Friday, July 26, 2013
Chapter 1: Mishna 18: Part 1
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: Upon three things the world is sustained: On judgment ("din") on truth ("emeth") and on peace ("shalom"). As it is written (Zechariah 8:16) "Truth, and judgment of peace [you should] judge in your gates.
We need to understand why the world is sustained specifically on these three things. Furthermore, we learned earlier in the chapter (Mishna 2) that the world stands on three things -- and they weren't these three! (The word used there was "omed," which means to stand; the word used here is "kayam," which means to be sustained. Please refer back to the shiurim on Mishna 2 (DC1_021 through DC1_025). It will be very important in appreciating the problems being raised, as well as helping to get a fuller understanding of what the Maharal is writing here.)
G-d created man with individual components that can be considered to belong to him. There is an intellectual component, where man acquires wisdom and Torah, as Chazal teach us: A "zaken" (literally an elder, but referring to any wise person) is one who as acquired ("kanah") wisdom (Kidushin 32b). The second component is man's own human (intelligent) life force. And finally there are man's economic acquisitions, his money and property.
The human life force is the essence of the person himself. The other two are acquired from outside of himself, which makes them subject to variation. One person may be lacking in intellectual acquisitions, and another lacking in financial acquisitions. But all three need support, so three pillars are required to prevent them from toppling. This is the meaning of the world being supported by three pillars.
Truth is one of the supports, for if falsehood prevails in the world this eradicates the intellectual component. G-d created the world with an intellectual dimension (which compels truth) and it is the pursuit of truth which ensures that this dimension exists in the world as it was meant to be.
Judgment (law) is a second support, for it ensures the integrity of the property which G-d has given to each man. Each person is given the material possessions G-d deems fitting for him and for his personal challenges and mission in the world, and it is improper for any person to impinge on the resources that G-d has prepared for another. Without the rule of law and strict judgment, the system of personal property and resources would disintegrate, for the property of one person would end up in the possession of another. This is totally at odds with the way G-d wants the world to run.
This does not negate the possibility or justification of people having financial litigation. There are many cases where two people have a dispute, each one claiming in good faith to be in the right. No one is purposely lying, and no one is trying to acquire that which does not belong to him. True judgment awards the disputed property to the rightful owner, and the resources are in the possession of the one to whom G-d allocated them in His creation plan.
It is for this reason that we are taught (Shabbath 10a): "Every judge who reaches a truthfully correct verdict is considered a partner with the Almighty in the creation of the world." G-d created the world with a precise view of how every resource should be allocated to enable the purpose of the world to be accomplished. The judge who ensures that every person has exactly the resources that befit him and his purpose, rectifying any deviations from G-d's intended allocations, becomes a partner with G-d in His creation.
The language of the Talmud in Shabbath should be noted. It refers to a judge who is "dan din emeth l'amito," literally meaning one who judges a true judgment to its truth. Can there be a true judgment not "judged to its truth?" Is there more than one kind of TRUE JUDGMENT? It is possible that based on the claims that were entered by the litigants, the judge made a correct legal decisions. But this decision could lack absolute truth, if the claims were not entered properly by one of the sides, leading to a situation where the money didn't really belong to the person to whom it was awarded. The judge made the correct legal decision. But he has not become a partner with G-d in creation, since there is still a deviation from G-d's original view of how the resources should be allocated. (How this can happen touches on the scope of man's free will, which we won't discuss now...) Only judgment which is correct in the absolute does that, and it is one of the pillars which sustain s the world.
(We have discussed before that when the Rabbis say "Doing X is equated with Y" they are not simply using Y to illustrate how good (or bad) X is. That could be done by simply saying that doing X is a wonderful thing. Rather, they are revealing an underlying and fundamental commonality between X and Y. In this case, a judge who renders a proper legal decision has done the correct thing. But only in the case when the money reaches the absolute owner can the judge be considered a partner in creation, for the reason explained above.)
Finally, the world is sustained on the pillar of peace, which is necessary to support the person and his human life force. The tendency of the human being is to want to be the center of existence, negating and invalidating all others. This is the source for strife and argument, "machloketh." (This emanates from uniquely human qualities, which in fact are contradictory. Man is created as a reflection of the Divine, and each human being is so great as to be considered an entire world, instructed to say "For me was the world created." (See Sanhedrin 37a.) Yet a person's insecurities, caused by his failure to recognize his greatness, motivates him to arrogance leading to conflict with other people. The connection between arrogance and insecurity, as well as that between humility and self-awareness of one's true greatness, are dealt with in a truly masterful fashion by Dr. Abraham Twerski in his classic work "Let Us Make Man.")
(Peace is the ability of human beings, in all their greatness, uniqueness and individuality, to coexist. It is easy for people who are all identical to be at peace with each other. No one has a very well developed character or sense of self, so one views any one else as an infringement on the way they want to be. This is the source of much of the apparent peaceful coexistence in very conformist societies. It is when I recognize that you are different than me, that your agenda is different than mine, that your responsibilities may conflict with mine, that we need to WORK at peace, forging harmonious coexistence. Each of us must recognize and validate perspectives that are different, even threatening, to our own. This does not mean compromising on our uniqueness or on our responsibilities. When thought about deeply, it seems like an insurmountable paradox, which is why Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah 11:18, that the name of G-d is "Shalom", and in many other places) tell us that it is G-d Himself who is the only one who can bring true peace. What this means is that only a shared commitment and absolute devotion to fulfill the true will of G-d enables an existence that contains peace. The one Creator is the only force around which everything can truly unite. The word for peace, "shalom" has its root in the word "shalem" which means complete and perfect. The Maharal discusses the entire topic at length in Netiv HaShalom. One who wants to develop a Torah perspective on how to deal with the divisiveness that is tearing our nation apart in these times would do well to study it in depth.)
These three pillars ensure that the world is sustained. They differ from the three foundations taught to us by Shimon Hatzadik at the beginning of the chapter. Those foundations were the reason and purpose for which G-d created the world, the cause for its existence. Without them, the world's initial creation is nullified. The three pillars of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel are what support the continued existence of the world once it has been created. Without them, the world would be the cause for its own destruction. They are what ensure its orderly and purposeful functioning.