To Stir the Mind and to Light up Shabbos and Yom Tov – Rosh Hashanah 5778
As it is a custom to ask for forgiveness from all those one has wronged over the past year, now and before Yom Kippur, I hereby ask forgiveness from all those I may have pained in any manner! For my benefit, and as a manner of behavior to all those who are ready to forgive, it is best to verbalize the forgiveness and say simply “I forgive you”!
If you can, please print out a number of copies of this issue and place them in your shul so that others can benefit from the articles as well. Through this you will be a partner in the dissemination of the words of Torah – a Mitzvah worthy of generating Hashem’s mercy! Thank you!
Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up Shabbos and Yom Tov”!
A Small Step toward Repentance Opens up Wide Gates of Repentance
The Torah writes “ושב ה’ את שבותך ורחמיך” / “And He will return your repentance and have mercy upon you” (Devorim 30:3).The wording suggests that teshuva/repentance is in Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s hands? Is this so!? Did not the posuk just state above “ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך” / “return/repent until the Lor-d your G-d”, saying that not G-d but man is obligated through his own efforts to rid himself of his evil ways and repent.
It appears that the Torah is teaching us as follows: On one hand, it is the responsibility of the individual to initiate an act of teshuva/repentance. However, because his soul has been blemished with the negative effects of his sin, he lacks the ability to complete his teshuva and reach”עד ה’ אלקיך” / “until the L-rd your G-d”. Therefore, “ושב ה’ את שבותך” / “And Hashem will take your repentance and raise it toward Him and complete it for the person”. All this with abundant mercy, as the posuk continues “ורחמך”; for without Hashem’s great mercy we will not be able to complete our teshuva.
With this we can understand the meaning of “ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך” / “And return until Hashem your G-d”. Is it possible for a person to raise himself “until Hashem”!? Through his own efforts, no! However, to understand the intention of the posuk we should read it with pauses between the words as follows: A person is obligated to reach the stage of “ושבת עד” / “And you shall repent until”, meaning to do his maximum. From that point onward “ה’ אלקיך” / “Hashem your G-d will raise up your teshuva” “עד” / “until” it reaches the source of teshuva which sits at the place of Hashem’s holy throne. All this with great mercy!
With this we can understand the apparent repetition in the posuk”טוב ה’ לכל ורחמיו על כל מעשיו” / “Hashem is good to all and affords His mercy to all of His creations” (Tehillim 145:9). Is His mercy not included in the “good” He gives “to all”!? If so, why add it!? In answer, we can suggest that the wording “Hashem is good to all” teaches us that Hashem opens the door of teshuva for each and every individual, allowing him through his own efforts to return to Hashem. This is true “good” – the effort a person puts forth to help himself, as the posuk states”החיים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים” / “the life and the death I have placed in front of you; the blessing and the curse, and you shall choose life” (Devorim 30:19). The addition of “ורחמיו על כל מעשיו” / “and He affords His mercy to all of His creations” teaches us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu grabs hold of a person’s teshuva and with abundant mercy raises it until it reaches Hashem himself, so to say – “עד ה’ אלקיך”!
The sages teach us (Menachos 29b) that the above principle is hinted to in the structure of the letter heh. That is, Hakadosh Baruch Hu opened an additional opening in the letter between its left leg and its roof showing through this His intention to help a person who accepts upon himself to do teshuva. The Gemora asks, why can’t the person return to Hashem through the opening at the bottom of the letter heh? The sages answer that it is too difficult for a person to retrace his steps in his repentance, rather he needs help in his teshuva and Hashem helps him and this is expressed in the additional opening at the side of the heh. The opening is toward the top of the heh hinting to the fact that Hashem helps the person rise upward from his sin and reach the gates of repentance.
And so we find in the Medrash (Shir Hashirim 5:3) on the posuk “אני ישנה ולבי ער קול דודי דופק פתחי לי” … / “I (the soul) am sleeping and my heart is awake, the voice of my Beloved (Hakadosh Baruch Hu) knocks – open for me…” (Hashirim 5:2) Hakadosh Baruch Hu says to the Jewish people “open for me” an opening of teshuva, even an opening as small as the eye of a needle, and I will open for you very large openings that even wagons and cattle can pass through. That is, Hakadosh Baruch Hu only asks from the Jewish people to show a sign of teshuva and He will take this sign and turn it into a powerful act of teshuva.
This principle is expressed as well in the statement brought in Tana dbei Eliyahu Raba (25) that each and every Jewish person is obligated to say, “When will my actions reach the level of the actions of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov”. The Sefas Emes asks rhetorically, is it possible for each and every person to reach the level of the Avos!? He explains rather that one should not translate “to reach” but rather “to touch”. Meaning, it is only incumbent on each and every individual to “touch” the acts of our forefathers and through this it will be considered as though one actually reached their level! And so says the Tiferes Yehonason on the posuk”ושב ה’ אלקיך” that the main act of teshuva will be done by Hakadosh Baruch Hu, only it is upon the individual to begin the process as its states פתחו לי / “open for me” an opening of teshuva the size of the eye of a needle and I will open up for you the large gates of teshuva. This is the meaning of ו”שב ה” / “And Hashem will return…” – He will accept your humble initial act of teshuva and will help you to complete your teshuva.
For this reason Hakadosh Baruch Hu surrounds us with mitzvos such as Tefillin, Mezuzos, Tsitsis, Bris Mila and Shabbos for they remind us of our obligations to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and to repent before Him for our wrongdoings and Hashem will take the teshuva which begins to stir in our hearts and turn it into a powerful force of teshuva as above. In addition, and following this rule, this small reminder will lead us to great actions!
Regarding our topic, I saw a wonderful dvar Torah in which Rav A. Y. Erentrau shlita brought in the name of Rebbi Yeruchem (Da’as Chochma and Mussar sec. 1 article 76) that although the functioning of the world is based on the principle of cause and effect, there is in actuality very little connection between the cause and the effect. For example, one seed planted in the ground can develop into a sampling and then into a tree which grows numerous branches on which grow numerous fruit and in each and every fruit there are numerous seeds. The above is not simply an expression of the laws of nature, rather Hakadosh Baruch Hu has created a world based on cause and effect where the incredible growth which emanates from a small seed implanted deep within the ground teaches us of Hashem’s hand in Nature. Similarly, regarding the development of man; from a small and seemingly insignificant seed develops a person whose body is made up of ingenious and incredibly complicated life supporting systems and whose mind can connect with the Creator! And so it is regarding the existence of man, as a small breath and a small bite to eat has a phenomenal effect on the body.
The above principle that a small action has the potential to bring about magnanimous results is expressed as well in the posuk “והתקדשתם והייתם קדשים” / “and you shall act holy and you will be holy” (Vayikra 11:44). The sages explain (Yoma 39a) the double wording teaches us that when a person does even one holy act, Hashem brings great holiness upon the person; when he sanctifies himself below, Hashem sanctifies him above; when he sanctifies himself in this world, Hashem will sanctify him in the next world! That is, the word והתקדשתם” refers to man’s efforts and “והייתם קדשים” refers to Hashem’s response.
If you’ll ask, what is the logic behind the above principle? The answer is that all existence in this world receives its life force from its source in the Heavens. Thus, when a person does even the smallest action in this world, he arouses the power found in the source of his existence. Therefore, the effect of his small action is not measured by the size and the merit of the action alone but by the source of its existence – which is vast for it sits in a world not bound by the limitations of this world. From this we can understand on one hand the great responsibility one has to guard his actions and on the other hand that even the smallest act of teshuva can connect a person with the very source of teshuva leading to the complete upheaval of one’s connection to all evil.
The above idea I saw as well in the Shlah Hakodesh (The Gate of the Letters, letter yud, yetzer tov) in the name of the Reishis Chochma (The Gate of Fear, end of 4th chapter) that when a person does a physical mitzvah and it appears to him to be a relatively unimportant act, he should know that in Hashem’s eyes it is considered as a great act for when one does a physical act he awakens its spiritual source above, and spirituality has no limits. Therefore, the sages have taught to us that one who does a physical action down below in this world will merit to great reward above. He then quotes the Chovos Halevuvos who says that a person should not belittle any of his actions for that which appears to be without significance is actually filled with great significance and reward!
From here we can understand that which Rebbi Yaakov states that there is no reward for mitzvos in this world (Kedushin 39b) rather a person will receive reward for his mitzvos in the World-to-Come. That is, this world, limited by its laws, cannot contain the holy light which is created by each and every Mitzvah. As so wrote the Chasam Sofer (Devorim 12:28). And thus it is written “מה רב טובך אשר צפנת ליראיך” / “How great is Your good that You have hidden for Your fearful ones” (Tehillim 31:20), “hidden” in the World-to-Come!
The above principle is already mentioned at the beginning of Creation as at first the Torah states “בראשית ברא אלקים” / “At first G-d created” and the name “אלקים” refers to strict justice, while in the second story of Creation, the Torah states “ביום עשות ה’ אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ” / “In the day Hashem your G-d created the Heavens and the Earth” (Bereishis 2:4) which adds G-d’s name of mercy. Rashi explains that Hashem’s name of mercy was added to teach us the above, that with justice alone man will not be able to achieve his goal. Thus, as above, man is expected to make the first step through an act of justice and Hashem will then raise the person toward Him with a wind of abundant mercy!
And so will be in the end of days, from one small, seemingly insignificant bone Hashem will recreate the whole of man! May we reach that day shortly!
Wishing you a healthy, happy and successful New Year!