Commentary to Vidui Part Two
We have used the same mouth that we use for Torah and Tefillah for speaking evil, for slander, for insult and to push God and others away, and by doing so have degraded the Torah , and have damaged our ability to daven and learn. We say one thing and mean another, or will say certain things about others only behind their backs . We find what is negative to say, rather than what is positive, thereby affecting our attitude toward everything else .
In Sefer Melachim we read the story of a desperate woman coming to see Elisha Hanavi and falling at his feet to cry over her son who had just died. When Gechazi, Elisha’s student, saw her he pushed her away/לְהָדְפָה from his master. Although he had spent so much time studying with Elisha, Gechazi had not emulated his rebbi’s midos . He was protecting the dignity of his rebbi, but he had not discerned that not all occasions are equal . He intentionally pushed her by her breasts .
Gechazi was very great in Torah , yet he had not incorporated what he had learned, and he had not learned to make judgments as to when a Halachah applied or not. This led him to דוֹפִי, to totally inappropriate behavior with any woman let alone one so distraught. His lack of midos and his inability to apply Halachah to given situations, allowed him to use Halachah in a totally improper form. The Navi uses the word דופי to describe his act to tell us that not incorporating midos development in one’s learning, and not using judgment in applying Halachah can lead to דוֹפִי.
One who learns Torah with a cynical attitude and treats it lightly is called one who speaks דוֹפִי . In the same vein דִּבַּֽרְנוּ דֹֽפִי also includes speaking words of Kedusha without fusing them into our behavior, and without learning them well enough to appreciate when and how to apply them.
We have corrupted ourselves , others , and have turned good into bad . We have complained that our good actions have not benefited us enough . We reject the idea that painful things that happen to us could actually be good for us. We pervert our learning and Mitzvot by focusing only on ourselves and forgetting our connection to God.
The most powerful story of such corruption is the story of Yeravam Ben Nevat , the first king of the Ten Tribes. He was appointed by Achiyah Hashiloni , one of the greatest neviim. When the two of them met the grass of the field burned in the fire of their Torah . Yeravam was considered so great that when he first became king he gathered all the teachers and leaders of the Ten Tribes and easily convinced them by virtue of his character and learning, to sign a document stating that even if Yeravam were to ask them to serve Avodah Zarah they would listen . This same great Yeravam is the one who introduced idol worship to the people and corrupted them for generations. He is the prime example of חוֹטֵא ומַחֲטִיא אֶת הָרַבִים, one who sins and causes others to sin, of whom the Rambam writes that God does not give them the ability to do Teshuva.
In fact, many of the biggest רשעים, wicked people, in Tanach were also the greatest scholars. Doeg Haadomi , Gechazi , Menashe were all considered to be great scholars with great potential, who corrupted their lives and caused others to suffer.
The Zohar understands this drastic turn around from good to evil as the absence of God in their learning and lives. Even total immersion in Torah and Mitzvot can be without a real commitment to God which is the ultimate perversion of good .
We have treated the righteous as being evil . We assume the worst of others’ motivations, refusing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and by so doing bring evil to the world , and find cause to speak Lashon Harah . We accept Lashon Harah about others. We refuse to believe that we can control our Yetzer Harah, insisting that certain actions are a part of our nature . We have caused others to become רשעים .
Based on a pasuk in Mishlei , Rabbeinu Yonah says that it is the way of the righteous to praise and honor men for every good quality that is found in them, while the wicked seek out a man’s faults and errors in order to lower him, although he may have forsaken his disreputable deeds and repented . The truth is that we don’t only do this to others. We do it to ourselves. We focus on our faults tearings ourselves down. We question our motivation for Torah, Mitzvot and Tefillah so that we can look at ourselves as “not so good.”
We are obligated to judge others favorably . One who judges others favorably will be so judged by God . One who suspects the innocent will be stricken in his body .
It is interesting to note that one who has suspected the innocent must appease them and give them a Brachah if he wants to protect himself from being stricken. We find this in the story of Eli who suspected Channah of being drunk . The Berachah undoes the damage done by the suspicion. We can infer that damage was done, otherwise the appeasment should be sufficient.
We find another story of the damage done when one is willing to believe the worst about someone else; David Hamelech had to run away from Yerushalayim because of the rebellion of his son Avshalom . He had no idea who were his friends, and who, his enemies. He paid careful attention to who came with him as he was running and who stayed behind. The most painful realization was when he realized that Yehonatan’s son Mefiboshes, whom David had fed at his own table, clothed and cared for , had stayed behind in Yerushalayim. He had reason to suspect that Mefiboshes was unable to run with David because Mefiboshes was a cripple. Which happened to be true. However, Tzivah, the servant of Mefiboshes, lied to David and told him the Mefiboshes had stayed behind in Yerushalyim hoping that the kingdom would be restored to the family of Shaul, and that he, Mefiboshes, would become the king. David was furious, and he confiscated all that belonged to Mefiboshes and gave it to Tzivah for his support.
When the war was over and David was returning to Yerushalyim, Mefiboshes came to greet him. Mefiboshes had not dressed his wounded feet, nor trimmed his bear, nor washed his clothes from the day the king departed until the day he returned. It was obvious that Mefiboshes had mourned over the suffering of the king. He even told the king that Tzivah had tricked him, and left without him, and had slandered him to David.
Even though we would expect David to restore all of the property of Mefiboshes to its rightful owner, and to punish Tzivah for his lies and slander, David did not. “You and Tzivah shall divide your estate.” To which Mefiboshes”Let him even take all, seeing that my lord the king has come back to his home in peace.” What more did David need to convince him of the sincerity of Mefiboshes’ love and devotion. Yet, he remained unconvinced . At that moment God said, “Just as you split the estate of Mefiboshes, so I will split your kingdom .”
Once David accepted the Lashon Harah of Tzivah, it became almost impossible for him to change his mind about Mefiboshes. Once he considered Mefiboshes a rasha it he couldn’t get the suspicion out of his mind. The effects of Lashon Harah are insidious and devastating.
We have sinned deliberately . We have become evil in our hearts , looking for ways and means to argue against things we know to be good . We have allowed ourselves to forget our learning causing us to sin . We have made Halachic decisions without adequate information . We have treated certain Mitzvot lightly until we lost our awareness of them . We have repeated certain sins until we forgot that they were sins . We refuse to listen to those who know more than we do . We have sinned in anger , arrogance and with a casual attitude .
In the story of David Hamelech and Golius we have some very powerful indications of the stategies of the Yetzer Harah ; The Jews and the Pelishtim were gathered to fight each other in a major war. Golius, the giant, stepped out to speak to the Jewish army. “Why should we have a terrible battle in which thousands will certainly die? Why don’t you send your best soldier to fight me, and if he wins the Pelishtim will surrender to you. If I win, you will have to surrender to us. I don’t believe that you will be too frightened to fight me just because I am the one who captured the Aron in our last battle .” Golius was trying to intimidate them not only with his sheer size, but also by reminding them of earlier defeats. He was also lying to them; the Pelishtim never considered the possibility of Golius losing, and therefore never intended to surrender if he lost. Golius was also trying to set the terms of the debate; why should the Jews possibly agree to such ludicrous terms? Just because the Pelishtim had a super warrior didn’t mean that if the Jews didn’t have a similar soldier they should surrender. Why couldn’t the Jews send two, or three or even four men to fight Golius? Unfortunately, his strategy worked. The Jews accepted his terms and were definitely intimidated. Even the fact that Golius would harass them whenever they davened Shma didn’t get them angry enough to fight!
When David came to visit his brothers and asked what was going on, his oldest brother, Eliav, yelled at him saying, “Why did you come down here?…I know your insolence/זְְדֹנְךָ …led you to come to the battle?” Eliav assumed that David had come to earn people’s respect for when he would be king .
Eliav’s anger can be understood as a result of the stress of the situation. He saw in David what was going on in his own mind ; a chance for fame and fortune. If he saw זדון in David, it was because he was בזדון. We also find Eliav acting the same as Golius; he was trying to intimidate his younger brother and was setting the terms of the debate! Whatever strategies Golius was using should also be understood as זדון. Intimidation by size and previous victories, lying and setting the terms of the debate are all part of זדון.
When we feel that we have faillen to the Yetzer Harah so many times before that we couldn’t possibly withstand him now, that is זדון. When we say that our Teshuvah of previous years didn’t last, and therefore this year’s Teshuvah can’t last, that is זדון. When we lie to ourselves or to others in order to get our way, that is זדון . When we arbitrarily set the terms of a debate, again, within ourselves or with other people, that is also זדון. Imagine what would have happened if David had allowed Eliav to succeed!
The Yetzer Harah is the biggest מזיד, master strategist. When we say זדנו we must remember that we are describing our Yetzer Harah at work. This is why the Gemara says that if not for God’s help we would not be able to withstand the Yetzer Harah. The Gra explains that only when we understand that we can’t win without God’s help will God help us . Therefore, not asking for God’s help in fighting the Yetzer Harah is also included in זדנו.
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