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When Dovid Fell Before Hashem (at a Time of Plague)

Written by Rabbi Rudman, 23/3/2020


When Dovid Fell Before Hashem (at a Time of Plague)

It is not my place to give Mussar, All I am trying to do is explain a Pasuk that it is part of Tefila. It is found in Tachanun, and is a Pasuk at the end of Sefer Shmuel. If you would like to see more please download the word document or go to the blog.

In most variations of the Siddur before Tachnun we add a Pasuk from the end of Shmuel[1]. When Dovid errs and counts Klal Yisroel directly instead of with a half Shekel, he is punished. Gad the Navi is told by HaShem to offer Dovid a choice of his punishment. There can be a war, a famine, or a plague. Dovid chooses the plague. His reasoning is based on the following logic[2]. If he chooses famine people will say that since he is wealthy, he will not be affected. If he chooses war, then they will say that he depends on his warriors who will die for him and again he will live. But if he chooses a plague, everyone is equal.

In the Pasuk Dovid adds another layer of reasoning. I prefer to fall into the Hand of HaShem who is Merciful, rather than the hand of man. This reasoning is clear in terms of war, but why is famine in the hand of man? The Radak explains[3] that by the Makos we find that Plague was called The hand of HaShem.  Also, as much as famine seems to be also from HaShem, there are ways that a human can control it; whether by purchasing food, or travelling to different country where food is available.

So therefore, Dovid chooses plague, which is equal for all, young and old, rich or poor. But that which Dovid says that I prefer the Hand of Hashem itself needs understanding. Isnt everything that happens from the Hand of HaShem?

There are a number of approaches to understand this. One way is the Rambam[4] which discusses the punishment of Pharaoh for the exile in Egypt. It seems unfair. HaShem had already decreed that Klal Yisroel should be sent into exile. So Pharaoh was only fulfilling the command of HaShem? One answer is that even though it was HaShems command to oppress the Jews, Pharaoh was overzealous in his persecution and therefore he is held responsible. But even that answer requires explanation. Once again, how can this happen.

Some commentaries point at the Ohr Hachaim HaKodaosh[5], who brings a Zohar. In the Zohar it seems to say that a Baal Bechira can harm a person even if there is no decree from HaShem. That is why Reuven preferred that Yosef be placed in a pit of vipers and scorpions rather than in the hands of his brothers. This is also used by the Netziv to explain why Daniel was placed in the lions den.

But once again how can that be? Where can someone seemingly hurt someone beyond what HaShem decreed? There are those who do not find this difficult and place this within the possible understanding that can be explained in the difference the various levels of Hashgacha.

But R Chaim Friedlander ZTL based on what he received from his Rebbe, Rav Dessler explains it differently. (See Emunah VHashgacha 1 page 370.)

He says that when a person tries to harm someone, in general there was some aspect which the one who is harmed has caused the first person to be jealous or upset. Therefore, even though the killer is responsible for his actions, the one who is harmed gave the first person the spiritual ability to harm him. Only because of that can he be killed.

Yosef caused his brothers to be jealous. It is their choice to act on that jealousy. That is their choice. It is their choice to harm Yosef. So, it is their ability to harm him. What Yosef did is not enough to be responsible in HaShems eyes. But since he caused a spiritual harm to his brothers, they have the right to harm him for that. And that is still within the realm of HaShems rules.

Dovid is saying the same idea. I caused the punishment for Klal Yisroel. If I choose a punishment that seems to be protecting myself, then I will cause jealousy from the nation, and then I can be harmed. But if I choose a punishment that all are equal, then I am still only in the Hands of HaShem, and then I can be protected like everyone else.

But what we learn from here is that a plague is something to teach us a lesson directly from HaShem. There is not meant to be a way to explain it anyway as the hand of man. It is like the Radak said from the plagues of Egypt, it is directly he Hand of HaShem.

It is not my place of custom to pontificate and find reasons, hints, etc. But I can only say that we say this Pasuk all the time, and at least I, never realized the significance.

In the Shaar HaKAvonos of the ARIZL it is taught (as brought in many siddurim[6]) that when one falls on their face when saying this Pasuk it is an acceptance of death by Hashem decree. We say the Pasuk of Dovid accepting HaShems decree, since it is from the Hand of HaShem. And then the decree can be nullified.

My good friend Rav Yossie Cohen Shlita pointed out the final Radak in Shmuel[7]. Once again, I am just pointing it out. He says, All those who died during the plague were since they did not await and dsaven for the Bais HaMikdosh. How much are we obligated to do that!

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