Tuesday, October 04, 2011
In Parshas Haazinu, Moshe addressed the Heavens and the Earth.
The Medrash observes that if Moshe addressed the heavens, we can assume that they were affected by the words of Torah. If the words of Torah have the power to affect the heavens and the earth, they surely have the power to affect us.
The same is true in the reverse. Exposure to words of hatred, deceit, and immorality, has the power to make us hateful deceitful and immoral.
The Parsha goes on to describe what the Ramban describes as the natural cycle of the Jewish people. We are inspired by the Torah and achieve great things only to be led astray by the luxuries and ideas that we become exposed to. Finally, Hashem says “I will marginalize them; I will erase their memory”.
Thankfully, Hashem does not go through with his plans. “When Hashem judges his people; He changes His mind” - Hashem reconsiders, as it were, and does not allow us to fade into oblivion.
Why does Hashem change His mind in the midst of judgment? The Ramban writes that this is as a result of Moshes prayer on Yom Kippur. After the Jewish people sinned with the Golden Calf, Hashem told Moshe that he would destroy the Jewish people. For Forty days, Moshe begged Hashem to ‘protect His investment’ and not allow us to be completely destroyed. Finally, on Yom Kippur Hashem said, as we do at Kol Nidrei: “Salachti Kidvarecha” – “I have forgiven you”.
The Chidushei Harim writes that this is the meaning if the blessing of “Magen Avraham”. We thank Hashem three times daily for actively protecting the spark of Avraham within us. Even as we (sometines) work to extinguish that spark through what we hear and what we do, Hashem keeps His promise to Moshe and does not allow us to disappear.
On Yom Kippur, Hashem gives us a chance to separate ourselves from what we have become and return to that tiny spark. We have a chance to do teshuva and to make real changes. If we can keep from slipping back into our old habits, we can become truly changed people.
At a recent Sheva Berachos, my father told a story about Rav Chaim Sanzer.
Rav Chaim was once travelling in a wagon between two cities. As always, he was dressed regally in a noble peltz and all of the accoutrement befitting a Rebbe. Suddenly, the wagon slipped into a ditch. After coaxing the horses with no success, the driver turned apologetically to the Rebbe and asked him to help push the wagon. He then borrowed the Rebbe’s coat and put it under the wheels to help them gain purchase. Finally, he asked the Rebbe to get between the horses and help them pull the wagon out of the pit.
At this point the Rebbe was standing in his tzitzis, freezing, and caked in mud. He asked for a moment to pray.
“Ribono shel Olam!” he said, “I am sure that you have put me into this situation because I have sinned and need to repent. I will repent, but I cannot repent here in a ditch among the horses and covered with mud. Take me out of the pit. Bring me to a place of comfort. Then, I will do a proper Teshuva”.
And so it was.
Every year, on Yom Kippur, Hashem gives a chance to emerge from the pit which is our lives. He gives us a day of purity and cleanliness and a chance to do Teshuva.
This Yom Kippur, may we all merit to cleanse ourselves of all of our Aveiros and allow our true selves to shine.
G’mar Chasima Tova.