A broken-hearted widow came to Harav Yaakov, the Rav of Hrimilov and author of Kochav MiYaakov, and poured out her tale of woe. Left without a sustainable income, she hadn’t been able to pay the rent for some time. Her landlord had informed her in no uncertain terms that unless she paid up promptly, she and her orphaned children would be thrown into the street.
The Rav sent a messenger to the landlord — who was a very wealthy individual — pleading on her behalf.
“You have so many other houses that you rent,” the Rav implored. “Just because you didn’t get rent on this one house is reason to evict an almanah and yesomim?”
Offended by the very suggestion of not collecting what he believed was rightfully his, the man refused to consider it.
This incident happened during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. During davening on Yom Kippur morning, the landlord approached the Rav’s young son Berish’l — later to become famous as the Tchebiner Rav — and pointed to the lengthy piyut that the mispallelim were about to recite during Kedushah.
“Go tell your father,” the rich man told the child, “there are so many Yotzros, maybe it is possible to forgo one of them…”
The landlord was certain that the Rav would never consider leaving out any of the piyutim, let alone one so important that it is actually recited during Kedushah.
Young Berish went over to his father and repeated the message. The Kochav MiYaakov — who certainly was very cognizant of the sanctity of this piyut and the gravity of changing an ancient minhag — walked over to the baal tefillah and motioned to him to leave out this piyut.
On Motzoei Shabbos, word came from the landlord. He would forgive the back rent owed, and the widow and her children could stay in their apartment.
Young Beirish and his brother Nachum — later to become Rav of Dombrova — promptly ran out of the house and raced through the streets, each hoping to be the one to tell the widow the glad tidings.
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In this week’s parashah we learn of the gravity of those who hurt the feelings of a widow and an orphan.
Im aneh se’aneh oso, ki im tza’ok yitz’ak eilai, shamoa eshma tzaakaso — If you [dare to] cause him pain … for if he shall cry out to me, I shall surely hear his outcry … (Shemos 22:22)
The Kli Yakar wonders about the double leshonos in this passuk, aneh se’aneh, tza’ok yitz’ak, and shamoa eshma. In each case, one word would have sufficed to express the meaning.
The Kli Yakar asks further why the Torah, which appears to be referring to both a widow and an orphan, uses the word oso — cause him pain, rather than osam — cause them pain.
The Kli Yakar offers this explanation: Since Hashem is the father of orphans, He, too, is troubled when they are, and is pained whenever they are in pain. Therefore, the Torah tells us, Im aneh — if you will cause pain to an orphan, se’anah Oso — you are causing pain to Him, k’vayachol — to Hakadosh Baruch Hu Himself.
At that time there is a great hue and cry in Shamayim, and this Heavenly cry is coupled with the cry of the orphan in this world. It is to these two cries that Hashem listens.
Another explanation for the double lashon of aneh se’aneh is the fact that when the feelings of an orphan are hurt, this also reminds him of his devastating loss. If only my father were alive, then this person would never have acted this way to me, the orphan thinks to himself. So every time he is hurt, it is a double pain.
When a widow or a divorcée and her children encounter financial difficulties — which, unfortunately, is frequently the case — their pain is an almost unbearable one. Every time they feel constrained from making a basic purchase, every time they struggle to pay a bill — it is a painful reminder of their specific circumstances.
Chazal teach us that middah tovah merubah — the measure of reward for good deeds is greater than the measure of punishment for wrongdoing.
The Torah informs us of the terrible punishment inflicted on those who hurt widows and orphans. We have no inkling of just how great the reward is for those who open their hearts and wallets to come to their aid. Their actions reverberate in the very Heavens, and create angels of protection for all of Klal Yisrael.