web analytics
November 25, 2014 / 3 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Fractured Man, Whole Man

Front-Page-091313

It is irony. It is contradiction. It is an impossibility. It is the nexus of our being. It is what defines our humanity. And it causes us to wallow in our sin at the exact moment it allows us to genuinely confess and embrace holiness. To live with this duality is to be human. To have one without the other is to live a life bereft of meaning.

Rav Soloveitchik, zt”l, derived these two inseparable elements of the repentance experience from the Vidui recitation of the Jew who apportions his ma’asrot during the fourth and seventh years of the Shemittah cycle. Such a Jew boasts that he has not violated even one iota of the Commandments; he has fulfilled the mitzvah of ma’asrot to the letter.

“According to all your Commandments which You have commanded me: I have not transgressed any of Your Commandments, neither have I forgotten. I have harkened to the voice of the Lord my God, I have done according to all that You have commanded me.”

Such a statement in praise of a man extolling his virtues as a God-fearing and obedient servant is categorized by our sages as a “confession”? How is it possible, Rav Soloveitchik asked, to ascribe “confession” – a word that conjures up images of weakness and helplessness – to a man elevated to the point of not having “transgressed any of Your commandments”?

But that is precisely the point. Only a person proud enough to announce that he has done “all that You have commanded” can also be expected to humbly admit he has “not done according to all that You have commanded.”

The one who possesses the insight and strength to do right likewise has the capability to know – and do – that which is not right. The ability to recognize success is a prerequisite to admission of failure. Both emanate from the same source; both lead to mutually exclusive conclusions, that is, the nullity of being and the greatness of being.

It is the nullity of being that leads directly to the Yom Kippur confession. The greatness of being leads to the ma’asrot confession. Both are rooted in our humanity, our humanness, created from earth’s dust in the image of God. There are moments, glimpses of holiness, when the two forms of confession can be integrated. The grace of human experience is that the greatness of being can, for fleeting moments of experience, for wisps of time, indeed overshadow the nullity of being.

* * * * *

When the Klausenberger Rebbe addressed survivors from Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia in the Feldafing DP Camp on Kol Nidre night in 1945, the greatness of being overpowered the nullity of being, despite the dire circumstances and the historical context, which might have led a “rational” thinker to focus on the nullity of existence.

Lieutenant Meyer Birnbaum reported that he “had never heard so powerful a speech and never will again. When he finished, more than two hours later, I was both emotionally drained and inspired for the best davening of my life.”

What did this great rebbe, who himself had lost his wife and eleven children to the Nazis, say to those who could still see and smell the stench of the crematoria? How could he speak of confessions to those who had witnessed such depravity? How could he speak of such things in the presence of millions of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children?

The rebbe stood with his Machzor in hand, calmly flipping through its pages. Periodically he would ask rhetorically, “Wher haht das geshriben?” – Who wrote this? Does this apply to us? Are we guilty of the sins enumerated here?

One by one he went through each of the sins listed in the Ashamnu prayer and then the Al Chait and concluded that those sins had little to do with those who survived the camps. He analyzed each of the possible transgressions one by one:

Ashamnu. “Have we sinned against Hashem or man? I don’t think so.”

Dibarnu dofi. “We spoke no slander. We didn’t speak at all. If we had any strength to speak, we saved it for the SS guards so that we could avoid punishment.”

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran is an educator, author and lecturer. He can be reached at e1948s@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Fractured Man, Whole Man”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Police protect MK Feiglin from Arabs on Temple Mount.
Police Chief: Think of 1 Billion Muslims and Don’t Pray on Temple Mount
Latest Indepth Stories
Red Line Obama

“What’s a line between friends?”

West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)

Unrest in YESHA and J’m helps Abbas and Abdullah defuse anger, gain politically and appear moderates

Thousands of rabbis pose in front of Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn on Sunday during the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.

A “Shliach” means to do acts with complete devotion and dedication in order to help bring Moshiach.

Arabs create opening for terrorists to walk the security wall between Ramallah and Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Here, things seem to get a little hazy, why should a Jewish State “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel” confine itself to ensuring “complete equality… irrespective of religion, race, etc.”, especially when this includes “Arab inhabitants” who launched an “onslaught” against the State, months before it even existed? […]

“We don’t just care for the children; we make sure they have the best quality of life.”

“Why do people get complacent with the things they’re told?”

Arab opposition to a Jewish State of any size was made known by word and deed in the form of terror

Operation Moses: First time in history that non-blacks came to Africa to free blacks from oppression

As Arabs murder and maim Jews, Jordan’s leaders bark the blood libel of “Israeli aggression.”

Perhaps attacking a terrorist’s legacy broadly and publicly would dissuade others from terrorism?

R’ Aryeh yelled “Run, I’ll fight!” Using a chair against terrorists to buy time so others could flee

Riot started when Muslim students wore the Pal. kaffiyeh and Druze students demanded them removed

The “Media” didn’t want us to know what a kind, giving, loving young woman Dalia was.

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

Having a strong community presence at the polls shows our elected officials we care about the issues

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
800px-Israel_Hebron_Cave_of_the_Patriarchs

Racheli Frankel: “I didn’t think they were thrown just anywhere. The tears of Hebron embraced them”

Jonah and the Whale (2012) 23 x 23, bronze relief by Lynda Caspe.

Yes, God judges, but His judgment is that of a loving father who longs for his child’s quick return.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

What defines kana’ut these days? Throwing rocks at passing cars on Shabbos? Burning an Israeli flag on Yom Ha’Atzmaut?

One who may leave his wife an agunah is not included in the general rule that we may not imprison on Shabbos.

“Fulfill my requests for good, grant my request, be mindful of us for deliverance and compassion…remember us for a good, long life…give us bread to eat, clothes to wear…”

Too often, as parents and teachers, we think it means talking at our children, delivering to them good and worthy content that they should simply hear and assimilate into their minds and hearts.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/fractured-man-whole-man/2013/09/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: