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|Hebrew Text: Talmud-Bava Kama Talmud-Berachot|
A Partial Admission
The Gemara, basing itself on the verse: “He who has a grievance should approach you,” teaches that we are to listen first to the words of a plaintiff, and only then to the words of a defendant.
The Shach explains that whose side of an argument is heard first makes a difference when there is a partial admission, a modeh b’miktzas, regarding the application of a Torah oath. For example, if the plaintiff states that he is owed
If the defendant first admits to owing
Thus, a plaintiff who states his case first is assured of the defendant’s having to take a Torah oath.
The source of this oath is the verse: “In every case of dishonesty… anything that was lost … which he says ‘this is it’,” i.e., the defendant offers a partial admission.
Every aspect of the revealed portion of Torah has a spiritual counterpart in the esoteric portion, and in terms of man’s spiritual service. In fact, since Torah descended from the spiritual realms to the physical, its esoteric inner dimension is the source of the revealed portion. Moreover, there are many things in the revealed portion of Torah that can be fully understood only with an explanation on a more esoteric level.
This principle applies here, for, on a simple level, the explanation of the Shach does not appear entirely cogent. The statement of our Sages that “We are to listen first to the words of the plaintiff” seems to address itself to all situations involving plaintiffs and defendants;according to the Shach, however, the ruling would only make a difference in a situation where the defendant offers a partial admission.
In a spiritual context, however, the overwhelming majority of lawsuits involve modeh b’miktzas.
The yetzer hora, the evil inclination, acts as a Jew’s plaintiff, first leading him to sin, or at least to “sin” in the sense of faultiness and a loss of spirituality, and then acting as claimant, demanding that the person be given over to its clutches.
The response of the Jew — the defendant — is to offer a “partial admission.” The Jew responds by saying that, while it is true that he succumbed to sin, the sin was only “partial;” it involved only an external aspect of his being, and not his soul’s essence, for the quintessential aspect of his soul transcends sin and cannot possibly be tainted by it.
Moreover, even on a revealed level, every Jew possesses an abundance of good, so that “Even the sinners in Israel are as filled with mitzvos as a pomegranate is filled with seeds.” It is therefore impossible for a Jew to be, G‑d forbid, entirely evil.
The fact that every Jew, whether an actual sinner or a righteous individual who merely lost some degree of spirituality, falls into the category of modeh b’miktzas is alluded to in the verse “In every case of dishonesty… anything that was lost… which he says ‘this is it’ ”:
In spiritual terms, the plaintiff’s complaint extends both to “cases of dishonesty” (i.e., actual sin) and to “anything that was lost” (referring to a person who lost some measure of spirituality by not fulfilling his soul’s mission to the best of his ability.)
In answer to both of these complaints, the Jew says “this is it,” i.e., that in which he sinned or in which he is lacking, is minor and partial compared to both his greater whole — the essence of his soul that is always at one with G‑d — and the revealed aspect of his being, which is as full of mitzvos as a pomegranate is filled with seeds.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, pp. 269-271
Productive Use of Time
It goes without saying that R. Yochanan ben Zakkai was concerned as to whether he had attained a sufficient level of holiness to enter Gan Eden. Why did he voice his apprehension only on his deathbed? His spiritual status should have been an ongoing concern.
Every Jew is entrusted with a unique Divine mission that he is to accomplish during his lifetime. He is allotted a specific time in which to accomplish that task — not one day more and not one day less.2
When a Jew fails to make use of a day, an hour, or even a moment, in pursuit of his mission, he not only fails to achieve his fullest spiritual potential, but more importantly, he has failed — during those moments — to accomplish his entrusted task.
R. Yochanan ben Zakkai spent every moment of his life totally immersed in his mission, so much so that he simply did not have time to pause and contemplate his own spiritual level. It was only at the conclusion of his mission — just prior to his demise — that he was able to ponder his own status.
The importance of absolute dedication to one’s mission is also alluded to in the Torah portion of Mishpatim , wherein Scripture states:3 “You will serve G-d… No woman will miscarry or remain childless in your land; I will make you live out full lives.”
In spiritual terms, the above verses mean that4 when performed with proper intent, Divine service leads to ever greater spiritual heights — it “bears children.” When, however, a person is self-satisfied in his service, it fails to produce the desired results — he “miscarries” and is spiritually “barren.”
One can guard against this by “living out a full life.” I.e., a person should realize that he is granted a specific number of years. Every moment wasted on something other than his appointed task constitutes an act of rebellion against G-d, who entrusted him with his sacred mission.
When a person realizes this, he will gladly sacrifice all sense of ego, and concentrate solely on completing his assignment. Eventually he will become so absorbed that he will even forget that it is he who is fulfilling it; the mission in general and the task at hand will fill his mind completely.
When someone else inquires about such a Jew’s spiritual state, he will respond: “How can I possibly think about myself when I have been granted only a limited number of days in which to fulfill my purpose in life? I must constantly be on guard to assure that not one precious moment is lost; I simply do not have time to think about my spiritual achievements!”
When a Jew attains this level of self-abnegation, G-d blesses him with “a full life”; even if there were days in which he did not fulfill his mission, or worse yet, acted in a counterproductive manner, G-d promises him that the missing days will be made up. Ultimately, all his days become whole.
( From http://schneersoncenter.org/mobile/page.asp?pageID=%7B7B8E06AF-8BCD-4CE4-8071-EC60E7D46BE6%7D&displayAll=1. Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVI pp. 271-274)
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