Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Love of the Ohev Yisrael

A shochet holds a position of responsibility and can be removed at any time if he is deemed unfit. There is much discussion in the poskim regarding exactly what blemish disqualifies a shochet and in what circumstances his contrite repentance will allow him to retain his job.
One time, a certain shochet was caught doing the sin for which Pinchas held Zimri to account. Although this man had a large family of dependents, many people wished to remove him from his post. Rav Meir of Premishlan, zt”l, vehemently agreed with them. However, the Ohev Yisrael of Apt, zt”l, insisted that they give the repentant shochet another chance, especially since he did his job carefully and had no other way to support his family.
When the Apter Rav told Rav Meir his opinion, the latter asked him how he could possibly justify such a position. “Our sages tell us that this sin is so severe that 'קנאים פוגעין בו'—zealots may dispense justice just like Pinchas did with Zimri. What relevance does his livelihood have in our situation where he violated such a serious transgression?”
“That is not how I learn that gemara at all,” the Ohev Yisrael replied. “The word פוגעין also means to pray. I understand the statement, 'קנאים פוגעין בו'—those who are zealous must pray for the unfortunate sinner and induce him to repent sincerely. We can learn this from Moshe Rabbeinu’s response to Pinchas as well. He told Pinchas, 'קריינא דאיגרתא'—‘is this how you read this letter?’ Moshe meant to explain that he did not act as Pinchas because he understood that his job was to tearfully pray for the wretched sinners.
“Even so, Moshe did not stop Pinchas from acting on his pshat. He said to him: 'לכן היה אתה השליח בה'—since you understand this halachah differently than I do, you are certainly within your rights to carry out your understanding of the law.”
The Ohev Yisrael concluded, “You are certainly within your rights to have this man deposed since, according to your understanding, he may not be retained as a shochet. However I will take no part in this since I do not understand that way at all!”

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