Vol. 22 No. 48
Parshas Vayeilech (Shuvah)
(Adapted from the Ramban)
Where did Moshe Go?
"And Moshe went and he spoke these words to all of Yisrael" (31:1).
It was the last day of Moshe's life. He had just established the new covenant with the people, the Ramban explains. The gathering had broken up and the people returned to their tents, and the time had now come to take leave of his beloved people. So he made his way from Machaneh Levi to Machaneh Yisrael - tribe by tribe, says the I'bn Ezra.
The commentaries ascribe the fact that he declined to gather the people to him, because "on the day of death, there is no jurisdiction" (Koheles 8:8). And it is for the same reason that he did not use the trumpets, which until now had been solely under his control, and which were now hidden.
However, the Ramban himself explains that he made a point of taking leave of the people by going to them as a mark of respect, as this is the correct thing to do when taking leave of one's friend.
Consoling his People
"And he said 'I am a hundred and twenty years old today …" (31:2).
Moshe did not confine this meeting to a goodbye speech. Aware of the fact that the people would miss terribly his unique qualities of leadership, he set out to console them. And he accomplished this by making three points, says the Ramban: 1). That he was already an old man, and there was nothing more that they would benefit from him (even though, in reality, he was physically and mentally fit); 2). G-d had strictly forbidden him to cross the River Yarden into Eretz Yisrael with them; 3). G-d Himself would accompany them into the Land and fight their battles - with or without him, so they had nothing to fear.
A Sort of Viduy
" … and they will say on that day, Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that all these misfortunes have befallen me?"(31:17).
This is not a proper confession (the first stage of Teshuvah), points out the Ramban, because if it was, why does the Pasuk continue "Then I will hide My face from them!" (See the following Pasuk). It is an acknowledgement that all their suffering was not happenstance, but an act of Divine Providence which they deserved for having strayed from the path that G-d had set out for them to follow.
Still, he continues, G-d in His abundant Kindness, might have responded to the positive step that they had taken by redeeming them from their troubles. This He did not do however, due to the severity of their past sins.
Nevertheless, he explains, the 'hiding of G-d's face' to which the following Pasuk refers is not as harsh as the 'hiding of His Face' in the current Pasuk prior to their confession. It emerges that Yisrael's confession did bear fruit after all. What the Pasuk in fact means, is that He will hide His Face and not send the Ge'ulah. He will then make do with what He promised (in Bechukosai) 'not to despise them and not to destroy them, until such time that they go one step further to utter a full-blooded Viduy and to perform a complete Teshuvah, as the Pasuk states in the previous chapter (Pasuk 2) "and you will return until Hashem your G-d. Then He will send the Ge'ulah Sheleimah."
* * *
On This Very Day
(Adapted from the Ramban)
"All work you shall not do on this very day …" (23:28).
The Torah does not use the expression "on this very day" in connection with any Yamim Tovim other than here (twice, in the current Pasuk and in Pasuk 30, regarding the Chiyuv Kareis) and in connection with the prohibition against working on Shavu'os.
The Gemara in Yuma (81a) learns from the current Pesukim that the Isur Melachah on Yom Kipur is restricted to the actual day of Yom Kipur, and does not extend to the Tosfos Yom Kipur - the short period before and after Yom Kipur which one is obligated to add to the day. Interestingly, the fact that the Torah does not specifically include them here as an intrinsic part of the day has Halachic ramifications [See Gemara, Beitzah, 30a]).
The Ramban (who also cites the Gemara in Yuma), suggests in addition, that the To-rah writes "on this very day" by Yom Kipur, to teach us that the Mitzvah of Inuy (afflict-ing oneself), applies even today, when there are no Korbanos, despite the strong impres-sion conveyed by the Parshah in Acharei-Mos that Yom-Kipur is inextricably linked with the Korbanos listed there. And by the same token, the Torah uses this expression by Shavu'os to preclude a similar impression (conveyed by the Pesukim in the current Parshah) that the Yom-Tov of Shavu'os hinges on the 'Two Loaves' that are brought then - No Korbanos, no Yom-Kipur! No Loaves, no Shavu'os! Therefore the Torah writes "on this very day", unconditionally.
Atonement without Teshuvah
The Gemara in Shavu'os (on Daf 12b), discussing the opening Mishnah there, rules that the Sa'ir ha'Mishtale'ach (the goat that is sent to the desert) atones for most sins, minor - incorporating Mitzvos Asei and Lo Sa'aseh, and major - incorporating Chayvei K'risos and Misos Beis-Din, irrespective of whether one transgressed them be'Shogeg or be'Meizid.
And it queries the Mishnah with regard to the Mitzvos Asei, inasmuch as Mah Nafshach, if one has performed Teshuvah, then Teshuvah atones every day of the year, and does not need Yom Kipur to attain it; whereas if one has not, how can one possibly attain an atonement without Teshuvah, bearing in mind the Pasuk in Mishlei "The sac-rifice of the wicked is an abomination!"
In answer to the question, it establishes the author of the Mishnah as Rebbi, who maintains that, with three exceptions, Yom Kipur atones for all one's sins whether one has done Teshuvah or not.
The question arises that Yom Kipur without Teshuvah can be compared to someone who Tovels, Sheretz in hand, whose Tevilah is obviously not effective. So how can one attain atonement, 'sin in hand'?
Perhaps what Rebbi means is, not that the person who intends to continue sinning after Yom Kipur, but to someone who, for any one of a variety of reasons, has no intention of continuing to sin, but who has not fulfilled the Mitzvah of Teshuvah (confession, leaving the sin behind and remorse … ). No longer sinning, according to Rebbi, is sufficient to take him out of the realm of 'Toveling, Sheretz in hand' and even from the realm of 'abomination'. Whereas the Rabanan, who will concede that he is no longer 'Tovel, Sheretz in hand', maintain that the Korban of someone who has not done Teshuvah during the Asares Yemei Teshuvah, remains an abomination.
* * *