The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Some Lessons of Snow

[All italics represent additions to the standard text found in the pamphlet.]

This is my 1st post that hasn't been published in the Living Torah beforehand - all the other posts uptil now I simply pasted in when I set the blog up, as I was searching for a good dvar torah for my 'first week' I came across this written by Rabbi Hoffmann. I love the lesson we can learn from it however I have some questions on it, which I'll outline at the end. Help with straightening it out will be much appreciated. (an email has also been sent to R.Hoffmann to ask him)

So: Local readers will know that the snow has been a prominent feature of the last 2 weeks / week and an half. It is strange how snow at the same time can disrupt our lives but still bring simcha to everyone.

Snow: a natural occurrence. Mishlei tell us that we can learn a message from all things because the very essence of חכמה is from Hashem and the share which we are allotted is only a faint echo emanating from the divine חכמה, so it is therefore possible to learn from everything because all creation, all nature has that Divine echo.

But how do we relate snow to this week’s Parasha? Snow, in Lashon HaKodesh, is "שלג". The three Hebrew letters that make up the word שלג are ג - ל - ש. It is asked that why did Esther invite Haman to join her with king Achashveirosh at her feast? There is a Pasuk in Mishlei (16:18) that says:

לפני שבר גאון
ולפני כלשון גבה רוח
“Pride goes before a calamity
and a haughtiness of spirit before a fall”

Simply, this means that at times, Hashem grants greatness to the wicked only to make their ultimate downfall that much harder to bear. One who falls from a low place to an even lower place will likely be injured. But one who falls from a high peak to a deep canyon will be mortally wounded.

The Malbim comments on this Pasuk and the one it precedes that haughtiness of spirit is stage before pride: a tendency to superiority that has not yet been stamped out and at this stage it is easy to fall into real arrogance, which Hashem detests and punishes severely. The humble person on the other hand recognizes human limitations and sees not reason for pride. Esther saw the downfall of Haman drawing near, and, in order to make his downfall all the more painful, she granted him an exclusive invitation to her feast.

There is, however, explains the Bobover Rebbe ztl a deeper explanation of this concept of "לפני שבר גאון/The greatness before the fall." The Gemara (Berachot 9b) quotes in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, "One should always run to greet a king. Not just a Jewish king, but even a gentile king. In order that, if he will merit to see the coming of Mashiach and the renewal of the kingship of Beit David, he will be able to appreciate the difference between ‘our’ kings and ‘their’ kings. Jewish leaders have always been the epitome of humility. They never sought out positions of leadership, and only consented to take such positions after much communal pressure. How different is this from the many dictators of world history who actively pursued their positions of power, and, having attained their goal, abused their positions to the denigration of those beneath them, and displayed unspoken arrogance and self-admiration.

Contrast, for example, Moshe Rabbeinu with Pharaoh. Moshe, even after being told by Hashem to go and lead Bnei Yisrael, said (3:11 – see Pasuk above), "Who am I to go before Pharaoh and to take the Jews out of Mitzrayim?" He saw himself as totally unworthy of the task. Pharaoh, on the other hand, took his power so sincerely that he set out to convince his nation that he himself was a god, as we can see in Yechezkel 29:3, "That he (Pharaoh) has said, 'My river (the Nile) is my own; I have made it for myself.'"

Greatness, like many things in life, is really a test of one's character. Will we attribute our power and our accomplishments to our own strengths and talents, or will we be able to recognize that whatever greatness we have, has been given to us by Hashem, the source of all blessing and power. If we are able to attributes our successes to Hashem and then we need not fear from the "greatness before the fall." But if we fail the test, and our successes cause us to indulge in smug self-admiration and self-glorification, rest assured that our ‘prominence’ will be no more than a prelude to the bone-jolting fall that looms menacingly in the distance.

So, the letters of שלג: ג - ל - ש, comprise the first three letters of the Pasuk, "לפני שבר גאון/The greatness comes before the fall." Perhaps, like the snow, the "great" people of the world are at first elevated to the heavens, where they are admired and idolized. They are like the beautiful snowflake in its cloud, which, in its heavenly abode, thinks the world of itself. Soon, though, it will be rudely tossed to the earth, where it will be trampled, turn to slush, melt and dissolve away.

Regarding the humble leaders of our nation, however, Shlomo Hamelech says (31:21), "Her house does not fear from שלג." Those who accept their greatness with humility and modesty need not fear from "לפני שבר גאון ".

In the name of Rabbi Hoffmann

My problem was that that last pasuk quoted seems to be in regard to the Eshet Chail, not our leaders - I haven't seen any connection between the two pesukim or indication that it could be to do with humility. 
From what the Vilna Gaon says in referrence to a pasuk in Tehillim (68:15) and then Yeshaya (1:18) then you can link it to our leaders but not really to humility. Sheleg acc to the Vilna Gaon is referring to din of geheinom or a din chazak where your sins are turned from darkness to whiteness i.e. forgiven. 
But still no connection apart from Shin, Lamed and Gimmel to לפני שבר גאון. So if anyone has an answer I will be much obliged. :) 

Shabbat Shalom, 

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