The Pursuit of Righteousness

unnamed (18)In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Shoftim, the Torah exhorts us: צֶדֶק צֶדֶק, תִּרְדֹּף, Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue (Devarim 16:20).  Why the double lashon of צֶדֶק צֶדֶק, righteousness, righteousness?  Isn’t it enough to tell us one time that we must pursue righteousness?

R’ Simcha Bumin of Peshischa explains that with the double lashon, the Torah is teaching us that we must pursue righteousness by means of righteousness, by ways of tzidkus and yashrus, just and straight paths.  For one who wants to cling to holiness must do so by grasping onto holy and pure ways.    

R’ Yisrael Salanter once admonished his talmidim and said, “Be careful and cautious in your quest to fulfill mitzvos.  For at times, one who runs to do a great and important mitzvah may find that he destroys the whole world along the way.”

“For many years, R’ Avrohom Pam zt’l ended his Friday mesivta class with a shiur in Mesilas Yesharim.  In 1952, when the class was learning mishkal ha’chassidus (the balance of piety), R’ Pam taught this lesson through a real-life example.

“On an erev Shabos in the month of Elul, R’ Pam said, ‘Bachurim, boys, I need your help with something.’  He went on to say that the landlord of his apartment in East New York had informed him that he was raising the monthly rent from $40 to $45 a month.  R’ Pam told his students that he could afford a raise of about $2.50 a month, but not $5.  He felt that if he told this to the landlord, the man would most probably relent and settle for a lower amount.  However, he would not be happy about it and bad feelings might linger.  R’ Pam wished to avoid this.

“There was one way to solve this dilemma.  ‘The arbah minim (four species taken on Succos) which I buy every year costs between $25 – $30.  I am the ‘Shabos Rav’ where I daven,’ R’ Pam explained to his students.  ‘The shul purchases an arbah minim set so that those who do not own one can fulfill the mitzvah.  If I were to forgo purchasing my own set and use the shul’s set, I would have the additional money I need to pay the $5 monthly raise.  My question is: what is the right thing to do?  Should I purchase my own set as usual and ask the landlord to settle for a smaller raise, or should I forgo my purchase of arbah minim for this year and give him the raise he wants?  Think about it and on Sunday you will let me now what you have decided.’

“Sunday morning, R’ Pam asked for a show of hands in favor of his suggestion.  Most felt that it would be proper to forgo purchasing the arbah minim so that the landlord could be given the raise he sought.  R’ Pam smiled.  ‘I thought the same,’ he said.” (Rav Pam, Artscroll Mesorah, by R’ Shimon Finkelman, p.183-184)

צֶדֶק צֶדֶק, תִּרְדֹּף, Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue…

In our desire and quest to fulfill Torah and mitzvos, let us be sure the paths we take are not paths of destruction, but rather, paths of righteousness: ways that are Mekadesh Shem Shomayim and move us forward in the direction of holiness.

Wishing you all a beautiful Shabos Kodesh.

Michal

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4 Comments
  • Marla
    Posted at 12:51h, 20 August Reply

    Very nice story about R’ Pam. I had the same thought! Shabbat shalom , enjoy your Shabbat away.

  • Nancy
    Posted at 13:32h, 20 August Reply

    Michal–
    The timing of this message was just perfect for me. Good Shabbos.

  • Shani
    Posted at 14:12h, 20 August Reply

    Rav Pam is conflicted about the landlord’s feelings while most of us would be conflicted about our own;) Oh to be conflicted about the same issues as Rav Pam. Thank you!

  • Carol
    Posted at 08:43h, 21 August Reply

    Such a powerful reminder to not overlook humanity and reality (within Halacha) in our eagerness to be pious.
    Thank you again for your “awe” inspiring words.
    Good Shabbos!

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