banner2.gif
  Torah from Dixie leftbar.gif [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []    [top_xxx.jpg]

SEE NO EVIL

by Rabbi Alexander Heppenheimer    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Your fellow person is your mirror," taught the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century founder of Chassidism. "If you see some evil in another person, this shows that you yourself are tainted, to some degree, in the same way."

 

complete_story.gif    

[]

"Your fellow person is your mirror," taught the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century founder of Chassidism. "If you see some evil in another person, this shows that you yourself are tainted, to some degree, in the same way."

We can understand this by referring to another of the Baal Shem Tovís teachings, the doctrine of individual divine providence (hashgacha pratit). Even the movement of a leaf in the wind, the Baal Shem Tov explained, is specifically planned by Hashem for a certain purpose. How much more so, then, must it be true that whatever happens to a human being ó and certainly to a Jew ó is not just by chance! So, if divine providence caused you to see another personís negative quality, it must be that you are meant to learn something from the experience ó specifically, that you have a trait that needs correction.

"Wait a minute!" you say. "Granted, there must be a reason I saw him in a bad light. But maybe itís just to give me the chance to do the mitzvah of reproving him and getting him back on track? Who says that it has to reflect negatively on me!?"

To answer this question, letís consider the story of three brothers from this weekís Torah portion: Noah is lying drunk and undressed in his tent. One of his sons, Cham, "saw. . .his fatherís nakedness" (Genesis 9:22) and hurried to report it to his brothers, Shem and Yefet. For their part, they "took a garment and placed it upon their shoulders; they walked backwards and covered their fatherís nakedness. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their fatherís nakedness" (ibid. 9:23).

Those last few words are the key. It would be pretty obvious, after we are told that they turned away their faces, that they didnít see their father. After all, Shem and Yefet didnít have eyes in the back of their heads. But this phrase highlights the contrast: Cham saw, while Shem and Yefet did not see.

Cham focused on ("saw") the fact that Noah was disgraced by succumbing to his passions. Not coincidentally, passion was Chamís own distinguishing trait (in Hebrew, cham means "hot"), which explains why he saw the same thing in his father. His brothers, on the other hand, never saw anything but that they had a job and a responsibility to correct the situation. They did not see their fatherís character flaw and its results because they themselves were free of that flaw.

So when I find out that another person has been doing something wrong, it is perfectly true that Hashem brought it to my attention, in part, so that I should try to help that person like Shem and Yefet did with their father. But if the first (or second, or third) thing that runs through my mind is not "I have a job to do," but rather the Cham-like reaction of "he has done something wrong," then it should set off a warning bell in my head. In some form or another, I am guilty of the same thing! I must strive to correct that problem in myself. And, of course, it should also spur me to try and become more like Shem and Yefet and less like Cham.

The two brothers each received a blessing for their deed: "Blessed is Hashem, the G-d of Shem. . .May Hashem [spiritually] expand Yefet, and he will dwell in the tents of Shem" (ibid. 9:26-27). Today, too, it is the Shem and Yefet type of people ó those who will not allow themselves to see another personís bad side, but will focus only on the positive ó who will bring about the restoration of the "tents of Shem," the soon-to-be-rebuilt Beit HaMikdash (Temple) in Jerusalem.

 

[]

Rabbi Alexander Heppenheimer, formerly of Atlanta, writes from New York.

You are invited to read more Parshat Noach articles.

Would you recommend this article to a friend? Let us know by sending an e-mail to editor@tfdixie.com

butombar.gif [] [] [] []

© 1999, Torah From Dixie. All rights reserved.