Wednesday, February 25, 2009

164 - Mishpatim

 "Do not oppress any widow or orphan. If you oppress him. . . for if he shall cry out to Me I will listen to his cry" (Shemos 22, 22-23). The Ramban explains that there is a tendency to harass a widow or orphan more than others because they have no one to turn to when they need help, and as a result the tormentor is not worried about reprisal for his actions.  Therefore, the Torah warns if you oppress a widow or orphan because they are helpless, know that all they have to do is cry out to Me and I will immediately come to their assistance. In reality they are better off than anyone else. Anyone else who is tormented must seek and pursue someone to come to his rescue. Even then, he can merely hope that his rescuer succeeds in saving him, for after all there is the possibility that his endeavors will fail. In contrast, a widow or orphan merely needs to cry out to Hashem and He will immediately come to their assistance - and there is no chance that He will fail in meting out punishment to the transgressor.

Rav Wolbe notes (Shiurei Chumash) that punishment for transgressions bein adom le'chaveiro is meted out more swiftly and harshly than punishment for aveiros bein adom la'makom. As soon as the widow cries out, the tormentor receives his punishment. We find an additional example of this phenomenon with Yaakov's wives Rachel and Leah. The Torah tells us, "And Hashem saw that Leah was hated and He opened her womb; and Rachel was barren" (Bereishis 29, 31). It is understood why Hashem caused Leah to conceive. However, for what reason was Rachel barren? Why was she to blame for that which her sister was hated? The answer is because the love of Rachel was the cause of a lesser love of Leah, and even a minute infraction in the area of bein adom le'chaveiro can have serious consequences.

However, the opposite is also true. There is great and immediate reward for the performance of mitzvos bein adom le'chaveiro. There is a general rule that there is no reward in this world for the mitzvos we perform (Kiddushin 39b). A spiritual and infinite mitzvah cannot be properly rewarded in this finite world. Nevertheless, there are certain mitzvos that their performance garners reward not only in the world-to-come but also immediately in this world. The Mishna (Shabbos 127) lists ten mitzvos in this category and almost all of them are bein adom le'chaveiro: Honoring one's parents, performing kindness, hospitality, visiting the sick, marrying off a bride, accompanying the deceased, concentrating on the meaning of the prayers (this is included in kindness - see Rashi), and making peace between man and his fellow man.

The great impact of mitzvos bein adom le'chveiro is apparent. One who neglects them will G-d forbid suffer the dire consequences immediately, while one who performs them will be rewarded doubly - not only in the world-to-come, but here and now in this world. This alone should be sufficient impetus to rethink our attitude toward mitzvos bein adom le'chaveiro.

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