Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Upside Down World- Leaving the Judgement to God

כִּי הָאָדָם יִרְאֶה לַעֵינַיִם וַה' יִרְאֶה לַלֵּבָב - שמואל א' פרק ט"ז פסוק ז

For man sees the eyes, while God sees into the heart.

Years ago, a rebbe of mine was giving a schmooze on the importance of behaving L'sheim shamayim, for the sake of heaven. A student raised his hand and asked where the line is between acting for the sake of heaven, and becoming neurotic about every minute action. My rebbe, in his inimitable way said “Do you know what I never liked about Pete Rose? He always knew his batting average.”. What I understood him to be saying is that we should not be so hung up on ourselves to constantly measure where we are. I'd like to suggest that we stop measuring ourselves and even more so others. Can we ever know our own, or anyone's spiritual batting average?

This past Shabbos, the Rav of our shul asked an interesting question. When it comes to Ma'aser Beheima, the tithing of animals, the 10th animal is automatically sanctified regardless of whether it is a good and fat one, or a thin and weak one. Ordinarily, we are asked to sacrifice from the best of our animals. In fact, the neviim often criticized Bnei Yisrael for doing the opposite. Why in the case o Maaser Beheima do we allow a weak animal to be sanctified? He suggested an answer in the name of Rav Moshe (I do not own Darash Moshe and can not confirm that he said this). By accepting any animal we show that anyone, regardless of their current level has the ability to become holy. The problem with this explanation is that the animal we are accepting as holy is currently a weak one. I'd like to suggest a different explanation.

The gemara in Bava Basra (10b) tells the story of Rav Yosef, the son of Rebbe Yehoshua who became ill and died (seemed to die?). When he was revived, his father asked him what he saw. He replied “I saw an upside down world. The higher ones were lower, and the lower ones were higher”. His father responded that he had seen the real world. It is our world that is upside down. As with any piece of aggada, we need to figure out the message.

Rav Yosef Albo in his Sefer HaIkarim gives a fascinating explanation for this story. In our world, we look around and think we might know who is doing better in God's eyes. By whatever criteria we use, we think we can evaluate who is on a higher level. Rav Yosef was shocked to see that in the world of truth, his way of understanding things had been all wrong. He looked at the finish product, when in truth, God looks at the process and the amount of change that occurred. The son of a Rosh Yeshiva, who was raised in a home of Torah and became a Rosh Yeshiva himself, might have achieved less than the unlearned Jew who worked hard to become a ba'al chessed and struggled to learn when he can. Someone who works hard is more deserving of olam haba than someone who didn't work as hard, regardless of where he ends up.

During the time between Pesach and Shavuos Rebbe Akiva's students died. The gemara says that they did not treat each other with respect. If we wish to learn from their tragic story, it behooves us to remember that things are not always as they appear.

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