09 Mar RUN LIKE A DEER
In Pirkei Avos (5:20) “Reb Yehudah ben Teima says, ‘Be brazen like a leopard, swift like an eagle, run like a deer, and be strong like a lion to do the will of your Father in heaven.”
Reb Shimon Sofer zt”l asks, (1) After stating that one should be swift like an eagle, why does it say the slower pace, “run like a deer”? In modern terms, this would be like someone saying, “Be quick like a jet, and also like a car.” (2) Where do we find in Tanach that a deer runs quickly, that the mishnah uses it as an example?
Chazal tell us (based on the final passuk of Shir HaShirim) that the nature of a deer is that when it runs away, it repeatedly turns its head back to look behind it. Reb Shimon Sofer said that the Mishnah is telling us to be swift in avodas Hashem like an eagle, but one should also adapt the nature of the deer who keeps looking back. This means that even when one is growing in his avodas Hashem, swift like an eagle, he still shouldn’t forget to look back and see others who are in need. His spiritual growth shouldn’t cause him to lose sight of others. Kiddush Levanah is a very special time.
Chazal say that Kiddush Levanah is like welcoming the face of the Shechinah. It is also a protection. The Shaarei Teshuvah tells that a band of thieves and murderers once caught a yid, and they granted him his final wish. He said that he wants to say Kiddush Levanah. They agreed. He jumped three times (as is the custom). While he was still airborne, a strong wind came and lifted him up and sent him far away from the thieves, saving his life.
The Magid (angel) told the Beis Yosef, “After you say Kiddush Levanah, you will certainly live through the month.” However, even when someone is saying this special prayer, and someone else greets him and says shalom aleichem, you must answer. (Not while saying the brachah, but afterwards.) Say three times shalom aleichem (as this is part of the nusach of kiddush levanah) because one must have in mind others, even in the most exalted moments.
Another reference to the lesson is the following halachah: “The time to read Shma in the morning is when [it is light enough for one to] see his friend… four cubits away, and he recognizes him” (Shulchan Aruch 55:1). Kriyas Shma is from the highest moments of the day, when we accept the yoke of heaven. At this special time, we must also be able to see our friends as well.
When a rav isn’t certain of a halachah, there is a tendency to rule lechumrah (stringently). He figures that if he is stringent, he is certainly safe. The Shevet Musar disagrees. He says that by being stringent he is avoiding a sin bein adam lamokom (to Hashem) but he may be sinning bein adam lechaveiro (to his fellow man). Yom Kippur atones for sins that are bein adam lamakom, but it doesn’t atone for sins that are bein adam lechaveiro, so one must be careful.
When a question regarding kashrus was brought to Reb Moshe Kliers zt”l, the Rav of Teveria, he was very careful to rule correctly. He would repeat the Shevet Mussar’s vort, and explain that if he makes a mistake, and says that the food is not kosher, he may be causing a poor person to lose money. That is a sin bein adam lechaveiro, that Yom Kippur doesn’t atone. In his sefer Me’il Tzedakah (î”ùúú) the Shevet Mussar teaches, “There is a form of charity that is easy to do, and the reward is great. This is to say kind words and to bring joy to someone who is anxious and worried about some matter. It is only words, so one shouldn’t be stingy with them. He should speak a lot [of such words to give comfort and encouragement to those who are going through hard times]. “I experienced this myself, because once I was speaking with someone who was in low spirits. Sometime later, he told me that if I wouldn’t have spoken with him, he would have committed suicide.”
Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk zy”a and his brother Rebbe Zusha zy”a were at an inn one night, sleeping on mattresses on the ground. (This happened during the years when these two tzaddikim traveled in ‘galus’ to purify themselves, and they attained extremely high levels.) Rowdy goyim came in. They were drinking vodka, and for entertainment they wanted to hurt a yid, chalilah. Rebbe Zusha and Rebbe Elimelech were sleeping in one of the corners of the room, so they went over to harm them. Rebbe Elimelech was sleeping closer to the wall, and Rebbe Zusha was closer to them, so they woke up Rebbe Zusha and hit him. They laughed and returned to their drinks. Rebbe Zusha returned to his mattress. Soon, the goyim were thirsty for more cruelty. They took Rebbe Zusha and hurt him again. This happened several times. Rebbe Elimelech said to Rebbe Zusha, “Let’s change places. Why should they beat you all the time?”
The goyim came again. This time, one of them said, “Why should we hurt this Jew again. Let his friend also remember that he was here.” So they took the yid who was sleeping near the wall, and hit him. But it was Rebbe Zusha again, since they had changed places. Rebbe Zusha said to Rebbe Elimelech, “Beloved brother, do you see? When it is bashert that someone be beaten, there is nothing one can do to prevent it. Wherever he will be, they will search for him to give him his share.” The Kedushas Tzion of Bobov zy”a told over the same story, but with significant variations, and the final lesson is also different.
The Kedushas Tzion said that it was the chassidim of Rebbe Elimelech and Rebbe Zusha who were in the inn (and not the rebbe’s themselves). The rest of the story is more or less the same. The goyim were drunk; they beat the one sleeping closer to them. Eventually, the chassidim changed places, but then the goyim decided to beat the person sleeping near the wall. They came to Rebbe Elimelech and told him what happened. Rebbe Elimelech replied, “A yid mustn’t seek to make his life better.” If the person, who was beaten the first few times, wouldn’t try to make his life easier and if he would remain in the same place, he wouldn’t have been hurt by the final beating.
The chassidim asked the rebbe, “Is it wrong to strive to live better?” It doesn’t seem rational that a person mustn’t seek to make his life better and easier. The rebbe clarified, “One mustn’t try to make his life better on another person’s expense.”