web analytics
July 28, 2015 / 12 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


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.

Current Top Story
The picture speaks for itself.
Police Arrest Woman for Calling Mohammed a Pig
Latest Indepth Stories
Hamas on the Temple Mount - Jul 3, 2015

Magnanimity by Moshe Dayan, allowing Muslim control of the Temple Mount, led to today’s situation.

Community-Jewels-logo

It was modeled upon a similar fund that had been set up by Sephardic Jews in Venice. But Amsterdam’s Dotar was initially more ambitious in scope.

Brudner-072415-Rav-Aharon

Rav Aharon Margalit is a bestselling author – his book, As Long As I Live, has been translated into four languages – and a standing-room only lecturer. Both religious and non-religious audiences flock to hear him. What makes him so extraordinary? Rav Margalit is a Chasidic Jew who experienced incredible challenges from a very young […]

J Street president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

J Street is the vanguard (Jewish face)in support of Obama’s Vienna Accords Nuclear Deal with Iran

“I hold the woman’s place over that of men in every fundamental aspect of public and private life.”

The US-UNRWA accord is another example of this White House, hostile to Israel, disregarding truth.

On the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’av, a reflection on the dangerous deal with Iran

The Kotel gained significance around 1550. Previously, many Jews prayed on the Temple Mount itself.

All Jews MUST stand together to oppose boycotts against Israel. So why does NIF & JCF support BDS?

This year it is hard to concentrate on anything but Iran building nuclear weapons to destroy Israel

Bibi failed the moment he transferred Israel’s Iran problem to the international arena.

I was entranced by Kaddish, a song of sorrow of the whole of Israel for the 1000s of years of exile

Like the Avos, we are invested with the mission to inspire humanity to become nobler and greater

Iran accords are worse than Munich; even Chamberlain would be shocked at what is transpiring again.

An unhappy person cannot become happy by acquiring items. Happiness has to come from somewhere else.

Torah wasn’t given to be kept in Sinai; Brooklyn or Beverly Hills-It was meant to be kept in Israel!

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Safran-071015-Main

“Your children, look up there at the top of the chimney. Do you see the smoke coming out?” She looked up, confused by his words. He laughed harshly. “That smoke. There are your children!”

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

What makes a man dedicated to what is best, stray? What makes a leader, a rabbi, lose his way?

Peace/Shalom/Wholeness: A gift conferred; earned and received by God’s grace; His blessing.

Lag B’Omer became the “Scholar’s Festival” reminding all that derech eretz kadmah l’Torah-

The only way to become humble is honesty about our experiences; it’s the only path to true humility

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Jews cover the head not as ID but because wearing it makes concrete to ourselves our devotion to God

It’s easier to take Jews out of galus than to take galus out of Jews – Chassidic master

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: