Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei |5770
Ein Ayah: The Positive Elements of Death and Poverty
(based on Berachot 3:1)
Gemara: One should not walk in a cemetery with tefillin on his head and a sefer Torah in his arm and read. If he did so, the following pasuk applies to him: “One who scoffs at the poor blasphemes his Maker” (Mishlei 17:5).
Ein Ayah: The basis of belief is to know that there is nothing in existence that is totally lacking. Any lacking that we see, although it appears from our personal perspective as something lacking, is actually not negative but something advantageous that is a good preparation for the improvement of the whole.
A good example of this concept is poverty. On one hand, it is a lacking from the personal perspective. However, whoever “scoffs at the poor” and thinks poverty has no positive purpose for the greater community “blasphemes his Maker.” We know this is so because if good things did not come from poverty, then poverty would not have been allowed to exist by the Blessed Elevated Leader, whose plans are great.
Rather, one should know that the existence of poverty contributes in a few ways to the general existence of the world. One is that it enables those who give to the poor to be saved from the judgment in gehenom and in fact to add to moral shleimut (completeness) by making the doing of good and kind actions exist. Also, there are several areas of work that are difficult or beneath the dignity of most people, and were there not poverty, no one would be willing to take on these jobs. There are certainly other ways in which poverty helps the world, just that we are too limited intellectually to comprehend them.
Thus, if one is able to understand that poverty, which is the biggest problem in the human condition, is not valueless, then his attitude gives respect to He who made all. In contrast, one who scoffs, and in that way says that there is no gain from the existence of poverty but that it is an extraneous element of existence and a matter of absolute bad, blasphemes his Maker.
The same principle applies to the matter of life and death. We view life as good and the complete actions that life brings us as things that fill our hearts with light and grandeur. However, one should not think that there is no point for death and that it is a total lacking of goodness, since it is missing the elements of completeness that we are familiar with in life. This is not the case, for He who made everything, made everything to be very good and would not make anything that is only bad. Therefore, we should be wise enough to understand that even death has a purpose and is a goal of sorts. Regarding this idea, Chazal said: “And indeed it is very good” (Bereishit 1:31) – this is death. Thus, there is room in the existence of the world for the reality whereby cessation of the activities of life, even the most complete of activities of the most complete people, like the fulfillment of mitzvot and study of Torah, is also a matter of shleimut.
Due to all of this, when one stands in a cemetery he should not be involved in Torah and mitzvot. This is our way of indicating that there is a place where shleimut is met in a different manner that is out of our life experience and which we are unable to fully grasp. If one refuses to refrain from Torah and mitzvot in that place, he is demonstrating that death must be something that is absolutely bad and that there is no possibility that the cessation of the activities of life could be a positive development. That is why he is in effect blaspheming his Maker. For we are supposed to show that Hashem is complete in all types of phenomena within the world, even if we do not understand how, since His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours.
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Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in memory of
Shirley, Sara Rivka bat
This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of