Parashas Naso

Parashas Naso includes a brief section on restitution for theft (Bamidbar 5:5-8). A person who steals must make restitution to his victim. If the victim is dead, he pays the debt to the victim’s heirs. If the victim has no heirs, he pays the debt to the Kohanim. The Gemara in Bava Kamma 109a states that the case of a victim with no heirs relates to a convert who had no children. Accordingly, in Bamidbar Rabbah 8:4, the Midrash discusses the seriousness of stealing from a convert. It is written (Shmuel Beis 21:1-2): “In the days of David there was a famine for three years, year after year. David inquired of Hashem, and Hashem said: ‘It is on account of Shaul and on account of the House of Blood, for having killed the Givonites.’” The Midrash explains that Hashem imposed the famine on account of two sins. The first was the failure to eulogize Shaul HaMelech properly. The second was the massacre of Nov, the city of Kohanim – the residents of Nov provided the Givonites, who were converts, with a living.
Now, Shaul HaMelech was the one who led the massacre of Nov. This being so, the Gemara in Yevamos 78b asks an obvious question: Can it be that Hashem exacted retribution from the Jewish People simultaneously for failing to honor Shaul with a proper eulogy and for participating in a massacre that Shaul himself instigated? The Gemara answers: “Yes! For Reish Lakish said: ‘What is the meaning of the verse, “Seek Hashem, all you humble of the land, who have fulfilled His ordinances” (אֲשֶׁר מִשְׁפָּטוֹ פָּעָלוּ) (Tzefaniah 2:3)? Where his judgment (מִשְׁפָּטוֹ) is, so is his achievement (פָּעָלוֹ).’” Rashi explains that when a person is being judged, his good deeds are recalled.
Rav Shlomo Kluger explained this Gemara based on an idea presented in the work Maon HaBerachos in the name of “a certain scholar.” (Rav Kluger, as we noted previously, was orphaned from his father while a child and subsequently raised by the Maggid.) Rav Flamm, the redactor of the Maggid’s commentaries on the Chumash, states that this scholar is in fact the Maggid, and the idea under discussion appears in the Maggid’s commentary on Shir HaShirim 8:6. This verse states: “Place me as a seal upon Your heart, as a seal upon Your arm – that love is as strong as death, that jealousy is as harsh as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire – the Divine flame.” The Maggid interprets this verse as bringing out a notable difference between mortal man and Hashem.
A mortal man cannot feel both strong love and strong hatred for another person at the same time. Suppose you come to love a person because of some worthy traits you saw in him, and afterward you see him exhibit some evil traits. The evil traits will engender within you some feelings of hatred toward the person, superimposed on your prior feelings of love. The feelings of love and hatred work will against each other, and eventually merge into an intermediate blend. You will take a middle-of-the-road attitude toward the person, neither loving him nor hating him. Hashem, however, is capable of simultaneously maintaining two diametrically opposing attitudes, with neither one dampening the other. As the Midrash in Shir HaShirim Rabbah 8:6 (end) puts it: “It is like the fire of Heaven – the fire does not consume water, and water does not extinguish the fire.”
This difference between man and Hashem is reflected in the following Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 42:5):
When Moshe saw [that the Jewish People had made a golden calf], he said [to himself]: “There is no forgiveness [for this].” The Holy One Blessed Be He knew what was in Moses’s heart, and called to him to placate him. He said to him: “Did I not tell you, when you were at the [burning] bush, what they would eventually do?” As it is written (Shemos 3:7): “And Hashem said [to Moshe]: ‘I have indeed seen (ראה ראיתי) [the affliction of My people].’” [It does not say ראיתי, but rather ראה ראיתי, with a double verb.] Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Moshe [at the burning bush]: “You see [only] one sight, but I see two sights. You see them coming to Sinai and accepting My Torah. And I see [in addition] that, after I come to Sinai to give them the Torah, and I descend in My chariot borne by four figures [a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, as in Yechezkel 1:10], they will ponder it and extract one of them [the ox] and anger Me with it.” [Thus, Hashem took the Jews out of Egypt with the intent of maintaining a relationship with them even after the sin of the golden calf.]
At face value, Hashem’s statement seems odd. The only reason Moshe knew of the Jewish People’s eventual acceptance of the Torah is because Hashem informed him about it. Hashem could equally well have also informed him about the sin of the golden calf. So what kind of argument was Hashem trying to make, when He told Moshe that “you see only one sight, but I see two sights”? What shortcoming in Moshe was Hashem trying to point out?
In light of the idea brought out above, we can readily see what Hashem was saying. He was telling Moshe: “You feel love for the Jewish People on account of their eventual acceptance of the Torah. Were I to reveal to you clearly how they would later commit a grievous sin, a feeling of hatred would arise within you that would dampen your feeling of love. But with Me it is different. I feel consummate love for the Jewish People on account of their acceptance of the Torah, even though I know they will later commit a grievous sin. The hatred prompted by this sin does not dampen the love. The love stands on its own, and the hatred stands on its own.”
We now turn to Rav Kluger’s explanation of the Gemara in Yevamos. The Gemara asked: Can it be that Hashem exacted retribution from the Jewish People simultaneously for failing to honor Shaul with a proper eulogy and for participating in a massacre that Shaul himself instigated? The Gemara’s initial understanding was that even Hashem does not maintain opposite attitudes, such as love and hate, toward a given person at exactly the same time, but instead one attitude overshadows the other; that is, one attitude comes to the fore at certain times and the other comes to the fore at other times. The Gemara therefore had trouble with the notion that Hashem would take some action on account of both esteem for Shaul and anger at him. The Gemara then resolved the difficulty with Reish Lakish’s teaching: “Where his judgment is, so is his achievement.” Hashem indeed bears in mind simultaneously both a person’s merits and his faults, with neither overshadowing the other.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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