Teshuvah, Tefilah, and Tzedakah by Gavi Sragow


One of the highlights of the Davening of the Yamim Nora’im is “UNetaneh Tokef" in which many state that Teshuvah, Tefilah, and Tzedakah will be “Mav’irin Et Ro’a HaGezeirah,” remove the evil decree from upon us. If you think about the first two, Teshuvah and Tefilah, they seem to make sense. When a person does Teshuvah, he tells Hashem that he will change his previous ways, because he acknowledges what he did was wrong. Tefilah also makes sense, because a person Davens to Hashem, begs for mercy, and shows Hashem that he is sorry for what he’s done. But the question is by giving Tzedakah, why is an evil decree removed? Of all the Mitzvot to have the power of atonement, why Tzedakah? There are many other Mitzvot which would seem to be more appropriate to do to eliminate a bad decree. Maybe we would’ve said that you should study Torah, to show Hashem that you want to become close to Him. We also know that Talmud Torah is equal to everything else – So why does Tzedakah gain this role?

If you look carefully at what an Aveirah constitutes, you can find the reason why Tzedakah rescues us from a bad decree. When a person borrows an item from someone else, the lender is allowed to make rules about how the item can be used. If the borrower then violates those rules, he is deemed a “Sho’eil SheLo Mida’at.” He had full permission to use the item, but only in the way it was supposed to be used. He is therefore required to return the object, and if not, he is considered a Gazlan, as though he stole the object.

This idea presents us with an answer to our question. When Hashem gave us our body, He presented us with rules and guidelines to keep it Tahor, “spiritually clean.” The Mitzvot are the guidelines for the proper way to use your body, and in doing Aveirot, you are essentially misusing the body Hashem gave you. So just like with the lender and borrower, you must pay Hashem back. You should really have to pay Hashem with your life. But Hashem doesn’t want your life back. Because He created us, Hashem understands that humans make mistakes and that we have a strong Yetzeir HaRa. He knows we can improve. Therefore, you can pay a “Kofer,” the price of life. Since there’s no reasonable manner to compensate Hashem with money, Hashem tells us to give the money as Tzedakah and it will count as your Kofer.

Hashem understands our human ways, and therefore gives us a chance during this time of year to fix our ways and remove the Ro’a HaGezeira from on us. We should realize that the body Hashem gave us with the Neshamah inside is a very precious gift, one that should be carefully taken care of with the guidelines set out in the Torah.

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