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S.A.L.T. - Monday

Rav David Silverberg

          In reaction to their troubles in Egypt, Yosef's brothers attribute their difficulties to their having wronged Yosef: "Alas, we are being punished on account of our brother, because we looked on at his anguish, yet paid no heed… " (42:21).  This reaction raises an interesting question with practical ramifications: may one presume an association between a given tragedy and a specific sin?

Former chief rabbi of Tel-Aviv, Rav Chaim David Halevi zt"l, addresses this question and cites several precedents thereof in earlier works.  One such precedent appears in the works of Rav Chaim Yosef David Azulai, known as the "Chida."  A case came before him involving two business partners. One of them felt compelled to violate Shabbat for the sake of the business, after which burglars plundered the warehouse and stole all the merchandise.  The other partner insisted that the crime occurred as a direct result of his partner's Shabbat desecration, and, as such, he is to be held solely responsible for the losses.

The ruling sided with the Shabbat violator.  One cannot decide for himself why a given disaster occurred, except for those instances when Chazal explicitly draw such an association. Therefore, the partner has no proof with which to blame the other for the burglary, as no correlation necessarily exists between the theft and the Shabbat desecration.

It should be noted, however, that this does not undermine the need for introspection during difficult times.  The Rambam writes in the beginning of Hilkhot Ta'aniyot that times of crisis must trigger an intense process of soul-searching and repentance.  When confronted by difficult situations or tragedy, Heaven forbid, a person - or community, or nation - must search for those areas requiring improvement.  Although one may not definitively conclude on a correlation between a certain crisis and a specific sin, one can and must reflect in these situations in an attempt to correct his mistakes of the past. 



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