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Shabbat Parashat Masei 5776

Ein Ayah: The Deterioration of Society Away from Justice

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:228)

Gemara: Due to the sins of delaying justice, distorting justice, destroying justice, and wasting Torah opportunities, the sword, plunder, pestilence, and famine come, people eat and are not satiated, and they measure the bread they eat, as the Torah says: “I shall bring upon you a sword taking revenge due to the covenant …” (Vayikra 26:25-26) and “the covenant” refers to Torah as the pasuk says, “If not for My covenant day and night …” (Yirmiya 33:25) and it says: “For the very reason that they despised My justice” (Vayikra 26:43).

 

Ein Ayah: There are many arguments as people meet in the “war of life,” and din (justice) is needed to ensure the maintenance of truth and peace. When din is incorporated into life, it softens the dangers of self-love and prevents it from making life overly bitter. But this is efficient only when din is immediately responsive, just as life itself flows without break. Judges can take the time necessary to make sure din is done comprehensively, but once it has run its course, it must be processed promptly to make its mark on the world, by preventing social deterioration. If not, there may be a need for divinely subscribed strong measures, carried out either by man or through Hashem’s hand in nature. Delaying justice is the main factor that removes true judgment from life, sapping it of its positive power. This causes people to abandon the path of justice and search for other solutions to their problems, which can cause a socially dangerous, diseased situation.

Even worse is if justice, along with positive elements, also contains negative ones. Even if the judges rule basically in favor of the correct party, if they are not exact, then that which should have been straight now distorts life. The worst thing, of course, is if the judgment is totally for bad, in that it has the incorrect person winning the litigation. That turns all of society into wolves, and the only way it can be fixed is by weakening it, either by removing some of the people or weakening their power in a variety of known ways.

Life can be positively connected to justice only if life has some element of sanctity to it. Then the daily activities can be connected to positive values, such as honesty and generosity, and din stemming from a divine light can be the main impetus of life. However, if there is bitul Torah, life deteriorates to the level of lack of realizing spiritual potential, and people start looking at things from an animalistic perspective, in which fulfilling coarse desires is most important. Then connections to din collapse, and Hashem has to build things by first razing them.

When all the morally negative elements increase, they become a part of people’s spirits and the foundations of life, so that corrupt people become “afflictions” of society, which can only be fixed by death. Pestilence is a way to remove individuals. Famine weakens the power of society, especially the evil among them. People who yearn for goodness and honesty will feel unsatisfied but will not be able to put their fingers on the cause. This is represented by the idea of eating and not being filled. Conceptions and aspirations will be lowered, and people will not appreciate anything that they cannot sense physically, which happens when Torah will be missing in their lives. Simple bread will have to be measured, so people will be reminded of the importance of who owns what. This happens when people are not united in a communal entity, which happens when Torah knowledge is not sufficiently influential. This is what is meant by “a covenant refers to Torah.” Only when Israel is connected to proper rules can the general covenant make the individuals function properly and be elevated by the Torah, whose ways are ways of peace and pleasantness.

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