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Thought for the Day: HaShem's Revenge is Midas HaRachamim

My son and I were learning the fourth mishna in the second perek of Avos that relates, "Rabban Gamliel the son of R' Yehuda haNasi says... do His [HaShem's] Will as you do your own will, then He will do your will as His will; nullify your own will when it conflicts with His [HaShem's] Will, then He will nullify the will of other's when it conflicts with yours."  The implication is that if you do not nullify your own will when it contradicts HaShem's Will, then others will (essentially) be able to bully you.  That lead to a discussion of the Jewish experience in prewar Europe vs America.

The picture we have is that all Jews in prewar Europe were charadi (super frum) and in America orthodoxy was all but dead.  In fact, though, in one of the lectures I heard from R' Avigdor Miller, ztz"l, that when he arrived to Slabodka in 1932 that there was one bus an hour to take Jews to Kovno on Shabbos morning.  By the time he left in 1938, there was a bus every 5 to 10 minutes!  The rate of Jews going off the derech was horrific and R' Miller noted that as one ingredient of the recipe for disaster that followed.  In fact, that is our implication from the mishna and also a chilling reminder of the dictum, "halacha eisav soneh l'yisrael" -- it is simply reality that Eisav hates Yaakov.  The source of that halacha, of course, is Yitzchak's blessings to Yaakov and Eisav.

What is the antidote?  Our mishna tells us: batel r'tzoncha mipnei r'tzono.  It is not enough to simply do HaShem's Will anymore, you must actually m'vatel your own will in the face of His.  We have all heard stories of those yichidim who had to find a new job every Sunday because they had been fired (again) for not showing up on Shabbos.  In other words, HaShem gave us -- the American Jewish community -- the gift of having to fight for our ability to keep mitzvos in order to quickly overturn the damage we -- the European Jewish community -- had done.

With that idea, we can understand the pasuk from t'hillim 94:1,
אֵ-ל-נְקָמוֹת יְהו-ָה; אֵ-ל נְקָמוֹת הוֹפִיעַ
HaShem is the merciful G-d of vengeance, the merciful G-d of vengeance will appear!
Seems a bit funny to use the term "keil" which designates mercy, no?  Yet that is the point, the vengeance stems from mercy; to allow us to quickly and efficiently remove the stain of sin from our souls -- be it communal or individual.  We should stand with much pride each and every time HaShem gives of the opportunity to do His Will in spite of difficulties.

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