Halacha for Friday 28 Tishrei 5781 October 16 2020

Parashat Bereishit - [Hashem’s Kindness, Financial Loss Instead of Physical Punishment and Death]

From Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztvk”l
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

It is stated in the Parasha, “These are the chronicles of Heaven and Earth when they were created, on the day Hashem Elokim completed Earth and Heaven” (Bereishit 2:4).

It is well known that whenever the Name Hashem is used (the 4 letter Name, as opposed to Elokim) the intention is to convey Hashem’s attribute of mercy, as we say in the 13 attributes, Hashem, Hashem, Keil, Rachum VeChanun. Whereas the Name Elokim, the intention is to convey the attribute of Justice with which G-d runs the world.

Our Sages say in the Midrash that Hashem wanted to create the world with justice so that should a person sin, they will immediately suffer the consequences through justice. Just as he will behave so will be met out to him, should he transgress any rules and be punished.

But Hashem saw that the world cannot function in such a way, as Kind David a”h said, “Do not enter into strict judgement with your servant, for no living creature would be vindicated before you” (Tehillim 143:2).

Therefore Hashem decided that the world should function also with the attribute of mercy, beyond the letter of the Law. This is what is conveyed when it states, “on the day Hashem Elokim completed Earth and Heaven”, “Hashem Elokim” intends to convey both the attribute of mercy and justice.

Our Sages say that Hashem didn’t just combine the attribute of mercy but actually placed it ahead of justice, for the sequence is “Hashem Elokim” and not “Elokim Hashem”. We need to understand what is the intention for doing this, placing mercy ahead? What difference does it make, which is placed first?

It may be explained based on the Talmud Pesachim (118a), there the Sages explained “Praise Hashem for He is good, for His kindness is forever” (Tehillim 136:1) that he claims his debt through kindness.

What does this mean?

Sometimes a person may transgress a sin, and due to its severity, it is G-d-for-bid decreed that he die, in order to atone for his sin. As the verse states, “The soul that sins shall die” (Yechezkel 18:4). But Hashem is merciful, what does He do? He gives the person a chance and claims that chance. And this is what is meant “that He claims the chance (debt) in His kindness”. He claims from that person who sinned their silver. Money, but first having given to them silver and gold. And so suddenly in one day a person loses his money and he sits weeping and crying out, not realizing that Hashem gave and Hashem took away. Who gave him the money? Hashem. Why did He give it to him so that He could take it from him in order to atone for his misdeeds.

And so Hashem claims His debt from every sinner accordingly. The rich with his ox, the poor with his sheep, the widow with her chicken, each according to their means. He takes from him is financial resources and atones for him (Pesachim 118a).

And so it is for this reason that Hashem “preceded” the attribute of mercy to the attribute of justice, first He gives each person money and then He takes it from them to atone for the person.

A relevant story to this is related in the “Yalkut”. There was a king, who had a much beloved friend who was full of grace and wisdom and Hashem had blessed him with the gift of excellent oratory skills, wherever he went he would publicise the king’s good name. He would tell everyone, “Look how noble the king is! Look what a good heart he has!” See how much we worries for his citizens!” Until the people’s hearts became attached to the king. They all admired the king. The king knew all that had been done, he knew who had acted kindly to him and who caused this that the people loved him so much. He kept these thoughts to himself.

One day, the person who was beloved to the king, fell from grace, and committed a grave sin. Since he was a respected person, five top judges were placed to examine his case. They said, “What can we do! There can be no favouritism! This person has truly transgressed a serious infraction, and he must be sentenced to one year in prison!”

One of the judges, who was a good friend of this person, turned to his fellow judges and said to them, “Please, see my brothers, there is no doubt that you are correct, this person transgressed a sin that requires this punishment, but perhaps there may be another option. Let us write that if he pays a large sum of $100,000 to the king’s treasury, he may redeem himself from the penalty of prison. Now we know that he doesn’t have $100,000, yet nevertheless, let’s give him the chance! The judges listened and agreed. They wrote the judgement that this person must sit in prison for one year. With the condition that if he pays the king’s treasury $100,000, he may redeem his sentence. They signed the ruling that he will be incarcerated in thirty days time.

That poor fellow, didn’t have such a large amount of money, so he sought to obtain loans, turning to various loan gemachs. Each responded that they cannot lend more than $50,000. And so he went around forlorn until he gave up hope. He realised that he had no choice and that he will have to sit in prison.

On the last night before he went to prison, all the family came to bid their farewells and they all cried and were upset. But there was nothing they could do. At ten o’clock at night they all departed and left him at home with his close family.

That night the king couldn’t sleep, he turned his attention to his beloved friend and knew that he hadn’t succeeded in obtaining the sum of money that would redeem him from prison. What did he do? He took a suitcase and placed in it $100,000. He called his son, the chancellor of the exchequer and said to him, “See my son, how may I leave a person such as this to languish, who has dedicated himself for me. How shall I behave so? I must worry for him. But it is forbidden for it to be known that I have assisted him. Therefore I request of you, take this suitcase, and at two o’clock at night take it by hand to the home of my beloved friend, smash the glass window and throw in the case, and scarper!”

The chancellor went at two o’clock at night, looking around him that no one was watching, he smashed the window, threw in the case and scarpered.

That man and his family heard the window smash in the dead of night. They immediately got out of bed, put on the lights and saw the case. At first they were concerned that maybe it was a bomb, but on closer examination they saw no wires or anything suspicious, cautiously they opened the case and then all shouted in surprise, “Wow! It is full of green notes!” They sat and counted the money, and found exactly $100,000.

In the morning the man went and gave the money to the execution clerk, there they counted the money and gave the man an exemption from prison.

So Hashem acts with us. A person is liable to death, Hashem comes and has compassion on him, a pity that he should die, for he guides his children on the Torah path, for sure he will continue to guide generations of Torah observant people. Therefore he makes the person hear the announcement, “lottery, lottery”, “ten million shekel jackpot”. That person merits to win and comes home happy. But after a while he loses all the money. All this Hashem does to us, in order to redeem us from death, to save us from alternative punishments. Thereby “claiming his debt through kindness”, with the intention to atone for the person’s sins.

Therefore with everything, one must justify the judgement, “He is a faithful G-d, never unfair; righteous and moral is He” (Devarim 32:4), “Only you, the ones who remained attached to Hashem your G-d, are all alive today!” (Devarim 4:4).

Shabbat Shalom!

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Washing One’s Hands with Water from the Mediterranean Sea and Water Which has been Desalinated

Question: If one is at the beach and wishes to eat bread but has no water to wash one’s hands with, may one wash one’s hands using the water of the sea or ocean? Salty Water Answer: Regarding the laws of washing one’s hands for a bread meal, the Mishnah and Gemara teach us that......

Read Halacha

Immersing One’s Hands in Sea Water

We have explained in the previous Halacha that if one is on the beach and wishes to eat bread, one may not gather some sea water in a vessel and wash one’s hands, for sea water is salty and thus invalid for Netilat Yadayim. Immersing One’s Hands in a Spring, the Sea, or a Mikveh Howe......

Read Halacha

The Eight Levels of Tzedakah

The Rambam (Chapter 10 of Hilchot Matenot Aniyim) writes that there are eight levels included in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah with each one being greater than the other. The highest level of Tzedakah is by helping to support a Jew who lacks his basic needs by providing him with money by means of a gif......

Read Halacha

Washing One’s Hands in the Restroom

Question: Is it permissible to wash one’s hands (Netilat Yadayim) in the restroom or shower room? Answer: Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 4) rules that one who exits the restroom requires Netilat Yadayim. Maran Ha’Chida writes that this is because of the evil spirit which rests......

Read Halacha


Listening to Music or Words of Torah in a Room Which Has a Bathtub or Shower in it

Question: May one recite holy words (words of Torah, prayer, or blessings) in a room with a bathtub or shower in it? Similarly, may one listen to holy songs or Torah lectures in such a room? Answer: There are two primary points which must be addressed: Firstly, whether or not one who is bathing a......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah and Donating a Tenth of One’s Earnings

By popular demand, we shall now discuss the topics of Tzedakah and donating a tenth of one’s earnings more broadly based on the words of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the Poskim and based on what is written in the works of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l on this topic. Question: ......

Read Halacha

Food Items Touched by One Who Did Not Wash One’s Hands in the Morning

In the past, we have explained the obligation for one to wash one’s hands from a vessel every morning upon awakening from his sleep. We have also explained that when one awakens from one’s sleep in the morning, an evil spirit rests on one’s hands, for sleep is considered one-six......

Read Halacha

Question: Are those who customarily donate a tenth of their monthly income to Tzedakah permitted to deduct the cost of providing for their children still living at home from the sum of this ten percent?

Answer: We have previously discussed that one must donate a certain amount of Tzedakah annually. It is a “middle” level for one to give a tenth of one’s monthly profits every month. Now let us deal with our question regarding those who donate a tenth of their monthly profits to Tze......

Read Halacha