web analytics
July 30, 2014 / 3 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Nullity Of Being, Greatness Of Being: A Meditation on Sin and Repentance


At the core of man is duality. Some might suggest contradiction. Regardless of how it is characterized, man’s essential duality creates tension in his life. For man is both corporal, like every other being that walks the face of the earth, and he is spiritual, imbued with the dignity and divinity of his Creator.

At every instance of his life, man teeters and totters, seeking balance between the dual facets of his nature. At each step, he seeks to imbue to natural with the spiritual, lending grace to the most basic of tasks, and to lend humanity to the divine, bringing holiness within his grasp.

No moment is more rife with the tension of man’s duality than his confession on Yom Kippur. The process of repentance and its accompanying recitation of the confession – Vidui – highlights the contradiction of man’s nature.

On the one hand, Vidui is a singular manifestation of courage, creativity and spiritual and psychological strength. On the other, it is a powerful statement of self-defeat, a pathetic recognition of human frailty, inferiority and unworthiness.

Sincere and authentic repentance depends upon the strength, ability and insight to accuse oneself not only of doing wrong but of possessing a nature that makes such failure inevitable. Vidui is an acknowledgement that one’s intentions and deeds are unworthy and tarnished, a shameful cry that “I have sinned.”

Repentance is a merciless and boundless expression of self-accusation. However, the irony – and some might suggest, the beauty – of this admission of necessary failure is wholly dependent on man’s unique superiority and spiritual greatness. Without such inherent holiness, self-accusation would be impossible.

It is only when one is cognizant of freedom that he can recognize guilt, fragility and temptation and then – and only then – contemplate genuine repentance.

The Vidui experience is meaningless without both aspects of man’s duality. His praise and shame are equal parts of the Vidui experience. Regret requires recognition. Yet recognition is futile unless man simultaneously has faith in his own sacrality; in his creative abilities and talents, which ultimately allow him to repent, to change and to be renewed and reinvigorated.

Call it a fundamental irony, contradiction or duality, but the praise of man is one and the same as the enabler of his confession. One without the other has no 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 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 the 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” is also to 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 is also expected to acknowledge 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 – the nullity of being and the greatness of being.

The nullity of being leads to the Yom Kippur confession. The greatness of being leads to the ma’asrot confession. Both are rooted in humans, created from earth’s dust in the image of God.

Both forms of confession can at times be integrated. The greatness of being can indeed overshadow the nullity of being.

When the Klausenberg Rebbe addressed survivors from Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia in the Feldafin 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.

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 “Nullity Of Being, Greatness Of Being: A Meditation on Sin and Repentance

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
U.S. President Barack Obama escorts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of the Oval Office
Pirated Phone Conversation of Obama Slamming Bibi from Unverified Source
Latest Indepth Stories
Young children 'recruited' by the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) terrorist group for a Shari'a jihadist army in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS poses a great threat to the entire civilized world in general and liberal democracies in particular.

kerry clown

Kerry is preoccupied with pressuring Israel, notwithstanding the transformation of the Arab Spring .

journalism

With no shortage of leftist media that seek to distort the news, what should our Torah response be?

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett

Because let’s face it: Hamas obviously can’t defeat the IDF in the field, soldier against soldier

As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.

Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.

There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write. I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza. No […]

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

It is time for a total military siege on Gaza; Nothing should enter the Gaza Strip.

Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”

The truth is we seldom explore with kids what prayer is supposed to be about.

Almost as one, Jews around the world are acknowledging the day-to-day peril facing ordinary Jews in Israel and the extraordinary service of the IDF in protecting them.

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

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.

I was singing, dancing, jumping and, sweating. Just joy and happiness. One child on my shoulders after another. What happiness! And then, the little boy on my shoulders – he could not have been older than six – began to cry.

The only way for children to find a way back to the path is through parental love and understanding.

Nothing defines a community so much as its recognition of common leadership and willingness to respect its authority.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/nullity-of-being-greatness-of-being-a-meditation-on-sin-and-repentance/2009/09/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: