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The Words of the Accused
In the haftarah of "Shabbat Shuvah," we say: "Remove all sin and take the good, and we will pay for the cattle with our lips." Rashi explains: "Forgive all our sins, and the few good deeds that we have in our hands - take with Your hand, and judge us on that basis. And the sacrifices that we are obligated to sacrifice, we will make up for with our words." This is incomprehensible, completely not understood! Let us describe to ourselves, a driver who is brought to trial: he ignored a "Do Not Enter" sign, drove onto a narrow one-way street, and crashed into a row of cars. "What do you have to say for yourself?" asks the judge. The driver confesses completely, but makes a request: "I am asking you to forgive me for the traffic violation, and release me from all the damages. Also, please remember that I signaled before I turned, and therefore I deserve a citation for being a careful driver!" When the judge explains that it is impossible to get away without a nominal fine, the accused answers: "No problem, but please exchange that fine for this song that I am about to sing…" Think about it, isn't this exactly the explanation of this verse, the definition of our request! How can we be so brazen? But not only is it possible, but the Creator wishes us to make that request, as it says, "Say to Him!" Make that request, and you will be answered!
Therefore, it is proper that that is written, and so shall be. But we must understand!
We have found a wonderful explanation in the book, "Shaarei Armon" for the High Holy Days. On the one hand, it is wonderful, and the other hand, sharp. For all those who are calm at the height of the days of judgment, who take an accounting of their soul and are pleased with the results: So, I keep the Shabbat and eat Kasher, make blessings on food and pray three times a day. I deserve a mark of praise, a good year with no punishments! If they think so, let us present them with a parable:
A young boy returned home from school. His mother was sick, confined to bed. He entered the kitchen to take food, and his eyes lit up - A bunch of ripe bananas were on the table. Their season was long since over and they were certainly very expensive, but his father had bought them anyway for the sick mother, at the doctor's instructions. The child's eyes gleamed with gluttony; he had a weakness for bananas. He said to himself: I will eat one - one less won't make a difference to Mother. He said it and did it, and with the food came hunger. Mother won't notice if two are missing. After the second, came the third. The main thing is that the majority is left for Mother. The majority became half, and he was still not satisfied. In the end, he said: Mother will be satisfied with one banana.
The last banana was left, and it disturbed his rest. He said to himself: Mother is so good, she will certainly agree to split it with me. He would split the last banana.
Fine. But how to split it? He took the inside for himself, and left the peel for Mother.
Let us think: The Creator gives us life, health, intelligence, emotions, food, and more. These are all meant to be tools with which to worship him, to fulfill the commandments, to increase the honor of Heaven. But we take everything for ourselves. Section after section, piece after piece, hour after hour. What do we leave anything for our Creator? The hour of prayer, and the blessings. But it's not so bad. The problem is that even this hour we do not give to Him completely - just the peel, the words of prayer and the muttering of the blessing. The inside, the intent, we keep for ourselves, and our thoughts span the world…
It is supposed to be the opposite, and that must be the decision we make as we approach the upcoming Yom Hakipurim: "Heaven wants the heart" (Sanhedrin 106b). "For all hearts are demanded by G-d!" (Divrei Hayamim 1 28: 9). "Give, my son, your heart to Me" (Mishlei 23: 26). None can obligate themselves to be perfect, but this we can demand of ourselves: to obligate ourselves that our sins, if there will be, will not be done intentionally, that they will only be the peel, and that our commandments will be "good," filled with spirituality and intent. Only thus can we request that we be forgiven, and that we should be judged according to our good deeds, because of the good that is hidden in them. "And we will pay for the cattle with our lips," that our prayer will be filled with holy emotion like a sacrifice offered in the Temple, the place of the Divine presence!
Let us start this Shabbat. With the prayers of Shabbat, the blessings, the meals. And we will merit forgiveness for our sins, and the light of the face of G-d, and a final inscription for good. For us, and the whole house of Israel!
In the period after Haunkah, I met an old friend, a merchant whose store is filled with buyers and who is able to support his family honorably. But a dark time had come upon him. What happened? He told me that he had taken on an excessive overdraft from the bank, and then, had gotten a call from the branch manager. It was the end of the year, an appraisal had been done and he was obligated to cover his debt. From where could he get, his money was invested in the merchandise… But he had no choice or his checks would bounce, and his account would be limited. Is it a surprise that he was upset? Let us think, isn't our situation, in the days of judgment, with the start of the of new year similar? We have built up a huge overdraft, and in all of our prayers we request to withdraw more and more from our account. Is there a chance?? But what would that good friend say, if I showed him a way to get the bank to cancel his debt? Not just the interest, not to allow him to pay in installments, but a complete cancellation!
There is a way, but it is not available to everyone. Only for one who has been hurt, in his family, in his congregation, by his neighbors or by his work colleagues. He was hurt and he is justifiably angry. It is hard for him to forgive, and he has no obligation to forgive. But, if he strengthens himself, despite the fact that it is difficult and decides to renounce his anger, to forget and open a new page. It is not simple and not easy. But then, he will merit the promise: "To whom does The Holy One Blessed Be He forgive? To one who ignores the evil done against him. He who wipes away his own desire, G-d will wipe away his sins!" (Rosh Hashanah 17a). What would we not do for life and health and sustenance, peace of mind and happiness! What would we not do for forgiveness of our sins and a good year!
The Gaon Rabbi Yisshak Abuhassera zs"l
The Gaon Rabbi Yisshak Abuhassera zs"l, the Baba Haki, was tremendously hospitable and would always greet every person with a pleasant countenance. One day a person came to him whose mouth overflowed with harsh words. He insulted him in front of all those present, and didn't stop until he had lifted his hand and slapped the Rabbi across the face. The Rabbi heard the insult and was silent, he assuaged and he calmed, he invited the man to the table and forced him to sit for a meal, stood by him and served him like a waiter at a restaurant. After the meal, he gave him a substantial gift, found him a ride home, and accompanied him on the way…
Those present couldn't believe it, and when he returned, they expressed their wonder and amazement.
He answered saying: On the door of the house of the Gaon Rabbi Yosef Shloush zs"l there was a sign, saying: All who approach are welcome, except for those who do not say thank you… But my version is that all who approach are welcome, even those do not say thank you… Not only did he attack me without reason, but also I am the one who found him a job, and I have done many acts of kindness for him. However, that is precisely the point: If he does not recognize good, and can behave that ungratefully, we must have pity on him. We must treat him like a sick person…
What amazing words! Let us ponder. On Yom Hakipurim, we will all stand up in judgment, and will ask for mercy and grace. What will we do if a sign greets us: "All who approach are welcome, except for those who do not say thank you"? Who amongst us could enter? Every sin is a sign of ungratefulness. You have received life and health and sustenance, food and clothing and shelter, and you have responded with… sin!? If the Creator receives us, and invites us in, we are commanded to walk in His ways. We must set in our minds and hearts to forgive all those who have repaid our good with evil. We must say: "All who approach are welcome, even those who do not say thank you…"
"Return, Israel, unto Hashem, your G-d, for you have faltered through your sins"
The Rabbi Divrei Shmuel zs"l found the way to repentance in this verse. A person has done an accounting of his soul and has been found far from perfection. What should he do to appease his Creator, to merit his forgiveness? Should he should promise himself and his Creator that from now on he will be perfect, that he will have the proper intent in his prayers, that he will not waste even a moment from learning Torah? But he knows that he is far from that, and that this is a worthless promise, which he will give up on and not fulfill as in the past!
The answer can be explained in a parable. A poor villager wanted to sell his wares in the big city. He places his bundle on his shoulder and starts to travel. The sun is blazing, the sweat drips, the bundle is heavy and the road is so long. When he thinks too much, he is gripped with despair and turns around to head home. But if were smart, he wouldn't think about his distant destination. He would say to himself: My goal now to is reach that tree, and to rest in its shade. He will reach the tree, rest a bit, and say: Now, my goal is to get to that rock, and to sit upon it. In this way he will proceed from station to station and eventually reach his destination.
This is the meaning of the verse: "Return, Israel, unto." Make for yourself goals for improvement that are near: to have proper intent in the first blessing of the amidah, to add another Torah shiur, and so on, from goal to goal, so that you may reach "unto Hashem, your G-d."
"Return, Israel, unto Hashem, your G-d, for you have faltered through your sins"
To what may this be compared, said the Rabbi Kochav Miyaakov zs"l? To a man who stands before a first-rate lawyer in the capital city. He questions him about the quickest method for seeing the king and receiving a pardon.
The lawyer explains to him: "It is not like that. There is a procedure, a long list of processes. There is the first appearance, and if you are convicted, then you submit an appeal to the regional court, and afterwards to the Supreme Court, and then your request for a pardon is transferred to the Justice Ministry, and then if you merit a recommendation, the request is brought before the king…"
"Aha!" stamped the man with his foot out of impatience. "My case is so serious, that I have no chance of success in my first appearance, nor in the second nor the third. Nor will I receive a recommendation from the Ministry…"
The lawyer shrugged his shoulders: "If so, then I can't help you. There is no way to skip stages, and it is impossible to appear immediately before the king."
But here, there is a tremendous kindness. "Return Israel - immediately - unto Hashem, your G-d!" Why? "For you have faltered through your sins," and all the ministering angels will not agree to acquit you! But there is a way paved before you, straight to the Creator who will grant you a pardon. Repentance is great for it reaches even the Heavenly Throne!
"Return, Israel, unto Hashem, your G-d, for you have faltered through your sins"
Rabbeinu Yonah wrote (Shaarei Teshuvah 2: 2): When a person sins against his friend, and turns his back on him, and then later comes to him when he needs his help to beg forgiveness, he will not be greeted kindly, as Yiftah said: "Why have you come to me now, when you have troubles?" But G-d accepts our repentance with love and desire even if we repent on the day of rebuke, out of troubles, as it says: "Return, Israel, unto Hashem, your G-d, for you have faltered through your sins - I will heal your return, and I will love you as if they were voluntary."
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
Sitting, Standing and Passing near one Praying
· It is forbidden to pass in front of one praying the Amidah within four amot, even if the one passing is reciting the Shema or learning Torah. This is specifically in front of him, but to his sides, and certainly behind him, is permitted. According to the holy Zohar, and the Kabbalists, one should be stringent not to pass in front of one praying even beyond four amot, as long as he is visible. Also, they hold that one should be stringent to the side and behind him, within four amot. It is good to be stringent about this.
· It is proper to be stringent not to pass in front of the one praying, even if he is not directly in front of him, but in front to the sides, that is, diagonal. Certainly it is proper to be stringent not to pass and stand in front of him, although when one is stuck, and there is nowhere else to stand, he is permitted to stand in front of the one praying. It he was standing first, and his friend came to pray near him, even if the one praying was facing him within four amot, and even if they were in a synagogue, and even if the one standing is not learning or praying, he is permitted to remain standing there.
Passing in front of one saying "Kadish"
· Just as it is forbidden to pass in front of one praying, so too it is forbidden to pass in front of one saying "Kadish." After he has finished the "Half Kadish," it is permitted.
Passing in front of the congregation reciting "Shema"
· There are some who are stringent not to pass in front of a congregation when they are saying the verse, "Shema Yisrael."
Passing in front of the Hazan
· One should not pass in front of the hazan even when he is not saying the Amidah.
Passing in front of one praying for the sake of a minyan
· Even if one is unable to enter the synagogue to pray with a minyan without passing in front of one praying, one is still not permitted to pass in front of him. If he is the tenth man for the minyan, he is permitted to pass in front of him to make the minyan.
Passing in front of a woman or a minor who is praying
· A woman praying the Amidah has the same law as a man, in terms of the prohibitions of sitting near or passing in front of her. It is good to be stringent and not pass in front of a minor who has reached the age of education, who is praying the Amidah. In a case of need, on may be lenient on this.
Taking three steps back when someone is praying behind him
· If one has completed his prayer, and there is someone praying behind him, it is forbidden to take the three steps back until the person behind him has completed his prayer, if by taking three steps back he will enter that person's four amot. Even if the person behind him started praying afterwards, and even if he just started, right before the other person completed his Amidah, and he is praying very lengthily, he must wait until the person behind him has finished. It is good to be stringent about this even when one is not going to come within his four amot.
The Beaver and Us
The beaver is called a "builder" (boneh) in Hebrew. This animal builds dams in the rivers from branches and twigs that it chops down by the riverbanks. The beaver's fur is very valuable, and hunters search for it. But it is hard to capture. When it senses danger, it dives down into the maze-like tunnels it has created within the dams, and disappears from view. What do the hunters do? The have followed the lifestyle of this interesting animal, and discovered a most interesting trait. To get materials for the repair of its dams, the beaver comes up on the shore and makes its way to the forest. It cuts down branches and carries them back to its dam, to its house. But it will always, always return exactly the same way it came. It will not stray to the right or the left! This is the way that it came, and this is the way that it will return! Now the hunters' work is very easy. They walk by the banks of the river, looking for the beaver's tracks. If they find tracks leading to the forest, then they know that the beaver is still busy at work cutting down trees. They then lay a trap on the pathway. They don't even bother to hide it. The beaver will return from its work and turn to its fortress, with the trap in it sway. It knows that someone placed it there, It understands that someone wants to trap it, and even knows why. But it is a prisoner of habit, a slave to its character. It cries, and walks right into the trap… The Slonimer Rebbi, author of the Divrei Shmuel zs"l, brings up this trait, this shocking trait, and asks: And we, with our tears on Yom Hakipurim, aren't we just like the beaver? We cry and confess, but we don't change our path… If you know that there is something wrong with your ways, and you know that there is a trap before you - change your path, choose a new road and be saved!…
The Power of Man (2)
From the Book, "And Mosheh Was a Shepherd"
Summary: Rabbi Moshe Pardo, a successful textile merchant in South Tel Aviv, stood serving his customers, when in his doorway appeared the shape of a young scholar, looking confused.
Rabbi Moshe's face lit up when he saw who was coming. As usual, he greeted him like an old customer. This time, he even knew his name: "Welcome, Eliezer Ben David!"
The customers turned to see a warm embrace between the two. "What is new, my friend! Many years have passed since I have seen you! Are you still learning in Yeshivat Ponevizch?"
The whisper of his answer was swallowed up by the response: "What are you saying, you are in the kollel for married scholars? If so, then you are owed a blessing of mazal tov! Mazal tov, my friend, mazal tov! May your home stand forever!"
"Who is that?" whispers were heard, "a family friend?"
"Can I pay my bill?" said a voice near the cashier.
"This is not right," said the newcomer. "You are in the middle of work. Continue please and I can wait."
"Halilah vehas," protested Rabbi Moshe. "A Torah scholar comes before all. Come, my friend, let us enter my office."
With his hand on the scholar's shoulder, he led him into his room. "Did you remember that I told you to come if you needed me? My heart told me that we would meet again!"
Yes, said the young man, that is why he came.
It was a few years earlier, when he was still learning in the yeshivah. He had to arrange something in Yafo, and on his way back he passed by "Bet Romano." A merchant who seemed to be religious asked him to make up a minyan for minhah. He brought him in to the wholesale hat store, and then realized that he needed one more for the minyan. The merchant who had brought him in left to find a tenth, and one of those present greeted him with a hearty "Welcome!" He told him that he was the owner of the store and that every day there was a minyan there for minhah and arbit. In between the prayers there was a shiur given by Rabbi Hillel, the merchant who had brought him in. He asked him were he was learning and where he was from. He was surprised: "Your parents are from Persia, and you are learning in an Ashkenazi yeshivah? Why aren't you learning in Yeshivat Porat Yosef, founded by the Ben Ish Hai?"
Rabbi Hillel returned with the tenth man and heard the question. He explained to the young man: "You must understand. Mr. Pardo is a member of the board of Yeshivat Porat Yosef."
"Along with Rabbi Hillel," noted Rabbi Moshe Pardo.
"The Torah is the same Torah," noted the young man, and they agreed. At the end of the prayer, the storeowner parted from him with a warm handshake: "It was very nice to meet you. If you ever need me, remember the address…" Now he remembered the invitation and he had come…
To be continued, G-d willing, next week
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
The Laws of Yom Hakipurim
1. There is a custom in most places to say the prayer of "Kol Nidrei" on the night of Yom Hakipurim after the stars come out. It is said three times to strengthen the matter. The one who holds the Torah, should say the blessing of "shehecheyanu" for the day itself, and should have intent to fulfill the whole congregation's obligation, and they should have the intent to fulfill their obligation.
2. A person must say 100 blessings every day. This is especially difficult on Shabbat because of the shorter amidah. One should try to make up the 100 blessings by eating fruit and the like during the day. If necessary, one can rely on the blessings for the reading of the Torah and the haftarah.
3. On Yom Hakipurim though, it is impossible to make up the blessings through eating and drinking. Therefore, one must either rely on the blessings for the reading of the Torah and haftarah, or even better, one should make the blessings on pleasant-smelling spices, which are permitted on Yom Hakipurim.
4. A sick person, whose life would be threatened by fasting, must eat on Yom Hakipurim. It is a sin for him to fast, and we force him to eat if he refuses.
5. If a person must eat on Yom Hakipurim, we try to feed him less than a fig-size each time if possible. One is not punished by "karet" for this amount, and we try to minimize the violation if possible. One should wait approximately ten minutes between each eating.
6. One who is eating bread in the aforementioned fashion on Yom Hakipurim, must wash his hands, but should not say the blessing of "Al netilat yadayim." He should say the blessing of "hamossi," and say birkat hamazon after eating. He should include in his birkat hamazon the mention of the day in "yaaleh veyavo."
7. A woman who gave birth within the 72 hours before Yom Hakipurim is forbidden to fast, even if both she and her doctor claim that she is capable of doing so.
8. A woman who gave birth within the 7 days before Yom Hakipurim is permitted to fast if both she and her doctor claim that she is capable of doing so. If either she or her doctor claim that she should not fast, she is not permitted to fast.
9. A pregnant or nursing woman must fast on Yom Hakipurim, unless her doctor says that there is even a possibility of danger to her life if she does so. Still, she should not overexert herself, and thus should not go to the synagogue. It is better for her to stay home and rest in bed.
10. A child under the age of nine is not obligated to fast and should be prevented from doing so. Once he has reached the age of nine, he should be educated to fast part of the day, but should not be allowed to fast the whole day, lest he endanger himself.
11. An eleven-year-old boy or girl, who is in good health, may be permitted to fast, unless he is unable to. Still, the parents should keep a careful eye on him, and even on a thirteen-year-old, lest he endanger himself.
The Great Disappointment
We stand before the holy day, the upcoming Yom Hakipurim. This is the day on which armies of angels will advance from the right and the left towards the giant scales in the middle. The white angels will hold in their hands the bags of commandments, and will empty then onto one side of the scale. The black angels await their turn. One can slice the tension with a knife.
In the meantime, the heart gets excited. The right side of the scale is filling up at a satisfying pace. Every second of Shabbat observance, which is equivalent to all the commandments. Every word of Torah learning , which is equivalent to all the commandments. Every second of wearing tefillin, which is worth eight commandments. Sisit, which is equivalent to all the commandments. Every second of living in the Holy Land, is a positive commandment. Three prayers a day, one hundred blessings a day, an unending cascade of commandments!
But from the corner of one's eye, we see the snaking row of accusers, each one of whom is holding a bursting bundle. The heart skips a beat: Avoi, how many shiurim did I miss, how many wasted minutes did I have, in which I picked up the newspaper instead of picking up a humash, pirkei avot, yalkut meam loez, or another sefer. Instead of investing in a world of holiness, I invested in vanities… We remember the words that should not have been said, and the phrases that it would have been better had they not passed our lips. We remember all the little failures, the prohibitions that we violated without noticing. We know all this, and yet there is still more bundled in those sacks. The heart cringes, and a sigh is released. Please forgive, good Father. Forgive and wipe away. Really, we did not intend to rebel. We will try to improve, to correct our ways, to increase our commandments.
That is it. The angels of light have finished their work. The hill of shining diamonds glows on the right side. Now comes the turn of the angels of destruction, the accusers. With satanic glee they gather around the left side. They fervently untie their sacks - and the compressed air flows out with a whistle. The sacks collapse empty. A cry of surprise is heard from their voices. Unbelieving, they fell around in the sacks, and there is nothing there. It can not be, they cry in shock. It can not be, for a whole year we took care to collect, to pile up sins. We placed them in sacks, overflowing, and tied them up. What happened, to where did they all disappear?!
Thank you, Master of the World. This is the power of repentance. This is the power of true regret, confession, and an honest decision for the future. Let the accusers burst, just as the sins evaporated. May our verdict be signed only according to the shining, illuminating side of merit, according to that pile of good deeds. May there be an inscription for good, for a year of peace, quiet and peace of mind, a year of life and plenty, health and medicine, redemption and salvation, for the individual and for the congregation!
With a blessing of Shabbat Shalom, and a final inscription for good,
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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