Sunday, April 18, 2010

“The Sinners of Israel”

A certain maskil once met with a tzaddik and asked him to explain the meaning of a seemingly difficult midrash. The midrash recounts that Hashem showed Moshe a fiery coin, and said, “Give your tzedakah like this.” Why not show him a coin of silver, which is what the machatzis hashekel was actually made?” The tzaddik was unsure of what this could mean, so the maskil himself offered an interpretation. “This means that when one gives charity he should do so with warmth and fiery enthusiasm!”
When the tzaddik heard this explanation from the maskil he felt discouraged since he had not thought of this lovely pshat. A certain visitor to the Beis Yaakov of Ishbitz, zt”l, told him this story and then asked, “What merit did the maskil have to say such an inspiring pshat on the midrash?”
The Beis Yaakov was not at all surprised that the maskil had come up with such a lovely chiddush. He explained why by quoting a famous statement of our sages. “We are taught that even the sinners of Israel are filled with mitzvos like a pomegranate is filled with seeds. Hashem does not write off any Jew. Even the people who are very distant from Hashem feel an inexplicable desire to donate money to tzedakah, thereby earning a portion in the next world. Is it any wonder then that in the area where this maskil excels, he had an unusual insight?”
When Rav Eliyahu Chaim Meisel, zt”l, came up against ignorant and impudent Jews who refused his requests for help that was well within their means, he remarked. “A tzaddik knows that he is very far from perfection and is always on the lookout for opportunities to improve. Conversely, our sages remark that even the sinners of Israel are filled with mitzvos like a pomegranate. A person who is almost empty of mitzvos feels so filled spiritually by the little he does that he has no drive to improve himself!”
But Rav Boruch of Mejbuz, zt”l, learned an even more biting lesson from this statement. “We see that a person who is truly filled with mitzovs like a pomegranate, can still be considered a sinner, פושע ישראל,”

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