Yom Kippur
 


Yom Kippur          10 Tishrei 5765              September 25, 2004              Vol.14 No.3


In This Issue:

Rabbi Ezra Wiener

Jerry M. Karp

Moshe Zharnest

Halacha of the Week

Rabbi Chaim Jachter

 

 

The Rebbe of Teshuva
by Rabbi Ezra Wiener

Jewish literature is replete with stories about righteous and pious Jews. The purpose of these stories is to inspire us towards repentance and a more spiritual life. Let us analyze one similar story about a less-than-righteous individual, and hopefully the reader will find it as inspiring as this author did.
The Talmud in Avoda Zara (17a) relates a story about Rebbe Elazar ben Dordaya who was well known for his cohabitation with every prostitute in town. On one occasion, Rebbe Elazar journeyed across seven rivers with a cup full of Dinars to be with a famous prostitute. Following their cohabitation, the woman commented to Rebbe Elazar that at this point, God would never accept any of his repentance. Upon hearing this, Rebbe Elazar went outside and sat between two mountains, and proceeded to call upon the mountains and hills to beg God for mercy. The mountains replied that they could not possibly ask for mercy for Rebbe Elazar, as they already needed to ask mercy for themselves. Rebbe Elazar then made the same request of the heavens and the earth, of the sun and the moon, and finally of the stars and constellations, but they all replied just as the mountains and hills had. As a feeling of despondency began to set in, Rebbe Elazar exclaimed, "I realize that it is all dependant on me." He then put his head between his knees, began to cry, and died. When relating this story, Rebbe Yehuda Hanasi commented that there are times when an individual can acquire his share in the world to come in just one moment, and can even be privileged to be labeled "Rebbe."
This story raises several questions. First, why is it necessary for the Gemara to mention the fee of service for the prostitute, namely a cup of Dinars? Additionally, why did the Gemara see fit to mention that Rebbe Elazar traveled seven rivers to be with this woman? What did the mountains and hills mean when they said they had to ask for forgiveness for themselves? Why did the Gemara have to mention Rebbe Elazar putting his head between his knees? Finally, why did Rebbe Elazar merit the title of a Rebbe? Who were his Talmidim?
The Maharal as quoted in the Sefer Siftei Chaim explains as follows: The Torah teaches us that we must love Hashem and fulfill his Mitzvot "Bechol Livavicha Uvichol Nafshecha Uvechol Meodecha." This means that we are obligated to love Hashem to the extent that our hearts will be driven to obey His laws, and to the extent that we are willing to even sacrifice our lives or give up all of our possessions for Him. However, the Gemara here teaches that Rebbe Elazar was so rooted in sin that he performed his sins with the same passion that God commands us to have for the Mitzvot. Hence, the Gemara describes that R' Elazar was so driven to sin that he was willing to make a long journey, spend an exorbitant amount of money, and risk his life by crossing seven rivers.
The dialogue between R' Elazar and the mountains and heavenly bodies was one in which R' Elazar appealed to those creations that remain in this world for eternity. He believed that his only hope to remain in this world was to beseech those who inhabit it forever. The response of the mountains and heavenly bodies that they need to ask God for mercy for themselves was another way of saying, "You do not have to worry if you die, R' Elazar; for you there is a World to Come. We do not have a future. If anything, we should be asking for mercy for ourselves in as much as we have no higher, more spiritual world to ascend to."
When R' Elazar heard that with proper repentance he could merit the world to come, he put his head between his knees. This simulated the fetal position, representing his wish to be free of sin like a fetus in its mother's womb.
R' Elazar became a Rebbe - the Rebbe of Teshuva. In fact, he is the Rebbe of all those readers who have become inspired to do Teshuva by reading this article.

Categorical Atonement
by Jerry M. Karp

In Bereshit 6:11, the Torah records the great sin of the Dor Hamabul. It says, "Vatishacheitt Haaretz Lifnei Haelokim, Vatimalei Haaretz Chamas," "The land became corrupt before Hashem, and the land became filled with robbery." The Talmud Yerushalmi (Bava Metzia 4:12) quotes a Beraita which asks, "What did they steal?" The Beraita answers that they stole less than a Shaveh Perutah, the minimum amount that is given Halachic significance, so no one could take them to court and prosecute them for robbery. The question that this brings up is obvious: what was so wrong with what they did, if they were stealing in such petty amounts? An answer lies in the Gemara in Eiruvin 62, which says that a Nochri is Chayav even for stealing less then a Shaveh Perutah, even though a Jew is not. Why is a Nochri Chayav when a Jew is Patur? Rashi answers that a Jew will forgive someone for stealing such a small amount, whereas we assume that a Nochri will not. It is part of a Jew's character to be forgiving, especially regarding small matters.
This point is amplified by Taanit 25a, where the Gemara records the story of a particular drought in Eretz Yisrael. Rabi Eliezer prayed to Hashem on behalf of the people, but to no avail. Rabi Akiva then stepped up to pray, but unlike Rabi Eliezer, he was answered. Naturally, people started saying that Rabi Akiva was greater than Rabi Eliezer. In response, Hashem sent Bat Kol that announced, "Lo Shezeh Gadol Mizeh, Elah Shezeh Maavir Al Midotav, Vezeh Eino Maavir Al Midotav," "It is not because one is greater than the other, but rather because this one (Rabi Akiva) was able to 'look away,' whereas this one (Rabi Eliezer) could not 'look away.'" This Gemara means that Rabi Akiva was able to forgive minor inconveniences that other people caused to him, while Rabi Eliezer was not. Clearly, we must learn from Rabi Akiva. It is not so horrible, for example, if someone accidentally bumps into you; you do not have to make a big deal over it. Being forgiving is one thing that distinguishes a Jew from a Nochri. At least regarding our interactions with other people, the Gemarot in Eiruvin and Taanit both clearly support the well-known saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff!"

Purifying Mikveh 
by Moshe Zharnest

I would like to discuss that aspect of Mechilah of Yom Kippur. We know that all year round, in order to obtain forgiveness, you need to ask Mechilah from the person against whom you sinned. But on Yom Kippur you need something called Ritzuy. The question is, what's the difference between the year round Mechilah and Yom Kippur's Ritzuy? Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik gives a beautiful answer. He says all year round we have Mehcilah, plain forgiveness, but on Yom Kippur, a person must make an effort to restore the original relationship with the person he sinned against, or in some cases Hashem. Rav Soloveitchik also adds that just like for a Mikveh, there is no such thing as partially Tahor, so too there's no such thing as partial forgiveness. Hashem is like a Mikveh.
What's the point of going to the Mikveh? What does it accomplish? The Darchei Moshe answers that the point of the Mikveh is Teshuvah. When you go into the Mikveh you are reborn a new person with a clean slate. It is my hope that we all have a spiritual and uplifting Yom Kippur and be Zocheh to return to Yerushalayim.
-Adapted from a shiur at TABC by Rabbi Chaim Jachter.


Halacha of the Week
The Mishna Berura (583:5) states that one should be especially careful not to become angry on Rosh Hashana. He explains that in addition to the "great sin" of becoming angry throughout the year, one should control his anger on Rosh Hashana in order to serve as a Siman Tov ("good sign") for the upcoming year. Instead of becoming angry, one should be content and trust in Hashem, along with engaging in Teshuva and good acts.

 

 

Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief:  Ely Winkler, Willie Roth
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editor: Jesse Dunietz
Publishing Manager: Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
Publication Managers: Orin Ben-Jacob, Moshe Zharnest
Business Manager: Etan Bluman
Webmaster: Ariel Caplan
Staff: Duvie Barth, Mitch Levine, Josh Markovic, Moshe Schaffer, Chaim Strauss, Avi Wollman
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter

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