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Thought for the Day: The Torah Wasn't Given to Angels VS HaShem Doesn't Punish for Unavoidable Sins

"It's not fair!"  If you have ever been around two year olds, you've heard that more times than you can count.  If you've ever been two years old, you've said it more often than you can remember.  If you have the emotional maturity of a two year old, you've thought (and sometimes even said) that embarrassingly often in the last hour.  (Guilty, I am afraid...)

But just between you and me, we really do expect that the Creator of the World will treat us fairly; right?  I mean, He surely owes me that!  (Grumble, grumble, ok... fine... He doesn't really owe me anything, but, ya know... really He should...)  In point of fact, the Torah does treat us fairly.  The Torah never demands the impossible from us.  Chazal actually have two ways to express this idea.

On the one hand, אנוס רחמנא פטריה/the Torah absolves you of punishment for any unavoidable wrongdoing.  For example, Yehuda is having stomach issues and so can't put on תפילין one day; אנוס רחמנא פטריה and he won't be considered as among פושעי ישראל בגופן/those who sin wantonly against their body.  On the other hand, לא ניתנה תורה למלאכי השרת/the Torah was not given to the ministering angels.  For example, a kohein is only allowed to wear the special, cool, kohein garments when he is actually to service in the Temple.  What about when he finishes his shift and is heading back to the dressing room?  He is no longer actively involved in Temple service, but the Torah does not demand he strips after throwing the last drop of blood for the day.  He can walk back to the changing room because לא ניתנה תורה למלאכי השרת.

If Chazal used two expressions, then it means that two ideas are being expressed and there must be a practical difference.  As far as I can tell, לא ניתנה תורה למלאכי השרת means that HaShem didn't make us humans that way, so that rule reveals to us the actual intent in the how the mitzvah is to be performed (or sin is to be avoided).  On the other hand, אנוס רחמנא פטריה means that something happened that -- all things being equal -- would not properly express the HaShem's Will, but all things are not equal and the Divine providence arranged for you to be in a situation where it was impossible to fulfill that Will.

That's fine for philosophy, but what's the practical difference?  On the negative/punishment side, they are the same; in neither case will one be punished for doing something that transgressed that boundary.  The difference is on the positive/reward side.  לא ניתנה תורה למלאכי השרת means you still get full credit for the mitzvah performed/sin avoided; whereas אנוס רחמנא פטריה can't reward you for failure to comply.  In our example above, Yehuda is not punished for not putting on תפילין, but he is also not getting the reward for doing it.  If Big G'dalia Goomber promises little Shloimy a new CD for doing his homework and Fido the family dog eats the assignment before he can even start; than BGG doesn't owe LS that new CD.

The other way, though, does work.  For example, there is a mitzvah to protect the produce of the seventh year from being destroyed.  If someone cuts a wedge from a shmitta lemon for his iced tea, then surely some of the juice will get lost when he washes the knife.  No matter -- לא ניתנה תורה למלאכי השרת -- the Torah expects you to eat shmitta produce, so natural and unavoidable waste does not detract from your observance of -- and reward for -- guarding shmitta produce.

If it was HaShem that gave me the mitzvah and the providence of HaShem that prevented me from doing the mitzvah, then why is it fair that I don't get the reward for doing my best?  Doesn't seem fair...  You are not the first to ask, you know.  Iyov (1:22) noted: יְהוָה נָתַן, וַיהוָה לָקָח and Iyov concluded: יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה, מְבֹרָךְ.  To paraphrase: HaShem gives and HaShem takes; why?  That's His business.


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