July 18, 2024
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Remembering Hashem, Remembering Ourselves

What may contribute to focusing on, and speaking negatively about, another person’s seeming shortcomings or actions? According to Rav Leib Chasman, it seems that there are two factors that can contribute to this:

1) Forgetting Hashem. For when one remembers Hashem—that He has mercy on everyone and tolerates everyone, then he too may go ahead and emulate Hashem’s middot to have mercy on others and tolerate their shortcomings.

2) Forgetting oneself. For if one looks within himself, he may realize that that which he demeans in others, may actually apply to himself—he may have that very shortcoming. It may be possible to see this from the account involving Korach’s accusation and criticism of Moshe and Aharon when he exclaimed to them, “Why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?”

Rav Chasman notes that Korach had a bias—he desired the position of Elitzafan ben Uzziel (see the first Rashi in our parsha), and hence, really Korach himself desired to be exalted over others! He thus forgot to introspect, to look within himself to decipher from where his claim on Moshe and Aharon was stemming from. If he indeed looked within himself, he may have seen that it applied to himself.

At the time of Korach’s machloket, the Gemara (Nedarim 39) records that the sun and the moon claimed to Hashem: “Master of the Universe, if you render justice on behalf of the son of Amram (i.e., Moshe), [then] we will illuminate the earth. But if not, we will not illuminate [the earth any longer]!” Indeed, the sun and moon could not bear Korach’s debased actions.

However, Hashem responded to them with a compelling argument: “Each and every day, people bow down to you [with idolatrous intent] and [yet] you [continue to] illuminate [the world]. For My honor you do not protest, but for the honor of flesh and blood you do protest?”

Rav Chasman seems to see the two aforementioned factors within Hashem’s argument to the sun and moon. When Hashem retorted, “Each and every day, people bow down to you [with idolatrous intent] and [yet] you [continue to] illuminate [the world],” He was essentially challenging them to “remember themselves”—to look within themselves, telling them: Why don’t you cease to illuminate in protest for My honor? In fact, you keep quiet and continue to illuminate despite the fact that there are those who bow down to you!

And when Hashem retorted, “For My honor you do not protest,” He was essentially challenging them to “remember Hashem,” telling them: Look at how much insults I tolerate. And despite all of it, I continue to mercifully illuminate the earth. Remember this, and go in My ways. (See Ohr Yahel 1, pgs. 84-86, and Lekach Tov, Korach, 16:5).

As we head into the month of Tammuz, the loss of our Batei Mikdash may become more on the forefront of our minds. The Gemara (Yoma 9) teaches that the second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinat chinam. The Chafetz Chaim explains that it was also due to lashon hara, since lashon hara is a result of sinat chinam. The Gemara there also teaches that the first Beit HaMikdash was destroyed due to the three cardinal sins—idolatry, illicit relations and bloodshed, teaching us that sinat chinam is tantamount to the three cardinal sins!

Furthermore, the Gemara Yerushalmi (Yoma 1:1) teaches that “Any generation in whose days [the Beit HaMikdash] is not rebuilt is reckoned as though it had destroyed [the Beit HaMikdash].” This, perhaps, can indicate that sinat chinam—and according to the Chafetz Chaim, perhaps also lashon hara—continues to prevent the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, and also, that these unfortunate happenings still exist, even (at least) to the degree as was during the generation in which the second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed!

By “remembering Hashem,” by focusing on His attributes of mercy, benevolence and tolerance, and also, by “remembering ourselves,” by looking within ourselves to determine whether the shortcomings which we perceive in others may truly reside within ourselves, can perhaps help us overcome sinat chinam and lashon hara, and bring us closer to the coming of Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash. May it be rebuilt speedily in our days.


Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, and Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

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