Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#35 - Measure for Measure: G-d's Grace to Us

As an introduction to the theme of this post, I want to refer to a piece from my 31th Post - Kindness & Mercy on BOTH Sides of the Street.

When Miriam was stricken with Tzara'at as a result of speaking against her brother Moshe behind his back, Moshe prayed E-l Nah Rephah Nah Lah - "Please G-d, heal her now". I explained there that Hashem's response to this prayer represented an aspect of Midah K'Neged Midah - Measure for Measure as pertaining to the 13 Attributes of Mercy.

In my 31st Post, I mentioned that E-l (G-d), the first word of Moshe's brief prayer of five words, is also the first of the 13 Attributes of Mercy, and that it is the Gematria of 31. In similar fashion, the last word of Moshe's brief prayer of five words is the word Lah/to her or for her (in the orginal context, it means simply "her"). Very interestingly, the Haftara - the reading of the Prophets - corresponding to the Parsha of the incident of Miriam - Parshat Beha'alotcha - (also the very Haftara for (the first Shabbos of) Chanuka) ends off with the words "Chen Chen Lah", thus the very last word is also Lah. Lah is the Gematria of 35, and this is my 35th Post.

That's nice, but this would mean absolutely nothing without what will be the theme of this Post. You see, the word Chen, which is repeated right next to the last word Lah, means grace. And so why is this word Chen repeated?

Technically, I should have the title of this post named: Kindness & Mercy on BOTH Sides of the Street - Part Two. However, this post does not immediately follow my 31th Post, and I want to word this a little differently to be a little more direct about what this theme is about. You see, it's very simple. If we are gracious to others - even if in our lowly opinion - he or she is not worthy of it, Hashem will be gracious to us the same way. It is that simple. So it is a double grace here - not just a matter of asking for a free gift from Hashem without earning it; otherwise, our souls could have remained in Heaven basking in Hashem's glory, but we would always feel the "bread of shame" for receiving something without earning it, and thus Hashem rewards us not only in the world to come - eternity, but even in this world as a bonus for our good relationship with others, which at times may be challenging. As the Jewish people, we are in effect, Hashem's bride, and so the grace comes back "to her" to Hashem's bride for the grace we first grant to Hashem's creatures among the totality of the nation who is Hashem's bride. Indeed the Hebrew word for bride is Kallah, the second syllable of it being the word of Lah - to her or for her!

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero of the 1500s, whose Yahrzeit is today - 23 Tamuz - wrote a Sefer/Holy Book called Tomer Devorah, based on the 13 Attributes of Mercy - demonstrating how we should treat one another in the same way as we would want Hashem to treat us. While one of the purposes of my blogspot http://www.gematriot.blogspot.com/ is to make Torah sound interesting, especially through the use of Gematria, it is the glue for the ultimate purpose of this blogspot - what we could all learn from these Gematriot to be a better Jew. And so, for the remainder of this Post - I will be listing these 13 ways of treating other people (it is very important to treat non-Jews who do not show hatred towards us with kindness and mercy also, as they are also Hashem's creatures and treating them accordingly will be a Kiddush Hashem, Sanctification of Hashem's Name) as corresponding to Hashem's Attributes of Mercy - as outlined in the first chapter of Rabbi Cordovero's book Tomer Devorah, in imitating one's Maker. One who always follows in this path is ASSURED that he will be pleasing and loved by all creatures.

1) Patience - Putting up with someone.

2) "Bearing Sin" - Bearing the wrong until the wrongdoer rectifies the wrong or stops doing it.

3) "Overlooking Sin" - Forgiving the wrongdoer, not having an attitude of "Am I going to rectify the sin or destruction of this guy?"

4) "You shall love your friend as yourself" - It has to be remembered that as Jews, we are spiritually the same flesh; thus, when one sins, he/she blemishes oneself as well as others. Thus, one should want others to have goodness, and have a good eye for this. ANOTHER'S HONOR SHOULD BE DEAR TO ONESELF AS ONE'S OWN, FOR SPIRITUALLY, ONE'S FRIEND IS ACTUALLY ONESELF. One should want another to appear upright, and not speak of or wish his/her disgrace or pain at all. If anything, one should imagine oneself as the other person in that same pain or goodness.

5) "Not Holding on to Anger" - Even when one is technically permitted to reprove another with afflictions, as with one's young children, one should not overdue it - and certainly not with anger. Ultimately, the best way of accomplishing one's goal of reproving another is through love.

6) "Wishing Kindness" - Even when one sees another doing evil and angering him/her, if he/she has a good side such as doing good to others, this point alone should remove one's anger towards that person. One should grant kindness to such a person such as saying "It's enough of a reason to treat him/her as a proper person for the good part in him/her". This is especially applicable pertaining to one's wife who may not always treat him the way he likes it, as one rabbi in the Talmud said in response to how his wife didn't treat him so nicely "It's enough that she raises our children and saves us from sin". (NOTE: There would be many less divorces if husbands would focus their attention on the good points of their wives rather than on their faults, as though the husbands are "free of faults").

7) Not bearing a grudge from one's previous anger. Rather, when meeting the person with whom he/she had a problem with, should seek to love that person. If anything, the degree of mercy and love towards that person should be much more than before.

8) Not ignoring another's goodness instead of remembering the bad with which the other may have mistreated him/her. If anything, one should totally ignore the bad behavior of the other, and only recall the good points of the other, and not even "While he/she may have done some good for me, he/she also did some bad things to me", which is in fact essentially forgetting the good that the other did for him/her. One should not do this!!! One should make every effort not to ever ignore the good that this person did for him/her, and one should turn his/her eye away from the bad points of the other in every way possible.

9) One should not hate even a wicked person who is beset with troubles as, in the context of a sinner who received lashes from a Jewish court "Now that he has been flogged, he is like your brother". Moreover, one should embrace the rebels and those punished for their misdeeds and have mercy on them. One should even go to the extent of saving them from their enemies, instead of saying, "Well, his sins brought on his troubles".

10) One needs to treat another with the aspect of straightforwardness and truth, without twisting justice for him/her.

11) Even for a simple person, one should treat him/her with righteousness, fairness, and justice. But with clearly good and pious people, one should deal with them beyond the letter of the law, and be extra patient with them. These people should be most especially be considered important and dear to him/her, and be among one's group of friends.

12) Even if one should meet up with wicked people, he/she should not be cruel towards them or disgrace them; but rather, he/she should have mercy on them, saying, "Ultimately, even they are the descendants of our Patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. Even if they themselves are not worthy people, their ancestors were most certainly worthy. One who disgraces the children, in effect, disgraces the parents, and it is not my wish that their ancestors should be disgraced thanks to me." One should rather cover up their bad points, and fix them according to his strength.

13) One should conduct one's affairs with human beings even if not even a shred of goodness can be found among them. One should rather say: "There was already a time that they didn't sin, for at an earlier stage, they were worthy poeple", remembering the love he had for them beforehand. AND IT IS THROUGH THIS that one should only treat even another who is not worthy with goodness and pray for his/her welfare, and have mercy on that person. THIS CHARACTERISTIC TRAIT (MEASURE) COMBINES ALL THE PREVIOUS CHARACTERISTIC TRAITS.

It is through the above 13 characteristic traits that one shold be similar to his Maker, as these are traits of higher mercies. The same good way that one behaves towards others is how the similar flow will fall on oneself, and causes that trait to shine in the world. These traits should always remain in one's memory and not turn away from these, in order that the particular trait should not depart and disappear from the world. EXPERIENCE HAS SHOWN THAT ONE WHO CONDUCTS ONESELF WITH THESE CHARACTERISTIC TRAITS IS VERY MUCH LOVED BY ALL.

For more detail on this, especially in terms of how Hashem treats us with kindness and mercy, refer to this Sefer of Tomer Devorah, which is also translated into English. Some editions include this as apportioned for monthly study divided into 30 parts.

G-d willing, will post next week on Rosh Chodesh Av about the light from the darkness of Tisha B'Av.

23 Tamuz 5769, Yahrzeit of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero

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