PC Kollel Outline Presents:
The Ten Days of Repentance:
Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur 5757
Dedicated In honor of the birthday of
Chana (Roxanne) Formey
from her family: Shimshon, Malka and Reuven Formey
Schwartz of Jerusalem composed a treatise regarding the shofar. (Zichron
Teruah, 5744). One of the traditional reasons given for the shofar, is that
it serves to remind us of a future day of judgment. (Menoras Hamaor) Rav
Schwartz asked, "What is the need to remind ourselves of a future day of
judgment -- we are already in synagogue because Rosh Hashanah is a day of
judgment?" (See p. 18).
suggested an answer: Even though we are judged every year, that's not the
end of the matter. Our mistakes can have an enormous effect on future events.
Even though our errors are long past, we may still suffer the consequences
of those actions for years to come. Therefore, the shofar is sounded to remind
us of another day of judgment, a day of reckoning in the future era, in order
that we realize in our hearts the tremendous effect of our actions.
This is surely
an idea of staggering proportions. Our sins are not only for the past and
present, but may have an infinite effect on the future as well.
Rosh Hashanah and the Future Judgment
the thought needs further discussion. Did Rav Schwartz mean to imply that
on Rosh Hashanah we are judged regarding the future effects of our actions?
If so, we enter into a quandary -- there is an apparent contradiction in
the Talmud regarding this point.
Rosh Hashanah, the Talmud states that the angels protested the sparing of
Yishmael. His descendants would later mistreat the Israelites, forcing them
to die of thirst. How could Hashem save Yishmael from thirst, knowing what
his descendants would do? Hashem replied that a man is only judged at the
state which he is at the present time. He cannot be judged because of what
the future will bring.
The Rebellious Son
question from another talmudic discussion. The "Ben Sorer Umoreh" is a
thirteen-year-old drunkard and thief. The Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin explains
the severe punishment which the Torah prescribes him: "The Torah reaches
the final mind-set of the Ben Sorer Umoreh -- in the end he will commit armed
robbery in order to sustain his habits (and the most severe crimes along
the way). Let him die (fairly) innocent, but don't cause him to die with
guilt." The Ben Sorer Umoreh is to be executed because of future events!
Here we see that one may be judged on the basis of future ramifications!
have been stated for this question. The Asarah Maamoros puts three famous
answers together. (Maamar Choker Din, part 2, chapter 23.)
The Wayward Personality
1. The Ben Sorer Umoreh has lost control of himself. He already has the
personality of the killer. It is not that he is being judged for future events;
rather, he is ready to kill now, if he feels he needs to do so. Why wait
for him to commit murder and other hideous crimes? That is not to say that
anyone is judged for what they presumably will become!
Yishmael -- or his Children?
2. Besides, Yishmael was not being judged by the angels for what he would
later do, but what his children would later do. No one should be punished
because of his later descendants! However, the Ben Sorer Umoreh is being
judged because of his own actions.
The Age of Legal Maturity: 13 or 20?
3. However, there is a difficulty here. Yishmael had already committed
severe crimes. The angels didn't have to argue that his descendants would
be worthy of punishment, he himself was already culpable! The solution to
this dilemma is that the heavenly court does not punish a child less than
the age of twenty (Yishmael wasn't twenty as yet). The human court punishes
at a different age: thirteen for a male, twelve for a female. The angels,
however -- representing the heavenly court -- were powerless to intervene.
How can it be so, that the heavenly court does not punish until twenty?
We hear of children dying (G-d forbid). Asarah Maamoros answers that such
early deaths are not punishments for the child. Death before age twenty is
to teach the parents and ancestors. Between age thirteen and twenty, death
is for the benefit of the child. Hashem himself has prevented future errors,
and left the child innocent and righteous. This is not considered a punishment
at all, for the main life remains for the world-to-come.
On Rosh Hashanah Three Books are Opened...
It must be also, as Tosafos claims, that the "books of life and death"
opened on Rosh Hashanah refer to life in the next world, but not to life
in this world. Apparently, G-d's decrees concerning life in this world is
another account entirely. (Tosafos explained that the statement "the righteous
are immediately inscribed and sealed for life on Rosh Hashanah," refers to
the next world.)
Putting all the answers together, we have: 1. A person may be judged for
the potential evil of his personality, even before he has committed any real
crimes. This explains the Ben Sorer Umoreh, who already has acquired the
personality of the cold-blooded killer. 2. No one would be blamed for what
their descendants will do later. 3. Even for crimes already committed, the
heavenly court doesn't punish until age twenty, although the human court
can prosecute from bar-mitzvah. Nonetheless, the heavenly court's restriction
concerns the world-to-come, but Hashem is not restricted regarding His decrees
in the world.
The Satmer Rav
has a fascinating and thorough explanation of this entire subject. (We have
discussed his words at length in the past, and will only present a small
portion here.) This very point, that a person is only judged according to
the present state, is the very reason the Talmud concludes that the laws
of "Ben Sorer Umoreh" will never be actualized. In actual law, the court
cannot judge based on presumption of future events. Hashem's court also --
the angels -- cannot judge based on future events. However, Hashem Himself
is unrestricted, and may bring about punishment in order to prevent future
catastrophes. (See Divre Yoel, parshas Kiseitzei pp. 120-129; Savannah Kollel
Insights vol. 6 #23 and #24, and vol.7 #49.)
it may actually come out according to various commentaries, that future events
do have an effect on our "judgment" at Rosh Hashanah. It is not clear that
Rav Schwartz intended to imply this, however. He may simply have meant that
if we consider the effects of our actions, not only on the present, but on
the future as well, we will think carefully about our deeds. The shofar drives
this point home. By contemplating what we have done and are about to do,
we can alter the effects of our actions upon the world at large.
The Miracle of Teshuvah
that the effects of our errors are "out of our hands." The Jewish concept
of teshuvah -- repentance -- is a miraculous phenomena. With a thorough teshuvah,
the effects of the evil deed can be completely removed; not only would it
be considered as if it had never been done, but even better: Rambam writes
that Hashem forgives so completely, He draws Himself closer to the penitent
The Golden Calf
What about the
incident of the Golden Calf? Why has the damage not been repaired? To do
a thorough teshuvah is not an easy matter. We were only saying that it is
possible to do. Certain crimes have never been atoned for only because the
people have not thoroughly repented for their crimes! The shofar reminds
us that we will be held accountable for future ramifications of our crimes
unless we do a complete and sincere repentance.
To All Our Readers:
K'sivah V'chasimah Tovah!
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein -- PC Kollel 1 Babbin Ct. Spring
Valley, NY email@example.com Ph. 914-425-3565 Fax 914-425-4296
© Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Genesis, '97