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Thought for the Day: Tzadik Gozer v'HaShem M'Kayem

I have had the amazing opportunity over the years to drive a certain talmud chacham from Eretz Yisrael to his various appointments when he is here in Chicago visiting.  Once while waiting at a red signal that seemed to be taking way too long, I muttered: "Nu!"  As if on cue the light immediately changed to green.  The Rav smiled and said, "Tzakik gozer and HaShem m'kayem!"  I demurred (but still felt the glow of having been called a tzadik by that honest tzadik).

The truth is, though, there is (according to the Shita M'kubetzes) an explicit gemara that shows how far the g'zeira of a tzadik can go.  The gemara (Bava Kama 50a) relates that the daughter of N'chunia the well digger (N'chunia used to dig wells and watering holes for those on their way to Yerushalayim three times a year) fell into a larger cistern.  Everyone came running to tell R' Chanina ben Dosa to get counsel on how to save her.  R' Chanina ben Dosa told them not to worry.  An hour or so passed and the young lady was fading, so them came again to R' Chanina ben Dosa and got the same "answer".  Another hour passed and it was impossible for her to survive any longer; so they again came running to R' Chanina ben Dosa.  This time he said, "She is already out."  So it was and when they asked her how she was saved, she told them an old sage (Avraham Avinu [Rashi]) had come along with a ram (the ram of Yitzcha [Rashi again]) and saved her.  The astonished townspeople went back and asked R' Chanina ben Dosa if he was a prophet.  "Not a prophet nor the son of a prophet.  It is simply that it is impossible that the children of such a tzadik could die in something for which their father had been moser nefesh.

One of those great "Tales of Tzadikim" stories on which we like to rear our children.  One problem, the gemara in its very next breath sputters, "But his son died of thirst!".  The gemara has an answer.  Tosefos has an issue with the answer, but straightens things out.  You are welcome and encouraged to go look.

The Shita M'kubetzes, a talmid of the Radvaz, says that it is not a problem, because R' Chanina ben Dosa died before the son did... "and therefore what?", you are wondering.  The Shita says in the name of his Rebbi, that as long as R' Chanina ben Dosa was in the world, HaShem would respect his feelings on this matter.  Apparently "tzadik gozer v'HaShem m'kayem" means much more than just the personal situation of the tzadik.  It means that a tzadik actually affects how HaShem conducts Himself with the entire world.  Now go back and learn Avraham Avinu's discussion with HaShem regarding S'dom.  I have always learned that discussion and Avraham Avinu reaching for a deeper understanding of HaShem's midas haChesed.  Apparently, though, it can also be understood as Avraham Avinu expressing his own feelings about how far midas ha'chesed must go; and HaShem, so to speak, respects those feelings.

That's just awesome.

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