Friday, August 12, 2011

Testing Hashem

The passuk in this week’s sedrah says;

לֹא תְנַסּוּ אֶת ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר נִסִּיתֶם בַּמַּסָּה
“You should not test Hashem as you tested Him in Massah.”

The Sma”g (mitzvas lo saaseh 4) explains;
פירוש שלא יאמר אדם אעשה מצוה זו ואראה אם אתברך
“This means, a person should not say, I will do this mitzvah and see if I will receive a berachah.”

The Sma”g brings an exception to this halacha from the gemara in Taanis (9a), the gemara says;
אשכחיה ר' יוחנן לינוקא דריש לקיש אמר ליה אימא לי פסוקיך א"ל עשר תעשר א"ל ומאי עשר תעשר א"ל עשר בשביל שתתעשר ...אמר ליה ומי שרי לנסוייה להקב"ה והכתיב (דברים ו, טז) לא תנסו את ה' א"ל הכי אמר רבי הושעיא חוץ מזו שנאמר (מלאכי ג, י) הביאו את כל המעשר אל בית האוצר ויהי טרף בביתי ובחנוני נא בזאת אמר ה' צבקות אם לא אפתח לכם את ארובות השמים והריקותי לכם ברכה עד בלי די מאי עד בלי די אמר רמי בר חמא אמר רב עד שיבלו שפתותיכם מלומר די
“Rebbi Yochanan found the child of Reish Lakish and he asked him, ‘Which passuk are you learning?’
He replied, ‘I am learning the passuk of “עשר תעשר”.
Rebbi Yochanan said to him, ‘What does the passuk mean?’
He replied, ‘[The passuk means] give maaser in order that you should become wealthy.’
Rebbi Yochanan asked, ‘Is it permissible to test Hashem? Surely we have learnt in the passuk ‘לא תנסו את ה'’ – ‘You should not test Hashem.’
He replied, ‘This is what Rebbi Hoshaya said – except for this case, as the passuk says in Malachi “Bring all the maaser to the storehouse and let there be food for My House and test Me in this”, says Hashem – “if I will not open for you the windows of shamayim and pour out berachah for you ‘עד בלי די’.”’
[The gemara asks;] What does ‘עד בלי די’ mean?
Romi bar Chama said in the name of Rav – it means until your lips are worn out from saying enough.”
  • How can the passuk in Malachi state an exception to an issur in the Torah if the Torah never hinted to any case which is excluded from the issur?
When the benei yisrael came to Rephidim after coming out of Mitzraim and had no water, the passuk says;
וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם מֹשֶׁה מַה תְּרִיבוּן עִמָּדִי מַה תְּנַסּוּן אֶת ה'. ...וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם מַסָּה וּמְרִיבָה עַל רִיב בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל נַסֹּתָם אֶת יה' לֵאמֹר הֲיֵשׁ ה' בְּקִרְבֵּנוּ אִם אָיִן.
“Moshe said to them, why are you arguing with me? Why do you test Hashem? ...And he called the name of the place Massah and Merivah, because the benei yisrael argued with Hashem and because they tested Hashem saying, ‘Is Hashem in our midst or not?’”

However when the benei yisrael came to Kadesh and complained that there was no water, the passuk says;
הֵמָּה מֵי מְרִיבָה אֲשֶׁר רָבוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת ה'...
”They are the Waters of Merivah concerning which the benei yisrael argued with Hashem…”

• Why does the Torah call Rephidim “Massah and Merivah” (testing and arguing), but in Kadesh only the name Mey Merivah (arguing) was added with no reference to the benei yisrael testing Hashem?

נסיון and בחינה
The Malbim in Malachi (3:10) explains the difference between a נסיון and a בחינה;
ויש הבדל בין נסיון לבחינה, המנסה ינסה אם יש בהמנוסה מדרגה גבוה מן הנודע בו עד הנה, למשל המנסה את הזהב אם יש בו כח משיכת המאגנעט, והבחינה הוא אם בוחן אם הדבר הוא כפי מהותו הרגיל, כמו הבוחן הזהב אם אין בו סיגים
“There is a difference between a nisayon and a bechinah. Someone who applies a nisayon tests to see if there is a quality in the item being tested that exceeds that which was known up until now. For example, someone may test gold to see if it has magnetic properties. However a bechinah is where the person tests the item to see if it has its normal qualities, for instance someone may check gold for impurities.”

A נסיון is a test to see if there is something new that was not previously known, a בחינה is a test to see if the normal qualities of the item are present as would be expected.

Giving maaser
The Malbim (3:10) explains why it is permissible to test Hashem regarding giving maaser.

The passuk says in Malachi (3:10);
הָבִיאוּ אֶת כָּל הַמַּעֲשֵׂר אֶל בֵּית הָאוֹצָר וִיהִי טֶרֶף בְּבֵיתִי וּבְחָנוּנִי נָא בָּזֹאת אָמַר ה' צְבָקוֹת אִם לֹא אֶפְתַּח לָכֶם אֵת אֲרֻבּוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וַהֲרִיקֹתִי לָכֶם בְּרָכָה עַד בְּלִי דָי
“Bring all the maaser to the storehouse and let there be food in My House and test Me please with this says Hashem, if I will not open for you the windows of shamayim and I will pour out berachah for you עַד בְּלִי דָי.”

The Malbim explains;
...שהגם שאסור לנסות את ה' כמ"ש לא תנסו את ה', זה מותר, כי אינו נסיון רק בחינה
“Even although it is forbidden to test Hashem with a nisayon, as the passuk says “לא תנסו את ה'” – “you should not give Hashem a nisayon” this is permitted because it is not a nisayon, rather it is a bechinah.”
 
Since Hashem promises us that if we give maaser then He will pour out berachah for us, therefore giving maaser on this condition is no longer a nisayon, a test of something which is not known; rather it is a bechinah, a check to see if something expected will occur. That is not included in the issur in this week’s sedrah of לֹא תְנַסּוּ because this is a bechinah, not a nisayon.

Mey Merivah
According to the Malbim we can also understand that in Rephidim, the benei yisrael tested Hashem, because they did not yet know that Hashem would bring out water from a rock for them. Therefore the place was called Massah and Merivah, because they both tested Hashem and also argued with Him.

However in Kadesh the benei yisrael already knew that Hashem would bring water out of a rock for them, so there was no nisayon. As the Malbim explains, a nisayon is only where there is a test to see if there is a quality that was previously unknown. So the Torah only called the place Mey Merivah, because they argued with Hashem.

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