Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.
There are bundles and bundles of sins.
“One sin leads to another sin” (Avot 4:2).
When a person commits one sin, it then causes him to commit related offenses. The later sins are then responsible for still more related wrongs.
Each sin draws along those related to it. All these then follow the first. Unrelated sins are not in that group. This is the concept of bundles and bundles of sin…
Each of these bundles (ChaVelot) of sins results in the creation of a troop of angels who destroy (meChaVLim) and accuse (ibid. 4:11).
These destroyers and accusers cry out, “Give us life! Give us food!” He [the sinner] is the ba’al aveirah (literally, the “owner of sin”).
They cry out to the one who committed the sin, who brought them into existence. He is literally their owner and is responsible for them. He is the one who must provide them with food and sustenance…
The remedy for this is to learn and to observe the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy. You must fulfill these thirteen attributes by displaying mercy and doing good deeds. When you do this, the revelation of the Thirteen Attributes within you stimulates the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy on high, which humble and eliminate the destroyer bred by your sins… — Sichot HaRan # 89 (abridged)
As mentioned previously, Hashem created the world in a manner which operates on a benefactor and beneficiary relationship. This can be seen in all aspects of life.
When we work the field, we are the benefactor, and the land is the beneficiary. When the land produces crop, the roles are reversed.
When an employee performs work, he is the benefactor, and the employer is the beneficiary. And when the employee receives their pay, they become the beneficiary.
The same applies to body and soul; the soul provides vitality for the body, and the body provides sustenance and life for the soul. This connection, this “give and take,” exists in every relationship; between one another as well as between man and Hashem.
Similarly, when mercy is needed from Above, we must first take action below. As the Zohar (I, 77b) teaches, there must be an “arousal from below” in order for there to be an “arousal from on high.”
In this lesson, Rebbe Nachman introduces us to the concept of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. After the sin of the golden calf, Moshe ascended to heaven for forty days and nights to beseech Hashem for mercy on behalf of the Jewish nation. His prayers were answered on the fortieth day, Yom Kippur. Moshe asked Hashem, “Please, show me Your way.” Hashem responded by revealing the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy with which He conducts the world.
Hashem’s mercy is constant; His kindness does not fluctuate. As the verse states, “Gracious and merciful is Hashem, slow to anger, and great in [bestowing] kindness. Hashem is good to all; His mercies are on all His works.”
We are taught to follow in Hashem’s ways, as the verse states, “Just as He is merciful and gracious, so must you be merciful and gracious.”
Rebbe Nachman teaches that when we emulate Hashem’s ways and are merciful towards others, then Hashem acts merciful towards us; when we forgive others, Hashem forgives us.
When we encounter difficult personalities, we can turn an apparent burden into an opportunity. Rebbe Nachman teaches that Hashem specifically places us in these situations to benefit us. Forgiveness and tolerance lead to increased mercy and bounty from Above.
Of course, sometimes this is easier said than done. We previously discussed the need to search for the good within everyone, despite their shortcomings. But this becomes increasingly difficult when the other person is causing us harm.
Therefore, it’s important to remember that mercy goes beyond what is fair or just. Mercy is the ability to show compassion and forgiveness even when such kindness is not necessarily deserved.
Lastly, the Bais HaLevi offers an incredible insight that can entirely change our perspective on the matter. He teaches that we tend to think that the universe operates on “cause and effect.” But in truth, it is the exact opposite. It is the effect that brings about the cause.
The Bais HaLevi offers an example of someone who experiences success in business. He teaches that we should not think that it was their occupation that brought about the profit. Rather, Hashem decreed that this person should profit, and therefore, placed him in this position. Hashem desired the “effect,” or the end result, and therefore created the “cause,” or the means to accomplish this outcome.
Similarly, the Brisker Rav said that if someone had a hole in their pocket and as a result money fell out, he should not think that had he repaired and sewn the pocket, this would not have happened. Hashem decreed that he would lose this money, and that it why the hole was created. Had the pocket been intact, Hashem would find some other means to accomplish these results.
(Parenthetically, when we internalize this concept, we can free ourselves from regret. As Reb Pinchas of Koritz explained, with the understanding that Hashem is the cause of everything that happens, we will never regret a responsible decision or action that resulted in a loss. A person never has to wonder, “What if I would have done things differently…”)
This understanding also makes it easier to be tolerant towards others. We typically get upset or angry when we believe that another person caused us harm. But with this in mind, we begin to realize that Hashem is in complete control of all that transpires, including our fate. Regardless of other people’s actions, they are never the “cause,” they are merely the messenger.
(Of course, this does not excuse the other person’s actions, and it does not negate their responsibility. Each person needs to answer for their actions, but that is between them and Hashem. We must do our part to forgive and try to focus on the message Hashem is sending.)
Over the next few posts, we will give a brief description of each of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, including an example from Tanach and how we can apply these concepts.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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