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).
Yom Kippur: Festive or Not?
by Stewart Doberman
There are five special prohibitions on Yom Kippur. We are forbidden to eat or drink, wear leather shoes, use makeup and lotions, bathe, and have marital relations. Therefore, it would appear that Yom Kippur is a solemn and non-festive day. However, Taanit 4:7 says that “Lo Hayu Yamim Tovim LeYisrael KeChamishah Asar BeAv VeYom HaKippurim.” Roughly translated, “Yom Kippur and the fifteenth of Av were the happiest days for Jews.” Furthermore, a mourner’s Shivah is canceled if Yom Kippur falls during the seven days of mourning. These seem to indicate that Yom Kippur is a joyous day. So is Yom Kippur a happy day or a solemn day?
The chief source for believing that Yom Kippur is not a joyous day is the word VeInitem from the words “VeInitem Et Nafshoteichem” (Vayikra 32:23), meaning that one should torture himself on Yom Kippur. However, as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin points out, there is another meaning of VeInitem. In Sefer Devarim, Moshe says (Devarim 26:5), “VeAnita VeAmarta Lifnei Hashem Elokecha,” which Chazal interpret as “You should sing out [i.e. sing with the cantillation tune) in front of Hashem, your God.” If we apply this meaning to the Pasuk about Yom Kippur, we find that it is a day to sing out to Hashem and reach our spiritual potential.
One might suggest that both meanings classify Yom Kippur; it is both a happy and a solemn day. While it is still one of the Asseret Yemei Teshuvah, and therefore warrants a serious attitude, Yom Kippur also represents the gift of a clean slate for all of Bnei Yisrael. Therefore, while we should certainly not ignore the serious implications and feeling of Yom Kippur, one should combine it with an optimism that takes into account Yom Kippur’s status as a new beginning for Bnei Yisrael.
Tefillah a la Moshe
by Shmuel Reece
In the beginning of Parshat Haazinu, Moshe Rabbeinu states a short Pasuk: “Ki Sheim Hashem Ekra, Havu Godel LEilokeinu,” usually translated as, “When I proclaim Hashem’s name, you should give greatness to Hashem.” However, the Chumash with Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch’s commentary translates this verse as, “For it is Hashem’s Name that I proclaim; ascribe ye greatness unto our Hashem.” This different translation teaches us that Moshe Rabbeinu davened before delivering his “Mussar Schmooze.”
Perhaps because of this idea, we apply many ideas from Moshe’s Tefillah to our own davening. This one Pasuk is the source for part of the structure of Kedushah; reciting Barchu during davening; the requirement of three for a Mezuman; saying Birchot HaTorah before reading the Torah in shul – and the list goes on.
Yalkut Shimoni points out that whereas the Malachim say Hashem’s name after saying the word Kadosh three times, Moshe waited until he said 21 words, as though he were only 1/7th as great as the angels. Yalkut Shimoni says that, considering how careful Moshe Rabbeinu was about saying Hashem’s name even if he was so great, how much more careful must we be before saying Hashem’s name! The Chizkuni comments that Chazal established 21 words before we say Hashem’s name in Kedushah daily, and on Shabbat 85 letters corresponding to the 85 letters in the 21 words in the first three Pesukim of Haazinu.
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch remarks that the first three Pesukim of the Parsha are the introduction of Moshe Rabbeinu’s Shirah. Before Moshe Rabbeinu began reciting the words of Hashem, he compelled his audience to listen to his words as what they were – the words of Hashem. So too, when a person gets an Aliyah, he too, says the Berachah within which he declares that what is about to be read is “Torato” – Hashem’s teachings that He has given us. Just as the person getting the Aliyah expresses the promise to faithfully obey Hashem, he calls upon the Tzibbur to do the same when they respond with Baruch Hashem HaMevorach LeOlam VaEd. Rav Hirsch adds that the same reason applies to the responses of Baruch Sheim Kevod Malchuto LeOlam VaEd and Amen.
This might also be the way our Pasuk is used to derive the idea of Mezuman. We know, according to the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot, that when three people eat together, they should discuss Torah. By saying Birkat HaMazon with a Mezuman, they are then showing their acceptance of the Torah, which commands us to learn the Torah and to recite Birkat HaMazon after eating.
In the merit of these and all of our Tefillot, may we all merit a Gemar Chatimah Tovah.
Consider the Changes
by Yaakov Rubin
In Parshat Haazinu, the Torah writes, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of each generation; ask your father and he will tell you, your elders and they will say it to you” (32:7). Based on this Pasuk, Rabbi Yissochor Frand (in his writings) develops the concept of the importance of history in Jewish life. This Pasuk tells us that every single Jewish person must remember past events in Jewish history, such as Yetziat Mitzrayim, the receiving of the Torah at Har Sinai, and any other events in our nation’s past. Together all of these events form the basis and foundation of today’s beliefs and observations. Everyone must understand the traces of Hashem in every past event and their consequences. As American philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
All of this is well understood today. But what is the significance of the repetitive language of “remember the days of old” and “consider the years of each generation?” How are they different?
The Menachem Tzion answers this question homiletically (using a second definition of a word). He says that “Shenot,” “the years,” can also be translated as “the changes.” We should remember the days – preserve and understand our history, as we discussed above – and consider “the changes” of each generation. It must be understood that the lessons of the past must be applied to the present with wisdom and good judgment. Times change; people change; circumstances change. Not everything that worked in the past will work today, and not everything that failed in the past will fail today. Obviously, the Torah cannot be changed, although it does have enough flexibility to allow it to adapt to all times and places. But we must think and consider hard before we apply it in a particular way. History is our guiding principle in accordance with “remember the days of old,” but it must always be tempered with an awareness of “the changes of each generation.”
Knowledge is Bliss
by Zack Fagan
Chag HaSukkot comes five days after Yom Kippur, but it is difficult to perceive a direct connection between the holidays. On Yom Kippur we ask for forgiveness for our sins, while on Sukkot we celebrate God’s care for the Jews living in Sukkot in the Midbar. What is the relationship between these two holidays, just five days apart?
According to the Sefat Emet, the relationship is very close and direct. We know that on the first Yom Kippur, Bnei Yisrael camped at the foot of Har Sinai, as that was the day on which Moshe came down from the mountain with the second set of Luchot. On that day, Bnei Yisrael received atonement for their sins, in particular for the Cheit HaEigel. The Cheit occurred on 17 Tammuz, but it was not until Yom Kippur, 80 days later, that they were forgiven. But how did they know that they were truly forgiven, and that Hashem would dwell among them again?
According to Rashi in Vayakhel (Shemot 35:1), following the Midrash, Hashem commanded the building of the Mishkan on the day immediately following Yom Kippur. When BneiYisrael heard that they were commanded to build a Mishkan for Hashem’s Presence, they rejoiced because they knew they were truly forgiven.
A Sukkah, says the Sefat Emet, is also a dwelling place for Hashem’s Presence, a sort of miniature Mishkan. The Gemara tells us (Sukkah 9a), “Chal Sheim Shamayim Al HaSukkah,” “The Name of Heaven rests on the Sukkah.” When we begin building our Sukkot immediately after Yom Kippur, we show that we also believe that our sins were forgiven on Yom Kippur and that Hashem will dwell with us. This connection to Yom Kippur helps to give Chag HaSukkot a special level of Simcha.
The Final War
by Ilan Griboff
The Haftarah we read on Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot, from the Navi Yechezkel, depicts the war between Gog and Magog before the coming of Mashiach. Why is this Haftarah read on Sukkot? According to some commentaries, it is because Gog’s defeat will take place during Tishrei. In fact, one Midrash states that Gog’s defeat will take place on Hoshanah Rabbah. Additionally, during the holiday of Sukkot we sit in a Sukkah that is covered by a very flimsy roof, which is composed of Sechach. This shows our trust in Hashem to keep us safe, in contrast to the reliance of Gog, whose name means “the dreadful one,” on its own power.
Although we do not know when this war will take place, the Rambam says that it will occur after Eliyahu comes to direct all of Bnei Yisrael towards Hashem and to help us all do Teshuvah. Only then will we have the ability to counteract the force of Gog, who is trying to drive us away from Hashem.
The Nevuah starts with “VeHayah Bayom HaHu BeYom Bo Gog Al Admat Yisrael….” The Rabbanan explain that when this war begins, Gog will come forth with a tremendous army made of representatives from all of the seventy nations. They will all be united to achieve one final goal: to wipe out the Jews and prevent the coming of Mashiach.
This will cause Hashem’s anger, which He has restrained throughout all of the Exile, to be aroused, and He will perform many large and open miracles. This will destroy Gog’s plans and send his army into complete confusion.
This Hoshanah Rabbah, may Hashem bring about the final battle, the ultimate defeat of Gog, and the coming of Mashiach.
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