Haazinu – Justice for All: With a Method of Achieving Herd Immunity From Death

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    Haazinu – Justice for All: With a Method of Achieving Herd Immunity From Death
    הצור תמים פעלו כי כל דרכיו משפט קל אמונה ואין עול צדיק וישר הוא
    The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice; a G-d, faithful, without iniquity, just and right is He (Devarim 32:4).

    The dictionary defines the word “iniquity” as immoral or grossly unfair behavior. Its synonyms are wickedness, sinfulness, immorality, and impropriety.

    While praising Hashem and His justice, the Torah seems to be giving a somewhat backhanded compliment. Describing a person as “not horrible and evil” quickly dispels any claim of absence of malice. What is meant by saying that Hashem is not immoral and wicked?

    The Torah is illustrating Hashem’s unique trait of justice. Were a person to be tried for a felony, he would most likely face sentencing. The judge, in this case, may allow friends and family to speak on behalf of the accused. The friends would describe him as a humanitarian and communal-minded man. The family members would claim that they would be lost without their breadwinner, or that he is his old mother’s caretaker. Notwithstanding the huge collateral damage to family and friends, we still say that justice must be served. Unfortunately, in this kind of situation, justice is truly blind, in terms of the impact – not on those in the dock, but in the gallery. In truth, even members of beis din are unable to avoid affecting family and friends when meting out punishment.

    But Hashem is not this way: “for all His ways are justice; a G-d, faithful, without iniquity, just and right is He.” Even if a person is worthy of a Divine punishment of death, it will not occur if there will be unwarranted collateral damage. If the family will be deprived of their breadwinner, the businessman will be deprived of his best salesman, or even if a person halfway around the world will be saddened upon reading the story, all is taken into account. Unless each of these people deserves the degree of pain that the man’s death will cause, Hashem will not allow the punishment to occur. His justice is truly just, with no eye blinded to any repercussion. Far from a backhanded compliment, this pasuk shows us how great He is.

    When a young talmid in Ner Yisroel died in 1988, my rebbi, Rav Yaakov Weinberg, said to the yeshivah’s students, “You are most likely thinking of the words of Chazal in Shabbos 106a: ‘Echad mibnei chaburah she’meis tidag kol hachaburah kulah – If one of a group dies, the entire group should worry.’ And you may be concerned that there is some sort of bad mazal here, which can affect the whole group. In truth, one member of a group cannot be touched by Hashem’s true justice unless all the rippling effects – on those in his close group – are themselves warranted. Tragedy can strike one person only if all the collateral damage is also deserved. Therefore, the members of the group must realize that they are guilty of some offense of their own.

    “You are on notice,” concluded Rav Weinberg. “You, by your friend’s death, are being warned. If one of the group dies, the entire group has cause for concern and should be very, very worried.”

    It says in Yirmeyahu (32:19), “Gedol ha’eitzah ve’rav ha’aliliyah asher einecha fekuchos al kol darchei bnei adam laseis le’ish kidrachav ve’chifri maalalav – Great in counsel and mighty in deed, Your eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men; to give to each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.” In Tzavarei Shalal, the Chida points out why the pasuk begins in lashon rabim, plural form: “all sons of man,” and then concludes in the singular: “each one according to his ways.”

    In order for Hashem to give “each one according to his ways,” He must first view and examine “all sons of men,” to ensure that none will suffer any undeserved consequence. Hashem even takes into account the emotional impact of any embarrassment that a young father’s death would conjure. He may commute what would otherwise be a just punishment until the family members deserve the accompanying pain and shame, as well. Hashem will judge one person, only after judging everyone in the person’s sphere of influence. (See Leiv Eliyahu, Cheilek 4.)

    This, continues the Chida, is the meaning of the Gemara (Berachos 5b), “Mi chashid Kudsha Berich Hu de’avid dina be’lo dina – Who can accuse HaKadosh Baruch Hu of doing judgment without judgment?”

    David HaMelech says in Tehillim (55:19), “Padah ve’shalom nafshi mikrav li ki ve’rabim hayu imadi – He redeemed my soul in peace from battles against me, for there were many with me.” In Yismach Yisrael (Parashas Mishpatim 26a), the Alexander Rebbe explains this pasuk in a similar vein. Man says that his soul was saved “for there were many with me.” Because of all the innocents who would have suffered needlessly because of my punishment, I was not punishment.

    The Alexander Rebbe also cites Rav Simchah Bunim of Peshischa, who explains the pasuk (Tehillim 19:10), “Mishpetei Hashem emes tzadku yachdav – The judgments of Hashem are true; altogether righteous,” with the same theme. Hashem will not apply His judgments, until “tzadku yachdav”– He can justify the verdict together will all of those who are affected by it.

    “HaTzur tamim paalo.”

    Reb Eliezer

    ידאגו כל החבורה the whole group must worry because they all might be responsible for his death, not davening for him properly or not admonishing him for his bad deeds and so on.

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