Sunday, November 1, 2009

Measure for Measure - Your Deeds are Rewarded or Punished

There are consequences to our actions -- consequences that reflect those actions. If you commit murder and drown others in a river to hide your crime, you will receive your punishment in the form of your crime. If you invent an unjust thing to benefit yourself at the expense of others, that unjust thing will ultimately be used against you. On the positive side, if you introduce something that benefits others, that thing will ultimately come to benefit you as well. In Hebrew it is called: midah k'neged midah -- measure for measure.

The Midrash also stresses that each of the plagues represented punishment for a particular wrong that the Egyptians did to the Jews:
1)'They made them drawers of water--and so their river was turned to blood;
2)they made them load their freight -- and the frogs destroyed it;
3)they had the Jews sweep the streets--and the dust turned into lice;
4)they made the Jews watch their children--and God flooded the country with wild animals that devoured the children ...'.
5)The Egyptians made them cattle-herders, whereupon the pestilence killed the herds.
6)They used them to prepare their baths--and then they developed boils which made it impossible for them to wash.
7)The Jews were made stone-cutters -- and God sent hailstones against the Egyptians.
8)They were forced to tend the vinyards and fields--and the locusts consumed all that grew.
9)The Egyptians sought to keep the Jews as prisoners--and were themselves shackled by the thick darkness that fell upon Egypt;
10)their murderous designs upon the Jews brought the killing of the firstborn-- and their drowning of Jewish children was repaid by their death in the Sea of Reeds (Tanchuma).

Hashem responds to our actions using 'midah k'neged midah'. This means that the response fits our act. Not simply a punishment but rather a means of revealing mistakes and rewarding proper acts. Let's see how this concept works through with the three advisors.

The ultimate end of Bilaam, who advised that the Jews should be killed, was that he was killed by the Jews. A clear example of midah k'neged midah. Yisro, who defended the Jews, ran for his life and settled in Midyan. There he met Moshe as he was fleeing from Paroah. Moshe married Yisro's daughter Tziporah, connecting Yisro to Klal Yisroel in a most intimate way. Once again, we see a very clear example of midah k'neged midah - the one who defended the Jews became part of the Jewish nation. However, when we come to the third advisor, Iyov, the connection is more difficult to understand. Iyov, who remained silent, suffered excruciating pain. How did that response fit his act?

Let's understand Iyov. He really had wanted to defend the Jews but, seeing the fate of Yisro, realized that his words would fall upon deaf ears. With nothing to gain by speaking, he remained silent. In order to reveal his error to him, Hashem sent 'yisurim', terrible pain. What does one do when experiencing intense pain? He screams! Even though the screams do nothing in terms of alleviating the pain, if it hurts, you scream. Hashem was teaching him that remaining silent showed that it didn't really bother him. Had Paroah's planned destruction of the Jews bothered him, he would have defended them.


Yaacov deceiving his brother Esav out of the rights of the firstborn and his paternal blessing, we also see Yaacov being deceived by his Uncle Lavan who duped him into marrying Leah.

Haman fabricated lies about Mordechai and his Jewish brethren in order to defame them in the eyes of King Achashverosh and to convince the king to annihilate them. Haman was punished measure for measure when Heavenly messengers appeared to King Achashverosh and made the false claim that they had been sent by Haman to destroy Achashverosh’s property and to kill the king.

* You lie to someone - someone will lie to you
* A cashier steals money - he/she finds that their money has been misplaced or stolen
* An uncaught killer strangles his victim - G-d will exact punishment in this world ; perhaps the killer will die from choking, from drowning
* You smile at someone - someone will smile back
* You give charity - in your time of need charity will be given to you
*You pray for a person to be healed - in your time of need if G-d's will you will be healed

get the picture? good deeds are rewarded with good deeds ; evil deeds are repayed with evil deeds (in this world or in the world to come) NO DEED GOES UNREWARDED OR UNPUNISHED

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Alex said...

It doesn't exactly say in the Bible that if you murdered you are going to get mudered... or if you steal you will be stolen from...

Tidbits of Torah said...

You are correct, Alex. It does not "exactly" say this in the Torah. However, it is evident throughout the Torah (as noted above) that G-d indeed rewards / punishes for our deeds. NO DEED of or ours is ever overlooked.

The Torah states that by performing God's commandments, we will be rewarded with blessing in this world and with everlasting life in the World to Come, whereas if we fail to observe the mitzvot,
punishment will be meted out both in this world and the next. What then of the good person who commits
a sin, or a number of sins, or has on some occasion caused harm, humiliation or suffering to another
person? Is he held accountable for his actions? And what of the wicked person who does a mitzvah, or a number of mitzvot? Is he rewarded for his deeds?

The answer is that God rewards each good deed and punishes for each wrongful deed, taking into
account all relevant factors, including a person's intent, capabilities, etc. God's exacting of justice is thus precise, with each person receiving reward or punishment commensurate with his actions. However, so as to enable good people to be rewarded with eternal life, God punishes them in this world for their few sins; conversely, so as to discharge any claim the wicked may have to the World to Come, God rewards them in this world for their few good deeds. The good fortune of the wicked in this temporal world is thus at the expense of any reward due them in the Future. Although, because man's life span is short, it sometimes seems that their reward is great, in fact their reward is of limited duration. Afterwards they must endure the punishment of Gehennom.

By the same token, the suffering that befalls good people is also of limited duration, only while they sojourn in this world. Eternal reward awaits them in the World to Come. Thus, that which appears to be punishment may, in the light of deeper introspection, prove to a blessing; that which appears to be blessing may, in the light of deeper introspection, prove to be a curse.