A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.
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 email@example.com.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
The Palestinian Authority has jailed more than 350 Arabs for “security” reasons in just 2014.
Since Torah is the great equalizer, the great reconciler of divergent but valid opinions, this is also the place where common ground is reached.
Some American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by groups waging war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people.
Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.
At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.
But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.
As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’
If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?
When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.
The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.
The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.
Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.
“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.
We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.
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.
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.
The road back is paved with love, understanding, hugs, and honest communication.
An educator must not be satisfied until that soul he refuses to handle, love, nourish and develop is registered in another school, one more caring and embracing.
No matter where we look, our lives are touched by miracles.
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: