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THE ART OF BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORLD
One of the biggest questions the gentiles have about Judaism is why bad things happen to good people, to Tzaddikim, and good things happen to bad people, to the Reshaim. This question will last only until the days of Mashiach. We pray for those days when that the whole world will see the good that is reserved for the Tzaddik and the bad that is reserved for the Rasha.
Hacham Yom Tov Yedid explains that this is the meaning in the Mizmor of לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ בִּנְגִינֹ֗ת מִזְמ֥וֹר שִֽׁיר. אֱלֹקים יְחָנֵּ֥נוּ וִֽיבָרְכֵ֑נוּ יָ֤אֵ֥ר פָּנָ֖יו אִתָּ֣נוּ סֶֽלָה We ask Elokim to bestow favor upon us and bless us, and shine His face upon us, for eternity. Why? Not for our own sake! But : לָדַ֣עַת בָּאָ֣רֶץ דַּרְכֶּ֑ךָ בְּכָל־גּ֝וֹיִ֗ם יְשׁוּעָתֶֽך So that Your way will be known in the Land, and amongst all the gentiles, Your salvation will be known. Once the gentiles see the goodness that the Jews are accorded for serving Him, they will know G-d. And then, יוֹד֖וּךָ עַמִּ֥ים׀ אֱלֹקים י֝וֹד֗וּךָ עַמִּ֥ים כֻּלָּֽם The Nations will praise You, Elokim; all the nations will praise You. And so on.
One of the answers to the question why good is happening to bad people is that this world, with its worldly pleasures, does not have enough reward to pay for the mitzvoth and the good that the good people, the Tzaddikim, do. But still, the fact that good was done brings great goodness to this world, and that goodness has got to go somewhere. So, the not-so-worthy, the in-between Benoni and Reshaim, are awarded some of that goodness, here in this world, in the world that they desire and to which they aspire, for the good deeds they have done. They receive some of the goodness that was brought down to the world through the good deeds of the Tzaddik.
This is what is meant in regards to R’ Hanina Ben Dosa. בכל יום ויום בת קול יוצאת מהר חורב ואומרת: כל העולם כולו נזונין בשביל חנינא בני, וחנינא בני – די לו בקב חרובין מערב שבת לערב שבת (Berachot 17b) Every day , a Heavenly voice goes out from Mt. Horeb, and it says, ‘The whole, entire world is sustained because of Hanina, my son; and for Hanina, my son, a small measurement of Carobs, which is all he eats from Erev Shabbat to Erev Shabbat, is enough.’
The Shlah explains the word here, בשביל, which means literally, for the sake of, with a twist. The word שביל means, also, a path, as in שביל הרבים or שביל היחיד or, a pipe. In other words, all the goodness of the world would come from Heaven to Earth, via R’ Hanina’s pipe. This is why, when someone is learning Torah, just by learning Torah alone, he is doing tremendous kindness to the whole world. Because he is bringing down to the world from Heaven, through his “pipeline”, all the blessing that everyone else is enjoying, even though the Torah scholar, himself, may not be benefitting from any of that goodness that is coming to the world via his pipeline from Heaven.
This is one of the reasons why, on the top of every block of text in the Sefer Torah scroll, there is a letter VAV, which means, literally, “and”; it actually connects between two things, like as expressed in the structure of the letter: it’s like a pipe. The Vav at the top of every page of Torah is there to teach us that the Torah is the connection between Heaven and Earth. The Torah is the pipeline of the blessing and goodness from G-d to His Creation.
This can explain a puzzling concept we know, from the Mishna in Sanhedrin, לפיכך כל אחד ואחד חייב לומר בשבילי נברא העולם , therefore (since each person has different facial and body features, despite the fact that G-d created Adam in just one image), each and every person must say, the world was created for me. (Mishna Sanhedrin 4;5)
What does that mean, that, since a person is unique, he should say, G-d created the world for him? Does that not bring to haughtiness?
It can, but it also brings a person to a sense of responsibility. The same word שביל ,here, is being used, which means pipe, path. Every person should say , “the whole world needs me, is dependent on me, and it is my responsibility to bring down the goodness from Heaven to Earth, through my pipeline. The blessings and goodness of the whole world are all dependent on my learning, my praying, my kindness and my winning over my Yetzer Hara. G-d allows the Yetzer Hara to test me, so that when I pass the test, a tremendous amount of blessing will be brought down to Earth. The blessings of the whole world are waiting for your spiritual performance, to descend from Above. My prayers are like this sort of “Smart House”,
that anything I say in my prayers, that was arranged by the Great Assembly, the אנשי כנסת הגדולה, pushes buttons in Heaven, and makes things happen, without us even knowing, if only we invest our heart and mind into the words we express with our lips.
The problem is that we don’t take our prayer seriously; we pray as if we were still in 5th grade. We don’t realize that the tests we have are the greatest empowering opportunities we can ever have.
And we don’t take our opinion in learning seriously. The Torah is supposed to be learned in such a way that you build a view and opinion of the Torah you understand from your Rabbi, and you fight for your understanding as if it really matters, as if you are fighting for your life. As the Mishna in Avot says, והוי מתאבק בעפר רגליהם (1 ; 4) R’ Chaim Volozhin learns this to be the same root as וַיֵּאָבֵ֥ק אִישׁ֙ עִמּ֔וֹ . “And a man fought with him”, the word used when the angel quarreled with Yaakov. But, unfortunately, people learn Torah as if their opinion does not matter.
But in truth, the way that the Talmud describes learning Torah is that it is a war, מלחמתה של תורה. (see Sanhedrin 111b) To learn Torah correctly means to learn it as if it is your tube of air, your שביל, connected to the oxygen tank, Above. We learn Torah, and we are not thirsty for it, והוי שותה בצמא את דבריהם . Torah is compared to water, on which you make a blessing of Shehakol only if you are thirsty, because, unlike all other drinks, water is enjoyed only if you are thirsty. So, too, Torah is only enjoyed, it only makes its impact, if you are thirsty for it. The reason why some are not thirsty for Torah is because they do not understand that Torah is what brings all the goodness to the world. The world without Torah will cease to exist. (Pesachim 68b) If you want to save the world, if you want to save your community, to save your family, or to save yourself, there is no greater investment than learning Torah, or helping others learn Torah. If the Jews would not have accepted the Torah on the 6th day of Sivan, Shavuot, the world would have ceased to exist, as we say every Friday night as we begin Kiddush, יום השישי, The Sixth day. (See Rashi Bereshit 1;31)
This is the balance of the Talmid Hacham, to balance his responsibility and his haughtiness. A Talmid Hacham needs to be the same on the outside as he is on the inside, as he is compared to the Aron, the Holy Ark, that was gold on the outside, gold on the inside and wood in the middle. (See Yoma 72b) What does that mean? The Ark also had wood on the inside, so how is being the same on the outside, like in the inside, learned from the Ark?!?
On the outside, a Talmid Hacham needs to be gold, to dress presentably, respectfully and with dignity, as he is representing the Torah. But inside, he needs to be like wood, he needs to have humility, to recognize how lucky and undeserving he is to have the merit to learn Torah and teach it. But beneath all the humility, he needs to be gold again, realizing the greatness of his responsibility to Torah learning, and that בשבילי נברא העולם, the whole world is dependent on his spirituality.