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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Nahar U'Pashtei Parshas Veyelech Shabbos Shuvah

The Depth of Teshuvah

The period of the Ten Days of Repentance, beginning with the Day of Judgement and culminating with the fast of Yom Kippur, is a time where one must cultivate his relationship with Hashem. With teshuvah, we aim to leave our sins behind and create resolutions for the future; this is what this special time is for. One should emerge from this elevated closeness to Hashem a new person, reborn of the opportunities presented. This is not merely a time to be aware of Divine judgement; but a time to grow from it as well. Many people, as they glide through these days of awe, are somewhat content in their approach to Hashem’s service, and feel their only need here is to daven for continued brachah, and that Klal Yisrael be saved from the terrible suffering we have witnessed in recent times. I would like to present the following thought. The Gemara in Berachos tells us of what seems to be a most peculiar conversation. When R’ Yochanan Ben Zakai was on his deathbed, his students came to visit him. After some words of guidance, they asked him for a blessing. Whereupon, R’ Yochanan blessed them, saying, “May it be the will of Hashem that the fear of Heaven be upon you like the fear of flesh and blood.” His confused students asked him, “This far and no more?” That is, should our fear of God not exceed that of our fellow mortals? And R’ Yochanan answered, “would it only be so! Know, when a person commits a sin in private, he says, ‘O that a person not see me!’” Now, on the surface, it would seem that R’ Yochanan’s students were average scholars, and he was advising them that by fearing Heaven as they do the disgrace and shame in the eyes a fellow person, they will indeed save themselves from many sins. And the same is true for anyone who could harness this useful tool in his or her life. The problem with this interpretation, however, is that the Talmidim of R’ Yochanan Ben Zakai were established righteous Torah giants. Chazal elsewhere describe the greatness of these students and the extent of the Torah knowledge of even the smallest among them! This being the case, there must be some deeper meaning here, hidden beneath the surface of this great tzaddik’s advice! R’ Yochanan meant to convey, that sometimes a person will fall to sin because of a certain line of reasoning. He will think to himself, “Hashem knows what I’m going through”, or “He knows that I just cannot hold out any longer.” Sometimes it will be in the form of taking an extra nap instead of learning, and sometimes in the form of stealing, or perhaps a more severe sin. He may turn to Hashem and comfort himself in the knowledge that Hashem knows his battles and how hard he works, and that he has reached his limit. But what would be if at that moment, his friend or colleague would walk into the room? Suddenly, he would stop in his tracks! Because he knows that his fellow mortal cannot possibly understand his presumably righteous calculations to sin, he will overcome his yetzer hara once more! This is what R’ Yochanan meant to teach his students. If one can still hold strong in the presence of a friend who does not understand, he must realize that by definition he is not powerless! He must reach deep inside himself and find this hidden resolve, and thereby solidify his commitment to Hashem to a new level. This is something we can all work to perfect during these days of Repentance. Is our commitment and our resolve truly where it should be? Or do the excuses we find ourselves often relying on masking a deeper issue? Can we honestly say that we dedicate our days to the service of Hashem, or do we look over our shoulders, hoping no one sees us falter? Let us use these awesome moments to cultivate a real and deep motivation to shteig that will allow us to grow to higher levels. A Gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss

Veyelech Shuva
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