forgiving should not be “cruel” and therefore he forgives him (for if he would not forgive him, the other would receive punishment)
But rather with regard to the act of forgiveness (פעולת המחילה). Namely, that in the aspect of the forgiveness, he “should not be cruel from forgiving”. (שלא יהא אכזרי מלמחול)”. The forgiveness itself should not be in a manner that he is “cruel”.
When the forgiveness is just for the purpose of removing the punishment, it is not a true forgiveness. It is a cruel forgiveness. For the forgiver has a resentment in his heart, a grudge and so forth against the one seeking forgiveness. However, when he forgives with a complete heart, then this is a forgiveness which is free of “cruelty” (ריין פון ״אבזריות״).
Moreover, this conforms to the version “cruel from forgiving”. (אכזרי מלמחול) – which means cruel in the forgiving.
According to this version it is also understood - how the redactor of Rashi changed it to “cruel from forgiving” (מלמחול). For he did not understand how there can be “cruel” and “to forgive” (למחול) (together) – Therefore, he wrote, in front, a letter Mem (מ״ם) – “from forgiving”- (מלמחול).
Whereas, if one were to say the opposite, if Rashi would have written “from forgiving”- (מלמחול), how is there the change (-error) “to forgive” (למחול)!?
An example and semblance of cruelty in forgiveness is – one who gives Tzedaka to a poor person with a scowl (בסבר פנים רעות). In this situation, he loses his merit even if he gives him a thousand gold coins.
7. According to all the aforementioned, one can also explain many differences in Rambam’s wording, with regard to the aforementioned aspect. Namely, that the forgiver should not be cruel and that he should forgive – which he cites (at least) three times:
“When one person wrongs another, the latter should not remain silent and despise him . . Rather, he is commanded to make the matter known”.
And he concludes:
“If, afterwards, (the person who committed the wrong) asks (his colleague) to forgive him, he must do so. A person should not be cruel when forgiving , as it states, etc.”
“It is forbidden for a person to be cruel and refuse to be appeased. Rather, he should be easily pacified, but hard to anger. When the person who wronged him asks for forgiveness, he should forgive him with a complete heart and a willing spirit.”
“It is forbidden for the person who suffered the injury to be cruel and not to forgive (the one who caused the injury). This is not the course of behavior for a descendant of Israel. Instead, since the person who caused the injury asks and pleads of him for forgiveness once or twice, and he knows that he has repented from his sin and regrets his evil deeds, he should forgive him. Whoever hastens to grant forgiveness is praiseworthy and is regarded favorably by the Sages.”
One must understand the reason for the change in wording and details in the three places:
“If, afterwards, (the person who committed the wrong) asks (his colleague) to forgive him, he must do so. A person should not be cruel when forgiving”.
Whereas in Hilchot Teshuvah and in Hilchot Chovel u’Mazik it is stated in an expression of prohibition (אסור) –
“It is forbidden for a person to be cruel” and “It is forbidden for the person who suffered the injury to be cruel”.
“Since the person who caused the injury asks and pleads of him for forgiveness once or twice, and he knows that he has repented from his sin and regrets his evil deeds, he should forgive him.”
Whereas in Hilchot Teshuvah (and similarly in Hilchot De’ot) he does not cite these conditions and details with regard to the forgiver, namely that he should forgive after the requesting of forgiveness two times etc.
(In the same vein, he states this in the previous Halacha (Hilchot Teshuva 5:9) with regard to the one requesting forgiveness,
“If his colleague does not desire to forgive him, he should bring a group of three people . . If (the wronged party) is not appeased, he should repeat the process a second and third time)“.
Moreover, he states other details:
“Rather, he should be easily pacified, but hard to anger. When the person who wronged him asks for forgiveness, he should forgive him with a complete heart and a willing spirit. Even if he aggravated and wronged him severely, he should not seek revenge or bear a grudge. This is the path of the seed of Israel and their upright spirit".
8. One could say the explanation, according to the aforementioned:
In the requirement for forgiveness, there are three manners and differences:
This is why Rambam begins this Halacha in Hilchot De’ot with,
“When one person wrongs another, the latter should not remain silent and despise him . .Rather, he is commanded to make the matter known etc.”
The “not despise him” and the “commandment” to “make the matter known and ask him” is not (so much) due to the sinner but from the side of the person who was injured itself. Namely, that he should not bear against the other person any hatred in his heart, but (on the contrary) “he is commanded to make the matter known and ask him etc.”
In conjunction with this, he states,
“If, afterwards, (the person who committed the wrong) asks (his colleague) to forgive him, he must do so. A person should not be cruel when forgiving”.
Without mentioning the prohibition in the matter or that he should forgive him after his requesting forgiveness, two or three times. For here, Rambam speaks (mainly) regarding the good and benefit for the forgiver and his “personal character” - “De’ot”.
From the perspective of personal character and Middot of the forgiver it is “If, afterwards, (the person who committed the wrong) asks (his colleague) to forgive him, he must do so. A person should not be cruel when forgiving”.
This means that that immediately when he requests forgiveness, the first time, he should not bear any cruelty in his heart and he should forgive him.
Whereas, in Hilchot Chovel u’Mazik – there Rambam speaks regarding the (manner and) scope of forgiveness which pertains to the atonement of the person who committed the wrong (החובל).
And as he states in the previously Halacha, “he cannot generate atonement, nor is his sin forgiven until he asks the person who was injured to forgive him”.
Therefore, it is relevant here to say,
“Since the person who caused the injury asks and pleads of him for forgiveness once or twice, and he knows that he has repented from his sin and regrets his evil deeds, he should forgive him”.
Namely, that specifically when he sees through the other’s endeavor and subjugation that “he has repented from his sin and regrets his evil deeds” – then it is fitting that he should forgive him in order that the other person be atoned for the sin and he should not be punished for it.
In Hilchot Teshuvah, However, Rambam speaks regarding the forgiveness which is related to the general and complete Teshuvah for the one who caused the injury etc.
Regarding this he states in the previous Halacha,
“Teshuvah and Yom Kippur only atone for sins between man and G-d; However, sins between man and man; for example, someone who injures a colleague, . . or steals from him, or the like will never be forgiven until he gives his colleague what he owes him and appeases him. Even if a person restores the money that he owes (the person he wronged), he must appease him and ask him to forgive him etc..
Therefore, he continues that “It is forbidden for a person to be cruel and refuse to be appeased. Rather, he should be easily pacified”
(even though, that seemingly in this it is really relevant to the Halachot of Middot and personal character -De’ot).
For these paths and manners of forgiveness, in a manner of “forgiving him with a complete heart and a willing spirit” are (also) related to the completeness of Teshuvah of the person who caused the injury.
This means that the forgiveness must not be just because of the removal of the punishment for a particular sin, but a complete forgiveness, so much so that he becomes amenable and dear to him.
Therefore, there is no emphasis, here, on the requesting forgiveness three times. Rather it is, “When the person who wronged him asks for forgiveness, he should forgive him with a complete heart and a willing spirit.”. This shows that not only does he forgive his sin, but that he completely amenable to him (מרוצה לפניו).
9. This is also the reason for the other changes in wording:
In Hilchot Chovel u’Mazik, it mainly demands the aspect of the forgiveness which is connected with the act of the injury. This is in order to remove the punishment. Therefore, the wording is “It is forbidden for the person who suffered the injury . . he should forgive him”.
In Hilchot Teshuvah, However, his forgiveness, as aforementioned, is not bound by just removing the punishment for the infraction (whether it is through injury, cursing or theft or provocation (הקניט), as Rambam delineates there beforehand). Rather, it is as a person – as a Yid who seeks (אויסן) the welfare of his fellow. He must therefore be “appeased” (not just to forgives him - to remove his punishment, but rather) (also) in order that the other should attain the completeness of Teshuvah.
(According to this, one can answer the contradiction and question in Rambam‘s words (as the Lechem Mishnah asks):
For regarding this type of atonement of sin for harming (just) the money of his fellow, which it speaks of in Hilchot Chovel u’Mazik, the requesting forgiveness is not fitting.
Whereas, with regarding the completeness of the amenability of the person (ריצוי האדם), which is spoken of in Hilchot Teshuvah, one could say that on this is demanded that “he must appease him and ask him to forgive him”. Even with regard to injury to his fellow’s money, in whatever manner).
10. It states “He tells His words to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel”. Just as this relates to Yidden that the “This is the path of the seed of Israel and their upright heart” is to forgive “with a complete heart and a willing spirit.” and immediately forgive. So much so that even regarding the forgiveness on a specific sin, Rambam states in Hilchot Chovel u’Mazik “Whoever hastens to grant forgiveness is praiseworthy and is regarded favorably by the Sages”.
From this it is understood “how much more so” (עאכו״ב) with regard to G-d’s Middot whose forgiveness is “a manifestation of the attribute of mercy, and His Divine attributes are not bounded and finite; they are infinite”.
Namely, that He hastens to forgive Yidden for all the undesirable matters. And in a manner of grace and kindness and mercy, in good that is seen and revealed (בטוב הנראה והנגלה). This itself awakens and helps the Yidden so that Yisroel does Teshuva immediately, and they are immediately redeemed (ישראל עושין תשובה מיד, ומיד הן נגאלין). With the true and complete Geulah.
MSichas Shabbat Parshat Chukat 5744
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