Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Toward the end of this week’s parsha we read about the incident with the “mekalel,” the person who blasphemed Hashem and whose punishment was his loss of life.

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 32:3) gives the background story, the antecedent leading up to this terrible crime. This person wanted to establish his living quarters in the tribe of Dan, but they confronted him and asked him what he’s doing. He argued back saying his mother is a descendant of that tribe. However, they replied that rights to a portion are based on paternal lineage, not maternal. So they went to Moshe Rabbeinu’s court, and sure enough the verdict came out not in favor of this person. What was this person’s reaction? Says the Midrash, “He got up and blasphemed [Hashem].”

We can imagine that this person might have been quite upset, and it’s perhaps understandable to be frustrated in such a situation. But the blaspheming seems a bit extreme, and so sudden of a reaction!

Moreover, R’ Aryeh Leib Bakst (Kol Aryeh, p. 156-158) notes that in theory, the mekalel could’ve gathered himself and his thoughts together and reconsidered different living plans. Okay, so it won’t be in the tribe of Dan. It’s definitely not the end of the world, and there are other areas to live in. So let’s look for a different place to live—and you can thrive elsewhere and still achieve success within the greater Jewish populace! Other options are surely available.

R’ Bakst says that we learn from here a tremendous idea: When things go counter to one’s wishes and hopes and what he thinks is right, in those moments care is to be taken against reacting suddenly and hastily, but instead to try to remain composed, patient and take a deeper look into one’s current affairs to see how he can reorganize his life and plans. Acting impulsively and being led by the spurt of emotion can lead to unwanted results.

Iyov went through enormous sufferings and challenges. His life was so drastic that his wife even “recommended” that he blaspheme Hashem to thereby lose his life, thus putting an end to his excruciating difficulties. But Iyov held on strong, not blaspheming Hashem. And as R’ Bakst says, despite Iyov’s terrible sufferings, he nevertheless didn’t act upon his wife’s advice suddenly and impulsively, but rather contained himself.

Iyov’s patience paid off with big dividends. Indeed, he persevered and ended up with much success and bounty, much more than he even had before his afflictions (See Iyov, 42:12-17). And so we see that while on the one hand a lack of patience can contribute to the unwanted like we see from the mekalel, on the other hand, living with patience can lead to a beautiful ending as by Iyov.

Pirkei Avot (1:1) says “he’vu metunim ba’din.” We are to be calculated, thought out and patient in regard to judgment [“din”] (see Rabbeinu Yona). Yet, perhaps we can add another dimension into this potentially life-altering clause, and that is that when a person experiences “din”—judgment, i.e., hard times in his life, nevertheless be thought out and patient; try to remain composed and patient during those times that seem like “din.” Indeed, Kohelet (5:1) states “don’t be rash with your mouth, and your heart shouldn’t be quick to say something before Hashem,” and the Taalumot Chochma explains that this refers to anyone who finds himself in a situation of “din”—i.e., when Hashem is relating to one with His attribute of judgment—he should be careful not to speak against Hashem.

In challenging times, it may happen that a person’s emotions are at the surface. Yet, understanding the benefits of patience, one may be better equipped to exercise self control, be resilient and persevere. By being patient, going with the flow and letting Hashem navigate our lives, things can end up settling once again. As the Chafetz Chaim said, the majority of one’s problems are solved simply with patience.

Furthermore, sticking things out and being patient through the challenging process, much like we see by Iyov, can lead one to a much better place. Perhaps even sometimes to a place where one wouldn’t have thought he would’ve reached.

Binyamin can be reached at [email protected]

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