Monday, July 20, 2015

Judgments: Above and Below

"When there is no judgment below, there is judgment above". [Devarim Rabbah 5:4]

"You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your fellow man. And do not bear (lo tisa) sin on his account."  [Leviticus 19:17]

Reuven scoffed and cursed a Torah scholar.  The following day the scholar went to the rabbinic court to sue.  Reuven's friends asked the scholar to forgive Reuven, but he refused.

The peacemakers said: "You have already renounced your claim against him three times."

"When did I renounce my claim?" asked the scholar, "and before whom?"

"Before Hashem" said the peacemakers.  "In the prayers of Mincha, Arvit and Shacharit, which you prayed since yesterday's unfortunate incident.  At the end of the Amidah you said "To those who curse me, my soul will be silent".  After such a declaration how can you speak in court against someone who cursed you?"

"You have spoken well" said the scholar, "but allow me to explain the true meaning of this prayer.

"There are two ways to lodge a complaint. Either the soul can speak in the Heavenly Court when it ascends each night, or the body can speak in the earthly court.

"The prayer says "To those who curse me, my soul will be silent".  I am still entitled to lodge a complaint in the earthly court.

"Woe to the victim who cries out, more than to the one who wronged him." [Bava Kamma 93a]

A victim calls upon G-d to punish the one who wronged him - and Heaven treats the victim more severely!  Why?

Let's say Reuven called on G-d to judge Shimon for doing him a grave injustice. Shimon will not be punished until the Heavenly Court judges him.  But Reuven himself probably wronged others at some point in his life - and for him, judicial procedures can be dispensed with.  He himself admitted that such sins warrant severe punishment!
Source: from the writings of the Ben Ish Chai


Anonymous said...

What you are saying is incorrect. If someone wrongs you or hurts you, the Torah wants you to cry out to Hashem. And don't worry, Hashem will act to punish the wrongdoer here on earth. Hashem will not wait until the person dies to try the person because Hashem knows the truth already and he will act against the scoundrel.

Devorah said...

The Ben Ish Chai is not incorrect. He is not saying that you cannot cry out to Hashem, but rather he is warning that if you yourself are guilty of the same sin, you will be judged first.

For example, if you stole an apple, and then someone stole that apple from you, and you then cry out that your apple has been stolen, you will be judged first.

If, however, you are not guilty of the sin of theft, then you can rest assured that there is nothing upon which to judge you negatively.

Of course the guilty party will also be judged and punished, but perhaps not immediately and perhaps not even in his lifetime. Sometimes judgments come down from Heaven many years after the original sin was committed, and sometimes seemingly not at all.

You seem very confident that Hashem will ''act against the scoundrel''. But that is not always the case. We all know of people who have ''got away with murder''. Sometimes judgments come many years later, sometimes never. Sometimes a person dies without ever being found guilty here on earth. Perhaps those people will suffer by missing out on Olam HaBo. Only Hashem decides when and where and how to punish people.

The Ben Ish Chai is not saying that all guilty people are only punished after they die. He is making a point that before you accuse someone else of a crime, examine your own deeds, as you may well be guilty of the very same crime, in which case you will also be judged.

The point here is to remember than whenever something bad happens to us, it is from Shamayim. The person who brought the bad thing to us will have to deal with his own punishments from Heaven, but in the meantime we should examine ourselves and see if this particular sin was also committed by us, and if so we should do teshuva for it.

bracha said...

I really, really admire how you explained the above Ben Ish Chai.
You put it brilliantly... Kol HaKavod!