FMT Noah 5782 – “ When There Is No MERCY”

For the earth is filled with robbery through them. (6:13) Rashi explains that although the generation of the Great Flood was steeped in vice of every kind, their fate was sealed only because of the sin of robbery. Why was this so? Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathansohn clarifies this with an interesting analogy. A pelican once went down to the seashore to catch a fish. Her thrust his beak into the waters and brought forth a large squirming fish.

“Please let me go,” begged the fish. “Don’t kill me. Take pity on a creature that was formed by the Holy One, Blessed Is He, Himself.” The pelican was about to release the fish when he noticed a tiny fish falling out of the mouth of the larger one. Apparently, it had been on the verge of being swallowed. “What a fraud you are, foolish fish!” said the pelican. “Why should I take pity on you and not eat you when you yourself were prepared to do the same to this little fish?” No matter how serious the sins of this sinful generation, G-d was prepared to deal mercifully with the people. However, when they themselves showed no mercy to other people, when they robbed other people without the least compunction, they lost all claim to merciful treatment. Thus, the punishment was for all their sins, but the sin of robbery sealed their fate. In a similar fashion, Rabbi Zalman of Volozhin reconciles two seemingly conflicting statements of the Sages about the destruction of the First Temple. In one statement (Yoma 9b), the cause is attributed to the cardinal sins of idolatry, adultery and murder. Elsewhere (Bava Metzia 30b), we find that it was brought on by demanding strict compliance with the letter of law from each other. Rabbi Zalman contends that there is no disagreement here. Certainly, the decree of destruction was in retribution for the sins of idolatry, adultery and murder. However, in His infinite mercy, G-d might have stayed the execution of the decree. But since the Jewish people were not lenient and merciful with each other, demanding instead compliance with the full letter of the law, they forfeited any claim to be treated mercifully themselves. The destruction of the Temple was a punishment for the three sins, but the fate of the Temple was sealed by the lack of compassion among the Jewish people.

Shabbat Shalom

By Rabbi Jonathan Horowitz

Print Friendly, PDF & Email