with Rav Avigdor Miller
Part I. Iyov’s Angels
Terror and Shuddering
It’s the last day of the year, the night before Rosh Hashana, and so together we are all now facing the Day of Judgement. And that means it’s a serious time in our lives, very serious.
One of the outstanding features of erev Rosh Hashana is סָמַר מִפַּחְדְּךָ בְשָׂרִי וּמִמִּשְׁפָּטֶיךָ יָרֵאתִי – My flesh shudders from your terror and I am afraid of your judgments (Tehillim 119:120). That’s important for everyone to put foremost in his mind; the fear of the Yom Hadin. Even Dovid, Hashem’s beloved, said, וְאַל תָּבוֹא בְמִשְׁפָּט אֶת עַבְדֶּךָ כִּי לֹא יִצְדַּק לְפָנֶיךָ כָל חָי – “Don’t come in judgment with your servant because no living one will be righteous before You.” (ibid. 143:2).
There’s so much that is necessary to say because we’re facing not only the Day of Judgement – of course that’s the foremost thing on our minds – but actually we’re facing the rest of our lives too because so much is decided on these days.
Consequences of Judgement
Sometimes a person could be judged now forever. For instance, a man might be judged on Rosh Hashana that he is going to move into a good neighborhood; he might be sent some good chaveirim and he’ll start going to the right shiurim. And so this man is now being given a zechus that will help him his entire life. It will help him in the next world too.
And it could be chas v’shalom the opposite. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is displeased with him and so He says, “Move to a far-off small town in New Jersey where there are very few frum Jews; your children won’t have good opportunities to become frum. They will go to the local day school where everybody has TVs and they talk about actors and baseball heroes all the time.”
And what will happen to his wife? She will get modern ideas from the neighbors and after a while you become ruined. Your wife is ruined. Your children are ruined; your success begins to unravel ingantzen. And all of that happened on one Rosh Hashana. It means that we’re talking now about a psak din for all of your life; and not only for this life but לֵאוֹר בְּאוֹר הַחַיִּים – it affects Olam Habo too.
Words of Consolation
And therefore, it would be worthwhile to find some kind of formula, some derech, that would help us to succeed not only on this last day, but something that would help us to succeed for many many days to come.
So we’ll begin now with some verses from Iyov that relate to the Day of Judgement. Everyone remembers when Iyov was lying in great misery, sick and paupered; he had lost everything. His wife, his children, and his wealth were gone.
Now, Iyov was an ish tam v’yashar, a man of great righteousness, and therefore he complained that he didn’t understand why Hakodosh Boruch Hu sent a disaster upon him and so a number of Iyov’s friends came to visit him, to console and strengthen him.
Each one of them spoke valuable and precious words but after they finished there came one Elihu ben Barachel. He was certainly a Yisroel; the others, it’s a question – it could be they were from the chachmei ha’umos – but Elihu ben Barachel was a Yisroel and so we’ll listen to his words carefully.
Accusing The Judge
אַךְ אָמַרְתָּ בְאָזְנָי – “You, Iyov, spoke in my ears, וְקוֹל מִלִּין אֶשְׁמָע – and I heard the sound of your words.” And what are you saying in effect? You’re complaining, זַךְ אֲנִי בְּלִי פָשַׁע – “I am pure of any guilt, חַף אָנֹכִי וְלֹא עָוֹן לִי – I am clean and there is no sin that can be held against me.”And therefore you’re accusing Hashem: הֵן תְּנוּאוֹת עָלַי יִמְצָא – “Hashem is finding reasons to accuse me, יַחְשְׁבֵנִי לְאוֹיֵב לוֹ – and He considers me as an enemy.”
Now we have to understand that this was not because of any disrespect. We would never say that about Hashem because we are not on the madreigah of emunah that the kadmonim were. For us “Hashem” is a word in the siddur, that’s all, and nobody has complaints against a word typed on a piece of paper.
But in the ancient days they believed that Hashem actually was a personality — not a person but a personality — which He is. Only that He is a tremendous Personality that is ein sof, infinite, and He cannot be compared to anything else. אֵין לוֹ דְּמוּת הַגּוּף and מִי דּוֹמֶה לוֹ. Nothing can compare to Him but it is an ikar of our emunah that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is an active personality. He thinks and He acts according to His thoughts. He reacts to our deeds – good and bad – and He judges us accordingly
Now the kadmonim felt this intensely, it was in their bones, and therefore Iyov felt that Hashem was unjustly blaming him. יָשֵׂם בַּסַּד רַגְלָי – He puts my feet into stocks, like a prisoner, יִשְׁמֹר כָּל אָרְחֹתָי – and He limits all my paths. Hashem had closed before Iyov all the paths of normal living, normal circumstances.He didn’t even have a home anymore. He was lying on the public garbage heap, the ashpah. He was ruined! And he was pointing his accusing finger at Hashem.
But Elihu didn’t let Iyov off the hook so easily and he said, הֶן זֹאת לֹא צָדַקְתָּ – “In these complaints you are not righteous, אֶעֱנֶךָּ – and so I will answer you. You are not right and I am going to set you straight. כִּי יִרְבֶּה אֱלוֹהַ מֵאֱנוֹשׁ – Can a man be greater and better than Hashem?”When it comes to a quarrel between Hashem and a person, can the person ever be right? מַדּוּעַ אֵלָיו רִיבוֹתָ – Why did you quarrel with Hashem, כִּי כָל דְּבָרָיו לֹא יַעֲנֶה – when the truth is that you’re not going to be answered in a way that you imagine.
Now, he begins explaining: What Hakodosh Boruch Hu is doing is for your benefit. In order to improve people Hakodosh Boruch Hu sends them messages and they shouldn’t be ignored. The first step is the most lenient and the easiest step. בַּחֲלוֹם – In the dream, בחֶזְיוֹן לַיְלָה – in a vision of the night, בִּנְפֹל תַּרְדֵּמָה עַל אֲנָשִׁים – when slumber falls upon people, בִּתְנוּמוֹת עֲלֵי מִשְׁכָּב – when they are lying on their beds, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu sometimes gives them a hint of what He is displeased with them, of that which they have to try to change.
Now that’s the most painless kind of a hint. אָז יִגְלֶה אֹזֶן אֲנָשִׁים – He uncovers the ears of man; in their dreams they see their wickedness. And the purpose is to help man discover his faults. לְהָסִיר אָדָם מַעֲשֶׂה – to remove a man from doing wrong things, וְגֵוָה מִגֶּבֶר יְכַסֶּה – and to remove pride and arrogance from a person. Sometimes a person doesn’t realize what a baal gaavah he is, but in his dream he lets go and he says and does certain things that only a very great baal gaavah would do. Now, although he didn’t do it because he doesn’t want people to think ill of him; he wants people to think well of him, but in his heart it is nesting there. And so Hashem uses a dream to uncover his mind so that he should see what is wrong with him.
Let’s say in his dream a person gets angry and he hits somebody – actually he wouldn’t do it while he is awake, but the fact that he dreamed that shows that he has the violence in him. Sometimes he might commit a big sin in his dream, immorality. Now he wouldn’t do such a thing while awake, but it shows that in his mind he is harboring wrong ideas.
I remember years ago I once dreamed I was sitting in a bathtub full of money. It was a dry bathtub packed with money. It was a pleasant dream but in the morning I asked myself, “Why is it that I don’t dream about Hashem?” A very big kasha! Why don’t I dream about Hashem?! Maybe that Hashem spoke to me, something else maybe. It never happened! Years and years pass by and nothing. I talk about it all the time but I never dreamed about it.
The answer is now I see what a hypocrite I am. אֵין מַרְאִין לוֹ לָאָדָם אֶלָּא מֵהִרְהוּרֵי לִבּוֹ – a man is shown in a dream what he really thinks about (Brachos 55b). It tells you the truth about yourself. You understand that? A dream sometimes reveals to you important things about yourself.
And what’s the purpose? The purpose, יַחְשֹׂךְ נַפְשׁוֹ מִנִּי שָׁחַת – Hashem wants to save this man from the grave, וְחַיָּתוֹ מֵעֲבֹר בַּשָּׁלַח – and his neshama, it means his life, is being protected from passing through the sword. Otherwise the man will continue becoming worse and he’ll have to leave this world. Who knows what would happen to him if the dream hadn’t put him on the right path? “And so,” Elihu said, “it is for our benefit whatever He does because He is pointing out to us those things that we must improve.”
Now, suppose he didn’t pay attention to the dream; then Hakodosh Boruch Hu takes the next step. וְהוּכַח בְּמַכְאוֹב עַל מִשְׁכָּבוֹ – He will be rebuked with sickness, with pain, on his couch. He will be lying in bed suffering pain. וְרוֹב עֲצָמָיו אֵתָן – and most of his bones will turn hard, they will become ossified and he will have pain in his joints. וְזִהֲמַתּוּ חַיָּתוֹ לָחֶם – And his soul refuses any food. He is lying sick he can’t even eat. וְנַפְשׁוֹ מַאֲכַל תַּאֲוָה – Even dainties which ordinarily everyone loves, he can’t look at them because he is so sick. יִכֶל בְּשָׂרוֹ מֵרֹאִי – His flesh is consumed; it becomes very thin and he is down to his bones, וְשֻׁפּוּ עַצְמוֹתָיו לֹא רֻאּוּ – and his bones now became scraped; even the bones are misshapen. He is suffering in the joints and crookedness of the bones.
Because he is not taking the hint Hakodosh Boruch Hu is increasing the reminders from all sides. It’s one thing after another. וַתִּקְרַב לַשַּׁחַת נַפְשׁוֹ – His life is approaching the grave, וְחַיָּתוֹ לַמְמִתִים – and his soul is being given over to destroyers on all sides. The wind blows and he catches a cold. When he walks he falls down and breaks a bone. And now he’s in bed for a few weeks. On all sides Hashem is causing things to destroy him.
Now the man is close to the brink of death and it’s the day of judgement. What should be the next step? “I tried first with dreams,” Hashem says, “then with minor illnesses, and now major illnesses and all kinds of troubles and disasters; but he hasn’t changed yet. It seems like he doesn’t listen to anything. What can I do with this man?
The Great Assembly
So Hakodosh Boruch Hu summons together a whole assembly of malachim and all together, with Hakodosh Boruch Hu at the head they are going to judge him: What is the next step? There doesn’t seem to be any hope for him.
And so we’ll set the scene the way it’s presented in Iyov. There are a thousand malachim there and they are all looking glum; nobody is approving of this man and it looks bleak. But then, all of a sudden, from the back, one of the malachim pipes up. אִם יֵשׁ עָלָיו מַלְאָךְ מֵלִיץ אֶחָד מִנִּי אָלֶף – One malach out of the thousand speaks up and says, לְהַגִּיד לְאָדָם יָשְׁרוֹ -“I can relate some righteousness of this man.”
Somewhere in that congregation of malachim, a lone voice is heard, “I have a good word to say about him.”
So now there’s complete silence in the Great Tribunal and all the malachim turn to the Judge. And the voice of Hashem thunders forth: “Stop! Let’s listen to him!” וַיֹּאמֶר – And Hashem says, פְּדָעֵהוּ מֵרֶדֶת שָׁחַת – “Redeem him from going down into the grave of destruction, מָצָאתִי כֹפֶר – I have found a redemption.”וַיְחֻנֶּנּוּ – And Hashem spares him. He doesn’t push him over the brink into the grave.
What happens now? רֻטֲפַשׁ בְּשָׂרוֹ מִנֹּעַר – He begins to recover. Because of this one malach who spoke up and defended him, this very ill man’s flesh that was wasting away because of his illness, becomes youthful and ruddy. יָשׁוּב לִימֵי עֲלוּמָיו – He becomes young and well again.
And with that we begin our subject for tonight. Because that’s what happens on Rosh Hashana. The Gemara (Shabbos 32a) says that when the Day of Judgment comes, every person gets his day in court. On the Yom Hadin all the malachim assemble in the Great Tribunal to testify about a person and they all have what to say.
Now, before we continue a question has to be asked. Who are these malachim that are able to sit in judgement? Actually Hakodosh Boruch Hu has all kinds of malachim: עֹשֶׂה מַלְאָכָיו רוּחוֹת – He makes the winds His messengers, מְשָׁרְתָיו אֵשׁ לֹהֵט – the burning heat of the sun can be His messenger. But in this instance, the word malach means an angel. Malach means a messenger but when it’s a messenger of Hashem we call it an angel. But the question is why should these malachim have anything to say about a person?
And the answer is, these malachim are the creations that the person himself made. הָעוֹשֶׂה מִצְוָה אַחַת, קוֹנֶה לוֹ פְּרַקְלִיט אֶחָד – When a person does a mitzvah he acquires one malach that will speak for him; if he does an aveirah he acquires a kateigor, a prosecuting malach (Pirkei Avos 4:11).
And therefore, when we consider who are these malachim that are speaking up in the Beis Din Shel Maalah we understand that they are the handiwork that you created by means of all of the things that you did.
Once a man was trying to bring a heavy load, let’s say from the Lieber’s chocolate company or the Paskesz candy company. He was carrying boxes into a store but he couldn’t open the door. And you stepped over and you held the door open for him for a second. עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב עִמּוֹ – you helped a fellow Jew. A malach!
Or a person was walking in the street in front of you and he dropped a dollar. You say, “Mister stop!” It’s a mitzvah if it’s a frum Jew. “Stop! You dropped a dollar.” On the spot, a mitzvah d’oraisa of hashavas aveidah. Another malach!
Maybe your chaver in the yeshiva said a sharp something to you and you had what to retort but you remembered Hakodosh Boruch Hu and you turned away. “Oh,” Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “That is a malach.” וְנַפְשִׁי כְּעָפָר לַכֹּל תִּהְיֶה – “No matter what they say to me, I will just be afar, I will let him step on me.” Let people step on you, that’s another malach.
Now, these malachim are all there on the Yom Hadin; they are gathered together to judge you. There are other malachim there too who are saying the opposite, other angels created by other not so good deeds. And each one has something to say.
Tip The Scales
And that’s what the possuk says in Iyov: אִם יֵשׁ עָלָיו מַלְאָךְ מֵלִיץ – “If there’s a malach that speaks up on your behalf.” That’s very important! You need advocates! You need malachim to defend you! Even one malach might tilt the scales in your favor. A person is נִדּוֹן אַחַר רֻבּוֹ – he is judged according to the majority of his deeds and you never know.
By the way, that’s why it’s important before Rosh Hashana and during all of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva,if you can get in some more good deeds, grab the opportunity! You can never tell; it might be that your scale is shoveh b’shoveh – the zechuyos and not zechuyos are exactly balanced – and that’s dangerous.
That’s why it pays tomorrow or tonight even, to be busy writing out checks. You want to get as much merit as you can earn before the Day of Judgment. Whatever you can do on the last day in the year, do. Write checks for good causes because each check will have wings and it will fly. Or, if you sit down to learn five minutes, that is a malach. It’s a malach and it will speak with a big mouth on your behalf. And so don’t waste any time – get busy doing whatever you can in these last days to do things to be machria l’caf zechus – to add malachim to the scale in order to save yourself.
But now we’re going to see that it’s not one malach; even one part of a malach could save you! I’ll explain that. רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בְּנוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי יוֹסִי הַגְּלִילִי אוֹמֵר – Rabbi Eliezer says, אֲפִלּוּ תְּשַׁע מֵאוֹת וְתִּשְׁעִים וְתִּשְׁעָה בְּאוֹתוֹ מַלְאָךְ לְחוֹבָה וְאֶחָד לִזְכוּת נִצּוֹל – even if it’s only one thousandth of a malach that is speaking up for you, that could save you from destruction (Shabbos 32a).
Here is a case where even the malachim who saw his good deeds didn’t approve of him. That’s how it is in the Next World – everything is oisgecheshbont; every detail of every act you do, even every little thought of yours, is weighed with the utmost precision. And so, tomorrow, while you’re standing in the shul davening mussaf, it could be that while you’re shaking, at the same time there’s a malach talking against you.
“It’s true he’s in the Bais Haknesses but he’s just shaking; he’s not really thinking too much about what he’s saying.” Another malach is talking a mile a minute against you. He says, “Yes, he gave tzedakah yesterday but he announced his gift to charity in order people should think well of him” Or, “He was honest with his partner but it was because he didn’t want the partner to cheat him or he didn’t want to get in trouble with the government.” So all these malachim, even those who are reporting his good deeds, are criticizing him.
No matter! Hashem listens to that little bit of good the malach said and He rescues you! That’s what the gemara says: even if you don’t have a malach that will speak up for you entirely, but אֶחָד מִנִּי אֶלֶף – one thousandth of a malach will speak up. That one malach might not be entirely approving of you but he is willing to defend you: “This man has something in him – there’s something, a little something that he went out of his way to do.
He Got It Right
“Last week he spoke gently to his wife when she said something to him – he bought something from the street and he thought he got a big bargain and she was ridiculing him that she can get it cheaper some place else. And he didn’t say anything. He said, ‘Maybe you are right.’ A thousand other times he opened up his big mouth and put his foot right into it. “But this time,” says the malach, “he kept his mouth closed. He did it! He kept his mouth shut!”
“Oh,” Hashem said, “that’s what I wanted to hear. You say there is something in him, I want to hear that.” So one thousandth of that malach among a thousand malachim, if he speaks up so Hashem pays attention and he says, “If that is the case I am going to rescue him from falling into destruction.”
Hakodosh Boruch Hu is waiting patiently listening to all the accusations and finally when He hears this one thing, that’s enough for Him and He says, “פְּדָעֵהוּ מֵרֶדֶת שָׁחַת – Give him another chance, another year. Maybe next year he’ll do better. מָצָאתִי כֹפֶר – I’ve found a redemption for him. Let him live.”
Is This Justice?
So you’ll ask me a kasha. If a person is נִדּוֹן אַחַר רֻבּוֹ, if he’s judged according to his majority of his deeds so how could the fact that in one little detail he is being defended by the malach, itshould outweigh all the other things that he did wrong?
The scales are filled with hundreds of thousands of details of mitzvos and maasim tovim and chas v’shalom the opposite too – it’s an entire year! How many times did you say a kind word to your wife? How many times the opposite chas v’shalom? How many times did you write a check to tzedakah? How many times did you push it off and not get around to it? How many times did you make brachos with kavanah? How many times not?
So the scales are filled with hundreds of thousands, millions, of maasim. So what does this one thousandth of one malach mean?! It’s only a miktzas min hamiktzas! How could the fact that in one detail he is being defended by the malach outweigh all the other things that he did wrong?
A Temporary Reprieve
And the answer is, in Iyov it is stated as follows. After he finishes the whole story he adds a postscript: הֶן כָּל אֵלֶּה יִפְעַל קל – all these things Hashem does, פַּעֲמַיִם – two times, שָׁלוֹשׁ – and three times, עִם גָּבֶר – with a man, לְהָשִׁיב נַפְשׁוֹ מִנִּי שָׁחַת – to save him from destruction, לֵאוֹר בְּאוֹר הַחַיִּים – and he should use the happiness of life in this world and in the next world.
It means this. Nobody is permanently rescued because of one thousandth of a malach. But he gets a temporary reprieve, Hakodosh Boruch Hu withholds the gezar din because of this echad mini elef. He’s waiting for a person to come back to Him and so He’ll listen to that malach. It’s not forever – it’s only a temporary expedient, but it’s a lifesaver.
So now we are learning that it could be on Yom Hadin a person is rubo chayav, but since there was something good in him, a genuine merit that he has, even if it’s a small item, one thousandth of a deed, Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “Because of that one thing I am going to give him another chance. I’ll give him health and parnassah and good times too, and maybe during this next year he will improve.”
It’s true, the principle of אָדָם נִדּוֹן אַחַר רֻבּוֹ is in general a principle and for a person’s entire life it will hold good. But if a man has a little genuine real zechus in him, it can help him temporarily in order to get another chance.
Now, when we look at the pesukim in Iyov, we see how this man — that’s us — should make use of his reprieve. יֶעְתַּר אֶל אֱלוֹקּ – He prays to Hashem; he says, “Hashem help me, let me continue this way.” It’s true that he recovered his good health, but now he is praying to Hashem, “Hashem forgive me for what I did. I love you Hashem. I am grateful to you. Please help me continue to be deserving of Your mercy.” וַיִּרְצֵהוּ – and Hashem will accept him. Now that he shows that he is going to utilize his good health to return to Hashem fully, so Hashem said, “I have accepted you. I will favor you from now on.”
וַיַּרְא פָּנָיו בִּתְרוּעָה – And he sees the face of Hashem with shouting of joy, with sounds of the trumpet. He recognizes the King now – that’s what the teruah means, it’s a blowing of the shofar at the coronation of the king. וּתְרוּעַת מֶלֶךְ בּוֹ – It is a day when the trumpets shout for the king. After his day of judgement, he comes out alive, he made it, and so he redoubles his efforts to recognize the King.
He won’t wait till the last minute this time. Rosh Hashana is over soon. Yom Kippur will come and then Succos and then it’s wintertime, and he knows that he’s living on borrowed time. And so he’ll utilize the reprieve that he was granted in order to get busy restoring himself to the full favor of Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And it all began with that one malach that reported back to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the one malach who had one little thing to say about this man.
Now the question has to be asked, why does Hakodosh Boruch Hu need the malachim to report back to Him; to speak up and be melamed zechus, to say something good about a man and save him from destruction? The whole thing seems so anthropomorphic; you’re putting Hashem like a human king who needs advisors, people who speak up. Hakodosh Boruch Hu knows! הַשֵּׁם יוֹדֵעַ מַחְשְׁבוֹת אָדָם – He knows all people’s thoughts. And so what can malachim tell Him more than he knows Himself?
Now there are two answers to this question and both are right. It could be there are more, but at least these two understandable answers we’ll talk about now.
One answer is that the whole thing is nothing but a charade. Although Hakodosh Boruch Hu calls together malachim it is not because He needs them; it’s not because they have any input in the judgement. He judges entirely from His own tremendous mind, from His own thoughts. So who are the malachim for?
The Secret of Angels
Once, a rosh yeshiva asked one of his talmidim, “What are the malachim doing all the time?” The talmid didn’t know what to say; how should he know?
The rosh yeshiva said, “You say it every day. תָּמִיד מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוֹד קֵל – they are always speaking about the glory of Hashem. That’s what the malachim are doing.”
“Alright,” the bochur said, “So that’s what they’re doing. What’s that got to do with me? What’s it my business what the angels are doing up there in shomayim?”
And the answer is that the creation of the malachim was only for us – the malachim are in the world only because of the Am Yisrael. That’s a secret that many people – even good people – never learned. The malachim don’t accomplish anything on their own; they have no free will, no reward, no punishment. Whatever they are doing, which is reported to us by the nevi’im and the chachomim, it’s only for us.
An Explosive Teaching
And that means that the calling together of a thousand malachim is intended to be a lesson for us, so we should learn what a mitzvah is. A mitzvah is not like we think, just something that we once did, or thought or said. No; every mitzvah is an especial kind of creation. That’s what the Kuzari says. He says that a mitzvah that is performed is a living entity, an actual creature. Now the Kuzari you have to know is a Rishon; he doesn’t go into fantasies. He is practical and his every word is counted and so we have to listen to that – even the smallest mitzvah is a living being that will stand in the beis din shel maalah and advocate for you.
It doesn’t have to be something with wings – the wings are just a form of vision that is granted to us, so that we should see them and be impressed by them. A living mitzvah is higher than wings; it’s something of ruchniyus that is of tremendous power — it doesn’t need any wings to propel it.
Now that’s an explosive teaching! A mitzvah is a living being! It’s stunning! A little kind word you said to your wife, a nickel you put into the pushka, is a creation.
Little Things Count
And that’s why the malachim appear before Hashem in the bais din shel maalah; it’s to let us know how important it is to create such malachim that will defend us. We’re expected to look in Iyov and study this charade of the beis din shel maalah and learn how important it is to try to utilize even the smallest and seemingly insignificant opportunities to be good; that’s what the malachim teach us – that nothing is insignificant. There’s no question that this awareness is the key to greatness.
I’ll give an example. Suppose you would like to be a good man but you know you’re not. You’re mean. You’re selfish. You’re a baal gaavah. You’re thinking about yourself all the time. That’s the truth but you don’t want to go into Rosh Hashana like that. You don’t want it to be erev Yom Kippur and you’re still the same old you.
So you remind yourself about this mashal and you think, “All is not lost. I have to make a start somewhere – even the smallest thing.” You want to break your selfishness so you do a little favor for another Jew. “Oh,” Hashem says, “I’m listening now. You are doing something for another Jew; that is a good beginning.” It’s an excellent beginning! You can’t tell what is going to happen. That one Jew, that little one thousandth of a malach, might show up some day on the Yom Hadin and be the malach who will rescue you.
And so if a man makes it his business to fight against what he really is; in his heart he knows he’s really a cad but he says, “I’m going to make a bluff from time to time. I’ll come home tonight and act nice to my family.”
They’ll see through you? They know it’s not so? Who cares?! Because the gemara says, if one malach speaks up for you – and not only if one malach speaks up and 999 speak against you, but even if in that same malach 999 parts of him speak against you, only one thousandth of him speaks up for you — it’s also an accomplishment. So 999 parts will say, “Oh, he’s just doing it to show off. He was by Rabbi Miller’s lecture and he heard something so he’s trying it out.” No matter! Because that other one thousandth will speak up for you. And that will be your salvation.
And so if your family will say, “Tonight he was a nice fellow,” it’s an accomplishment. If you can come to the synagogue and fool the rabbi and make him think you’re a nice fellow, very good. You’re going into a grocery store? Fool the grocer. If you deal with people and put up a front and so there are people who will speak up for you, you must know you have accomplished something; you have gained advocates who will speak for you. Of course the more that speak up the better you are, but everything is important.
Make A Good Impression
אַל תְּהִי בָז לְכָל אָדָם – Don’t scorn any person (Avos 4:3). Nobody is unimportant! Sometimes you are passing somebody on the street and you bump into him by accident. You keep going; you mumble something maybe. No, stop and say, “Excuse me please. I am so sorry.” Not one person should ever be insulted by you. Sometimes a person is a chatzuf and you lose patience with him and you think, “I am going to insult him.” Oh, don’t do it; you can’t tell if that one person might be the one who speaks up against you on the Yom Hadin. Or, if one man was favorably impressed by you, that advocate will speak up for you to Hashem. And He’ll listen. Watch out for people! On the Yom Hadin he might be the one!
Or somebody told you his troubles, let’s say. You don’t know what to do? Just say a few words of consolation; tell him, “Look, you’ll outlive it. It will pass by; don’t worry about it.” Console him; it doesn’t cost any money to say it. You can never tell. Words of encouragement and a smile are a balm for the troubled soul. מְעוֹדֵד עֲנָוִים הַשֵּׁם – Think, “Hashem encourages people so I am going to encourage people too.”
Sometimes when people are discouraged you can write them an anonymous letter. You don’t have to sign your name. And tell him, “You have a very good name in this neighborhood; people think well of you.” It will lift his spirits. I once did that. There was a person who took a rabbonus in an out of town shul; he had a lot of trouble there from his congregation – they were fighting with him about the mechitza and it was discouraging for him. So I wrote him a letter – I didn’t sign it; I wanted him to think it was from somebody important – and I told him that he’s doing a good job, that he’ll soon see the fruits of his labors.
Ever thought about that? With 32 cents, sometimes you can do a very big mitzvah of encouraging people. Just try it once; write a letter to somebody, even to your Rebbe. He has enemies, no question about it. Every Rebbe has enemies, that you have to know. So write him a letter, encouraging your Rebbe. Say, “We are all for you. We are all loyal to you.” It will make him feel good. Don’t think it is a small thing.
Encourage your rebbi in the mesivta. He’s working hard and he needs the parnassah too, so make sure not to discourage him. Honor him and make him feel good. And after the shiur walk over to him and say, “Rebbi, I enjoyed your shiur” – even though you didn’t. It’s a mitzvah to be mi’oided anavim so make sure to encourage him.
Not only people you shouldn’t scorn. וְאַל תְּהִי מַפְלִיג לְכָל דָּבָר – Don’t scorn even the smallest opportunity (ibid.). You say, “Well, I only have five minutes left; there is no use trying to learn.” Oh no! Open a sefer and get in five minutes of learning. Five minutes of learning is a tremendous achievement.
In the Kelmer Yeshiva, they had a special learning seder. After they finished learning and davening maariv all the bachurim went home for the day. And then they had to come back to the beis medrash again once more and learn five minutes. And then they went home again. They did it in order to train themselves to know that five minutes of learning is precious; that even the smallest of things shouldn’t be disdained.
Let’s say you said shemone esrei and you were wandering someplace in the jungles; you were travelling all over the world as your mouth was mumbling the brachos. Then you came back at the end of shemone esrei; you’re almost finished the whole shemone esrei and you accomplished nothing. At the very end do something. Rescue something! At least the last brocha say with kavanah. Save something from the whole destruction! At least a little something – even if it’s only one thousandth of something – should remain from how you ruined the entire shemone esrei.
Sometimes you went through a whole birchas hamazon and you weren’t thinking. Don’t scorn whatever you could salvage. Even if you already finished, utilize the tefillos at the end. הָרַחֲמָן הוּא יְזַכֵּנוּ לִימוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ וּלְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. Ooh wah! That’s important! Be mechavein these words. Did you ever stop and ask Hashem, “Hashem please give me Olam Habo?” So at least that little bit you can salvage from birchas hamazon! “Harachaman! Please give me the merit to see You in Olam Habo!” You saved something from the birchas hamazon. You asked Him for Olam Habo. That’s what the tanna is telling us, וְאַל תְּהִי מַפְלִיג לְכָל דָּבָר – don’t consider anything unimportant.
Exercise Your Options
And so this mashal of the angels gathered in judgement – I won’t say it’s only a mashal; we will call it a play, a charade – is for the purpose of emphasizing every small thing. Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants us to see the importance of any small thing you do. If you walk in the streets, why waste time? Say “From here till the end of the street, I’m going to think about Yetziyas Mitzrayim.”
Isn’t that a wonderful thing? It’s not Pesach; it’s Wednesday in the middle of the year. לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ – You should remember the day that I took you out of Mitzrayim all the days of your life. Of course it means morning and night but during the day time it’s also a mitzvah, an optional mitzvah. זִכְרוּ נִפְלְאוֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה – Remember His wonders that He did.
As you’re riding in the subway holding on to the strap don’t think that your opportunities now are not important. One minute of thinking! “I’m going to think now about the mann that fell in the midbar.” Of course, keep your hand on your wallet. One hand is holding on to the strap, the other hand is on your wallet, and you’re thinking about the food that Hashem sent down from the heavens. Those thoughts are creating a malach. And so all the malachim of all of your wasted minutes during the day will be quieted when this one malach pipes up.
It’s All About You
There’s so much to think about, so many opportunities. What about thinking about the most important subject of all? Hakodosh Boruch Hu! On the way home, even if you will just think about Hakodosh Boruch Hu for a second, it’s a mitzvah. הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת הַשֵּׁם אֱלֹקֶיךָ – Don’t forget Hashem! And even one second is something. אֵלּוּ דְּבָרִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם שִׁעוּר – there is no limit how much. It is a very big mitzvah to think of Hakodosh Boruch Hu for one minute. It’s a small thing and it’s easy to do.
Now there are very many things to do; there are countless gems in life that a person can find if he would just bend over and pick them up and use them. Of course, if you keep that in mind all the time and make everything important, mah tov – very good! But the mashal of the malachim that appear before Hashem in the bais din shel maalah is to let us know how important even that one solitary thing might be.
That’s the reason we find it portrayed in such a way; it’s a great Sanhedrin with Hakodosh Boruch Hu yoshev b’rosh and each malach speaks up to talk about you. About you, Chaim Yankel. About you, Chana. And even though you might not have rov zechuyos, but you showed something in you, some decency, a little bit of ehrlichkeit, some righteousness, that there is a possibility for you to do something for the new year that will be different from the old year.
And so when the malach opens his mouth Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, פְּדָעֵהוּ מֵרֶדֶת שָׁחַת – redeem him from going down to the grave, מָצָאתִי כֹפֶר – even though it is only a small thing, I have found redemption. I see that in your mind there is stirring a havah amina; I see there is the possibility that you might do these things in the year to come, and if that is the case, I will give you another chance.”
Emulating the Models
And now we come to a second, more general and more important answer to the question we asked, what’s the purpose of these malachim that are speaking up for us if Hashem knows it anyhow?
We know why malachim exist; they were created for us to learn from. That’s what the Rosh Yeshiva told the bochur – whatever the malachim are doing, it’s being done for us to see. If the malachim are tamid misaprim kevod Keil, if they are busy saying all kinds of tishbachos to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, so we have to study their shirah and emulate them. And if they’re doing it b’kol raash gadol, if they’re very excited about it, so we have to do the same. נְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת שִׁמְךָ בָּעוֹלָם כְּשֵׁם שֶׁמַּקְדִּישִׁים אוֹתוֹ בִּשְׁמֵי מָרוֹם – We’ll say kedusha to Him just like the malachim do. If our models in shomayim are doing it, then that is what we have to do too.
And if that’s the case then we have to study the malachim as much as possible; as we learn from the Neviim and Kesuvim and divrei chazal, whatever we see about the malachim we’re expected to try to emulate their ways.
Now we come to one of the most important elements in the entire subject of Rosh Hashana, an element which will have a strong bearing on the Yom Hadin.
This story of the angel who speaks up – no matter what others are saying; even if 999 other malachim are speaking not good; and even if this malach himself, it’s only one part out of 999, still he speaks up for you – that’s meant as a model for you to emulate. No matter what, you’re going to get busy speaking up for the Am Yisroel. And just like when the malach speaks up on your behalf, Hashem listens, so Hashem will listen to you too! The Oheiv Amo Yisroel listens intently to those who speak up on behalf of the Am Yisroel!
And that’s one of the most important purposes of that great event that’s taking place right now in shomayim, in the Beis Din Shel Maalah. Those malachim who are speaking up for the Am Yisroel are teaching you how you should react to the Yom Hadin. Speak up for the Am Yisroel!
You know, on Rosh Hashana everybody is busy; they’re worried about the future. And that’s very good! That’s how it should be! כַּמָּה דְּכַּיֵּף אִינִישׁ דַּעְתֵּהּ טְפֵי מְעַלֵּי – The more you worry about the Yom Hadin, the better off you are (Rosh Hashana 26b). That’s part of the avodah of Rosh Hashana. Only that what happens? Everyone is thinking only about himself. I’m talking about the good ones; they’re thinking about ‘Me, me, me’.
But Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants us to learn how important it is for us also to speak up for other people and to be melamed zechus that others should be zocheh badin. We should be worried about everyone else too! We want all frum Jews to be blessed; we want that all frum Jews should have a good year. You want your neighbors to have a good year. Your mother-in-law should be blessed. Your daughter-in-law too. You want them to have a good year.
Your competitors in business. Your competitors among the chassidim. Even though they are chassidim of a different Rebbe, they are all frum Jews and they deserve a good year. You want everyone in Lakewood to be matzliach. Satmar too. And all the Chaim Berliners and the Mirrers and Torah Vodaas. Everyone in Monsey and Passaic and Bnei Brak and Yerushalyim. You are thinking about them; you want them to all have a good year.
A Unique Nation
Oh, you really want that? So get busy being a malach meilitz for them. On Rosh Hashana speak up for them; talk constantly about the virtues of our people. “Hakodosh Boruch Hu, look how charitable the Am Yisroel is! They’re giving ma’aser, a tenth of their income, some even more! They’re rachmonim bnei rachmonim. They’re compassionate! Even on gentiles; Jews have more pity on gentiles than gentiles have. Where can you find a nation like that, Hashem?”
Don’t think these words – say them! “It’s a people who give up pleasures for You, Hashem. They come at night to the beis hamedrash to learn! Night after night! Jewish women don’t go into movies; they don’t look for entertainment. They’re happy with their domestic duties; find their pleasures in the homes raising children to serve You. Jewish women don’t traipse out for entertainment; they don’t mix with other people! Frum Jewish fathers and mothers are busy day and night raising children for You, Hashem. They sacrifice their lives for that.
“They deny themselves pleasures. When they are traveling out of cities and there are no Jewish restaurants, they don’t eat. Period. They’re hungry, they want to eat, but can’t go into that restaurant. Where do you find a nation that’s willing to suffer for its ideals?
A Holy Nation
“And they have to have non-shatnez clothing. Every Jew when he buys a suit, he must see that it’s guaranteed non-shatnez. A frum Jew cannot talk loshon hara. Very many people guard their tongues. Today, very many Jews are careful with what they talk, not to slander any fellow man. Self denial. A holy ideal, kodesh kadoshim! Where do you find such things? How decent frum Jews are!
Do you have a lav of yichud among goyim? A man comes and he wants to sleep in your house and you say, “Well, I have to go to work in the morning. Will you get up early in the morning to go to work with me? I can’t let you stay alone in the house with my wife.”
Now among gentiles, it would be unthinkable. It would be so unpleasant and impolite, but Jews speak openly about yichud. They call up the rabbi and ask sha’alos about yichud. A man’s wife is in the hospital, in the maternity ward. He’s left with little children and his wife’s sister is coming to stay with the children. He calls up, what should he do? So the Rav says, “You have to move out of the house.” You ever hear of such things among gentiles? It’s an am kadosh! A holy nation! Constantly Jews are beset by such problems and they fulfill the laws!
Speak For Your Kehilla
Now, I’m not telling you this just for my own sake – I’m telling you what you should be saying! Speak up! Of course, you think about yourself too; חַיֶּיךָ קוֹדְמִין – certainly think about yourself. But in addition to yourself, don’t think that it is enough; you must be worried not only about your wife and your children, not only your eidim and the shnier, but also all your people.
That’s why we are mispalel b’lashon rabim; because we care about the rabim. First of all, your own kehillah. בָּרְכֵנוּ אָבִינוּ כֻּלָּנוּ כְּאֶחָד בְּאוֹר פָּנֶיךָ. All of us here! In your kehilla, on Rosh Hashana. Pray for them. “Hakodosh Boruch Hu! Have rachmanus on my kehilla! They come in every day, three times a day to daven. These ones come in the evening to learn. These come early in the morning before davening. These come both of those times. They’re coming for You Hashem.”
And so, while everyone is sitting and singing the niggunim of Rosh Hashana, you’re also participating in the singing – why not? You like the nigunim – tra la la; oy yoy yoy yoy – but don’t forget to look around at all the people in your Bais Haknesses and your Bais Hamedrash and speak up for them.
Becoming an Angel
Not only bederech klal. As much as you can, be mifareish the bracha, be expressive. You see a chaver across the room, pray for him: “Ooh, Hashem! He’s a good man! That man is working all day in the office for You. He would love to sit on the couch all day but he gets up early in the morning and runs out to the office to make a living. For what? For who? He’s working so that he can fulfill the promise he made in the kesubah. He’s bringing home money for rent so that he and his wife can build a beis hamikdosh.
“He’s working to pay schar limud, so that his children can go to the yeshivos and Beis Yankevs. It’s a lot of money, tuition. And the liberal Jews don’t make it any easier by fighting against the frum schools getting money from the government. But no matter, he’s paying. And to continue to pay big money for kosher food? Kosher food costs much more than gentile food. He deserves good health! Ribono Shel Olam, give him a good year!”
“Oh,” Hakodosh Boruch Hu says, “you are learning from the malachim. That is why I made malachim. I don’t need them but I made them as a model for you, you should learn from the malachim. Just like the malachim speak up and you see I pay attention to them, I’ll listen to you too. You’re defending somebody; you’re being a malach meilitz now!
And there’s more to it because it’ll save you too. It’s a good investment when you train yourself to speak up for other Jews because הַדָּן אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת הַמָּקוֹם יְדֻנֵהוּ לְכַף זְכוּת – One who judges his fellowman favorably, will be judged favorably by Hashem (Shabbos 127b). “Oh,” Hashem says, “you want him to be a zakai? You’re interested in the good fortune of My people? Then I’m interested in your good fortune. If you’re a malach meilitz for him so I’ll listen to the malach meilitz who speaks up for you.
And so, if a person adds this element of being a malach meilitz to his avodah of Rosh Hashana – if he is mispallel for his fellow Jews and judges them l’kaf zechus; he wants them to have a hatzlacha and be zocheh badin and he therefore speaks up for them, so Hashem says “That is the zechus that is going to give you a zechus. I see you’re a person who learned the lesson from my malachim and just for that you deserve to be zocheh to a kesiva vachasima tovah.”
לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה תִּכָּתֵבוּ וְתֵחָתֵמוּ
Let’s Get Practical
Resolutions for Rosh Hashana
When Rosh Hashana comes near I have to do whatever I possibly can to add on to my merits and the angels who gather before the Melech Hamishpat teach me a path to success:
The one thousandth of a malach teaches us that even the smallest thing will speak up in my favor and therefore from now until Yom Kippur I will bli neder choose to do three extra small things every day to get into the habit of appreciating how important even the smallest thing is.
The malach meilitz also taught me that Hashem wants us to speak up on behalf of our fellow Jews and therefore this Rosh Hashana I will bli neder spend two minutes during the tefillos speaking up for the Am Yisroel – the nation as a whole and for individuals as well.