Friday, August 19, 2022

One of the topics in our parsha is that of the “meisit”—a person who attempts to convince others to serve “other Gods” (13:7). The torah (v. 9, with Rashi’s commentary) views such a person with an overwhelming amount of harshness: “don’t love him” (the great principle of “love your fellow as yourself” does not apply to him); “don’t listen to him” (when he pleads for his life), “don’t have pity on him,” “don’t have mercy on him” (and try to search for merits to excuse him), “don’t cover up for him” (if you have information that will bring more guilt upon him, you are not permitted to conceal it). Further, the Rambam (Hilchot Sanhedrin, 11:5) lists five differences in which the meisit’s penalty is deemed more severe than typical capital punishment crimes.

The concept of the meisit isn’t necessarily benign from us. Rabbeinu Asher (commonly known as the “Rosh”) in his Orchot Chaim (93) writes, “don’t sway your friend from the proper path to the bad path, such as a meisit and the like.” Although our Torah portion speaks of the meisit to be one who tries to lure one to serve “other gods,” the Rosh perhaps seems to broaden the idea of a meisit, or perhaps at least the concept of it, to one who simply leads one toward wrong actions or ideals. In observation of the severity of the meisit and how the Torah views and deals with him, the Rosh’s application of the conceptual meisit behooves a great cautiousness to uphold the values of the Torah and to develop a high level of care to not, God forbid, be involved in someone else’s spiritual downfall.

Sometimes from the worst we can learn the best. The meisit can be categorized as someone who tries to bring people away from Hashem. And so, the opposite of a meisit would be someone who tries to bring people closer to Hashem. Indeed, the latter is involved in “kiruv rechokim”—bringinging those who are far, close to Hashem, while the meisit and the like are involved in “richuk kerovim”—furthering away those who are close to Hashem. Hence, R’ Aharon Kotler (Mishnas Rebbi Aharon 2, p. 254) infers that if the Torah is so strict and critical with someone like a meisit, then a person who is the polar opposite of a meisit—i.e., one who helps another to consider the proper path in life and strengthens another in Torah and mitzvot—the overwhelming amount of favor and liking such a person finds in Hashem’s eyes is of untold proportions.

R’ Simcha Zissel of Kelm (Chochmah U’mussar 2:355) takes it even further by pointing out that the meisit’s severity is applied even though he only attempted his vice. Thus, it’s the attempting itself—even if it brought to no fruition and actual deed—that encompasses the entire harshness of the meisit. Says R’ Simcha, there’s a concept of “middah tova m’ruba”—that the measure of good is greater than the measure of bad [500 times greater, for that matter (Gemara Yoma, 76a with Rashi)]. Hence, even if someone is involved in just trying and attempting to bring others closer to Hashem, the merit of such a person is incredibly great. For if the meisit is judged so harshly, then the “mekarev”—even in sole isolation of his attempts—is deemed with so much favor based on the concept of middah tova m’ruba. In other words, the greatness of his reward is 500 times greater in parallel to the greatness of the meisit’s punishment. [Additionally, according to our understanding of the Rosh’s broadening of the concept of a meisit in that care is to be taken simply from being involved in causing one to do something wrong, we can also highlight the significance of simply initiating and encouraging others to do something good.]

This novel idea from R’ Simcha in the overwhelming significance of just trying to helping others spiritually is not just highlighting the immense reward and favor that Hashem bestows unto such a person, but, as R’ Yerucham Levovitz (Daas Torah, Vayelech, p. 97) points out, it also can help fortify and strengthen those who are dedicated to kiruv and in spreading Torah and the awareness of Hashem to others. For at times one may get discouraged that his efforts don’t seem to be bringing to any fruition or results that he may have wanted or expected. Yet, if the whole punishment of the meisit is narrowed into just his sole attempt, then the worthiness, merits and significance of a mekarev and of one who disseminates Torah is applied toward his simple endeavoring and attempt, and thus just his trying alone in this realm is extremely great and a tremendous success unto itself. Not only that, R’ Levovitz takes even a step further by pointing out that although the meisit simply just attempted to lure others toward avoda zara, its severity surprisingly outweighs a situation where one performed the actual deed of avoda zara. And therefore, much like the meisit who only attempted and yet whose punishment is worse than someone who committed the act of avoda zara, so too the mekarev’s attempt can be greater than the performance of the actual good deed(s) that one may be trying to inspire others toward.

While of course it’s natural to want to see the “fruits of our labor,” understanding the incredible value of just being involved and attempting to inspire and draw others closer to Torah and Hashem can be a valuable source of chizuk for those committed to such a lofty work.

Binyamin Benji can be reached at [email protected]

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