Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 21 March 2015 / 1 Nisan 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - Eleventh Blessing: Part 3

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“Blessed are You G-d, King Who loves righteousness and judgment.”

The conclusion of this blessing seems puzzling. Why is it necessary to mention that G-d loves righteousness and judgment? Certainly G-d’s judgment is righteous, and so too, G-d’s righteousness must hold up to His true judgment. Before answering this question let us explore a well-known story of the Baal Shem Tov.

The Baal Shem Tov once sent his disciple the Maggid of Mezritch to the forest. There he saw a soldier stop to eat and rest by the lake. He left without realizing that he forgot his purse full of money. A young boy strolling by noticed the purse and took it as he continued on his way. Shortly after, a poor, old man arrived. He sat down to eat some scraps of food. As he napped the soldier returned. To his surprise he was woken up to shouting, “Thief! Thief! Where is my money?” The shouting was quickly followed by brutal strikes to a weak and defenseless old man. Still in a rage the soldier rode off, unsuccessful in finding his money.

Upon the Maggid’s return the Baal Shem Tov explained the hidden story behind what had transpired. In a previous reincarnation the soldier owed that boy the exact sum of money. It was therefore arranged that the soldier would forget his money, enabling the boy to be properly compensated for his prior loss.

In this way the soul of the soldier would be cleansed of his earlier wrongdoing, and could return to Gan Eden, where souls are rewarded for their good deeds in this world. But what does the old man have to do with this story? Answer: He was the judge whose incorrect verdict caused the wrong person to lose the money.

We see from the above story that sometimes there can be a judgment which is unjust. In order to bring about justice in such a case, the Heavenly Court may decree things that seem unjust, like the soldier losing his money, and the old man being wrongfully accused and beaten for a crime he did not commit. However, these are in truth “righteous judgments” since they rectify the wrongdoings of the past. Alternatively, the “righteous judgments” can refer to a person who loses a court case on a technicality; he will be paying money even though he was right. How can this be? Here too, the so called “wrong judgment” is needed to bring about true and eternal righteousness.

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