Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You Only Need to Do Your Best

Rav Zalman of Volozhin, zt”l, was a child prodigy. At fourteen he learned in the great beis medrash in Vilna, and was well known for his brilliance. Once, a certain man came to him and expressed a desire to say over a, “peirush tov on a Mishnah in Maseches D’mai.” Since the man, like so many Lithuanian Jews of that time, pronounced his shin as a sin, what he said sounded like, “peiros tov.”
The young Rav Zalman heard his visitor out, but he felt that the man’s interpretation was off. He felt a bit annoyed at having such bitter “peiros tov” thrust upon him, and he responded sharply after the man finished, “That isn’t peiros tov—it’s peiros d’mai!” Meaning, this is the awful “fruit” of the scholarship of an ignoramus.
As soon as the abashed man left, Rav Zalman was filled with remorse. How could he shame a fellow Jew who was talking in learning to the best of his ability? Even though they had spoken one on one and Rav Zalman hadn’t shamed him in public, there was no excuse for such behavior. He frantically started to search the town for the man to beg his forgiveness but to no avail. The man was nowhere to be found.
Rav Zalman searched for this man for well over a decade but still couldn’t find him. It was only with great difficulty that Rav Zalman’s son-in-law was able to stop him from undertaking a personal exile and taking up wandering throughout Lita so that he could admit his sin in every shul throughout the land in the hope of finding the wronged man.
When the Vilna Gaon heard about this, he summoned Rav Zalman to try and comfort and encourage him. The Gaon closed their conversation by saying, “You did everything you possibly could to find the wronged party and make amends. About just such a case the Chovos Halevavos writes in the tenth chapter of Sha’ar Hateshuvah, “If a person earnestly repents after having sinned against his friend bodily or monetarily, Hashem will cause a broad-mindedness and a love to enter his friend’s heart until he forgives him….”
Such was Rav Zalman’s faith in the Gaon, that although he certainly was already familiar with these words of the Chovos Halevavos, he was instantly comforted as soon as the Gaon uttered them!

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