Parashat Haazinu/ Shabbat Teshuvah
Dedicated Le’ilui Nishmat Natan Ben Rachel and Malka Bat Garaz A’h by the Marcus Brothers and Their Families
Parashat Haazinu/Shabbat Teshuvah
This week’s parasha is written as a song to B'nei Yisrael. In the previous parshiot, Moshe spoke to the Jewish people about all the good that Hashem will bestow upon them if they follow the ways of the Torah. Moshe describes the ultimate joy that will come to them as they enter the land of Israel and keep the ways of the Torah until our final redemption! We read this poetic passage about Yaakov, “He discovered him in a desert land, in desolation, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He granted him discernment, He preserved him like the pupil of His eye (32:10).” Rashi comments that Hashem discovered Israel's loyalty during the forty years in the desert, and they proved themselves. Hashem surrounded B'nei Yisrael with clouds of glory and protection from the elements and gave them the maan as food to sustain them. He also granted them the wisdom of the Torah.
We are now approaching the upcoming Holiday of Yom Kippur. Chazal say that Hashem is especially close during this week of Aseret Yemei Teshuvah—Ten Days of Repentance (Rosh Hashanah 18a). In his book Yom Kippur: Atonement and Opportunity, Rabbi Yaakov Hillel says we should be using the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when Hashem is near, to evaluate where we fall short and try to do better, be better. He suggests looking in the mahzor at the Viduy Gadol, taking notes and truly understanding where we should be holding spiritually, and what we need to fix in order to be inscribed in the Sefer Haim—Book of Life.
The Gemara Rosh Hashanah (16b) says that there are three books open on Rosh Hashanah: the Book of the Righteous, the Book of the Wicked, and the Book of the Benoni—the in-between, who are at 50:50. The Gemara tells us that the Benoni people need one more merit to push them into the Book of the Righteous. As we mentioned last week, the Rambam explains that we should do teshuvah to tilt the scale in our favor. If we do not take advantage of teshuvah this week of Aseret Yemeh Teshuvah it would be a great sin, because Hashem is very close to us, and doing proper teshuvah can easily push the scale to the Book of the Righteous.
Hashem knows that we're all human beings and that we will sin, but He gave us the great gift of teshuvah. Every year we can pray with our hearts to Hashem, and He will forgive us and grant us another year of life. So now that we understand that Hashem is and has always been there to protect us, as He has done since Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, let's prepare for that awesome and great day of Yom Kippur that's approaching!
Hashem loves us so much, He gave us a designated day we can atone for all our sins from over the course of the past year. Whether the sins were on purpose or by accident, the most important thing to do is to admit we had sinned. When Adam ate from the Etz Hadaat and Hashem asked him about it, he blamed Chava. When Cayin killed his brother Hevel and Hashem asked him “Where’s Hevel?” Cayin answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Instead, we must learn from David Hamelech, who did not avoid blame. As soon as Natan the prophet told him that he had sinned, David admitted his error right away. He did not look to make excuses and he accepted the blame on himself. Later, he wrote in Tehillim “I acknowledge that my transgressions and my sins are always before me (51:5).”
Rabbi Akiva says in the Mishnah (8:9), “Praiseworthy are you Israel, before whom do you cleanse yourselves?... Your father in Heaven! … And I will sprinkle pure water upon you, and you shall be cleansed. The Mikveh of Israel is Hashem. Just as a Mikveh purifies the contaminated, so does Hashem purify Israel.” Rabbi Akiva is saying, just as we may go and submerge our whole body in a Mikveh to make a complete change, it is also beneficial to just sprinkle the pure water. Rabbi Akiva is saying from this mishnah, take upon ourselves to make small changes of growth each year, and it will have a tremendous impact on our growth throughout our lifetime. Small, subtle changes will lead to big ones.
Ben Adam LeMakom
Rabbi David Ashear tells a story in Living Emunah 2 about Rav Saadia Gaon, who would make a point to seclude himself in a private room for 20 minutes every day. One of his students, overcome with curiosity, hid in a closet in that room one day. The Rabbi came in and proceeded to lower himself to the floor, crying, “Hatati, aviti, pashati Lefanecha – I have sinned before You….” The student could not understand why this great rabbi could possibly cry for forgiveness and do such an intense teshuvah daily.
The student approached his rabbi and confessed to having watched him and asked why he begged Hashem for forgiveness each day. Rav Saadia explained that once he was traveling and he stopped at the home of a very kindhearted Jew. The host was generous and hospitable, offering meals and a room to the rabbi. Rav Saadia warmly thanked him and went on his way, but after a few minutes, the host ran after him, threw himself on the floor and begged the Rav for forgiveness. The rabbi inquired, asking why he was so upset, when the host provided such generous hospitality. The host cried, “I did not know you were the Great Rav Saadia Gaon. If I had known, I would have showed you so much more respect and honor.”
The rabbi explained to his student, “Each day I find out something new about the greatness of Hashem. I feel so guilty; if I would have known, I would have served Hashem with much more respect and care. And so, each day I have to beg Hashem for forgiveness for not treating Him properly.”
Ben Adam Lehavero
We learn from Rambam's Hilchot Teshuvah (2nd perek teshuvah 9) that, “Teshuvah and Yom Kippur only atone for sins between man and God.” Meaning, Yom Kippur will only allow us to atone for sins between man and Hashem like eating unkosher or not keeping Shabbat. So, it is crucial to acknowledge the sins between man and man before the Day of Judgement. We must make sure that we clear up any disputes that we may have with our fellow Jews. For example, if you injured someone, or stole, or if you embarrassed your friend in public, Yom Kippur prayers will not help your case. A person will not be forgiven for those sins until he takes care of his error with the person he wronged. He must apologize, or appease his friend, or pay back his debt.
Hacham Ovadia A'h, quotes a chazal that says, “If a person doesn't satisfy and appease his friend if he had sinned against him, then Hashem may not accept his atonement between man and Hashem on Yom Kippur!” That's a very strong statement! It shows us just how important it is to get along with our neighbor and fellow Jew.
Harav Elimelech Biderman, shlita, tells the story of a man who ordered an expensive pair of shoes. When they arrived at his home, he tried them on, and much to his dismay, the shoes were uncomfortable. He called the store and complained to the owner. The owner told him, “Don’t worry. After a couple of weeks, they will fit much better and feel more comfortable.” Reassured by the owner, the man stored the shoes in his closet and waited the two weeks. When he tried them on again, they were just as uncomfortable. Once again, he called the store owner and complained that although he did as he was told and waited the two weeks before trying them on again, the shoes were still not comfortable.
The owner said, “You fool! I obviously meant that you had to wear them during the two weeks, and then eventually they would feel fine. Storing them in your closet without wearing them is absolutely meaningless!” Acknowledging the necessity of improving our ben adam lehavero issues is not enough. It is imperative that we proactively take strides to reach out to others to improve our relationships. In the beginning, these steps may be difficult and uncomfortable, but eventually, things will get better. Simply having the knowledge without attempting to improve is like keeping the shoes in the closet and expecting that they will magically fit. Be’ezrat Hashem, with time and effort, we will be satisfied with the fruits of our labor.
Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro cites Rav Aharon Leib’s chidush about ben adam lehavero. When talking about ben adam leMakom, there is a passuk that states, “Mah Hashem Elokecha sho’el me’imach—What does Hashem ask of you (Devarim 10:12)?” Whereas when talking about issues regarding ben adam lehavero, it says, “Mah Hashem doresh mimcha—What does Hashem seek of you?” Doresh is a much more demanding expression than sho’el, indicating that in the eyes of Hashem, ben adam lehavero is even more valued and precious than ben adam leMakom. We must take great care and put our issues aside, and in asking for forgiveness from our fellow friends, family members, business partners etc.
May we all appreciate the amazing gift of Yom Kippur and teshuvah that Hashem gave to us. May we take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to get closer to Hashem and our fellow Jew and make a complete atonement for all our sins. And may we bring on all the beautiful blessings of health, happiness, success for all of B’nei Yisrael! Amen!
Shabbat Shalom and Tizku Leshanim Rabot!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
Do we take advantage of the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah to do teshuvah when Hashem is near?
Is there someone we wronged who we need to ask for forgiveness before Yom Kippur?
Eliyahu Ben Rachel
Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah
Esther Bat Sarah
Avraham Ben Mazal
Shulamit Bat Helaina
Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rahamim Ben Mazal
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther
Rafael Ben Miriam
Ovadia Ben Esther
Rav Haim Ben Rivka
Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Yael
Yitzchak Ben Adele
Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa
Chanah Bat Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel
Malka Bat Garaz
Moshe Ben Garaz
Avraham Ben Kami
Yaakov Ben Leah
Mordechai Ben Rachel
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
Saadia Ben Miriam
Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon
Margalit Bat Mazal
Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky
Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama
Esther Bat Menucha
Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah Le'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or In Honor of someone, can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”).
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