The Glory of Self-Restraint

A few years ago, a prominent community member acted in a deeply disrespectful way toward a greatly admired Rebbe. Weeks later, a son of this Rebbe was preparing to marry off a child, and a close chassid urged him to “send a message” to the individual who had conducted himself so inappropriately.

“I know you will be sending him a printed invitation, but at least don’t invite him personally to the chasunah!” he said.

The Rebbe’s son was opposed to the idea and reluctant to involve his father. Instead, he sent the chassid to his mother, the Rebbetzin, a saintly woman. “I know she will never agree,” the son said. “But you can talk to her.”

He was right. The Rebbetzin rejected the notion out of hand. As she was speaking to the chassid, the Rebbe unexpectedly passed by the room, and the Rebbetzin revealed to him the subject of the conversation.

“You don’t make cheshbonos (calculations) when it comes to simchos,” the Rebbe declared.

“But this isn’t a matter of cheshbonos,” the chassid respectfully argued. “We don’t have to allow ourselves to be trampled on.”

The Rebbe looked at the chassid and firmly declared, “Yes, one does have to let himself be trampled upon! Three times a day, [at the conclusion of Shemoneh Esrei,] we ask, ‘Let my soul be like dust to everyone…’”

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This week we learn about the various types of animals and birds that can be brought as a korban. While domesticated animals such as oxen and sheep can be brought, a kosher wild animal such as a deer cannot be used.

Rabbeinu Bachyei teaches that only those types of animals and birds that are generally among the pursued and persecuted are to be brought on the mizbei’ach and not those creatures known as predators. He lists the types of fowl that are permissible as a korban and states, “There are no [creatures] as pursued as the young doves and turtledoves.”

Chazal (Shabbos 88b) state, “They who suffer insults but do not inflict them, who hear themselves being embarrassed and do not answer back, who perform [mitzvos] out of love and rejoice in suffering, of such [people] it says (Shoftim 5:31), ‘And they who love Him are like the powerful rising sun.’”

What is the connection between the sun and those who don’t return insults?

The Torah first refers to both the sun and the moon as “me’oros hagedolim,” the great lights, and then refers to them as the “greater” and “lesser” lights.

Chazal teach us that originally the sun and the moon were both equal in size. However, the moon complained to Hashem, saying, “It is impossible for two kings to use the same crown.”

The Ribbono shel Olam responded by instructing the moon, “Go and make yourself smaller…”

When a person is shamed by another, it is comparable to the humiliation experienced by the sun when the moon registered its complaint, and therefore, its reward is also equivalent to the glorious light and warmth of the rising sun.

When Dovid Hamelech was forced to flee Yerushalayim when his own son Avshalom staged a coup against him, Shimi ben Gera came toward him and pelted him and his servants with stones, hurling vicious insults and curses at Dovid.

When Avishai ben Tzeruiah sought to defend the honor of the king and slay Shimi, Dovid Hamelech immediately intervened. “Let him be, let him curse,” he said, “for Hashem has told him to.”

In the merit of this extraordinary demonstration of restraint, Dovid Hamelech merited to reach incomprehensible spiritual heights. He also saved Klal Yisrael.

For Mordechai was a descendant of Shimi, and had Dovid allowed him to be killed, Mordechai, whose righteousness saved Klal Yisrael at the time of Achashverosh, would never have been born.

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In an era when sticking up for our rights is often assumed to be of paramount importance and those who decide to be mevater are looked upon as weaklings and pushovers, it is especially important to remember the Torah-true approach to this all-too-common issue.

While much depends on the particular circumstances of each situation, and daas Torah must often be consulted to verify which path is appropriate, there are many cases when the most rewarding and appropriate approach is to emulate Dovid Hamelech. While we must make great efforts never to mistreat others, when we ourselves are offended, we are obligated to recognize that even though the insult was deeply hurtful, it actually came from Hashem and was for our own benefit.

When an individual refrains from hurling back invectives that are sent his way, when he restrains himself from responding to hurtful acts, he merits such a glorious reward that he will end up being grateful to his tormentor.

A highly worthwhile investment in self-control.