Inside Information by Rabbi Yosef Adler


During the course of Yom HaKippurim, we will recite the Vidui, confession, ten times.  Each time it is introduced with the paragraph that begins, “Ata Yodea Razei Olam,” which contains two themes.  First, “You (Hashem) know the mysteries of the world and the dark secrets of every living soul.  You search the innermost chambers of man’s conscience; nothing escapes you, nothing is hidden from your sight.”  We then add, “Therefore (UVechein), may it be your will to forgive all our sins, pardon all our iniquities and grant atonement for all our transgressions.”  What an unusual conclusion!  Logically the conclusion reached should be the very opposite.  Because God knows that our verbal confession is often nothing but lip service, He should come to the conclusion that we should not be granted atonement.  How do we understand the flow of the two thoughts, that because of his precise knowledge He should forgive us?

Rabbi Norman Lamm, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva University, suggested that every single Jew contains an inner soul which consists not of lust and coarseness but of loving-kindness.  Psychologists probe the subconscious and try to discover who we are, often leading to shame and embarrassment.  But when God probes, He looks for that which one can become.  He sees the spark of “Kedushah” that no psychologist could identify.  “UVechein,” therefore, we plead to Him to grant atonement.

To illustrate this further let us examine a Din of the Torah concerning the relationship of a lender and borrower.  The Torah discusses the case of someone in need of funds who approaches a lender for a loan.  The latter is prepared to advance the loan, but requests collateral.  The Torah states that if, for example, he seizes the borrower’s pillow as collateral and it is the borrower’s only pillow, he must return it to him for the night to enable him to sleep peacefully.  The Torah concludes this Din by stating “ULecha Tihyeh Tzedakah” (Devarim 24:13), typically translated that this gesture will ultimately “be good for you.”  However, we all know that the root of “Tzedakah” is Tzedek, righteousness.  In what way is returning the pillow Tzedek?  The lender will have done right by himself; he will have justified his innate spiritual gestalt.  Man’s outer layer is torn between the Yetzer HaTov and the Yetzer Hara.  His inner self seeks the truth.  We request of God, using a similar language to that of the Torah regarding the lender, that if we do what is right by us, “Lecha Hashem Hatzedakah,” “Yours, Hashem, is the righteousness,” i.e. You will do what is right for us.  For this reason, we request Mechilah, Selichah and Kaparah.

May we merit to hear again the words God spoke after Cheit HaMeraglim: “Vayomer Hashem Salachti KiDvarecha,” “And Hashem said, ‘I have forgiven, in accordance with your words’” (Bemidbar 14:20).


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