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Parshas Ha’azinu: Never Give Up!

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And this insight is a very good reason why we should be reading this haftorah immediately after Yom Kippur. Dovid HaMelech committed transgressions, big ones (on his level) during his life, but because he is one of the paradigms of teshuvah, he redeemed himself and remains one of the most righteous heroes in all of Jewish history.

We must internalize this lesson as we face the year post-Yom Kippur.

How do we hold on to at least some of our Yom Kippur feelings? What makes us fail? What is the greatest obstacle in fulfilling our commitments and resolutions that we made on Yom Kippur?

The problem we face is not being to handle failure. All too often we give up, on ourselves, and that is our biggest obstacle.

Rav Chaim Volozhin in Ruach Chaim on Avos writes:

“A person is constantly going up and down [in ruchniyus]. When he’s down, he feels as if whatever he does and has done in avodas Hashem was without a full heart, and he’s not accomplishing anything by doing it. He wants to rest and sleep deeply until the time of passionate avodas Hashem would return…But a person can grow easily to a high level if he specifically maintains his avodah, even when feeling a weakening, a hisrashlus, rather than entirely giving up his service. If he gives up his avodah entirely (and waits to feel the passion again), he’ll distance himself further.”

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz (Sichas Mussar, 5732, Maamar 37) also states this insight into spiritual growth. The pasuk in Micha (7:8) says “Al tismechu ayvati lee, kee nafalti kamti, kee eshev b’choshech, Hashem or li – My enemies should not rejoice that I have fallen, because I have gotten up; when I sat in darkness, Hashem was a light for me.”

Chazal explain: If I had not fallen, I would not have risen – ilu lo nafalti, lo kamti – I have only grown because I fell in avodas Hashem. I have only experienced Hashem as a light for me because I once experienced the darkness, the lack of spiritual growth.

Allow me to quote from some meaningful lyrics sung by popular contemporary singer and composer, R’ Eytan Katz:

If you have transgressed, Don’t get yourself depressed, Just get up from the floor, That’s what Hashem requests.

The most important message in learning this week’s haftorah is not to give up on ourselves. We won’t be perfect and G-d doesn’t expect that from us. When we fall, we need to get up, learn from our mistakes, do teshuva, and fight on. This was the most significant aspect of Dovid, the warrior. He won many battles on the battlefield, but the greatest of all enemies he defeated was the spiritual one who dogged him throughout his lifetime, the yetzer hara.

So, yes, lose some battles against that evil inclination, but win the war!

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