OU Torah Insights Project
May 27, 2000
Rabbi Shalom Fishbane
you ever watched someone in shul start
a conversation with you in middle of kriat
Hatorah, and when you politely decline to respond you become the object of
causes people, who normally adhere to Halachah
(as evidenced by their attendance in shul),
to react in such a way?
lists the seven sins that could bring to bear all of the terrible calamities
that G-d threatens upon the Jewish nation in the Tochachah,
the Admonition. They are: not studying Torah; not performing mitzvot;
abhorring others who perform mitzvot;
hating Torah scholars; preventing others from performing mitzvot;
renouncing the mitzvot; denying the
fundamental truth of Judaism.
list comprises not only sins of inaction, but sins of negation. In other words,
it is not enough to simply drop observance; one must denigrate others
observance in order to justify ones own actions.
you have ceased to observe the laws in practice, Rav
Samson Raphael Hirsch notes, your conscience will give you no peace
until, in order to justify your behavior, you will be able to rationalize your
disobedience as progress, to look down upon loyalty to the law as an
denigration presents itself in many forms, some seemingly benign. We sometimes
hear comments, for example, that donors only give money for the honor they
find a similar thought hidden in the seemingly unrelated laws of sanctified
animals at the end of the parshah. The
pasuk says that once an animal is sanctified to be offered to Hashem,
the donor shall not exchange it or substitute it whether good for bad or bad
would the Torah forbid replacing a bad animal for a better one?
Rambam explains the psychology
of this halachah: If you allow the
donor to begin making changes, then if he changes his mind and wishes to keep
the animal he has designated, he will convince himself that it is inferior and
that he has a better one to offer. The human mind is elastic in its capacity
to distort reality in order to benefit ones own self-interest. He can
take the good and declare it bad.
the tendency to see the unfavorable side of others is often done as a
justification for ones own shortcomings. I once observed a yeshiva bachur
politely ask someone not to continue the lashon hara that he was speaking. The speakers response amazed
me. He went from publicly making fun of this fanatic to saying it was a mitzvah
to degrade the subject of his story.
we will make light, or worse, ridicule people who are more pious in the detail
of Halachah. We learn from our parshah
that this comes from our longing to be as close to G-d as he is. If we recognize
the source of our negativity, next time instead of degrading, we will hopefully
try to emulate.
Rabbi Fishbane is rabbi of
the Saranac synagogue in Buffalo, New York.