October 8th, 2016
6 of Tishri 5777
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Returning to Hashem
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel” (Devarim 31:1)
This parashah is often read on Shabbat Shuvah. Shabbat Shuvah is the time when one should awaken to return to Hashem in complete teshuvah for all his sins. He may have frequented questionable places or done dubious deeds. He should never ask why he was beset by hardships during the previous year, but rather, accept everything that transpired as Heaven-sent, and therefore necessary for his growth.
This is the essence of real teshuvah. Our Avot embodied this mindset. They certainly had difficulties, but they never had grievances toward Hashem regarding them. They accepted their lot with perfect love, recognizing Hashem’s hand in everything that transpired. They understood that whatever happened was for their ultimate benefit, even if they could not grasp what that benefit was, due to their limited scope of knowledge. Although the Avot could have challenged Hashem’s ways, they sanctified themselves above and beyond their natural instincts, accepting His decrees with love, no questions asked.
Shabbat Shuvah is named after the haftarah read then. We read (Hoshea 4:2), “Return, Israel, unto Hashem, your G-d, for you have stumbled in your iniquity.” The word עד (unto) has the same letters as the word דע (know). A person is enjoined to do complete teshuvah, until he attains clear knowledge of Hashem, realizing that all Hashem does is for his benefit.
On Shabbat Shuvah, the lights of the first seven days, which were apparent during the first Shabbat of Creation, are rekindled on the Shabbat immediately following Rosh Hashana. On the first Rosh Hashanah of Creation, Hashem placed Adam Harishon in Gan Eden and warned him against eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Adam was persuaded to sin by Chava, his wife, and was subsequently expelled. That first Shabbat, Adam recognized his sin and repented. He proclaimed “A psalm, a song for the Shabbat day. It is good to thank Hashem and to sing praises to Your Name.” When Hashem saw how remorseful Adam was and how he appreciated the loftiness of Shabbat, a sample of Olam Haba, He forgave his sin.
Adam Harishon regretted his act and did complete teshuvah. Therefore, he merited atonement. Adam taught us the definition of teshuvah. In order to receive forgiveness, one must recognize his sins and confess them. By returning to Hashem, one merits forgiveness for his sins. In order to merit Hashem’s constant vigilance, he must be one with Him on Shabbat Shuvah. Connecting oneself with Hashem on Shabbat Shuvah will enable him to be close with Hashem throughout the year to come. This Shabbat has a distinct energy, for its entire essence is one of peace. We are accustomed to greet one another with the words “Shabbat Shalom.” Every Shabbat contains this element of peace, but this Shabbat, above others, when one returns to Hashem, is capable of bringing peace upon the entire world.
Why did Hashem delay the creation of mankind until the sixth day? It was so that man would be greeted by a wonderful world. Had Adam appreciated the beauty inherent in the world which Hashem had set before him, he might not have sinned. The sixth day of Creation, when Adam made his appearance, alludes to the sixth day of Sivan, the day of Matan Torah. Hashem stipulated with Creation that it would endure only on condition that Am Yisrael accepted the Torah on the sixth of Sivan. Adam’s creation on the sixth day is a reminder of this precondition.
Walking in Their Ways
A devastating earthquake in Mexico claimed thousands of casualties and left hundreds injured.
In the shopping district where the earthquake struck, a daily Torah shiur was given in one of the offices. After the shiur, the businessmen would meet for Minchah services.
After this tragedy, the organizer of this Torah shiur, in whose office the shiur was held, divulged that the earthquake destroyed everything in the area, including the building where his office was located. But, lo and behold! His office remained standing! Spectators were shocked to see his room stand intact, amidst this scene of utter devastation. A great kiddush Hashem was caused by this spectacle, which hordes came to witness.
There is no doubt that this office stayed standing in the merit of those Jews who halted their work each day to hear words of Torah and pray together. Their commitment to uphold this commendable custom certainly was absorbed by the very walls, strengthening them against any external force.
Moving toward Torah
Many years ago, I visited a community abroad which lacked a Sefer Torah. I did my utmost to raise the funds necessary to purchase one. When this was accomplished, the joy of the community knew no bounds.
This place was infamous for its lack of tzeniut and its rampant promiscuity. I advised a number of inhabitants to move to a place more conducive for a lifestyle of a Torah Jew. A portion of young men heeded my words and, indeed, made the move to a Torah community. In this merit, they became extremely strengthened in Torah and mitzvot and established fine Jewish homes.
In the spirit of teshuvah which began seeping into the community, a woman approached me and said that she and her family wished to settle elsewhere. Their home was located near the beach, which drew waves of immodesty with each tide. Besides, the Beit Hakeneset where her husband prayed did not have a fixed minyan. They wanted me to help them move the holy items from the synagogue, which was located in their building.
I was exceedingly happy to hear these tidings and agreed to help them. It was decided that first the family would leave, together with their belongings; afterward, the Beit Hakeneset would be cleared out, ending with the removal of the Sefer Torah.
After everything was taken out, everyone was astonished to watch the entire building crumble to the ground! Heaven was showing these good Jews that it was only the zechut of the Torah that had maintained this edifice, keeping them alive all this time.
An eyewitness to this incident was a righteous convert, who insisted on marrying a true ben Torah in spite of the pressure to marry a gentile. I am certain that she was destined to witness this open miracle in order to strengthen her connection to Torah-true Judaism.
Guard Your Tongue
Similar to Avodah Zarah
One must be careful not to rejoice over the downfall and humiliation of his fellow, as it says (Mishlei 24), “When your foe falls, be not glad, and when he stumbles, let your heart not be joyous, lest Hashem see and it be displeasing in His eyes.” This transgression aroused the Attribute of Justice upon the person. It can cause destruction, just like the transgression of Avodah Zarah. A person should always contemplate that according to his sins and faults, he would be deserving of humiliation and disgrace. However, Hashem has mercy on him in the merits of his righteous ancestors.
The haftarah of the week: “Return, Israel” (Hoshea 14: Micha 7)
The connection with this Shabbat: This haftarah is read on the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, since it discusses the subject of teshuvah, and these days are days of repentance.
The Reasons for Jewish Customs
In the Ne’ila service on Yom Kippur we say the pasuk “Hashem Hu Ha’elokim – Hashem is the only G-d” seven times.
There are two reasons for this:
One is in order to escort the Shechinah, since it is ascending above the seven heavens. And another reason is, in order to annul 903 diseases precisely by reciting the pasuk “Hashem Hu Ha’elokim – Hashem is the only G-d” seven times.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
Regarding Yom Kippur, the pasuk states (Vayikra 16:30), “For on this day He shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins, before Hashem shall you be cleansed.”
Hashem promises the penitent that all of his sins will be atoned. But this is only concerning sins between man and Hashem. Sins between man and his fellow man are not forgiven on Yom Kippur, until one has appeased his friend (Yoma 85b).
How great is Hashem. He is prepared to forego His own honor, forgiving sins between man and Heaven, but does not overlook sins between man and his fellow man until one mollifies his friend. Only after receiving complete forgiveness from one’s fellow man, are these sins forgiven.
How tremendous is the status of those who repent, to the extent that our Sages state (Berachot 34b), “In a place where ba’alei teshuvah stand, perfect tzaddikim cannot stand.” Ba’alei teshuvah merit this singular distinction because they cast their arrogance from their shoulders and faced their sins head-on. They furthermore took the effort to repent their sins. Frequently, when we slight a fellow man or take what is not rightfully ours, we find it extremely difficult to confess and ask forgiveness. Shame and humiliation overtake us. But one who overcomes these feelings, admitting to his sins, merits reaching a distinguished place, to which perfect tzaddikim do not have access.
It is our sacred mission to take advantage of this wonderful Shabbat, which contains the light of Creation, and return to Hashem and His Torah.
Words of Wisdom
The Lad Yisrael
“Before the eyes of all Israel” (31:7)
At that time Moshe gathered his strength and encouraged Yehoshua before the eyes of all Israel, as it says, “Moshe summoned Yehoshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel” (Devarim 31:7).
He said to him: Although I am delivering them to you, they are still “kids,” and they are still immature. Do not be exacting of them and do not get angry about everything they do, since even their Creator was not exacting about everything they did. Hence He says, “When Israel was a lad I loved him” (Hoshea 11:1)
Gathering without the Trumpets
“Gather to me all the elders of your tribes” (31:28)
Rabbi Yehoshua of Sachnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi: The two trumpets that were used in the days of Moshe were hidden away. One pasuk states: “When they sound a long blast with them, the entire assembly shall assemble to you” (Bamidbar 10:3), and another pasuk states: “Gather to me all the elders of your tribes.” Where were the trumpets? One thus concludes that they were already hidden away in the days of Moshe.
Hashem said: Why when he dies should my sons blow the trumpets with the traditional teruah? They should not blow! This is because “There is no authority over the day of death” (Kohelet 8:8).
Rabbi Elazar in the name of Rabbi Simon said: A great honor did Hashem bestow upon Moshe when He said to him: “Make for yourself two silver trumpets,” and not to Yehoshua.
Because of Adam’s Transgression
“Behold, your days are drawing near to die”
Rabbi Levi said: What can we compare this to? This can be compared to a pregnant woman who was imprisoned and gave birth in jail.
The child grew up and when the king passed by before the prison, the child cried out: Your majesty the king! Why am I locked up in jail? The king said to him: Because of the iniquity of your mother you are incarcerated.
So said Moshe: Ribbono Shel Olam! There are 36 transgressions that one is liable for karet (spiritual excision). Have I transgressed any of them? Why do you decree death upon me? He said to him: It is because the sin of Adam that you must die, since he brought death upon the world. “Hen karvu yamecha la’mut – Behold, your days are drawing near to die.” What does “Hen – Behold” imply? [It refers to Adam]; because of the transgression of the one that is referred to as “Hen – Behold,” as it says (Bereishit 3:22), “Hen ha’adam haya k’echad mimenu – Behold Man has become like the Unique One among us,” etc.
The New Year is approaching, and the desire to renew one’s self tugs at one’s heart and also expresses itself in his desire to renew his material wardrobe. There are many people who buy new clothes in honor of Rosh Hashanah and the Holidays. We take this opportunity to point out that one must check their clothes for shatnez (a mixture of wool and linen) before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In the sefer “Magen Avraham” that the holy Maggid of Trisk wrote (Ki Teitzei) that “On the holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, etc. Bnei Yisrael are obligated to do teshuvah and to accept upon themselves to engage in Torah and observe the 613 mitzvot of the Torah and not wear shatnez. In this way they will draw upon themselves good tidings and remove and annul all bad things, and close the mouths of all the accusing [angels], and then the upcoming Rosh Hashanah will result in a wave of good things, and all the accusers will turn into advocates, as in “Silence the accuser and take the advocate in its place.” In this way we will merit being signed and sealed for a good life for all of Israel, speedily and in our days, Amen.
Regarding the importance of the matter, Rabbi Yaakov Algazi, zt”l, writes in his sefer “Shalmei Tzibbur” that “there is nothing that hinders prayers from being accepted as one who wears shatnez while praying. This is true even if he does so unintentionally.” If one wears shatnez, and even for only one day, the Ba’al HaTzelach says (drushei HaTzelach drush 8:6), “[Even if for] one day while wearing shatnez, his prayers are not heard [in Heaven] for forty days!”
The Suit that Blocked All Emotion
An incident took place in the Mir yeshiva at the time when they were exiled in Shanghai during World War II. It was in the midst of the Yom Kippur service, and the Yeshiva Hall was filled to capacity with the Yeshiva students. The sounds of prayers and repentance permeated the Heavens, as is fitting on these awesome holy days. Suddenly, one of the students stood up and left the Hall. After a few moments, he returned to his place wearing an old coat that he had, instead of the new suit that he had been wearing before. A change of clothes on Yom Kippur? Why? For what reason?
A lot of eyebrows were raised in amazement about the strange episode. However, in the midst of the holy day it did not occur to anyone to ask him for an explanation about his strange conduct. Everyone was patient and waited until the end of the services on Motzei of the holy day.
The simple answer that the student provided was most surprising and astonishing: I sensed that the prayers are not flowing as usual. I could not manage to stir the proper emotions befitting this awesome day. I tried many different ways to get stimulated properly, I learned sifrei mussar, and I tried in vain during the prayers to consider the holy day and awesome judgment we are facing, but my heart remained as hard as stone. I could not concentrate properly. I saw all my friends praying intently in an aura of sanctity, and I felt as if I was outside the camp. I was the exception. I kept wondering why this was so: “Why was I singled out?”
For some unbelievable reason, the young man continued his amazing story, “I remembered something I learned from a sefer, that shatnez blocks one’s prayers from ascending to Heaven. It is brought in the sefer “Hatzioni” on the Torah, that shatnez signifies two Attributes above that accuse Yisrael, and therefore Hashem separated them. However, one who wears shatnez combines the two forces and blocks the prayers of Am Yisrael from ascending. It states: One who wears shatnez while praying, Sandelf. the angel, who is in charge of connecting the prayers to Hashem, does not accept his prayers along with the other prayers, since it seems to him as if they stem from one who worships idolatry. Then, all of a sudden, the thought entered my mind that perhaps the root of my problem lay in my new suit that I received in honor of the Holidays. Perhaps this was the key. Although I had given my suit to a qualified tailor to check it for shatnez, maybe he erred after all.”
“I stood up and acted upon my thoughts. I left the Hall for a few minutes and changed into my old suit that I brought with me from Lithuania, and lo and behold! My heart opened up and suddenly the waves of emotions engulfed me and brought me to tears. The prayers flowed once more, and my heart that had been like stone melted like wax from my heated excitement, befitting the awesome Day of Judgment.”
After Yom Kippur I delivered my suit to someone who specializes in shatnez for a second opinion, and fibers of shatnez were found. Apparently, the first tailor who examined the suit and approved it was not trained adequately in the new development of fabrics. It did not occur to him that linen fibers could be weaved into wool thread, which was almost indiscernible and hard to identify. They were processed in a special way that mades it difficult to discover their presence.