web analytics
March 27, 2015 / 7 Nisan, 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
Jon Karl of ABC asks White House Press Secretary, "Yemen is a model of US strategy?"
White House Insists Chaotic Yemen a ‘Model’ for Obama’s War on Terror
Latest Indepth Stories
Safran-032715

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

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Gerstenfeld-032715

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Bibi0303.jpg

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

“Tzedakah tatzil mi-mavet: Charity saves from death”; No death & a tax break? Where do I sign up?

InsideIL targets MBA students at 12 of America’s top programs for its paid Israel summer internship

More Articles from Rabbi Naphtali Hoff
BibiatAIPAC15.jpg

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

An anti-Semitic poster seen in Europe.

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.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

He ruthlessly crushed the revolt, and, despite lacking official Roman sanction, ordered the rebel leaders put to death without trial.

Where did this incredible strength come from? What drove these Jews, who had nearly lost all of their national identity and spiritual connectivity, to risk their lives by standing up against one of the strongest and most fearsome governments of its time?

Of all the Jewish holidays, I would say Sukkos is far and away the least appreciated.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

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: