We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week's stretch was: Let go of a hurt with a person and seek peace. Bring HaShem into the picture. Understand no one can bring harm to you unless sent from HaShem, and this will always be for your good.
Please have one person share a successful experience using this tool.
PRACTICAL TOOLS FOR BRINGING
SHALOM INTO OUR WORLD
Tools #1 - MIDDA K'NEGGED MIDDA
Tool #1: Midda K'Neged Midda Providing Motivation for You to Forgive
The main mitzvos that pertain to vatranus are:
1. לא תטרו— Do not hold a grudge.
2. בלבבךלא תשנא את אחיך— Do not hate your brother in your heart. This is the worst type of hatred because when it’s concealed, there is no chance for peace. This is not to say that open hatred is fine (to be covered by the third mitzva).
3. ואהבת לרעיך כמוך— Love your friend as yourself.
What all these mitzvos have in common is that they are all mitzvos of the heart. We can fulfill or transgress them by how we feel in our heart.
A person may wonder: How can the Torah dictate to me what I’m allowed or not allowed to feel? How is it humanly possible for me not to have bad feelings towards someone who embarrassed me or hurt me in some way, and then to even love him despite the fact that he hasn’t treated me well? These mitzvos must be meant for angels who have no emotions or feelings. The fact that these mitzvos were given to us means that it is humanly possible. HaShem would not demand of us something that we are incapable of doing. If I were to ask you to build a bridge from one side of the street to another, could you do it? We know it can be done, but it would be impossible for you without the right tools and know how. So it is with vatranus—letting go of grudges and bad feelings towards those who have hurt us. Yes, it is impossible unless I have the tools to go about it. The Torah has given us the tools to fulfill these mitzvos. With these tools we will find that we can often build bridges from one heart to the next. However, even if the other person remains angry or clueless as to the pain they caused us, we will always gain by forgiving them.
One may wonder, am I obligated to forgive and remain silent in every situation? The Rambam says about the mitzva “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Hilchos Da'os, perek 6) that if one man sins against another, he should not hate him and remain silent. Rather, it is a mitzva to approach the person for the sake of shalom and state how one feels, giving the other person a chance to apologize or explain. If the other person does apologize or explain, even if the one hurt does not like the answer, he is obligated to forgive. Only if the person does not care to answer and shows that he does not regret his actions is the hurt person permitted to hold on to the bad feelings. However, the Rambam continues, if the individual who was hurt prefers not to approach the one who hurt him because it is clear that he will not get a satisfactory answer, and yet still forgives him in his heart, this is a middas Chasidus—an even higher level of piety. According to Sefer HaChinuch, in either event, one would not be allowed to harbor hatred in his heart and continue holding a grudge. The Chofetz Chaim paskens that since we are talking about a Safek d’Oraisa (a difference of opinion on a Torah prohibition), we decide according to the more stringent opinion. This requires us not to hold a grudge. We must realize that letting go benefits us tremendously, as practicing these tools over time will show you in your own life. Note: These concepts do not apply to abusive situations. Also, if there is anything a person can do to prevent someone from harming him, he definitely should do what is necessary to prevent harm.
Why is forgiving so difficult? When I forgive, it feels as though I am giving the person who hurt me a gift. Since he has caused me pain, I may feel that he doesn't deserve that gift of forgiveness. What makes forgiving easier is knowing that I am actually giving myself a gift! If I know that I personally have so much to gain by forgiving, I will be motivated to work on letting go of my bad feelings. Rosh HaShana 17:a states: כל המעברין על מדותיו מעבירין לו על כל פשעיו. Whoever is forgiving, HaShem will forgive him for all of his sins. The phrase מעביר על מדותיוliterally means to pass over one’s middos. When someone hurts or embarrasses me, my natural inclination is to be hurt, angry or insulted. When I pass over this natural reaction and forgive instead, then I merit HaShem’s forgiveness for sins that I’ve done (as long as I don’t continue to do them). This is because HaShem rules the world midda k'negged midda, measure for measure. How I act towards others is how HaShem will act towards me. When I forgive, then I merit HaShem’s forgiveness. The Chofetz Chaim comments on this Chazal: Even if I would not be completely forgiven for one sin, but only lesson the severity of the punishment, it would still be quite worth it to be forgiving. How much more so would this be true if I could have a single sin completely forgiven! Through practicing the midda of vatranus, we will be forgiven completely for all of our sins (even the worst type—those done out of rebellion). Why would we want to give up such an opportunity?
Story: (based on a true story)
This story appears in Sefer Lekach Tov on the Yamim Noraim, Vol I, told over by the tzaddik and m'kubal, The Rashash (Rabbi Sholom Sharabi), z"tzl.
Two men arrived at Shul on the eve of Rosh HaShana where it was discovered that they were both mistakenly assigned the same seat. When they approached the gabbai to inform him of the mix-up, he apologized profusely. Unfortunately, the only solution to be found was for one of the men to give up the seat and sit elsewhere. For ma'ariv that evening it wasn’t such a problem. There were several other seats to choose from. However, in the morning when the shul would be full, the only available seats would be in a less desirable location—in the very back. Leaving shul that evening each man thought that come morning, the better seat would be theirs. Neither one of them was willing to be m'vater.
That night, one of the men had a dream. In his dream he found himself standing alone in shamayim with a long road stretched out before him, and not a soul in sight. He began walking along the road when suddenly he heard a loud noise approaching from behind him. As the noise grew louder, and closer, the man jumped to the side of the road as a caravan of wagons containing angels thundered by. He noticed that these angels were white as snow, some of them robust and healthy, and others small and scrawny, some even missing limbs. As quickly as they had come, they disappeared down the road into the distance. He continued along the now quiet path for several minutes when once again he had to jump to the side of the road as another group of wagons approached. This time he saw that they were filled with frightening looking black angels: some huge and formidable, others small and thin. This caravan too disappeared quickly into the distance. Curious to know the meaning of what he had seen, the man continued down the road. At last, he arrived at the end of the road where he found all the wagons parked on a huge plaza with a tremendous scale standing in the center. He stood there a moment watching as all the white angels alighted from their wagons and climbed onto one side of the scale while the black angels climbed on to the other side. The man couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing until it was explained to him that it was Rosh HaShana and this was the Heavenly Bais Din at the very moment someone was being judged. All of the angels climbing on to the scale were created by the mitzvos and avairos (sins) that this man had performed or committed over the course of his lifetime. As it says in the mishna: “Whoever performs a mitzva, creates for himself a defending angel, and whoever commits a sin, creates for himself a prosecutor." When a person performs a mitzva fully, he creates a white angel, heavy in weight, but when the mitzva is done only partially, or half-heartedly, he creates a smaller angel that may also be missing a limb.
This is also the case with the angels that are created as a result of a person’s sins. Those that are done with full knowledge and premeditation are going to be larger and heavier than those done by mistake, or without much thought.
As he saw the two sides of the scale filling up, the man wondered who exactly was being judged here. He was shocked to hear that this was actually his judgment. When he saw that the side of the black angels was outweighing the side of the white angels, he became very fearful of the outcome! He knew all too well that if his future were to be decided based on the result of this weigh-in, he would be judged as a rasha (an evil person) and punished accordingly.
At this point a voice proclaimed: “If there are any more angels created by this man’s deeds, they should come forward now!" No more angels appeared. Then: “If this Jew suffered any y'surim (suffering, travails) in the past year, let them be brought forward now.” Suddenly a new wagon appeared filled with angels that were created from all of the y'surim that this man had experienced in the past year. These angels were weighed on a separate scale, and that same weight in black angels was removed from their side of the scale. The reason for this, it was explained, was because y'surim serve to purify us and atone for our sins.
Now the man breathed a little easier as he saw the side of the black angels started to rise as some of them were removed. It was a very tense moment as he wondered what the final outcome would be. When the scale came to a stop he realized, to his utter despair, that the side of the scale with the black angels still outweighed that of the white angels by a very small amount. But then an announcement proclaimed: “כל המעביר על מדותיו מעבירין על כל פשעיו”; ”All of those who are forgiving (or can give in), will be forgiven for all of their sins” (Yuma 12a). At that point a call went out to the angel appointed over nisyonos (tests). “Before we finalize this man’s judgment we will send him a test to see if he can be m'vater (give in) to his friend.” The angel was sent down to create the situation where he would be given the same seat in Shul as another man, so that in Heaven they could see if he would be m'vater or not. The man immediately awoke from his dream and cried out: “I am m'vater! I am m'vater!" The picture was clear! His judgment would be decided based on the outcome of this particular test. It was in his power to tilt the judgment in his favor.
Discussion Question Options:
Think of examples of when you were m'vater and gave in.
Did you see this as an opportunity? As a test?
What was gained by being m'vater and forgiving or remaining silent?
When is it important to speak up and make known that another has hurt you?
Stretch of the Week:
If/when a situation arises where a person wrongs you in some way, shift the focus away from what the person did to you. Instead, stop and think to yourself: HaShem has brought me this opportunity as a test so I can earn His forgiveness.