The Ultimate Encounter

by Rabbi Nussbaum

May 8, 2020
Iyar 14, 5780
Candlelighting Time 7:43 PM

The Torah records an unfortunate incident where someone used one of the Names of Hashem to curse with. This is a grievous sin and he was condemned. However, it was not known if he deserved the death penalty. Therefore, he was jailed until Moshe was informed by Hashem that indeed he is obligated to die. Chofetz Chaim poses a very interesting question. We view Hashem as the source of mercy and kindness. Shouldn’t we have expected that Hashem would exonerate this person? Yet, the sentence was given that he should die. Why wasn’t Hashem more lenient and allow this person to live?

He responds that actually Hashem was indeed sympathetic and compassionate for this individual. If the person is punished and receives atonement for his wrongdoing, then after he leaves this world he will be able enjoy the afterlife. Whereas if he departs this world in a tainted manner with sins on his record, this will obviate the quality of his reward that he will merit in the next world.

Indeed, he continues, the various punishments mentioned in the Torah are all methods of cleansing that we should be capable of receiving our entire remuneration that is due to us at the end of our days on this world. The Torah states that after one receives lashing, then he is again viewed as our brother, indicative of this theme that although when one sins he is somewhat distanced from Hashem and the nation, when he repents with the addition of necessary punishment, he regains his former status. This is all due to Hashem desire that we should be capable of rectification of our faults and even more so enabling one to recover his former elevated level and enhance his life further with performance of mitzvos.

Chofetz Chaim presents a real life analogy. A young student in his yeshiva was departing from the Chofetz Chaim and his face was glowing since he was looking forward to spending time with his family that he so missed. After he left, the Chofetz Chaim remarked to the other students around him if they noticed how radiant and beaming he looked because he was going to reunite with his family? Therefore, he posed the following question, why is one so saddened departing from this world when he is soon to have the opportunity to spend time with Hashem and delight in the splendor of the Divine Presence?

He cites Nachmonides who also posits a very intriguing question. Since dying and leaving this world are all part of the natural scheme of things that occur, then why are we so distraught when someone passes away? That is the way of the world! His response is very profound and requires us to process this theme very carefully. Originally, man was supposed to live eternally and we were actually wired in such a manner. However, after Adam sinned the entire creation underwent a transformation that altered the very essence of the world including mankind. Therefore, death became a reality although that was not the initial plan, man ruined Hashem’s design and our premature departure from this world is a result of our own doing. We cry because we sense our shortcomings and we are cognizant of our obligation to eliminate our deficiencies to the best of our ability. They are tears of our soul yearning for that time when we will return yet to the plateau of greatness and majesty that mankind once merited and unfortunately lost.


When we are called upon to sacrifice our lives to sanctify Hashem’s Name we must do so without intent that a miracle will occur and we will be saved. Although the ultimate sanctification is that Hashem will demonstrate His presence and love and save us in our time of need, however, we must be prepared to show our complete and total submission to the will of Hashem without remuneration. SFAS EMES