Parashas Pekudei

This week’s parashah describes the building and setting up of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Midrash in Shemos Rabbah 52:3 relates how some people scoffed at Moshe saying, “Is it possible that the Divine Presence will come to rest upon the work of the son of Amram?” But in the end Moshe had the last laugh, for the Divine Presence indeed came to rest upon the Mishkan. The Midrash draws a link between this event and one of Shlomo HaMelech’s statements about the woman of valor (Mishlei 31:25): “Strength and majesty are her attire, and she will merrily rejoice over the last day.” In the process, the Midrash recounts another event which it links to this statement. The Midrash relates that when R. Abbahu was on his deathbed, he saw a vision of all the good awaiting him in the World to Come. He rejoiced, saying: “All this for Abbahu? ‘But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught and vanity. Indeed my right is with Hashem and my recompense with is my God”’” (Yeshayah 49:4). The Maggid expounds on this story in a lengthy essay, a portion of which we presented last year. We briefly summarize this discussion, and then present the concluding portion of the Maggid’s essay.
In the previous part of his essay, the Maggid discussed the two aspects to serving Hashem: turning aside from evil and doing good. A person spends most of his effort avoiding evil. Doing good is less of a struggle, especially since Hashem aids those who seek to do good. Yet it is man’s doing that the evil inclination entered his inner being. Initially, Adam HaRishon brought about this result through his sin. With the Divine revelation at Mt. Sinai, the Jewish People regained Adam’s original pure state, but with sin of the golden calf, the evil inclination re-entered their inner being. R. Abbahu thought that since man was responsible for turning the avoidance of evil into such a great struggle, Hashem probably would not pay much reward for the great effort involved in avoiding evil. He was therefore happily surprised when he saw the reward awaiting him.
The Maggid concludes his essay by expounding on the following Gemara passage (Sukkah 52a):
In the end of days, the Holy One Blessed Be He will bring the evil inclination and slaughter it before the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will look like a towering hill, and to the wicked it will look like a strand of hair. Both groups will weep. The righteous will weep saying, “How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!” The wicked also will weep saying, “How is it that we were unable to overcome this strand of hair!” And the Holy One Blessed Be He will also marvel along with them, as it is written (Zechariah 8:6), “Thus says the Lord of Hosts, ‘If it be wondrous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, it shall also be wondrous in My eyes.’”
It is puzzling, the Maggid notes, that the righteous will weep; given that they succeeded in overcoming the evil inclination, we would think that they would rejoice profusely rather than weeping. But the Maggid’s previous discussion provides a way to explain the weeping. As noted in the previous discussion, the main effort that a person invests in observing the Torah – the area he wearies himself with – is avoiding evil. And Hashem, in His kindness, pays a person reward for this effort. Now, the Gemara tells us that in the end of days Hashem will show the righteous that the evil inclination is like a towering hill. And later the Gemara remarks that the evil inclination puts more and more pressure on a person every day and seeks to kill him, and were it not for Hashem’s help a person would be unable to subdue it (ibid. 52b). As the righteous behold the towering hill and recognize fully the evil inclination’s towering strength, they will see clearly that it is an opponent they could not possibly have overcome on their own; it will be starkly apparent that it was only because of Hashem’s help that they succeeded in doing so. And they will weep, saying: “We are left with nothing! We earned no reward, neither for doing good nor for avoiding evil. Obviously it was Hashem who held the evil inclination at bay when it confronted us. There is no way we could have done it ourselves. So what reward do we deserve?”
The Maggid explains Hashem’s response with a parable. A person felt compassion for a certain pauper and wanted to give him some money, but the pauper did not want to take a gift. So the person devised a clever plan. He lent the pauper a sum of money to buy some merchandise to sell, and then secretly told his all friends to go buy from the pauper and pay a high price. In this way, the pauper made a nice profit. The pauper went to his benefactor to pay the loan, and he said with great amazement: “I had no idea you could make so much money as a merchant!” The benefactor expressed amazement as well, concealing the ruse he employed to help the pauper.
Hashem will take a similar approach with the righteous at the end of days. It will be along the lines of the principle that when a person ascribes a positive outcome to someone else’s merit, Hashem ascribes the positive outcome to the person’s own merit (Berachos 10b). Hashem will be aware, of course, of what the righteous will be thinking when they become fully aware of the evil inclination’s strength. And in His great compassion for them, He will act as if He doesn’t know what happened, and marvel along with them over their success.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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