Sunday, January 18, 2009

Destined to Give an Account

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The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:29) states: Against your will you were created; against your will you were born; against your will you live; against your will you die; and against your will you are destined to give an account before the King who rules over kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

The question is obvious: If a person is living against his will, why is he forced to give an account of his actions?

The Vilna Gaon explains this based upon the Mishna: If someone (owned fields surrounding the field of his friend and) put up fences around three sides (separating their fields), we do not make the owner of the inner field pay (for the cost of building the fence, for it does not really help him, since his field is left opened on one side). Rabbi Yosi says: If the one being surrounded makes the fourth wall, he is obligated to pay his share in all of the walls (for he has demonstrated that he approves of the building of the other three sides). If the owner of the outer property surrounds the inner owner on three sides, the inner owner is not obligated to defray the cost of the building because he has not benefitted, for the fourth side is completely opened. He also can claim that he did not request this at all. However, if the inner owner builds the fourth wall, he has revealed that he approves of the building of the three walls, and he therefore is obligated to contribute to the cost of all four sides of the fence.

So too, explains the Gaon, Hashem fences a person on three sides: A person is created; he is born; and he is living against his will. Accordingly, he is not obligated to pay for it (to give an account of his deeds). But when a person becomes ill and is close to dying, he makes every effort available to him in order to stay alive. He will spend any amount of money for doctors, medicines and cures. He will cry out with all his might that he wants to live. This is as if he is fencing the fourth wall. He is demonstrating that although he was created and born against his will, he now approves and is willingly living. He therefore is destined to give an account of his actions.

The Netziv recounted that one time the students of the Gaon were sitting around the Gaon’s table when he said over this explanation. The Dubno Maggid was there as well, and upon hearing the interpretation, offered the following parable: A man had two daughters; one of them was extremely ugly and the other one had a very bad temperament. No man wanted to marry them until the following marriage was suggested: A blind man should marry the ugly one, and a deaf one should marry the one with the dire disposition, for he will not hear her yelling. The father of the girls accepted and his daughters were married off. Many years passed and the couples prospered. They became wealthy and built a beautiful family. One day an expert doctor arrived in the city and told them that he is capable of healing both the blind man and the deaf one. They agreed on a price and the procedures were successful. However, to the dismay of the couples, strife and arguments between the men and their spouses immediately flared up. The ex-blind man saw the hideous appearance of his wife and the ex-deaf man heard his wife’s constant nagging and yelling.

When the doctor approached them with his bill, they refused to pay him, claiming that he made it worse for them, not better. The case was brought to court and the judge inquired of the doctor if it was possible for him to undo that which was done. He replied that this would no problem at all for him to do. The judge ruled that since these men were better off before the doctor’s involvement in their life, he must make them blind and deaf again. When the men heard the ruling, they proclaimed that they would rather keep their sight and their hearing. Upon hearing this, the judge reversed his ruling and said that they now have revealed that they are happy with the improvement, and they are obligated to pay the doctor for his services.