Shabbos Parashas Shoftim

In last week’s d’var Torah, we presented the Maggid’s commentary on the following teaching of R. Elazar (Devarim Rabbah 4:3):
From the moment the Holy One Blessed Be He made this statement at Sinai, “it is not from the mouth of the Most High One that evil and good emanate” (Eichah 3:38, homiletically). Rather, they come automatically – evil comes to those who do evil and good comes to those who do good.
The Maggid explains that the reward or punishment that come our way when we observe or violate Hashem’s directives are not imposed on us legislatively, but rather are natural consequences of our actions. He explains further that through the very same influence Hashem simultaneously brings good to those who do good and evil to those who do evil. I now present more of the Maggid’s discussion of these themes.
It is written (Yeshayah 31:7-9):
On that day everyone will reject his idols of silver and his idols of gold …. And Assyria will fall by the sword …. His rock will pass away in terror and his officers will be devastated by a miracle – the word of Hashem, Who has a fire in Tziyon and a furnace in Yerushalayim.
In this passage, Yeshayah likens the influence that Hashem is bringing down to a fire, which has both the power to give light and warmth and the power to consume and destroy. The Assyrians were wicked, and therefore they were consumed.
Iyov’s companion Elihu declares (Iyov 34:10-11): “Far be it for God to commit evil and for the Almighty to commit crookedness. He repays a man [for] his deeds and brings forth for a man [what suits] his ways.” Elihu is saying that Hashem does not actively bring affliction to evildoers, but rather the affliction they suffer is a natural consequence of their evil behavior.
The idea that reward and punishment come about as natural consequences of our behavior is reflected also in the following teaching (Sifrei, Eikev 40): “The loaf and the stick came down bound together from heaven. Hashem said to them: ‘If you keep the Torah, here is the loaf for you to eat. And if not, here is the stick for you to be beaten with.’”
At the beginning of parashas Re’eh, Moshe declares (Devarim 11:26-27): “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing – that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem your God, that I command you today. And the curse – if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem your God ….” The Maggid asks: What is the import of the word today? The blessings and curses were not coming down at the moment Moshe spoke; rather, they were going to come down later in due course, according to the good deeds each person does and the sins he commits as time unfolds. The Maggid answers his question as follows. In a typical employer-employee relationship, usually the employer does not pay the employee on the spot at the moment he does a given task. Rather, at the end of each month, the employer pays the employee his wages for all the work he did that month. And similarly, the employer often will not discipline the employee on the spot at the moment he commits an infraction, but instead will wait until the employee accumulates a significant record of infractions and then discipline him. By contrast, the reward we receive for our mitzvos and the punishment we receive for our lapses are automatically triggered immediately as natural consequences of our actions, through a system that Hashem set into place the day He gave us the Torah at Sinai.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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