Parshat Hashavua Vayelech
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This Shabbat is called Shabbat Tshuva because it falls within the Ten Days of Repentance . Its name also derives from the Haftarah which begins with the words “Shuva Yisrael..”
It is customary on this Shabbat, Shabbat Tshuva, for the Rav to deliver a special sermon before his congregation. Hazal say, “When the scholar lectures and people respond after him, ‘Yehe Shemeh hagadol mevorach” – even if one has a document of harsh decrees written against him for one hundred years, the Al-mighty forgives him” (Kohellet Rabbah 9:21). We must, therefore, ensure to show proper respect to the kaddish recited after the “derashah” and answer “Yehe Shemeh Rabbah” with intense concentration.
However, we read in our parashah, “Moshe went and spoke to all of Benei Yisrael.” The Keli Yakar explains, “Moshe wishes to urge them to do teshuvah. Since a person does not recognize his own faults, it says ‘Moshe went,’ implying that he went from tent to tent, to each one in Yisrael individually, and spoke these words to his heart, that is, matters of teshuvah, which depend upon speech, as it says, ‘Take with you words and return to Hashem.'”
This was the extent of the devotion of Moshe Rabbenu, the faithful shepherd. We are also told about Shemuel Hanavi, “He would go every year throughout Bet-El, Gilgal and Mizpah to judge Yisrael in all these places” (Shemuel I 7:16).
We also learn (Tanna Debei Eliyahu 11): “The seventy thousand people killed in Givat Binyamin – why were they killed? Because the Sanhedrin should have tied iron chains on their waists and raise their clothing over their knees and go throughout all the towns of Yisrael – one day in Lachish, one day in Bet-El, one day in Hevron, one day in Yerushalayim – as well as in all the places of Yisrael, to teach Yisrael in order that the Al-mighty’s Name be exalted and sanctified in all the worlds that He created, from beginning to end.”
When we saw , Rav Ovadia Yossef, of blessed memory, travelled throughout Eress Yisrael to assemblies of teshuvah to awaken the hearts and restore Torah’s glory to its place, his sacred words broadcast in hundreds of locations, his works and rulings of Halachah found in every Jewish home – we see a faithful shepherd who shows us through his example the path to follow. We may not sit complacently; there are so many who thirst for the word of Hashem, who yearn for the light of Torah. Initiate Torah classes, participate in them, register your children for Torah education, take part in the return of the nation’s heart to its Father in heaven!
The Ar”i Hakadosh zy”a:
As we know, Yom Kippur does not atone for sins committed between man and his fellow until he appeases him. If he owes the other money, he must pay him. Otherwise, Yom Kippur will not atone, and he will not earn expiation through his confession or Tzedakah. Rabbi Yaakov Kuli zs”l told a story that happened to a certain Talmid Chacham who came before the Ar”i Hakadosh zs”l and asked for a letter of recommendation as he was traveling to a certain city. The Ar”i Hakadosh said, “Go there and Hashem will grant you success; there you will find your mate.”
Upon his arrival in that city, he was greeted with great honor as a result of the letter written by the Ar”i. One of the wealthy, prominent members of the community gave him his daughter as a wife including a large dowry and many gifts. He lived with her very happily for three months, until she suddenly fell ill and died, bequeathing to him all her possessions. Brokenhearted, he left the town and returned to Sefat. He came before the Ar”i and told him what happened. The Ar”i replied, “Do you remember so-and-so, who took large amounts of money from you and lost it, causing you great distress? You should know that his soul was reincarnated in that young woman; she came to the world only to repay you for the anguish and financial loss you suffered on his account.”
Upon hearing this, the man trembled and emotionally recited the pasuk, “Wondrous in purpose and mighty in deed, whose eyes observe all the ways of men, so as to repay every man according to his ways and with the proper fruit of his deeds!” (Yirmiyahu 32:19). Indeed, Hashem’s ways are truly wondrous, as He pays each person precisely in accordance with his actions! Rabbi Yaakov Kuli zs”l told another story of a shopkeeper who tricked someone by using a faulty measure. The man told him, “Your tricking me does not cause me as much anger as it does distress, as I know that you will have to come back to the world in a reincarnated form in order to correct this wrong!”
A student once wrote to his rabbi, the Tzadik Rav Yehezkel Levenstein zs”l, and, as is customary, he wrote at the beginning and end of the letter warm wishes for his well being. In his letter of response, the rabbi wrote, “Think what a great exchange you made! You blessed me with your blessings, the blessings of a flesh and blood human being, and in exchange you received blessings from the heavens above, the blessing of the Creator of the world, as it says, ‘And I will bless those who bless you’ (Beresheet 12:3; Beresheet Rabbah 66:6).” Can a person make a better deal than that?
Allow me, my dear brothers and friends, to take advantage of this beautiful idea and bless all of you from the bottom of my heart, each and every one of you. You should all merit a ‘gemar hatimah tovah’, good health and strength, life, prosperity, salvation, consolation, redemption, forgiveness, atonement and the fulfillment of all your wishes. We should all merit to see the restoration of the pride of Yisrael and the honor of the Torah, with the revelation of the glory of Hashem speedily, with wondrous and overt compassion and kindness.
Let us increase our love and sense of fraternity towards others, each person shall bless all his friends and acquaintances with heartfelt feelings, and one who prays for his friend has his prayers answered first. We shall merit a ‘gemar hatimah tovah’!
Rosh Hashanah, the day of judgment, is behind us. Let us hope that we passed through it peacefully and a good, sweet year was inscribed for us, that we should “be a head and not a tail,” just as we asked and wished for ourselves. The Berayta in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (16a) says that if someone suffered harm before Yom Kippur, it had been decreed before the previous Rosh Hashanah. Rashi explains that the sentence was issued on the Yom Kippur of the previous year. If the damage occurred after Yom Kippur, it was decreed on that Yom Kippur that just passed. This Berayta speaks not of Rosh Hashanah as the determining day, but Yom Kippur.
The Ritva zs”l clarified this issue for us. As we know, “a person is judged on Rosh Hashanah, and his sentence is sealed on Yom Kippur.” What does this mean? What is the “inscription” of Rosh Hashanah and “sealing” of Yom Kippur? The Ritva explains in terms familiar to us from legal systems here on earth. When a trial takes place, various proofs are brought for both sides and arguments regarding their reliability and weight ensue. Prosecution and defense wrestle with one another and ultimately a decision is rendered – guilty or innocent – concerning all the different charges brought against the defendant. If the individual is entitled to compensation or charged a fine, the precise amount is determined on a different date; a separate discussion is devoted to figuring out these details. Character witnesses are brought, claims are presented arguing for softening the punishment, he expresses regret – and only then is the amount determined.
This is the “hiddush” of the Ritva. The symbol of the month of Tishrei is the scale since on Rosh Hashanah the mitzvot are weighed in relation to the sins. The Creator knows the innermost thoughts of every creature, understands every action and the thoughts behind them. On the one hand, “there is no righteous man in the world who does only good and does not sin.” On the other hand, even the empty among us are filled with mitzvot as a pomegranate is filled with seeds. Everything is weighed and considered, and the Creator Himself issues His ruling: on this charge so-and-so is innocent; on these charges not exactly innocent.
Afterward, a date is set for the sentencing: Yom Kippur.
This is a day of kindness and compassion, the day on which the Satan has no power to prosecute against us, as only the angels of mercy are allowed to speak. On this day we stand and plead for a softening of the sentence, for forgiveness and atonement. We confess our misdeeds and plead for a pardon.
The fact is, however, that we are not always granted our request. Last year, for example, we were unsuccessful in our attempt to lighten the sentencing. Not only were we denied redemption, but we suffered one blow after another.
These are just words with so much pain, suffering and grief behind them. We hope that the year will end together with its curses and that Hashem will bring our suffering to an end. This past year the recession in Israel intensified, poverty increased, unemployment skyrocketed, businesses closed, workers were sent home; this year saw little rainfall in Israel and the Kinneret, the country’s main water source, is drying out. All this and much more was decreed last Yom Kippur.
Why? Isn’t it a day of forgiveness and mercy, on which our sins are atoned? Does not the Shechinah reside with us on this day, regarding which the prophet declares, “Seek Hashem when He can be found, call to Him when He is close”? If the Judge shows favor to the convict if He listens to his pleas and refuses to hear the prosecution – how is it possible that, when all is said done, so many harsh decrees were sentenced? We ask this question with pain and trepidation, out of a sincere desire to understand and internalize the answer so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. What can we do to help ensure that on this Yom Kippur we will indeed be sealed for good life and peace?
Both the question and answer are written in the Torah – indeed, there is nothing not written in the Torah! The prophet Yeshayahu cites the question directed towards Hashem, “Why have we fasted and You have not seen – we afflicted our souls and You do not know?” The answer: “On the day of your fasting you find what you desire. ” (Yeshayahu 58:3). The Messudat David explains that everyone found something with which to occupy himself in order to soothe the discomfort of fasting, rather than involving himself in teshuvah! One person may find enjoyment in the pleasantness of the prayers, another from talking with his friends. What will the Judge say, even with His abundance of mercy and compassion and desire to be kind, when the defendant stands before Him and his mind wanders, muttering requests for forgiveness from a written text and then immediately conversing with friends with total peace of mind? No, this is not the way: “For the day of Hashem is great, and very awesome – who can endure it? Yet even now, says Hashem, return back to Me with all your hearts, and with fasting, weeping and lamenting. Rend your hearts rather than your garments, and return back to Hashem your G-d. He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, and renouncing punishment.”
As heard from my Torah Masters
Gemar Hatimah Tovah,