Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Moshe Refael ben Menachem Mendel

40. The Lofty Service of the Pious

True, the behavior of a pious person is thoroughly virtuous and refined, yet his real greatness lies in the fact that his intentions are entirely altruistic; a pious person is concerned with the welfare of the whole generation, the entire nation.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Shvat 5767
Piety is an exalted trait. We have presently reached the climax of this trait.

While it is true that the behavior of a pious person is thoroughly virtuous and refined, his real greatness lies in the fact that his intentions are entirely altruistic; he is not interested in bettering himself, but wishes only to bring pleasure to the Almighty. Another important intention harbored by the pious is their concern for the welfare of the entire generation, the entire nation, their desire to protect and bestow merit upon everyone.

The concern of the pious knows no bounds and includes even the base and far-removed elements of society. This, in fact, is God's will: He wants the pious of Israel bring merit to, and atone for, the other levels of the nation. It is thus written, "Say ye of the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for others shall eat the fruit of their doings" (Isaiah 3:10). The generation enjoys his fruits.

The sages likewise say, " 'Is there wood therein?' (Numbers 13:20) - Is there somebody who shelters his generation like a tree?" (Baba Batra 15a). These outstanding people, the pious, do not protect themselves alone; they protect the entire generation.

This idea is likewise echoed in the words of the sages with regard to the four species: They reflect four layers within Israel. Let those who bereft of Torah and virtuous deeds come and atone for those bereft of Torah and virtuous deeds, for God desires not the destruction of the wicked, but obligates the pious to do their best to merit and atone for them.

This must be the inner intention of a pious person while serving God, yet it must also be explicitly expressed in his prayers. That is, he must pray for the sake of the entire generation, atoning for those who need atonement, reaching out to those who must repent, coming to the defense of the entire generation. To Gideon, who came to the defense of Israel, it was said, "Go forth with this strength of yours and save Israel," i.e., go forth by virtue of your defense of Israel.

Ramchal, R' Moshe Chaim Luzzato, puts it this way:
"For God loves only those who love Israel, and the more one magnifies his love for Israel, the more God magnifies his love for him. These are the true shepherds of Israel whom God cherishes, for they sacrifice themselves on behalf of His flock, seeking out and intervening on behalf of their peace and welfare in whatever manner possible, forever filling the breach to pray for them, to nullify harsh decrees, and to open the gates of blessing for them. To what may this be likened? To a father who loves nobody more than he loves the one who loves his children wholeheartedly."

The Torah teaches that if one person kills another inadvertently, the killer is exiled to a city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. What, though, has the High Priest done? The Talmud says that he should have prayed and asked for God to have mercy upon the nation, and he did not. In other words, the High Priest is held responsible for the inadvertent killing.

The Talmud further relates that a certain man was devoured by a lion in the vicinity of R' Yehoshua ben Levi, and as a result Elijah the Prophet did not reveal himself to R' Yehoshua ben Levi for three days. Of what was R' Yehoshua ben Levi guilty? He he should have prayed for his generation, for all of those in his area.

Hence, it is the duty of a pious person to pray and go out of his way on behalf of the entire generation, to come to the defense of the entire generation. A person who behaves in such a manner is treated by God measure for measure, and judged favorably.
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