The Loyal Slave

מרן הגאב"ד שליט"א
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 There is a curious dichotomy in the relationship between Bnei Yisrael and our Creator.  On the one hand, Hashem is our Father, as it is written, “You are children of Hashem your G‑d.”  As such, our relationship is one of filial endearment.  We are privileged to draw close to Hashem in prayer and request anything we may desire, like children who constantly entreat their parents for all their needs.

Hashem is also our Master, the Supreme King of all worlds, before Whom the angels tremble in awe.  In this respect, we approach Him as slaves before their Master, who must heed His every word with the utmost precision.  On Rosh Hashana, Hashem renews His Kingship over all creation.  Klal Yisrael proclaim His sovereignty through our prayers, which focus on His attribute of Kingship, and through our shofar blasts, which trumpet the King’s coronation.  The Gemara states regarding the Mussaf prayer of Rosh Hashana:

ואמרו לפני בראש השנה מלכיות זכרונות ושופרות.  מלכיות כדי שתמליכוני עליכם זכרונות כדי שיעלה זכרוניכם לפני לטובה ובמה בשופר.

Recite before Me on Rosh Hashana (ten verses of) Malchiyos, Zichronos and ShofarosMalchiyos to accept My Kingship;  Zichronos so that your remembrance may ascend before Me for your benefit.  How so?  By means of the shofar.[1]

However, the attribute of Hashem’s Kingship revealed on Rosh Hashana does not eclipse His attribute of Fatherhood.   On Rosh Hashana we begin saying the Avinu Malkeinu prayer, which is recited every day during the Ten Days of Teshuva.  Even as Hashem sits on His Throne of Judgment, He still looks upon us with special favor as His beloved children.

The Gemara cites the opinion of Rebbe Yehuda, who holds that Bnei Yisrael are considered Hashem’s children only to the extent that we obey His commands.  Rebbe Meir argues that even when we defy Hashem, we are still considered His wayward children.[2]

Although the halacha usually follows the opinion of Rebbe Yehuda in his debates with Rebbe Meir, in this case the Rashba[3] rules in accordance with Rebbe Meir, in light of the extensive proofs Rebbe Meir cites from Tanach:

בנים סכלים המה

They are foolish children.[4]

בנים לא אומן בם

They are children who cannot be trusted.[5]

זרע מרעים בנים משחיתים

Wicked offspring, sons bent on destruction.[6]

We thus see that even if we stray from Hashem’s service, we are still considered His children.   Our position as Hashem’s children is a great privilege, but it is also a great responsibility.  A father is prone to take greater offense when defied by his own children, than when he is defied by a common servant.

With this we can resolve a seeming contradiction.  The Gemara cites an opinion that when we obey Hashem’s will we are considered His children, but when we defy His will we are considered His slaves.[7]  Yet the verses from Parshas Haazinu imply just the opposite.  In reference to our defiance, the verse call us Hashem’s children:

בניו מומם דור עקש ופתלתל ... וירא ה' וינאץ מכעס בניו ובנתיו.

His sons are blemished, a crooked and twisted generation … Hashem saw and was angered by the infuriating deeds of His sons and daughters.[8]

Yet in reference to the consolations that Hashem will ultimately extend to us after our long and bitter Golus, Hashem refers to us as His trusted slaves:

כי ידין ה' עמו ועל עבדיו יתנחם ... הרנינו גוים עמו כי דם עבדיו יקום

For Hashem will judge on behalf of His nation, and console His slaves … Let the nations sing on behalf of His nation, for He shall avenge the blood of His slaves.[9]

This can be understood by means of a parable.  Once there was a king whose rulership was overthrown by a sudden rebellion of his closest ministers.  The king was outraged at the base treachery of his servants, but he became even angrier when he discovered that some of his own children took part in the rebellion.

After many years of forced exile, the king finally managed to stage a counter-rebellion and regain his throne.  The most faithful of his children stood by his side throughout his ordeal and were well rewarded for their loyalty.  Yet the king was even more impressed by the simple servants of the palace who stood by his side even after the palace was captured by the rebels.  They risked their lives to fight on the king’s behalf to oust the traitors from the palace, thus displaying their true devotion to the king.

So too, as Hashem’s children, we should be ashamed of our sins that forced the Shechinah into exile with the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.  However, in our role as Hashem’s servants, our loyalty to Him in these difficult days of Golus is all the more pronounced and impressive.

May we soon merit to see the Beis HaMikdash rebuilt, the King return to His Palace, and the Kingdom of Heaven revealed throughout the world.  And may Hashem place in our hearts thoughts of sincere teshuvah, that we may merit to be loyal and loving children to our Father in Heaven, and be inscribed in the Book of Life together with the entire Jewish nation.

[1] Rosh Hashana 16a

[2] Kiddushin 36a

[3] Teshuvos HaRashba I 194

[4] Yermiyah 4:22

[5] Devarim 32:20

[6] Yeshaya 1:4

[7] Bava Basra 10a

[8] Devarim 32:5, 19

[9] Devarim 32:36, 43