Parashat Vayelech / Shabbat Teshuvah
Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Eddie Missry A'h by His Family
Parashat Vayelech / Shabbat Teshuvah The Jealousy Of Moshe Rabbenu This week, in Parashat Vayelech, Hashem informed Moshe of the sad news that “The day of your death is approaching (31:14).” Moshe Rabbenu did not want to die, and on that last day, he wrote 13 Torah scrolls, one for each tribe plus a master copy that would remain in the Ark. Moshe reasoned, “Since I am occupying myself with Torah which is the source of life, the day will pass and the decree that I am to die will be nullified.” Rabbi Frand quotes a midrash that says that Hashem instructed Moshe to call Yehoshua. Moshe offered Hashem a deal. “Let Yehoshua take over my role and lead the Jewish people but allow me to live.” Hashem responded, “If so, you will have to relate to Yehoshua as he related to you. He will be the leader, and you will be his disciple.” Moshe agreed to this offer. He went to Yehoshua’s house (as opposed to the former arrangement that Yehoshua came to him). From there they both went into the Tent of Meeting – Yehoshua as the Rav and Moshe as the disciple. The Shechina descended and spoke to Yehoshua. When the Shechina left, Moshe asked Yehoshua “What Word came to you?” Asking such a question for the first time in his life must have been a most humbling experience for Moshe. Yehoshua answered, “When the Word came to you, did I know what was spoken to you?” This was a very gentle way of telling Moshe “It is none of your business. I am the Rabbi and you are the disciple now.” The midrash concludes that at that moment, Moshe began to scream, “Let me die 100 times rather than suffer this pang of jealousy that I am now feeling.” He was envious of Yehoshua. How is that possible? We are taught that a person is jealous of everyone except for his son and his student (Sanhedrin 105b). Chiddushei Harim says that if I am a Rabbi and my son becomes a Rosh Yeshivah, I will not be jealous; I will be proud of him. If he becomes far more successful than I ever was, I will take it in stride and with pride. However, if he takes MY job, if I am forced into retirement, and he takes over my congregation or my yeshivah, that is hard to take, even from a disciple and or a son. Rabbi Frand continues, saying that Moshe Rabbenu was 120 years old, about to die. And yet, he, himself, felt that he was being gripped with envy. He himself admit that the emotion he felt was worse than one hundred deaths. We see from here that if anyone ever claims, “I am too old to be jealous,” or “I am above that already” – don’t believe him. We are never finished with the challenge of being jealous – until we are in the grave. At least Moshe recognized it and admitted it. He was sensitive enough and wise enough to feel it and to declare “I don’t want any part of it!” We must be strong like Moshe Rabbenu, not just to pretend to overcome jealousy, but to admit to it and try to run away from it. Teshuvah We are now approaching the upcoming Holiday of Yom Kippur. 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. Abundantly Forgiving “Dirshu Hashem behimatzo, kerauhu behyoto karov… ki yirbeh lisloach – Seek Hashem when he can be found, call upon Him when He’s near… for He is abundantly forgiving (Yeshayahu 55:6).” Chazal says the time that Hashem is near refers to this week of Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (Rosh Hashanah 18a). But the question is asked, what does “abundantly forgiving” mean? Why abundant? The response given is, when someone does teshuvah one time, Hashem will forgive the person for everything. But isn’t one sin’s forgiveness sufficient? “Abundant” implies there is more forgiveness given than necessary. The Rema from Fano writes that someone who commits a sin makes two mistakes. The first mistake is the actual sin that was committed. The second error is the waste of time it entailed, because he could have been doing a mitzvah in the time he used to commit a wrongful act. For example, a person could spend an hour watching TV on Shabbat, when instead he could have gone to shul or learned with a friend. When a person repents for a sin, he would still have to worry about repenting for the indirect sin and missed mitzvah opportunity. Yet the passuk says Hashem is “abundantly forgiving,” thereby absolving the person of any sins related to the original one when someone does teshuvah. 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 machzor 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 Chaim. 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, “Chatati, 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 Lechavero We learn from Rambam's Hilchot Teshuvah 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. Chacham Ovadia A’h, quoted 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. Rabbi Benoliel related a story about a man who went to visit Chacham Ovadia A’h complaining that he wasn’t feeling well. He had been to many doctors, but no one was able to figure out exactly what the cause of his ailments were. Chacham Ovadia looked at the man and asked him, “Did you ever hurt someone or embarrass anyone and fail to ask for forgiveness?” The man could not immediately recall, but after a few minutes of thinking through his whole life about who he may have wronged, he remembered a young boy in school. “When I was a little boy in school, there was a kid in my class who used to come to school with torn shoes and tattered clothing. I teased him and made fun of him. But how can I ask for forgiveness? I don’t remember who he was! I think Yosef was part of his name.” Chacham Ovadia said, “That boy was me, and you are forgiven.” It is extremely important to settle any disputes, disagreements, or wrongs between two friends. Once the man profusely apologized for his behavior, his illness was healed. It says in Masechet Rosh Hashanah, “Kol hamaveir al medotav, maavereyn lo kol pashav – Anyone who relinquishes his measures of retribution (tolerantly drops a disputed matter – Rashi), the Heavenly courts will relinquish all his sins for him (17a).” In other words, “If one doesn't judge others and is able to walk away, Hashem will also judge him favorably!” The very fact that the chance to do teshuvah was gifted to us by Hashem teaches us to take advantage of that opportunity. Over the next few days, please take an opportunity. Pick up the phone and make the call to a family member, a neighbor, an old friend who might have been hurt by something you said or did, I guarantee you will feel it is the right thing to do. It will also help bring out all the blessings Hashem has in store for you this coming year. $1.37 Rabbi Yehoshua Nissan told an amazing story about a jewelry store owner who had some interesting customers come into his store one day. The owner was behind the counter when three small children walked in. Their heads barely reached the counter as they stood on their tiptoes, pointed to the case, and said, “We would like this necklace, please. How much is it?” The jewelry store had hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, and the necklace was over $3,000. The store owner looked at the children with their piggy banks at the ready, and said, “Who are you buying this beautiful necklace for?” The oldest child said, “Our mother is very very sick. She’s been in the hospital for a long time, and she’s not able to take care of us. But our older sister has been like our Mommy, and she’s taking us to school and making us dinner and tucking us into bed at night. We would really really like to buy her something very special. We took all our money that we saved and put it together so we can buy her a present.” The jewelry store owner, so touched, took the piggy banks from the children, and counted $1.37. He wrapped up the necklace, and said, “This is perfect, it’s just the right amount. Please give this to your sister.” The kids were overjoyed, giggling excitedly when they left the store. Sure enough, a few hours later, a teenage girl walked into the jewelry store with a bag in hand. She said to the owner, “Hi, my young siblings were in here earlier. Obviously, there’s been a mistake. I’m so sorry. Please take this necklace back.” The owner of the store said, “Nope! That necklace was paid in full. I can’t take it back.” The girl did not understand, and she protested, “This piece costs thousands of dollars! There’s no way they had that kind of money. Please take it back; we don’t need charity. Thank you.” The owner said again, “That necklace was paid in full. They paid $1.37 in cash, and $3,000 in heart. That’s $3,000 of actions and sentiment, $3,000 of love for their sister. I refuse to take it back. Please enjoy it." On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we approach Hashem with our measly $1.37. We say, “Please Hashem, I have $1.37, what can I get with this?” And Hashem looks to see if we scrounged for that $1.37, if we searched high and low with good intentions. And He accepts it as $1 million of effort, of heart, of dedication to Hashem. 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 Discussion Points:
Do we take advantage of the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah to do teshuvah when Hashem is nearby?
Is there someone we wronged who we need to ask for forgiveness before Yom Kippur?
This week, in Parashat Vayelech, Hashem informed Moshe of the sad news that his death was approaching. Moshe offered Hashem a deal. “Let Yehoshua take over my role and lead the Jewish people but allow me to live.” Moshe agreed for Yehoshua to act as the Rabbi and Moshe as the disciple.
When the Shechina spoke to Yehoshua, Moshe reneged on the deal, praying for death rather than feel jealous of Yehoshua.
We are now approaching the upcoming Holiday of Yom Kippur. Hashem knows that we're all human beings and that we will sin, but He gave us the great gift of teshuvah. Whether the sins were on purpose or by accident, the most important thing to do is to admit we had sinned.
Someone who commits a sin makes two mistakes. The first mistake is the actual sin that was committed. The second error is the waste of time it entailed, because he could have been doing a mitzvah in the time he used to commit a wrongful act.
We have to 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.
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