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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

When one person ruins it for everyone else

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 14
Moses Ten Commandments law 
Moshe is new to shul and offered hagba (the raising of the Torah). It’s painful to witness. He can barely lift the Sefer Torah, almost drops it, and sits down very quickly.
Extremely embarrassed, he resolves to go home and work out.  For the next few months, he lifts weights, does push ups, sit ups and pull ups.  Finally, he feels ready to return to shul.
The next Shabbos, off he goes, pumped and all set to make amends.  All of a sudden he hears the gabbai call his name.  He rushes up to the bima, grabs the Sefer Torah, lifts it and opens up a good ten columns. Swings it to the left and then to the right.
He's feeling VERY proud. He turns to the gabbai and says, “Nu, what do you say to that?”
“Well your hagba was amazing,” responds the gabbai, “but I called you up for shlishi.”


After Moshe broke the first Tablets, Hashem offered a second set and declared, “And I shall write upon the Tablets the words that were on the first Tablets that you broke, and you shall place them in the Ark.”
Resh Lakish taught: When the Holy One blessed be He said to Moshe “that (asher) you broke,” He meant, “Yasher koach (well done) for breaking them!”

We’ve all stood there watching nervously as an individual who should not have been given hagba wobbles his way through the act.  Who hasn’t thought, “Uh oh, if he drops this, we’ll all be fasting for forty days?”  While I personally have never witnessed a dropped Torah, I’ve heard about an incident, and let’s just say, the perpetrator wasn’t exactly Mr. Popular in the shul after that.

But that’s us mortal human beings.  When Moshe dropped the Tablets, Hashem didn’t give him the boot.  No, he responded ‘Yasher koach!’  Why would He say that? 

The first part of the answer is that, as we all know, it wasn’t Moshe’s fault that he dropped the Tablets.  It was the Israelites’ fault.  They impetuously built a Golden Calf and rebelled against Heaven.  Our Sages tell us that the Tablets were so heavy that Hashem sent angels to accompany Moshe down the mountain for support.  When the angels witnessed the horrific spectacle, flabbergasted, they shot up to Heaven, leaving the Tablets to slip out of poor Moshe’s hands.

Our Sages are teaching that it wasn’t really Moshe who chose to break the Tablets.  Once he arrived at the crime scene, it was automatic.  And so if you should ever, G-d forbid, see someone drop the Torah, it’s not their fault.  Like Moshe’s automatic response to the shortcomings of the Israelites, if the Torah ever drops, it’s an indication that the congregation wasn’t quite worthy.  And that they need to undertake a little introspection, which is the purpose of fasting.

That’s why the Almighty said Yasher Koach to Moshe.  He wasn’t the bad guy who dropped the Tablets; he was the vehicle for their opportunity to do teshuvah.  Likewise, if a Torah should ever go down in your shul, the response shouldn’t be, ‘You klutz!’ the correct response is ‘Yasher koach!  Thank you for shaking things up a little in our complacent congregation!  Finally someone has switched the lightbulb on for all of us!’

The same is true of any challenging situation that a community finds itself in.  We can always find someone to point fingers at.  Who didn’t switch the yahrzeit lights on?  Who didn’t remember to bring the shul key on time?  Who was responsible for cleaning up after the Kiddush? 

If for whatever reason things aren’t quite going according to plan in the community, don’t look for individuals to blame.  We need to ask ourselves what’s up with us as a whole.  Yes, each individual is responsible for whatever they have committed to, but when things don’t go right, they were just the messenger. 

It’s like the Sefer Hachinuch’s explanation of why personal ‘revenge’ is irrational and forbidden.  If Reuven hits Shimon in the face, that means that Hashem ordained Shimon’s pain.  Of course that does not give Reuven the right to smite, and G-d will deal with him accordingly.  But Shimon should have no issues with Reuven – the pain is between him and Heaven.  How much more so, a community can never suffer on account of the negligence of an individual.  The individual might appear to be the catalyst, but they were simply the vehicle for Heaven’s decree.


So next time someone messes things up for everyone, go and give them a big Yasher Koach!  As long as you don’t give the impression you’re being sarcastic, you will make the poor sod feel a million times better.  May you always lift the spirits of those around you, even when everyone else is pointing fingers!