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Shabbat Parashat Haazinu| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Renew our Days as of Old - From Derashot Layamim Hanoraim, pp. 58-61
Rava used to say, daily, and Rav Hamnuna, on Yom Kippur, the following declaration: “Until I was created, I was unworthy, and now that I was created, it is as if I was not created. I am as dirt in my life, all the more so, in my death. I am before you like a utensil full of disgrace...” We know from accounts of our rabbis, that they did not make declarations that they did not feel were true, even if they knew they were (see Yoma 69b). So let us put this in perspective. The greatest scholars felt about themselves that they were like dirt and disgraceful. The Rabbis wanted us to make this declaration at least one day a year. In our generation, where showing off has become such a natural thing, it seems fake and forced. We may feel that it is a sign of a depressed, unhealthy psyche. However, the same author clarifies the reason for the feeling of inadequacy: “The pupose of wisdom is repentance and good deeds.” The closer a person comes to fruition on these matters the more he sees what can and should be done. This can make even the accomplished feel lacking.
The purpose of repentance is to “renew our days as of old,” which refers to the past of Adam (Eicha Rabba 5). A person makes improvements in his behavior, with an eye to fix not only himself but the Jewish people nationally and even all of creation, to reach the status of Adam before the sin where everything functioned properly. We believe that since then, nature has become flawed.
Sin does not only impact on us when it is carried out physically. The tendency toward sin causes us all to be average people even if we do not sin, as the Tanya explains. Rava was not so troubled by the possibility that he had performed significant, actual sins, but he felt that his general level was like that of dirt. Before Adam's sin, mankind was able to see things clearly with the heart. Whereas mankind was once able to sense the truth, we now have become used to a world of relativity, where good and evil are relative, not absolute.
Is the world good or bad? We must answer that it is both. The too are intertwined and feed off each other. When a bird eats a worm, it is good for the bird and bad for the worm. The struggle to survive and the rule of natural selection, on one hand protect and improve species, but they are bad for those who suffer as a result.
“R. Yochanan said: Had the Torah not have been given, we would have learned modesty from a cat, not stealing from an ant, ...” (Eruvin 100b). So why do we need these parts of the Torah? The gemara means that we could have learned these things but their nature would have been very different. The cat appears to be very modest and good, but it covers the fact that it can be a vicious predator. The ant is careful not to take from its friend but is very willing to take from others.
The Torah comes to give a taste of the world to come, which has an element of “like days of old.” Kohelet Rabba (3:2) relates to the pasuk:“He made everything nice at its time” as follows. It is good that Avraham came after Adam, for if Avraham had come first and had sinned, who would have fixed things. Adam sinned and Avraham came along to fix it. How do we understand this? If we consider that Avraham might sin, how can we be confident that he would fix things for Adam?
Avraham saw an orderly world and, through it, discerned that Hashem must be behind it. On the other hand, unlike Adam, he came into a flawed world, in which only through toil was he able to discover Hashem. After the toil, he was able to discern that the world, in its root, was only good. That is how he fixed somewhat the sin of Adam. If he had received the world in the form that Adam did, we do not have assurances as to what he would have done with it.
Our prayer is that we will return to days where the word of Hashem will be felt palpably and the world will be “full of knowledge of Hashem” (Yeshaya 11:9).
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z"l.
May their memory be a blessing!