Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Rus And Mesirus Nefesh

Based on a shiur of Rav Moshe Schapiro 

Haran : Father of Jewish Martydom

In the opening scene of our extraordinary history, Avraham Avinu destroys his father’s idols and is thrown into the fiery furnace. Haran, Avraham’s brother, watches the drama unfold and makes a decision: If Avraham comes out alive I will join him. If he dies I will remain with Nimrod. At first sight, it’s easy to characterize Haran as a shallow opportunist, hedging his bets. 

Rav Moshe explains that the opposite is true. 

Haran is searching for truth. He reasons that if Avraham emerged alive, then his way was the one and only way. He understood that emes demands sacrifice — even the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life. “Even if I am not worthy of a miracle,” Haran thinks, “I will die sanctifying Hashem’s name.” 

Avraham emerges unscathed from the fires of Ur Kasdim. Haran declares his loyalty to the One and Only and is thrown into the fire. He sanctifies Hashem’s name in front of Nimrod and his nation. 

What Haran did was quintessentially female on a root level. A woman has the intuition and wisdom to identify the truth that’s been presented to her. She then has the courage and fortitude to follow the emes — even if doing so extracts the ultimate price of mesirus nefesh. 

This was a defining attribute of our Imahos. 

Through his conviction and resolute bravery, Haran became the root of all the Mothers of Israel. Haran’s first daughter was Yiskah — better known as Sarah Imeinu, who married Avraham Avinu. His second daughter was Milkah, who married Nachor and would be the grandmother of Rivkah Imeinu and great-grandmother of Rochel Imeinu and Leah Imeinu. 

Haran had a third child, a son called Lot, who through Moab was the ancestor of Ruth. In a sense, Ruth is also one of the Imahos. She is called Ima shel Malchus, Matriarch of Royalty (Yalkut Ruth 1:596). 

And it is Ruth, as we shall see, who gave the world the greatest mesirus nefesh of all.
Dovid Hamelech: Father of the Teshuvah Revolution

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishis 5:41) describes an astonishing exchange between Adam Harishon and Hashem after his Great Sin. Hashem showed him a vision of all future generations, including a child who would live for just three hours. 

Adam turned to Hashem and asked, “Is there any way to help this child?” 

“No,” was the response. “This is My celestial plan.” 

“How many years am I supposed to live?” 

“One thousand years.” 

“Does Heaven bestow gifts?” asked Adam. 

“Yes,” said Hashem. 

“Then I would like to give 70 years of my life to this child.” 

Who was this child, and how could Adam sacrifice precious years of his own life? 

The child was Dovid Hamelech. Adam saw that Dovid had the ability to repair the terrible misdeed by which Adam had brought death to the world. The gift he was asking for was to fix his own imperfection. Furthermore, in granting 70 years to Dovid, Adam had a much wider vision. Dovid, together with his progeny, Melech HaMashiach, could fix all future sin with such efficacy that they could single-handedly bring the world to its perfection! 

The three letters of Adam’s name, alef, dalet, mem, are the initials of the three people who will complete Adam’s mission. Adam, Dovid, and Mashiach — each of whom were given something of Adam’s essence. Before Adam’s sin, Dovid Hamelech and Mashiach were irrelevant, nothing more than an infant with but a few hours in the world. Adam would have accomplished their goals on his own. But after his sin, Dovid and Mashiach became crucial components in rectifying the world. 

The Talmud tells us: “Dovid hukam ulo shel teshuvah — Dovid instituted the yoke of repentance” (Moed Katan 16b). Through the tremendous mesirus nefesh of his own personal turnaround, he empowered all of mankind to transform and reinvent themselves. As king of Israel, he showed the world the lowliness of sin and how to recognize our utter dependence upon the King of Kings. In his own stirring words in Hallel, Dovid describes himself as the evyon, the destitute. He declares, “Me’ashpos yarim evyon — from the trash heaps Hashem lifts the destitute.” 

In the same Hallel, Dovid Hamelech hints at the source of his inner strength and determination to bring the world to perfection. He cries out, “Ana Hashem ki ani avdecha, ani avdecha ben amosecha — Please (save) me Hashem for I am Your servant, I am Your servant, son of your handmaid.” The key to Dovid’s mesirus nefesh is found in the handmaid. 

The handmaid is none other than Ruth. The Moabite. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 544, Shavuos 2017 Special Edition)