Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 18   No. 53

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Parshas Ha'azinu
(Shabbos Shuvah)

The Mitzvah of Teshuvah
(Adapted from the Mo'adim ba'Halachah)

Teshuvah, says the Mo'adim ba'Halachah, is definitely one of the Taryag Mitzvos, and he goes on to quote a series of P'sukim from last week's Parshah "And you shall return to Hashem your G-d and obey His commands" "When you return to Hashem your G-d with all your heart" "Because this Mitzvah, which I am commanding you today ". The Ramban, in any event, and other major commentaries interpret "This Mitzvah" with reference to the Teshuvah that the Pasuk mentioned earlier.

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The Rambam too, at the beginning of Hilchos Teshuvah writes 'When a person who has transgressed any of the Mitzvos of the Torah, whether it is an Asei or a Lo'Sa'aseh, whether it is be'Meizid or be'Shogeg, decides to do Teshuvah and repents on his sin, he is obligated to confess before G-d, as the Torah writes "A man or a woman who perpetrates any of the sins then they shall confess the sins that they perpetrated" '.

In fact, this Pasuk is written in Parshas Naso, specifically with regard to someone who brings a sin-offering, who is required to confess to having perpetrated the sin for which the Chatas comes to atone before bringing it.

The Rambam, however, basing himself on the Mechilta, learns from there the Mitzvah of Viduy everywhere and at all times. And the Mechilta in turn, learns this from the wording of the Pasuk under discussion - "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael, a man or a woman who transgresses any of the sins that man does and they shall confess".

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The Minchas Chinuch suggests that what the Rambam means is that neither Teshuvah nor Viduy is a Mitzvah at all. In fact, he explains, it cannot even be compared to the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, from which on the one hand one is exempt if one is not wearing a four-cornered garment, but on the other, one fulfils a Mitzvah if one wears a four-cornered garment with Tzitzis attached. Teshuvah, he maintains, is not a Mitzvah at all. It can rather be compared to divorcing one's wife. It is obvious that a person who divorces his wife has not performed a Mitzvah. The 'Mitzvah' of Get is that once someone decides to divorce his wife, he must write a Get and give it to her. Otherwise, his divorce will not be valid.

Here too, says the Minchas Chinuch, what the Rambam means is that if someone decides to do Teshuvah, he must confess his sin/s. Otherwise, his Teshuvah will not be valid. Having done Teshuvah however, he has not performed a Mitzvah and will not receive any reward for having done it.

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The author concedes that the Rambam's opening words in Hilchos Teshuvah seem to conform to the Minchas Chinuch's explanation. He concludes however, that, had the Minchas Chinuch seen what the Rambam writes in Seifer ha'Mitzvos (Mitzvah 73), which opens with the words 'He (G-d) commanded us to confess the iniquities and the sins that we have perpetrated', he would never have written what he did.

He therefore concludes that the Rambam most certainly considers Teshuvah a Mitzvah, as we wrote earlier, and the Rambam is merely presenting Viduy (confession) as its main component, either because it is the first step in the Teshuvah process or perhaps because, as opposed to Teshuvah's other components (leaving the sin behind, remorse and acceptance for the future), which are all thought processes, confession entails speech, which is a more active activity.

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Two Perspectives

The commentaries ask how Teshuvah can possibly be considered a Mitzvah. Having sinned against G-d, should it not be taken for granted that one must repent, stop sinning and turn over a new leaf? To quote the Gemara, it is obvious that someone who has eaten garlic once, and emits a foul smell, does not have a mandate to eat garlic again! Thus Teshuvah ought to be an automatic procedure which simple logic dictates. So where does the Mitzvah of Teshuvah fit into the picture?

The Yerushalmi in Makos relates how they asked Chochmah, the prophets and the Torah what should happen to a sinner. Chochmah replied 'A sinner! May evil pursue him!' The prophets said, 'Let him perish!'. Whereas Torah suggested 'that he bring a sacrifice and he will be forgiven!'

And it was G-d Himself who dismissed all the above suggestions, and declared 'Let him do Teshuvah and his sin will be atoned!'

Clearly, human logic demands that a sinner, who has rebelled against G-d, be given no second chance. He must be made to die or to suffer for his sins - and at best to pay for his wrongdoing by bringing a sacrifice to atone for them. Teshuvah in any event, is not on the cards.

Until G-d, in His awesome Kindness, announced 'Let them do Teshuvah '. Teshuvah then is a Chidush that enables the sinner to re-enter the fold without necessarily having to suffer for what he did. That it wipes the slate clean is something that neither Chochmah, the prophets nor even the Torah could comprehend.

Suffice it to say that it achieves atonement for one's sins. But that it should also be considered a Mitzvah for which one receives reward? As Chazal have said 'It is sufficient to accept the Chidush for what it says, but not to add to it!' This will explain the Minchas Chinuch's explanation in the Rambam. Yes, Teshuvah is an obligation, a Chidush created by G-d to enable the sinner to survive. But it cannot be a Mitzvah and is therefore not subject to reward.

However, as the Mo'adim ba'Halachah con-cludes, the Rambam in fact goes one step further. He maintains that Teshuvah is not only effective, but that, G-d in His mercy, has even turned it into a Mitzvah, for which one receives reward as well.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

Signed, the Author

"Pay attention, Heaven " (32:1).

Citing R. Baruch b'R. Yitzchak, the Riva asks why, unlike other Shiros (such as "Oz yoshir Moshe", "Oz yoshir Yisrael" & "Vatoshar Devorah"), does 'Ha'azinu' not contain the author's name?

And he answers that, in fact, it does but by way of a hint. How is that?

The opening letters of the first four P'sukim - the 'Hey' of "Ha'azinu", the 'Yud' of "Ya'arof", the 'Kaf' of "Ki Shem" and the 'Hey' of "ha'Tzur" add up to forty ('Mem'), whereas the following two Pesukim ("Shicheis lo" & "Ha la'Hashem tigm'lu zos") which begin with a 'Shiyn and a 'Hey' respectively, make up the name of the author - Moshe.

And the reason that it does not mention his name directly, he explains, is due to the fact that it contains harsh prophesies concerning K'lal Yisrael.

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No 'Omein' in the Beis-Hamikdash

"When I call out the Name of Hashem, ascribe greatness (godel) to our G-d" (32:3).

From here we learn, says Rashi, that in the Beis-Hamikdash, one responds to a B'rachah (not with 'Amen', but) with 'Baruch Sheim K'vod Malchuso le'olom vo'ed'.

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From where does Rashi learn this? asks the Bartenura. Moreover, how does Rashi know that the Pasuk is referring to the Beis-Hamikdash?

On the one hand, he explains, the Torah does not write "When I call out to Hashem (la'Hashem); it writes "the Name of Hashem", implying His Unique Name, the well-known four letter-Name which one is not permitted to pronounce the way it is written - other than in the Beis-Hamikdash.

Whilst on the other, 'Baruch Sheim ' conveys greatness, elevating the Name of G-d in excess of anything that the Mevarech may have said. It does justice to the 'greatness' that the Pasuk demands from the person who hears the B'rachah, as opposed to 'Amen', which merely has connotations of upholding what the Mevarech has said, but does not aggrandize His Name.

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Past & Future

"A base & unwise Nation (Am novol ve'lo chacham)" (32:6).

"A base people", Rashi comments, 'who forgot what was done to them', "and unwise", 'to understand what is in store for them in the future.

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How does Rashi know, asks the Bartenura, that "Novol" refers to the past, and "Chacham" to the future?

The answer he explains, is inherent in the two words themselves. "Naval", he explains, means ungrateful - with reference to a favour that one has received (like we find with Naval ha'Carmeli, so called precisely because of his ingratitude towards David ha'Melech (who had displayed kindness towards his servants). Likewise "Chacham" refers to the future, as Chazal define a Chacham as someone who foresees the results of his actions.

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The Aseres Yemei Teshuvah
(Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak)

The Three Chayims

The three Chayims, says the Shach - 'Zochreinu le'Chayim, Melech Chafetz ba'Chayim ve'Chosveinu be'Seifer ha'Chayim', correspond to the three books that are open before G-d at this time of year:

'Zochreinu Le'Chayim' represents the Book of the Tzadikim - as the Pasuk writes 'Zeicher Tzadik Li'vrachah' (the memory of a Tzadik is for a B'rachah),

'Keil (that is the Riva's text) Melech chofetz Ba'chayim', which corresponding to the resha'im, about whom the Pasuk writes "for I do not want the death of the one who is destined to die (Be'mos ha'meis), and "

'Kosveinu Be'seifer ha'Chayim' with reference to the beinonim, whose outcome (in which book they will be inscribed) hangs in the balance until Yom Kipur.

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Perhaps one may add that the three prefixes 'Lamed', 'Beis' and 'Hey' spell 'Leiv' (the heart), which is what G-d wants from us ('Rachmana liba ba'i), and is the main objective of our plea for life (See following piece).

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Life with a Purpose

The Chofetz Chayim explains that we do not ask for life because we want extra time to indulge in the pleasures of life, but in order to continue to serve G-d. That is why this poignant Tefilah ends with the words ' for Your sake, the Living G-d (or 'the G-d of life').

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Ovinu Malkeinu

The Gematriyah of the opening line of 'Ovinu Malkeinu' ('Ovinu Malkeinu chotonu Lefonecho') is equivalent to 'Akiva ben Yosef yisad bo'zeh' (Akiva the son of Yosef composed this).

Chazal tell us that on one occasion, when there was no rain, Rebbi Eliezer went to the Amud to Daven, but the rain did not come. The moment Rebbi Akiva (his Talmid) took the Amud, the Heavens opened. Not, they hasten to inform us, because Rebbi Akiva was greater that Rebbi Eliezer, but because he was 'ma'avir al midosav' (he broke his midos - was able to stand down and give precedence to the needs and opinions of others before his own).

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Interestingly, Rebbi Akiva instituted 'Ovinu Malkeinu' corresponding to the Shemoheh-Esrei

'Ovinu Malkeinu; corresponds to the B'rachah of 'Chonein ha'Da'as'.
'Hachazireinu bi'seshuvah ... ' to 'ha'Rotzeh bi'seshuvah'.
'S'lach u M'chal ' to 'S'lach lonu'.
'Kosveinu be'Seifer Ge'ulah ' to 'Go'el Yisrael'.
'Sh'lach refu'ah ' to 'Refo'einu'.
'Chadeish oleinu ' to 'Boreich oleinu'.
'Horeim Keren ' to 'T'ka be'Shofar'.
'Boteil me'oleinu ' to 'Hoshivah Shofteinu (ve'hoseir me'oleinu)'.
'Kalei kol Tzar ' to 'Shover oyvim'.
'M'chok be'Rachamecho ha'rabim ' to 'Al ha'Tzadikim Yehenu no rachamecho'.
'Hatzmach lonu ' to 'Matzmi'ach keren yeshu'ah'.
'Sh'ma koleinu ' to 'Sh'ma koleinu'.

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Ovinu Malkeinu on Shabbos

And that is one of the reasons that we do not recite 'Ovinu Malkeinu' on Shabbos (not on Rosh Hashanah, not during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah and not on Yom Kipur) the Yalkut Yitzchak explains - because seeing as 'it represents the week-day Amidah, just as we don't say the weekday Amidah on Shabbos, we don't say 'Ovinu Malkeinu' either. Alternatively, he explains, it is because Rebbi Akiva said it in a time of trouble in the form of a request, and it is forbidden to make requests of Hashem on Shabbos.

Both explanations are difficult however, inasmuch as for the same reasons, we ought not to say it on Yom-Tov either, even when it does not fall on Shabbos.

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Kadish Tiskabeil after S'lichos
(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

The reason that Kadish Tiskabeil is recited after the Amidah, the L'vush explains, is because the word 'Tzeloshon' implies 'Tefilah', and Tefilah generally implies the Amidah. Why then, asks the L'vush, do we recite it after S'lichos?

He answers that S'lichos foflows the same format as the Amidah: The P'sukim that precede the actual S'lichos correspond to P'sukei de'Zimrah; the S'lichos, including the thirteen Midos, to the Amidah (which are considered the main Tefilah. This explains why Chazal say that when G-d taught Moshe Rabeinu the thirteen Midos, He donned a Talis, like a Shali'ach Tzibur). And we conclude with Nefllas Apayim (Tachanun, and 'va'Anachnu lo neida'), just as we do after the Amidah.

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