Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Mistake in Judgment

Rav Yisrael Salanter, zt”l, was very clear that one must take responsibility for his actions. He pointed out that even learned people often rationalize away what is clearly their halachic responsibility. One must always be aware that he is accountable for his actions to Hashem and his fellow man.
In a certain place there was a man who learned with amazing diligence. He was so careful to use every instant to learn that he when he was tired he would hold a lit candle in his hand to ensure that if he fell asleep he would wake up in a short time and continue learning.
One night he was especially tired, and instead of the candle waking him, he dropped it and continued to sleep. Sadly, the wooden shul in which he dozed went up in a blaze of fire. Although eventually it was doused, the flame caused a huge amount of damage.
When people found out how much this dedicated masmid had pushed himself to learn, they praised his superhuman dedication to Torah, calling him an angel. But Rav Yisrael Salanter, zt”l, vehemently disagreed with this approach. “See how this kind of ‘hasmadah’ is likely to have ruined this man’s ability to learn undisturbed for the rest of his life! Obviously it is forbidden for him to continue learning as was his wont, since he must now work full time to repay the vast damage that he caused. Due to an error in judgment of a single night he now is bound to pay the community back for his negligence.”

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