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Preserving One's Merciful Tendency

Torah Thoughts on Parshas Re'eh by Rabbi Yosef Margolies

"וְנָתַן־לְךָ רַחֲמִים וְרִחַמְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ:" דברים יג:יח

“...and He will give you mercy and be merciful to you and multiply you, as He swore to your forefathers.” Devarim 13:18

In this weeks Parsha, the Torah HaKedosha introduces the mitzvah of investigating and destroying an Ir HaNidachas. We are commanded to burn to the ground a city where a majority of its inhabitants were incited to serve avodah zara. Furthermore – all people who served avodah zara, and their wives and children (for further discussion see Minchas Chinuch mitzvah 464), are put to death. The Torah concludes by prohibiting all benefit from property in the city, but then, inexplicably adds that Hashem will “give you mercy (rachamim) and have mercy on you…” What is the meaning of this addition? And what connection does it have to this mitzvah?

The Ohr Hachaim HaKadosh offers a very insightful explanation. A person is affected by his actions. The Rambam (Peirush HaMishnayos – Avos 3:15) famously comments that multiple small acts of kindness have a more significant effect of instilling generosity into one’s heart than one large act of kindness. Similarly, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh notes that he had heard that Yishmaeli executioners developed a desire to kill and their inner sense of mercy was replaced by cruelty. A Yid, when faced with the obligation to put the men, women and children of the Ir HaNidachas to death, would be very concerned! Even though this is the will of Hashem, what impact will this have on his sense of rachmanus?

Even more fundamentally, this risks damaging one of the three defining qualities of a Jew – they are merciful, they are bashful, and they perform lovingkindness (Yevamos 79a)! To that, Hashem replies, “No – you will not become cruel, [for in the merit of this mitzvah] I will not only maintain the trait of mercy within you but I will enhance and nullify the cruelty that this mitzvah may cause” – “ונתן לך רחמים”!

On a more global scale, perhaps the Ohr HaChaim is teaching us that Hashem’s message is that one never loses from performing a mitzvah. He guarantees it! The Ohr Hachaim leaves us with one last message – the pasuk continues and says “I will have rachamim on you” – “ורחמך” – teaching us that only one who acts with rachamim, will be the recipient of rachamim from Hashem. Not only will performing this mitzvah not create cruelty, it will actually merit the bracha of becoming a merciful person which will ultimately lead to receiving rachamim from Hashem. As the Yemei HaSelichos v’rachamim quickly approach, may we all increase our personal acts of rachamim and thereby merit the ultimate rachamim from Hashem, the geulah shleimah b’karov mamash.


Rabbi Yosef Meir Margolies graduated from FYHS in 1991.He is currently a member of the Chicago Choshen Mishpat Kollel. He also gives several shiurim at the Khal Chasidim Kollel and at Adas Yeshurun.

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