Blessing on Everything; Travel Stories
1) “Chayav adam l’vareich al ha’raah k’sheim sh’mevareich al hatov.”
Perek 26, pasuk 11, “V’samachta b’chol hatov asher nasan Hashem Elokecha l’beisecha”. A beautiful pasuk. You should rejoice in all the good that G-d has given you and your family. Gra brings down, there’s a gemara in Berachos 14a that says, “Chayav adam l’vareich al ha’raah k’sheim sh’mevareich al hatov." You have to thank Hashem or make a blessing on bad just like he makes a blessing on good as well. This is a very famous gemara. A lot of people question what does it mean? How do we understand it?
The greater the bad that befalls a person, the greater the bracha
Sefer Beis Avos who was a nephew of the Gra says: My uncle, the Gra told me the following thing. What does that mean? That if something bad befalls a person, he should say to himself: Rebono Shel Olam knows that this is for the best, and not only does Rebono Shel Olam, but let’s say it’s something that’s a minor thing, so it’s a minor calamity. He lost twenty dollars. Okay. It’s something that, I dropped that twenty out of my pocket, it’s upsetting. Versus, walking out of the bank and losing ten-thosand dollars out of his pocket which is a hugeloss for most people. And, of course, you could give other examples that you could give of a small calamity because there’s all types of things that could go wrong. Sickness, health, other things. And, there’s all types of, rachmana l’tzlan, calamities that could go bad, but, says the Gra that the pshat is that you should recognize that if you have a small rah that befell you, then you should know that that’s a small blessing from Hashem, and if you have a big, bad painful thing that happens to you, rachmana l’tzlan, then that’s a big, huge blessing from Hashem, and that its proportionate which makes sense because the Rebono Shel Olam keeps track of everything that happens to us, but that’s the pshat that chayav adam l’vareich al haraah k’sheim sh’mevareich al hatova that it’s proportionate when there’s a small calamity, so it’s a small wink and love from Hashem, and when it’s a big thing, then that’s a big wink and that’s a pshat in that maamar Chazal.
Anything Hashem brings upon us is for our growth and for our best
To me it’s very inspiring to think about how the Vilna Gaon looked through life that everything he saw was from the Rebono Shel Olam. And, if something small happened to him, he rejoiced, and he said: this is for the best, and that is what real bitachon is because, ultimately, the Rebono Shel Olam is our father and he loves us very much and anything He does bring upon us is for our own growth and for our own best. It’s alike a surgeon who performs a difficult surgery, but it’s to save the patients life.
2) A person should not be trying to get others in trouble
Perk 27, pasuk 24. This one comes with a disclaimer. Be careful with this story not to misinterpret what it means, and I’ll say the caveat even before I say the story, and that is that all contemporary poskim hold that nowadays if a person asks a shayla and needs to take legal action in order to get money that he’s owed or for any other reason to protect himself, etc. then, of course, there’s a way and an appropriate way to do it. But, the Gras is talking about b’rishus.
The pasuk says, “Arur makeh rei’eihu b’seiser v’amar kol ha’am amein.” So, one of the curses was: Cursed is someone who hits his friend in private, and everyone agreed that that’s true. And the Pirkei D’rabbi Elazar in perek 52 says, “Kol hamalshin al chaveiro b’seiser ein lo refuah.” It’s referring to a malshin is someone who turns over his brother to the goyim. Now, it’s a machlokes what exactly the level of malshin is. Rav Moshe has teshuvos on this. Some of them are printed in his lifetime, some were not printed for good reasons. The pasuk in Tehillim says in 101, “Malshim b’seiser rei’eihu oso atzmis.” Hashem says: I hate these people, and that’s the pshat in the pasuk it says in Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, “Arur makeh rei’eihu baseiser.” So, again the pasuk is trying to cut out: Who do you think you are that you’re job in life is to get your friend in trouble? Worry about yourself. The Rebono Shel Olam says: Your job is to be the best person you could be not to go around and be petty and get your friend in trouble. Remember, that there are times that it is appropriate and halachicly allowed for one to get back things that he’s owed or other things, but, that’s with many conditions. Two of them being that the Jew is not going to get punished inappropriately and that what you’re saying is true, and that there’s no other way to do it. Anyway, this is not psak.
The Gra testified that if he would have been malshin, he would have been punished despite all of his Torah and mitzvos
The story goes that the Gra himself, one time, when he was going through galus, which he put himself in, and he was traveling with a Jew, and they accidentally crashed and rode through a goy’s garden, and they smashed a couple of rows of his vegetables, and the baal agalah went to grab some materials to go fix the wagon, and might have been planning to pay for the damage he did, he might not have been, I don't know. Either way, immediately, the people surrounded the wagon, the goy that lived there, and beat up the Gra, and said: Get off my property. And, the baal agalah came and they quickly rode away. So, the Gra says that I didn’t scream out that it wasn’t me because then I would have been a malshin. All that would have happened is that they would have beat him up, and then said the Gra: It wouldn’t have mattered what I had learned or how great I was. All my Torah. I would have been in that klal, “Oso atzmis.” I would have been punished. Hashem says: I hate the people that are malshin es chaveiro.
Gra is saying, that’s the caveat that I’m trying to say, it’s not to say that you’re not allowed to defend yourself and you’re not allowed to protect yourself, but it’s saying that we need to get rid of that middah inside of us of pettiness that we want to hurt other people just because it bothers us to see them be successful, and this story has a very, very good source for it.
There are reliable sources for the above story with the Gra
The Chafetz Chaim brings it down in his hashmatas to Shmiras Halashon, 9:2, which is a very good source. And, it’s told over in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua who is author of Chosen Yehoshua, and he was a talmid of Rav Dovid Segal, he was also very famous, we know who he was, we have his sefarim, who was a talmid of Rav Chaim Vuluzin, the talmid muvhak of the Gra, so pretty good source.
3) The Gra would tell someone who was going to travel, “Halacha pesuka he yachid v’rabbim halacha k’rabbim.”
Perek 28, pasuk 26, “Baruch atah b’vo’echa, baruch atah b’tzeisecha”. So, there’s a famous Gra, I think that we’ve spoken about this before that if someone was going to leave the Vilna Gaon’s presence and came for a bracha, so the gemara says, “Al yiftor meichaveiro elah mitoch dvar halacha,” you should say a halacha which is a gemara in Berachos 31a. So, he would tell them, “Halacha pesuka he yachid v’rabbim halacha k’rabbim.” I believe that we’ve spoken about this before. That this is the halacha that if there’s an individual and a majority the halacha follows the majority, and the Gra had in mind that the letters Yud, Vav, Heih, Vav are one of the Sheimos of Hashem, they are mitztareif and that’s the Sheim of protection.
A person must make sure that they are surrounded by a good rabbim because they are sure to influence him
I’ve mentioned many times that I believe that the depth here, the pshat here that he’s telling you the best advice possible. That when you go somewhere you’re a yachid, and make sure that you get into a good rabbim because the rabbim will influence you, and a story that is very dear in my family is one that my father told over many times is that after he learned in MTJ under Rav Moshe and under Rav Dovid Feinstein, was his main rebbe, he spoke to him about going to learn in Detroit. He was interested, he had some friends that were there, and Rav Dovid Feinstein said it’s a good yeshiva, Rav Leiv Vaks is a tzaddik, you’ll learn a lot under him, and my father went there. And, before he left he wanted to get a bracha from Rav Dovid, and Rav Dovid said to him: You go on one condition: You have to make good friends there. If you see that you’re, chas v’shalom, getting into a bad group, leave immediately because they’ll win, they’ll have an influence on you. If you see that they’re a good group of people stay with them, and I think that my father went into a good group of people, and I think that some of those friendships still last and still revolve around Torah. So, that’s what’s going on over here as well. “Baruch atah b’vo’echa; Baruch atah b’tzeisecha.” The way to leave is “yachid v’rabbim halacha k’rabbim”, Make sure to put yourself in a good situation where you are around good people.
4) A person’s yiras Shamayim should be so great that others see it on him
Perek 28, pasuk 10. “V’ra’u kol amecha ki Sheim Hashem nikrah alecha v’yaru mimeka.” And, says the Gra: You know what the job of every Jew is? It’s psha in this pasuk. That every single Jewish person should be such a yareih and charreid l'dvar Hashem that people that see you, your yiras Shamayim and your holiness and your kedusha and tehara should come through that people will see it on you. That your insides, where you fear Hashem and you love Hashem and all yourspiritual qualities should come out. And, that’s what it means that they see it “ki Sheim Hashem nikra alecha”. They see Hashem’s name through you. That’s the goal of the Vilna Gaon, something that he certainly accomplished.
5) Once you’ve lived most of your life and you haven’t sinned, you’re on the right path!
Finally, perek 28, pasuk 12. “Yiftach Hashem licha es otzaro hatov.” May G-d open up his otzar of goodness. So, that the gemara in Taanis says over a story that Rav Elazar ben Pidas he was a very, very poor man. He was even afraid that he was so poor that it was going to cause him not to keep parts of the Torah. So, he asked Hashem: Please change the mazalos, and bring me under the mazel of parnassah. So, the gemara says a very inigmatic thing. There’s a lot of different pshatim about what this means, but Hashem seems to answer him something along the lines of that the life that you lived until now is a lot longer than what you have left. So, the Rav Elazar ben Pidas said: It’s fine. I don’t need it. I could do it. So, the Gra explains what does this mean? The Gra says that Rav Elazar wanted it that Hashem should change the mazals that because of the yirah that he has, I’m so poor I’m afraid that I will go against Hashem. So, Hashem said to him that: No, no, no. You already lived most of your life, and you haven’t gone against the Torah. And Chazal in Yoma 38b say that once you’ve lived most of your life and you haven’t sinned, you’re not going to sin, so you’re fine. So, Rav Elazar ben Pidas said: Okay, in that case I’m fine. I was only worried because I know that sometimes aniyus pushes a person to compromise their integrity, but once you’re telling me that I’ve already made it this far, I know I’m good to go. So, so too in life, a person should say to themselves, you feel down and you feel like you can’t do this any longer, say to yourself: Look what I’ve done until now. Look at what I’ve accomplished. I could keep going on that path.
We should be zocheh that Hashem should inspire all of us to keep going on that path of goodness and success.
I’m honored to announce a new podcast encouraging the learning of Daf Yomi with haaros on the daf, life lessons and chizuk to make Torah a part of your everyday life. Check it out today anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rabbi and psychotherapist. Subscribe at ParshaThemes.com