Friday, July 22, 2016

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter: The warning not to be too much of a tzadik

One of the lessons of the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter is an old lesson which unfortunately seems to readily forgotten - though it is widely mentioned. That is the warning in Koheles (7:16)  Do not be too righteous; nor make yourself too wise; why should you destroy yourself? Why does being too righteous lead to destruction? Why does being super wise bring about self-destruction? 

This medrash says it is referring to Dovid HaMelech.
Bamidbar Rabbah (21:5): Harass the Midianties (Bamidbar 15:17): Even though [says G-d], I have written that When you come close to a city to fight against it you should ask them to make peace (Devarim 20:10) – in the case of the Midainates you must not do so. You should not seek their peace or their welfare (Devarim 23:7). You find that the one who in fact approached them with mercy in the end brought on himself degredation, war and affliction. Who was that? It was Dovid. Thus Dovid said (Shmuel II 10:2), I will show kindness to Chanan the son of Nachash. G-d said to him, Will you transgress My words? I have written, You must not seek their peace or their welfare. And you want to show them kindness?  Be not righteous overmuch’ (Koheles 7:17)! This implies that a man should not go beyond the Torah, yet this man sends to comfort the children of Ammon, and to show kindness to them! The end was that he suffered insult; as it says, So Hanan took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away (II Sam. X, 4), and became involved in war with Aram Naharaim and with the kings of Zobah and with the kings of Maacah and with the children of Ammon, four nations! In this connection it is written, Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, etc.  (Shmuel II 10:9). Who brought this on David? It was because he sought to show favor to those of whom the Holy One, blessed be He, had said, ’Thou shalt not seek their peace.’ Accordingly it is written, HARASS THE MIDIANITES.
This warning is addressed to those who are truly righteous and truly wise. It is clear that this means that when a person comes to view himself objectively as a tzadik or chachom - he runs the danger of assuming that whatever he decides - that obviously G-d will agree with him. After all doesn't it say the tzadik decrees and G-d fulfills?  And that obviously G-d agrees with what he is doing
Mo'ed Koton (16b) The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me: Ruler over man shall be the righteous, even he that ruleth through the [reverent] fear of God. What does this mean? — Said R. Abbahu, It means this: ‘The God of Israel said, to the [David] spake the Rock of Israel; I rule man; who rules Me? [It is] the righteous: for I make a decree and he [may] annul it’.
While this gemora is obviously true - it doesn't apply to violating or perverting halacha. The tzaidk's spiritual test revolves around nullifying his will to what G-d has said in the Torah and not assuming that he is simply anticipating what G-d wants in stretching the boundaries or even crossing them. Even Dovid HaMelech failed this test.

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