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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Yom Hadin’

A Pathway To Teshuvah

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Yom Hadin is almost here and this time of year brings with it a range of emotions. Some people are excited – a new year, the start of school, new clothing. For others, Rosh Hashanah instills fear – the need to correct wrongdoings, to beg for forgiveness and make promises to be better. For still others, there is a feeling of being overwhelmed – either by the awe of the Yom Hadin or perhaps the reality of so many days of Shabbos, Yom Tov, Shabbos (that’s a lot of cooking and baking). We are often so busy taking care of all the “things” that need to be done, that we don’t have enough time for spiritual and emotional preparation. It feels like most years I come to Selichos feeling as if I haven’t done enough to prepare.

We are about to stand before Hashem and celebrate the creation of His world in which we are privileged to live. We are ready to honor Hashem’s Malchus and to ask for another year in which to do good and live in a proper way.

Aneivus (humbleness), self-dignity and teshuvah – three ideas that at first glance might not seem to belong together. In reality they are directly intertwined and each depends on the other. Think about this: A person cannot do teshuvah without first accepting and loving themselves and a person cannot accept and love themselves without turning to Hashem.

What is humbleness? Growing up many of us were taught to have aneivus. It was not considered fine to think highly of oneself – that was gaiva (haughtiness). It was not proper to give too much credit to one’s own accomplishments. Many people and especially women have learned these lessons all too well. I respectfully suggest that many have thought of as gaiva is actually what aneivus should be.

In order to understand what humbleness is it is important to know what is isn’t.

Humbleness isn’t:

1. Being self-deprecating in speech or thoughts.

2. Putting yourself last.

3. Denying your own needs (eating right, exercise, sleep).

4. Denying your own feelings, achievements, accomplishments.

5. Always doing for others and never doing for yourself.

6. Denying your hopes and dreams.

The above is actually the life of a slave. It is what we left behind in Mitzrayim, in order to be able to become Bnei Yisroel and be able to serve Hashem. Unfortunately, too many people think that slave mentality is the way to be humble. However, not only isn’t that not the way to serve Hashem, it also makes real teshuvah very difficult.

We are each created b’tzelem Elokim – with a responsibility to live our lives with dignity — to treat ourselves with dignity, to treat others with dignity and to expect others to treat us with dignity. Imagine a beautiful lake. Above the lake is clean, cool air. It is fresh and feels right. Below the lake is the slimy, muddy yuck that you don’t want to put your feet in to. It is dark and murky.

We need to live above the lake in the clean, cool air – serving Hashem b’simcha, knowing when we have given too much of ourselves and need to say no, living our lives with honesty and dignity. Living below the lake means living with sadness, negativity, martyrdom, machlokes, abuse, and a disconnect with Torah and Hashem.

We need to recognize when people are trying to pull us into the murky waters and learn how to pull ourselves back up. Teshuvah and closeness to Hashem is the most powerful way to do this.

Many of us may believe that it is not proper to think highly of ourselves – but if we do and we recognize our self-worth, we won’t look for kavod from others. We don’t need approval from others if we give it to ourselves. Too often we judge ourselves by how others see us; we think we have to measure up to another’s idea of success in order to be worth anything. However, if that is our recipe for self-respect – most of us will NEVER get there, and we risk losing a real relationship with Hashem in the process. With self-dignity we can be emotionally complete and truly serve Hashem.

To Teach, To Learn, To Repent

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

There is an urgency in the two Torah commandments whose obligation is constant and ever-present: to learn Torah and to repent. The Torah is clear about this urgency in the Shema: “These words, which I command you this day, make them as a sign upon your heart and between your eyes ”

Our Sages comment that the word hayom, “this day,” means “the Torah should be ever fresh in your mind, as though you received the Torah today.” As for the duty to repent, Rambam teaches, “A man should always regard himself as if his death were imminent and he might die this very hour, while still in a state of sin. He should therefore repent of his sins immediately and not say, ‘When I grow old I shall repent,’ for he may die before he becomes old.”

This matter of days and Torah is fresh in our minds as we conclude Sefirat Ha’Omer and anticipate the coming of Shavuot, for what more concrete example of the importance of Torah and the power of days than the counting down from the end of Pesach to the Chag Mattan Torah?

Yet despite our celebration of the revelation at Sinai, the chag is not named in the Torah. How can we not be intrigued by this omission of the name of the day toward which we ultimately count – Chag Shavuot – or better yet Chag Mattan Torah, the holiday of the giving of the Torah?

“And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the Sabbath, from the day-you brought the sheaf of wave-offering, seven complete Sabbaths: Even unto the morrow of theseventh Sabbath You shall count fifty days . . .”

Why not simply inform us to count toward the significant date of Mattan Torah? Why doesn’t the Torah find it important to communicate that this counting is not merely related to Pesach, but rather that this day on which we received the Torah is worthy in its own right?

The Talmud considers Shavuot to be the culmination of Pesach, not a chag in its own right. Does this diminish the power of that day at Sinai? Not at all. It is simply that the commemoration of the giving of the Torah must not be limited to a particular time. It applies at all times. This day is each and every day. As it is written, “This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments.”

Every day is Yom Mattan Torah. Every day the excitement, enthusiasm, and vigor of being a committed and learned Jew must be renewed and reinforced. It is with this understanding that the Keli Yakar found significance in the Torah’s use of the phrase Vehikravtem mincha chadasha – “and you shall offer a new offering” – in regard to Shavuot. Each and every day the Torah must be received anew, just as if it were received from Sinai each and every day.

The joy and satisfaction of Torah study must not be limited to special days or occasions. It is to be ongoing, continually renewed and continually renewing. Torah study must always spiritually excite and emotionally uplift. It is for this reason the Keli Yakar says the same enthusiasm and ecstasy that occurred at the Revelation at Sinai must be searched for and found every day.

The Keli Yakar posits the same rationale for the Torah’s omission of the name Rosh Hashanah and its direct association with din and repentance. Should a man sin all year round and think of repenting only as he comes closer to Yom Hadin, when God sits in judgment? No. Rather, he should imagine that God sits in judgment recording his deeds every day. If he can think this way, he will continually engage in repentance.

Analysis, reflection, and introspection must be an everyday experience. For the thoughtful Jew every­ day is a Yom Mattan Torah and Yom Hadin. Such an attitude might also help us understand Lag B’Omer, the thirty-third day of the counting of the Omer when, according to the Talmud, the plague that caused the death of 24,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva ended.

Some 24,000 brilliant young scholars – lost! Our Sages ask why so many died. According to Talmudic and midrashic sources, they died because they did not sufficiently respect one another. Their scholarship, Torah learning, and erudition were taken for granted. For them, Torah learning was pursued as any other knowledge, without an excitement, en­thusiasm, and fire resulting in new insights, renewed motivation, and novel ideas. They reveled in their Torah brilliance rather than the brilliance of Torah.

Shavuos And The Reality Of Redemption

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Having walked through the Valley of Death, I feel I can understand Shavuos better.

My wife and I just returned from Auschwitz and other tragic sites in Poland. We were never there before and I had thought we never would be, but an opportunity arose and we took it.

What does this have to do with Shavuos?

Everything.

Once upon a time, we were slaves in Egypt. Hashem took us out and we marched for seven weeks through the desert. We arrived at Mount Sinai, where we became one with Him. Our kesubah is called the Torah.

Our rabbis teach us that the Final Redemption will resemble the Redemption from Egypt. Mitzraim was real; Har Sinai was real. Auschwitz was real. And so, it is clear, the Final Redemption will be real. If the impossibly bad could happen, the impossibly good can happen.

Having felt the reality of Auschwitz, I think I understand better what Egypt was, how real it was, how terrifying it was, how endless and all-encompassing it seemed.

I have seen the gas chambers. I stood under the “showers.” I have seen the ovens. I have seen a “lake” of ashes, all that physically remains of uncounted thousands of children and their mothers. I stood on the platform where Mengele pointed, right or left. I have seen the torture cells. I have stood where our brethren stood, in their filthy striped rags, for up to nineteen hours during “roll call,” in the brutal sun and freezing cold.

Hitler, may his name be ground to dust, did not torture and kill us in order to conquer the world. He tried to conquer the world in order to kill and torture us.

For the thousands of non-Jews who come there, Auschwitz is a museum. For us, lehavdil, it is reality, a plague that is still killing us.

At the site of the crematoria, I thought about Yom Hadin, the Final Day of Judgment, and the words of the Av Harachamim prayer:

“Father of compassion, who dwells on high, in His powerful compassion may He recall with compassion the devout, the upright, and the perfect ones, the holy congregations who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Name . May He, before our eyes, exact retribution for the spilled blood of His servants ”

In Egypt we dropped down to within a hair’s breadth of eternal destruction, and Hashem lifted us to within a hair’s breadth of Shamayim. When Nachshon ben Aminodov entered the Red Sea up to his nostrils, the sea split for him and for his people.

At Auschwitz, we fell into the cesspool of the world, up to our nostrils in the filth of the nations that hated us. At the Final Redemption, Hashem will lift us high, high, higher than the heavens.

“Anyone who mourns over Jerusalem will merit to see it in its joy” (Taanis 30b).

This Shavuos, let us understand that it is all real. As Rabbi Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, told me years ago, before our first trip to the Holy Land: “You should know that we can learn the truth even from the English language: Israelis real.

Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, came from the depravity of Moab, just as we have emerged from the depravity of Auschwitz. This is the way of Hashem. “He raises the needy from the dust, from the trash heaps He lifts the destitute” (Psalm 113).

In the third chapter of Megillas Ruth, Boaz wakes up on the threshing floor and sees a strange woman lying at his feet. Ruth explains to him why she is there. He replies, “And now, my daughter, do not fear. Whatever you say, I will do for you . Now while it is true that I am a redeemer, there is also a redeemer closer than I. Stay the night. Then in the morning, if he will redeem you, fine. Let him redeem. But if he does not want to redeem you, then [I swear that] as Hashem lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

The Ben Ish Chai explains that these are not only the words of Boaz speaking to Ruth, but also of Hashem speaking to His People. Hashem is saying to Am Yisrael: “Stay through the long night of Exile. Don’t give up. The morning will come. When it does, you have a ‘closer redeemer,’ your own mitzvos and good deeds. Perhaps they will be sufficient to redeem you when Mashiach comes. But if not – even if you do not have sufficient mitzvos and good deeds to save you on that Great Day – if you have been loyal to Me, then I swear that I Myself will redeem you. Do not fear!”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/shavuos-and-the-reality-of-redemption/2011/06/07/

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