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Shabbat Parashat Ha'azinu 5784

Parashat Hashavua: Shabbat and Teshuva

Harav Shaul Yisraeli condensed from Aroch Siach, pp. 238-242

The days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur always include a Shabbat. The following midrash (Bereishit Rabba 22:13) highlights the connection between teshuva and Shabbat: Adam met Kayin and asked him what had happened with his judgment [over killing his brother]. He told Adam that he repented and worked out a compromise. Adam said: “So great is the power of teshuva!” Adam then said: “Mizmor shir l’yom HaShabbat” (Tehilllim 92). What is the connection between the two?

The liturgy for Yamim Noraim contains a lot about how lowly man is, which seems at odds with the potential for greatness, which we celebrate at this time. We say that Rosh Hashana is the time when Hashem is our light, and Yom Kippur is the time when He is our salvation (Vayikra Rabba 21:4, based on Tehillim 27:1). The former relates to the creation of the world and the latter to Hashem’s forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf, represented by the giving of the second Tablets.

When Adam sinned, the light of Hashem disappeared, being replaced by “knowledge of good and bad.” The sin included not just a momentary loss to the evil inclination but the creation of a philosophy that his sin was justified. This is what the gemara (Sanhedrin 38b) describes as Adam being one who denied basic religious beliefs and one who pulled on his foreskin to hide the fact that he was circumcised (including, spiritually circumcised). Adam explained the interest in fulfilling desires as a fact to accept and not a lack of perfection that one needs to try to overcome in reaching shleimut (spiritual completeness).

Judaism looks at matters very differently. Mila represents for us that we need to try to rein in the impurity with which we were born. Tehillim 92 says that evil will grow like grass, in order for it to be destroyed (ibid. 8).

Sin brought a positive result. Kayin’s sin (fratricide) was so severe that he could not justify it. Kayin recognized his sin and repented, which revealed two things about the world: sin is not natural; sin can awaken one, which Kayin had not previously realized. It was his task to improve himself. When he taught this to Adam, Adam called out “Mizmor shir l’yom HaShabbat,” which declares the shleimut of the world after our efforts are successful.

Kayin was only able to “compromise” with Hashem and not totally erase the sin. The idea is that as long as man can justify his sin, he will not repent. The motivation to repent comes from seeing the light of Hashem represented by Rosh Hashana, as explained in Tehillim 92, the song of Shabbat, the song of shleimut in the created world.

In the sin of the Golden Calf, the people felt the need to explain why they could prefer the image of a calf to Moshe. Moshe had to show them that their attitude could not continue, and he therefore broke the tablets. When the nation fully repented, they were ready for a new set of tablets, which they received on Yom Kippur. That is the salvation of Yom Kippur. When during these days it is necessary to speak about man’s lacking, it is not in order to cause us resignation, but to make us realize we have a job – to not accept our weaknesses but strive towards shleimut, as Adam learned from Kayin.

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Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
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Prof. Yisrael Aharoni z"l

Kislev 14, 5783


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Iyar 10, 5771

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Tishrei 9
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Sivan 17 / Av 20


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Tishrei 20 ,5781


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Tamuz 10 ,5774


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