שבת טעם החיים יום כיפור תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Yom Kippur 5771
Repentance comes from a spiritual world to replace the sins of the physical world
כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם מכל חטאתיכם לפני ה’ תטהרו, for on this day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before HaShem shall you be cleansed. (Vayikra 16:30)
This year Yom Kippur occurs on Shabbos. Shabbos is referred to in the Gemara as a semblance of the World to Come. Yom Kippur is referred to in the Torah (Vayikra 23:32) as Shabbos Shabbason, a day of complete rest. What is the distinction between Shabbos and Yom Kippur?
Repentance preceded the creation of the world
In a simple sense, Shabbos is a day when we elevate the physical to a spiritual level. We eat, drink and sleep more on Shabbos than during the weekday and we perform these acts with the sense that they are spiritual pursuits. On Yom Kippur, however, we refrain from eating, drinking, and wearing shoes, and this restraint demonstrates that we are entirely involved in spiritual activities. Yet, there is another dimension contained within Yom Kippur that is associated with Shabbos and is in contrast with Shabbos. Shabbos, while considered to be a semblance of the World to Come, occurs in the world of physicality. Teshuva, repentance, however, preceded the creation of the world. This statement is perplexing, as it would seem that Teshuva is only a necessary component once man was created and was prone to sin. Why did HaShem need to have Teshuva in existence even prior to the world’s creation?
Only HaShem allows for repentance to atone for one’s sins
In order to understand this concept we must reflect on an even more cryptic statement in the Medrash. The Medrash expounds on the merit that allows a sinner to remain alive. It is said (Tehillim 25:8) tov viyashar hashem al kein yoreh chataim badarech, good and upright is HaShem; therefore He guides sinners on the way. This teaches us that Hashem shows the way to Repentance.
Wisdom was asked ‘What should be the punishment for the sinner?’ She answered, ‘evil pursues sinners.’ (Mishlei 13:21)
Prophecy was asked, ‘What should be the punishment for the sinner?’ She answered, ‘The soul that sins – it shall die.’ (Yechezkel 18:4)
The Torah was asked, ‘What should be the punishment for the sinner?’ She answered, Let him bring a sacrifice, and be atoned for.’
The Holy One, Blessed be He, was asked, ‘What should be the punishment for the sinner?’ He answered, ‘Let the sinner repent and he will find atonement.’ This is the meaning of the verse ‘Thus You show the sinner the way’ – ‘You show the sinner how to repent.’ (Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim 25)
Repentance comes from the spiritual world to cleanse the sins of the physical world
The answer to this question reveals an amazing insight into the concept of Teshuva. We often associate repentance with the sin itself, as if it can be said that one sins and one repents. The Gemara and the Medrash are revealing to us that whereas one sins in the physical world, the rectification for the sin is not connected to this world at all. Rather, Hashem in His infinite mercy provided the antidote before the injury, and he created teshuva before the world even came into existence. Thus, it was impossible for the Torah, wisdom and the prophets to provide the solution of repentance, because although the Torah also preceded the creation of the world, sin only came into being after man was created. It was therefore necessary for HaShem to reach, so to speak, beyond time and place and allow Teshuva to supplant the person’s sins. Thus, in essence, repentance is occurring on an entirely different plane than the plane on which the person committed the sin. While this concept may be difficult to comprehend, there is a very practical application that applies to every Jew on every Yom Kippur. When one truly repents from his sins and experiences the atonement of the Yom Kippur day, he truly feels as if he has been cleansed from all iniquity. It is said in the Torah regarding Yom Kippur (Vayikra 16:30) ki vayom hazeh yichapeir aleichem mikol chatoseichem lifnei HaShem titharu, for on this day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before HaShem shall you be cleansed. We see that the purification process that one achieves through repentance is manifest by one being before HaShem. This implies that it is only through HaShem’s benevolence that one can be purified through repentance. This can only be accomplished on a plane that does not exist in the physical world. In summary, Teshuva is beyond this world and is provided by HaShem alone with no physical attributes. It is truly astounding that one’s physical actions can be removed by something that is so ether-worldly. In a similar vein we find that the Gemara (Brachos 22a) states that the words of Torah cannot contract tumah, spiritual defilement. The reason for this is because Torah is not part of the physical world and therefore Torah cannot lose its state of purity.
The Shabbos connection
Shabbos also has the power to remove ones sins in a spiritual manner. With the onset of Shabbos all harsh judgments depart, and every Jew receives a neshama yeseira, an extra soul that allows him to soar to spiritual heights. Hashem should grant us that this Yom Kippur, which occurs on Shabbos, we merit an everlasting purity, a Gemar Chasima Tova, and a year of happiness, spiritual growth, and the Ultimate Redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Grabbing the Conductor’s Hand
Rabbi Yissachar Frand writes: I heard the following story from Rabbi Ephraim Waxman. I don’t want the same thing that happened to him to happen to me, so I am relating this story at this time:
Rabbi Waxman once davened for the Amud on Yom Kippur in a certain Yeshiva. Before Neilah, he was asked to speak to the congregation to give them spiritual arousal before the final prayers of Yom Kippur. He related the following parable.
There was once a person who had to travel by train between two cities. He inquired as to the price and was told that there was a sliding scale. A regular seat in “Coach” was a certain amount. First class was quite a bit more. However if he would arrive at the train station 4 hours before departure, he could purchase a first class ticket for the same price as coach. The fellow was not keen on spending four hours at the train station waiting for his train so he decided to forgo the first class ticket.
He was then told that if he would arrive 2 hours before departure, he would be guaranteed his choice of coach seats. After that it would be first come, first served. But again he said to himself “Why do I have to go there 2 hours early, waste my time, and sit around? So I won’t get my choice of coach seats!”
He was then told that if he arrives a half hour before departure, all the seats will have been sold. The train will have standing room only available. “But,” our passenger figures, “it is a short trip. What do I care if I need to stand? I’ll come a half hour early and will buy a standing room only ticket.”
As things have it, he does not come 4 hours early. He does not come 2 hours early. He does not even come a half hour early. He comes at the last minute. He comes down to the platform and the train is leaving. He starts running and running after the train and he sees that the conductor on the caboose is holding out his hand. If he can just latch onto the conductor’s hand, the conductor will pull him onto the train. He runs and runs and tries to grab that hand.
Rabbi Waxman then quoted the sentence from our liturgy “You send forth your hand to sinners” (Ata nosein yad laposhim). Rabbi Waxman explained that Neilah represents the idea of Ata nosein yad laposhim. One who waits until Neilah to do Teshuva is like the passenger running after the train to try to grab the conductor’s hand.
Rosh Chodesh Elul is like 4 hours before the train leaves. That is when a person can get first class for the price of coach. Rosh HaShanah is like 2 hours before departure time – when a person can still get his selection of coach seats. The Ten Days of Repentance is first come first serve. The earlier prayers on Yom Kippur are like “standing room only.” However, Neilah is already “Ata nosein yad laposhim”.
Rabbi Waxman then said to the Yeshiva students “My friends, now is the time for “You stretch forth Your hand to the sinners.” He proceeded to daven Neilah from the Amud and felt that the atmosphere throughout the room was highly charged with spiritual emotion.
A young student came to him after Neilah and said, “Rebbe, why did you not tell us this story on Rosh Chodesh Elul?” I do not want anyone to blame me for not telling such a story earlier, so I tell it now. (www.Torah.org)
A completely new beginning
A bad-natured miser who was notorious for his stinginess died. The Heavenly Tribunal immediately wished to condemn him for his evil ways. However, suddenly an angel arrived on the scene and presented the small mitzvah of Tzedakah that the man had once carried out, and declared that in the merit of this good deed he would not be sent to Gehinnom (purgatory).
This created a turmoil up in Heaven. The majority of angels grouped together to attempt to penalize the person. But what of the few cents that he had given to the beggar? It could not be denied that he did have this merit.
Ultimately it was decided that since this man’s evil deeds outweighed his good ones, he would be given back his fifty cents and then sent to Gehinnom. However, they searched and searched but could not find fifty cents in Heaven.
A mitzvah protects a person and the merit it produces is invincible.
A true story:
An American woman once visited a cafe in Jaffe Street in Jerusalem. As the cafe was extremely full, a waitress advised her to return in half an hour. When she returned, she received a huge shock. A bomb had exploded in the cafe right where she would have been seated had she not heeded the waitress’s advice and left. Full of gratitude to God, and to His messenger the waitress for saving her life, the lady from America gave the waitress her address and told her to be in contact if she ever came to New York.
The waitress did not think that such an opportunity would actually materialize, but she took the address anyway and placed it in a drawer for safekeeping. Not long afterwards she became ill and was sent to a certain hospital in New York State for treatment. She then called the American woman from her hospital bed to say she was nearby.
The woman whose life had been saved wanted to repay her Israeli friend, and consequently took two days leave from work in order to be able to travel the distance. Her workplace was one of the top stories of the Twin Towers. On account of this leave she was not there on September 11 and her life was saved once more.
Every mitzvah counts, every good deed will receive a reward! Because of the American lady’s desire to show appreciation, she merited to be saved again.
If one does a sincere teshuva, our Sages teach that a person’s previous mistakes are now considered as mitzvos. Therefore, even if one has committed many transgressions, they are all forgiven and actually come to his defense. As the Sages say: “In a place where a penitent stands, even the righteous do not stand.”
An irate gentleman telephoned the New York Times office. “You put my name, Jack Brown, in the obituary column. I would like to inform you that I am actually very much alive!”
The head of the department quietly answered him, “Sir, the New York Times does not make mistakes, and we do not apologize for anything that appears in our newspaper.
“However, I’ll do you a favor. Tomorrow, I shall put your name in the birth column!”
[The Jewish concept of teshuva teaches that] we have the chance to make amends, to be placed in the birth column and start all over again.
There is the story of a couple who were watching a Western on television. A cowboy was galloping along a tract of land. The husband said, “I bet you fifty dollars the horse will put its foot into a hole.”
“Never!” replied his wife.
When the horse did do so, and the cowboy went flying, she reluctantly gave him the money.
But he was an honest gentleman. He looked at her and said, “I can’t take money from you; I saw this movie yesterday!”
“Oh, I also saw it yesterday,” the woman said, “but I didn’t think the meshugena horse would do it again!”
Let us take proper control over our lives and destiny and not let each year run on its own accord like a repetitive movie. If we consider ourselves as starting anew, this will motivate us to improve and give us the merit we need. (www.innernet.org.il)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Yom Kippur 5771
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos, an uplifting and meaningful fast, and a Gemar Chasima Tova
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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