By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
In Parashas Korach, Moshe Rabbeinu announced that the events that were about to unfold would establish clearly whether or not Korach was right in his challenge. “Through this shall you know that Hashem has sent me to perform all these acts, for it was not from my heart. If these die like the death of all men, and ‘pekudas kol ha’adam yepakeid aleihem,’ then it is not Hashem Who has sent me” (16:28–29).
What is the meaning of the phrase “pekudas kol ha’adam yepakeid aleihem”? The simple meaning is “the destiny of all men is visited upon them.” However, the Gemara in Nedarim (39b) says that from this pasuk there is a hint to bikur cholim. Rashi explains the hint is from these very same words. “If these die like the death of all men, and are visited with normal bikur cholim visits, then it is not Hashem Who sent me.”
Why would Moshe Rabbeinu specifically mention bikur cholim now? Based upon the Kli Yakar, it appears that Moshe Rabbeinu was saying that if these men (Korach and his followers) merit having the mitzvah of bikur cholim performed because of them, then they must be righteous and are therefore correct in their argument. Why would this indicate that they are righteous? Hashem brings about merit through righteous people. So, if Hashem allowed these 250-plus people to become deathly ill and generate many bikur cholim visits, then it must be that they are righteous.
However, this is not what happened. Korach and his followers died in a miraculous fashion and no one performed the mitzvah of bikur cholim on their account. The question remains: Why would the fact that Korach’s followers caused many people to perform the mitzvah of bikur cholim be a sign that they are righteous? It’s not as if they would have caused themselves to become ill! Hashem would have brought on the sickness; they would have played no active part in the mitzvah of bikur cholim. Yet, since their illness would have prompted people to visit them and perform the mitzvah of bikur cholim, that alone would render them righteous.
The three murdered boys, Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Sha’ar, and Eyal Yifrach, Hy’d, brought Klal Yisrael together in a way that we haven’t seen in a long time. The prayers said on their behalf can’t be quantified. They generated an outpouring of heartfelt tefillos and a spiritual awakening that has no parallel in our recent history. Why did these boys merit being the cause of such unity and sincere prayers? As discussed above, Hashem brings about merit through the righteous. We can therefore conclude that it is evident that these boys were righteous. May their memory and lives serve as a constant source of inspiration for us.
However, were all the prayers recited on their behalf for naught? Certainly not. The Gemara says in Berachos 32b, “Whoever davens lengthily, his prayer will not be returned empty-handed.” Yet, later on the Gemara says, “R’ Chama the son of R’ Chanina said if a person saw that he prayed and was not answered, he should daven again.” The Iyun Yaakov explains that perhaps the time of the first prayer was not an auspicious time for prayer. This second time may be more auspicious and he may merit that his prayers will be answered.
Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, said these two dictums, recorded a few lines apart, seem to contradict each other. The Gemara guarantees that if someone prays lengthily his prayers will be successful whether or not the time is auspicious; yet the Gemara later says that it is possible that a person prayed and wasn’t answered and should daven at a different time. Why doesn’t the Gemara just say that he should daven lengthily and he is therefore guaranteed an answer? Rabbi Grunblatt explained that the first phrase does not say that a person is guaranteed a positive answer to his lengthy prayer. Rather, the Gemara says that the prayer will not be returned empty-handed. The tefillah is guaranteed to have an effect, but perhaps not the one he was hoping for. The second dictum of the Gemara is teaching us that if the prayer doesn’t have the effect he was hoping for, he should nevertheless pray again.
Perhaps this concept is best explained by the following story: Once, a distraught, recently widowed woman came to the home of Rav Aryeh Levin and cried uncontrollably. All his efforts to offer solace were to no avail until the widow said, “Rabbi, I will accept your words of consolation on one condition—please tell me what happened to all of my tears. I prayed and prayed for my late husband. I recited chapter after chapter of Tehillim and shed thousands upon thousands of tears. My very soul flowed into those tears. Were they all wasted?”
Gently, Rav Aryeh replied, “After 120 years, when you will leave this world and ascend to the heavens, you will see how meaningful and precious your tears were. You will discover that Hashem himself gathered them in and counted every single teardrop and treasured it like a priceless gem, and you will discover that whenever some harsh and evil decree was looming over the Jewish people, one of your tears came and washed the evil away, making it null and void. Even one sincere tear is a source of salvation. Hearing this, the woman burst into a fresh load of tears—not tears of sorrow and grief, but tears of courage and hope. Sometime later, the widow came back to Rav Aryeh and said, “Remember what you told me before? Please repeat it for me.” (Overview to ArtScroll Kinnos by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer)
We should merit that all those tefillos and our achdus be a source of merit to bring Mashiach speedily in our days. v
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead and is a rebbi at Mesivta Kesser Yisroel of Willowbrook. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.