Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Vilna Gaon - Vaad Arba Aratzos - Old Decree - What Happens When You Try To Change A Parent Or Spouse - Who We CAN Change

The previous post made me want to repost this:

The Vilna Gaon once made an agreement with the leaders of the Jewish community of Vilna that if they ever had to make a NEW decree for the community, they would call him. Otherwise, they would let him learn as he did constantly.

One time they decided that they would no longer give from the tzedaka fund to beggars from other cities. In addition, they would discourage people from hosting paupers who came from other places to collect.

They called in the Vilna Gaon to a meeting in order confirm their decision. After being informed of their planned decree, he was very displeased: "I told you that I only want to be called in when you make a new decree. This decree was already established by the Vaad Arba Aratzos [apparently referring to the the Council of Four Lands in Lublin, Poland which was the central body of Jewish authority in Poland from 1580 to 1764. Seventy delegates from local kehillot met to discuss taxation and other issues important to the Jewish community. The "four lands" were Greater Poland, Little Poland, Ruthenia and Volhynia].

The leaders were taken aback. They said that they were not aware of any such decree made by the Vaad Arba Aratzos.

"Nooooo", explained the Gaon. "I mean the four lands סדום עמורה אדמה and צבוים" [that Hashem overturned in His anger due to their terrible stinginess and evil deeds - See Devarim 29/22].

I was reminded of this delightful story today when a friend sent me an email relating that in his shul [spellcheck doesn't like the way I spelled "shul". Sorry bud. Can't spell it any other way:-)] they didn't let an old beggar with an overt physical ailment collect inside of his shul. My friend felt the pain of this poor man and tried to come to his defense but he was told emphatically and in no uncertain terms that it was in the shul's "by-laws" not to allow collectors in.

Hey, those are the rules. [Note: I have davened in this shul numerous times and I can't say that I sensed that their kavana was so deep that the presence of a collectors would be such a nuisance. I will also say without getting into detail, that they have more basic things to worry about than having nebuch nebuch to choose whether or not to donate a lousy dollar that they will never think of or miss again, once or twice a day. By the way - there is a minhag to give tzedaka as a segula for the acceptance of our tfillos - אני בצדק אחזה פניך, the pasuk says, I see Your face i.e. daven, with צקדה].

Li-havdil a million havdalos. But similar idea.... The Nazis who were just "following orders". Hashem Yishmor from such law abiding citizens and from such laws.

Baruch Hashem there are many wonderful Jews walking around. Really there are. But I know so many people who make me wonder - do these people have hearts?? The only answer I can give myself is that they must have a physical heart - otherwise they wouldn't be alive. But a heart of caring and compassion - they either never had or have become so desensitized over time that they lost their connection to it.

I wonder how to help fix these people and the answer is of course that a person can only be helped cure his sickness if chooses to be cured. If he doesn't have that will there is not much hope. Most sick [I refer to spiritual ailments] people either don't realize that they are sick or don't have any interest in curing themselves.

גאוה is an illness. כעס is an illness [studies actually show that is is really bad for ones physical health as well]. תאוה is an illness. There are many illnesses.

All WE can do is fix OURSELVES. NOT our parents [don't even try - it won't work and will just create even more friction than there already is. I have yet to meet a parent who says to his children - "I know that I have flawed character. Please point out to me areas where I can improve..." What is interesting is that every parent indeed has flawed character and needs to improve:-)], not our spouses [ditto - really bad for shalom bayis], and to a certain extent we are even limited in the amount of influence we have over our children. We can try to educate them to the best of our ability but there comes a point where the child decides for himself what path he wants to follow and the parents are powerless to stop him. All we can do is try to educate them to the best of our ability and daven-daven-daven that things turn out well.

But ourselves - we can change. That is our avoda. Less egotism. Less stinginess. Less תאות אכילה. Less גאוה. Less defensiveness. More of an ability to listen, to care, to open our hearts to others.

Let us not replicate Sodom.

שמואל בן רחל לרפואת
אליהו טוביה בן שרה מלכה 
פרץ ישראל בן בתיה קיילה 
מרים בת חיה 
ראובן אלטער מרדכי בן מלכה 
שמעון יחזקל בן רחל חנה 
עטרה רחל בת שרה מרים