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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Is Anybody Truly Off the Derech?

Daf Yomi Kiddushin 68

When our forefather, Yitzchak, was nearing the end of his life, he realized that the time had come to bless his children.  He called over his son, Esav, to offer him the primary blessing.  His wife, Rivkah, was flabbergasted!  Didn’t he realize the wayward path Esav had taken in life?  Didn’t he see that Yaakov was the good one, the child worthy of the blessing?

The Torah states, “If a man has two wives, one favoured, and the other unloved, and they bear him children, both the favoured and the unloved; but the first-born son be hers that was unloved.  Then it shall be, in the day that he causes his sons to inherit that which he has, that he may not make the son of the favoured the first-born before the son of the unloved, who is the first-born.  But he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has; for he is the first-fruits of his strength, the right of the first-born is his.”
Rav Papa asks: Could we possibly suggest that one person is unloved in G-d’s eyes and another is favoured in G-d’s eyes?!?

When a child misbehaves, does the parent love them any less?  Of course not!  Yitzchak was no fool; he was well aware of who Esav truly was.  But a good parent recognizes that some children need more attention than others.  He figured that if Esav would receive the extra attention and blessing, he would eventually come around.  Fortunately, for us, the descendants of Yaakov, Rivkah thought otherwise! 

Does that mean that Rivkah loved Esav any less?  G-d forbid!  Our Sages tell us that Esav and Rivkah had a special relationship and that he would entrust her with his most treasured possessions for safekeeping!  But even so, the Torah still suggests that Yitzchak had a soft spot for Esav while Rivkah was closer with Yaakov.  After all, even our patriarchs and matriarchs were human.

Not so Hashem.  The Almighty loves each and every one of His children equally!   As Rav Papa points out, before G-d there are no favourites.  It doesn’t matter how distant you might be from the Source, for G-d it’s all the same.  We are all His children and he loves each and every one of his dear kinderlach, as if you were an only child! 

Why?  Because G-d is infinite.  Here’s the difference between infinite and finite:  Let’s say you’re a pretty good Jew.  You’re so committed to your Judaism that compared to your neighbour you do ten times as many mitzvos.  So if he is worth a ‘ten’ in terms of observance level, you’d be worth a ‘hundred.’  Now, in your eyes, you are ninety notches ahead of him!  Pretty good edge, right?

Now let’s think about it from G-d’s perspective.  Which is closer to infinity, ten or a hundred?  Answer: neither, they are equidistant.  And so, no matter which of his children is more committed, in G-d’s infinite eyes, we are all the same.  Of course that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to do more and more mitzvos – we still need to excel from our vantage point.  But we should never think that G-d has favourites.  He loves every single one of His children. 

Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l expressed it as follows: In Hashem’s eyes, there’s no such thing as different types of Jews.  All He wants to know is: Are you moving in the right direction?  Are you on the track heading towards Me?  Or are you heading away from Me?  Nobody in life is static.  And nobody can ever reach G-d.  The only question is: Which direction are you moving in?

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about young adults who are OTD – Off The Derech (road).  These are people, who ostensibly began as committed Jews and then abandoned their religious practice.  Sadly, however, the truth is that most of these young folks were never really on the derech to begin with!  They may have appeared to be religious Jews, with all the trappings from kippah to hat to payos to stockings; but many kids really just go with the flow without ever internalizing or taking ownership of their spirituality.  Rav Noach taught that you’re either on the train going towards G-d or on the train away from G-d.  But what about those people who never even got on the train to begin with?

Let’s not take any of Hashem’s kinderlach for granted.  Hashem loves every one of His children.  And so should we.  He loves you more than the love any mortal parent has for their child.  And He loves your neighbour just as much.

Next time you’re feeling down, think about how much your Father loves you.  Tell those who are on the train and off the train how much their Father loves them.  Let them know that there is nothing in this world they could do to diminish that love.  May you merit joining the train and inspiring others to hop aboard the train heading in the right direction!

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