Setting Our Own Price Tag

A young man approached his Dayan with the following question. During an upcoming business trip he would be staying for a day in an area without a minyan. Is he obligated to take a taxi — at a very considerable expense — and travel a significant distance to daven with a minyan?

Based on the specific details of the case, the Dayan informed him that halachically he was not obligated to do so.

“However,” the Dayan added. “You should know that the Chasam Sofer teaches that the reward that a person receives for fulfilling a mitzvah correlates to how much the mitzvah is worth in his own eyes. Therefore, a person who shows that, when necessary, he is willing to spend a large amount of money and time in order daven with a minyan will receive a far greater reward for all the other times he davens with minyan as well.”

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With this concept, Hagaon Harav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt”l, explains a passuk in this week’s parashah. We learn that Hashem “repays those who hate Him, to their face, to cause them to perish.”

Rashi explains that the sinners receive the reward for any good they may have done in this world, and so they are no longer entitled to any reward in the World to Come.

At first glance, this notion appears to be perplexing. We know that there is no reward for mitzvos in this limited, temporal world (Kiddushin 39b). The merit of a single mitzvah is greater than the value of everything in this physical world. So how is possible that the wicked are rewarded for the good they have done in this world?

The answer is that because the wicked themselves so greatly undervalue the mitzvos they perform, their reward, too, is very limited and can be repaid in this world.

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There is another very important aspect of this topic, one that all of us should constantly keep in mind. The wicked are rewarded for their good deeds in this world; the rest of us endure suffering and discomfort, so that we should merit atonement for our sins here, and enjoy the bliss of paradise in the World to Come.

The second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam.

But in virtually every case, a person claims to have ample reason to carry out a vendetta against his fellow man. He claims that he was maligned, mistreated, disrespected, humiliated, or cheated. Why, then, is this called sinas “chinam”?

The Vilna Gaon explains that the reason it is sinas chinam is that the purported victim ought to realize that the alleged perpetrator is merely a messenger from Hashem. If it wouldn’t have been through him, it would have been through someone else.

When Yosef Hatzaddik revealed himself to his brothers, he declared, “But now do not be sad, and let it not trouble you that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that Hashem sent me before you.” When Shimi, the son of Geira, hurled curses and insults at Dovid Hamelech as he fled Yerushalayim during the uprising of Avshalom, Dovid Hamelech refused to allow him to be punished on the spot, saying, “Hashem told him, curse.”

Hating the person who provided yissurim as an atonement for your sins is sinas chinam.

One might try to counter this argument by claiming that by choosing to be the messenger, the man has identified himself as a bad person. After all, Chazal teach us megalgelin chov al yedei chayiv. So it is the evil choice of that person that you are resenting.

But in that case, a simple litmus test would apply that would verify your true motives for hatred. If that person had committed the same misdeeds against someone else — would you be just as angry? Would you feel the same amount of hatred?

If the answer is no, that is proof positive that it’s not the fact that the other person chose to commit evil, but the fact that it happened to you. Since it would have happened to you in any case, your hatred is indeed sinas chinam.

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Shabbos Nachamu is the Shabbos of consolation. May we merit speedily in our days to witness the coming of Moshiach. And then, when we reap the rewards of our suffering, and recognize how it was all for our benefit, we will be truly consoled.