Friday, February 12, 2010

The Importance of Fine Distinctions

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, once explained the importance of learning the laws of money to our avodas Hashem. “Our sages teach that if a guarantor obligates himself orally, he is required to repay the debt if the debtor cannot. Although this should by rights be asmachtah and therefore not binding, the pleasure that he receives when the lender gives the borrower a loan based on his word causes him to obligate himself.
“This seems to be the opposite of what simple logic would dictate, and is another example of, ‘He who wishes to become wise should learn the laws of money.’ Through learning the fine distinctions between different monetary cases, one is able to live like a good Jew, since the foundation of being a good Jew is the ability to act on fine distinctions. This is because the difference between light and darkness—and between living like a Jew and like a non-Jew— is merely a hairsbreadth.
He continued, “Fine distinctions are necessary for attaining and maintaining a proper worldview in our times. Although idolatry is practically extinct nowadays, a discerning person will understand that our challenge is whether we attribute the good in our lives to Hashem or to natural causes. For example, does a person who was ill and was healed by doctors understand that Hashem healed him? Or does he attribute his recovery to natural causes alone? Although we live in a physical world and our deliverance comes to us in the guise of the natural order, we must not be fooled. If one is completely focused on the natural world, how is he different from the idolaters in the time of Enosh? The Rambam tells us that they believed that Hashem was the ultimate source but felt that their deliverance came from an idol and not from Hashem. The same is true of money. Those who are preoccupied with the natural means of earning money and never give Hashem a thought worship gold and silver instead of Hashem. It is only through the clear discernment that comes from Torah study that a person can avoid such fallacies and truly worship Hashem.
Rav Shlomo Zalman concluded, “Hashem should help us see that the entire expanse of creation is a vehicle for the revelation of Hashem. As the verse states, ‘The earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covers the bed of the sea.’”

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