web analytics
July 30, 2015 / 14 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Tapping Into Our Meritorious Past

(L-R) The Rambam, The Chofetz Chaim, Rashi.

(L-R) The Rambam, The Chofetz Chaim, Rashi.

“Remember for us the covenant of the patriarchs, as You said, ‘And I will remember My covenant with Yaakov, and also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham I will remember, and the Land will I remember’ ” (Leviticus 26:42 and the Selichos liturgy).

One of the central elements of the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) is the concept of zechus avos, which holds that we, as children of holy forefathers, can tap into our ancestors’ great spiritual merit and achieve a degree of atonement that would otherwise be impossible. Despite our own inadequacies, we are able to stand before God and beg forgiveness due to the special relationship that He enjoyed with our progenitors.

The obvious question is, how is this possible? How can it be that Hashem, the ultimate arbiter of truth and justice, would look past our actual deeds and grant us special reprieve simply because of our lineage?

Is it logical to suggest that despite the fact that we may be as guilty of sin (if not more so, at least on a relative level) as the nations around us, we can still be exempted from our poor behavior simply because of a special bond which formed some four thousand years ago? Where is the evenhandedness in such judgment?

* * * * *

Before we attempt an answer to this question, let us first endeavor to reach a clear understanding about the roles and relationship between Hashem’s attributes of din and rachamim (strict justice and mercy, respectively).

Typically, we perceive these two attributes as mutually independent elements of divine justice. Hashem either chooses to judge a person strictly or He applies compassionate mercy, and softens the severity of the true judgment against sinners.

However, this understanding is wholly inaccurate. Rashi, commenting on the first verse in the Torah, questions why it is that throughout the entire first chapter of Genesis only the name “Elokim” – the divine name used to express strict justice – is used when referencing the Creator. Yet, at the beginning of the following chapter (2:4ff), the combined term “Hashem Elokim” is utilized (a term indicating that not only had rachamim become incorporated into Hashem’s mode of judgment, it had even bypassed din as the primary means of ruling). Rashi’s response provides us with a new insight into our discussion:

“In the beginning it was His intention to create [the world] with the Divine Standard of Justice, but he perceived that the world would not endure, so He preceded it with the Divine Standard of Mercy, allying it with the Divine Standard of Justice” (Rashi on Genesis 1:1).

Since the earliest stages of creation, Hashem deemed it necessary for din and rachamim to be melded together to form one complete entity, working together harmoniously in response to man’s misdeeds. But how does this work? How can din and rachamim be used in conjunction with one another to achieve a desired result?

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 1, p.8ff) explains this idea through the use of the following analogy:

Suppose there are two young men who each rob a bank of the same amount of money. One was raised in a crime-riddled community without proper parenting, guidance and sense of citizenship. The other comes from an upstanding home but fell in with the wrong crowd and turned to a life of crime.

The judge, who happened to be a roommate of the second thief’s father during law school, rules that the first thief must spend two years in prison. His friend’s son, however, is required to pay a small fine and contribute two hundred hours of communal service.

At first glance, this inconsistency in judgment would appear to be highly inappropriate. After all, they both committed the same crime. If anything, logic would dictate that the criminal from the depressed neighborhood should be treated with more clemency, while the one who was raised in an upscale setting should be reprimanded more severely. Certainly the judge would want to avoid any possible accusations of impropriety by letting his friend’s son off easy.

Yet, as noted above, that is exactly the same type of “impropriety” which we ask Hashem for every time we ask Him to spare us in the merit of our forefathers.

About the Author: Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting (ImpactfulCoaching.com). He can be reached at 212-470-6139 or at president@impactfulcoaching.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 “Tapping Into Our Meritorious Past”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Israelis visit the former northern Samaria town of Sa-Nur.
Tears From 2 Security Officers, Refusals to Expel Sa-Nur Families
Latest Indepth Stories
Talks between Iran and the P5+1 were likely to be extended beyond Obama's self-imposed deadline.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through} Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. […]

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

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.

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

More Articles from Rabbi Naphtali Hoff
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff

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

Rabbi Naphtali Hoff

In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.

We must create an atmosphere of complete intolerance for such conduct, while reminding our children that we can take pride in our unique and distinctive purpose without knocking others.

In which specific respects are we to attempt to “relive” yetzias Mitzrayim?

Until recent times, every powerful nation that has ever ruled the world has been fundamentally anti-Semitic.

The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.

A central concept in any discussion about happiness is achieving clarity. “Ain simcha ela k’hataras hasefeikos” – there is no joy as that experienced with the removal of doubt.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/tapping-into-our-meritorious-past/2013/09/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: