Siddur Avodat Yisrael writes that there is a chapter of Tehilim
which corresponds to each parashah -- this week, psalm 71. Once
again, the selection appears to be related to the season; indeed,
it contains a verse which is found in the selichot each day: "Do
not cast me off in the time of [my] old age; when my strength
fails, do not forsake me." (In our prayers, however, we change
the singular to the plural.)
David recited this psalm as he fled from his son Avshalom. The
entire chapter is the cry of a helpless man who has no hope but G-
d. "In You Hashem I took refuge, let me not ever be shamed. In
Your righteousness rescue me and give me escape, incline Your ear
to me and save me. . . Hashem, be not far from me; my G-d, hasten
to my assistance." Similarly, Chazal say that no one can really
repent and improve his ways without G-d's help. Also, these
verses remind us of the obligation to appreciate G-d's kindness,
a theme addressed in our parashah (32:6, see Ramban).
The psalm ends on a joyous note: "I, too, shall thank You on
the neivel [an instrument], for Your faithfulness, my G-d, I
shall sing to You on the kinor [also an instrument] Holy One of
Israel. My lips shall rejoice when I sing to You, and my soul
which You have redeemed." Perhaps this selection also alludes to
our confidence that G-d will forgive us on Yom Kippur and to the
joyous holiday of Sukkot which follows. May we all be inscribed
and sealed for a good year.
"Is it to Hashem that you do this, O vile/naval and unwise
people? Is He not your Father, your Creator? Has He not
made you and established you?" (32:6)
"They provoked Me with a non-god, angered Me with their
vanities; so I shall provoke them with a non-people, with a
vile/naval nation shall I anger them." (32:21)
Commentaries write that the second verse quoted above is the
punishment for the sin of the first verse. Rashi writes that the
"vile nation" described in the second verse is one that denies G-
d. The question is, therefore, how is it a fitting punishment
for our ingratitude that we will be enslaved by non-believers?
R' Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg shlita explains that failure to
show gratitude to G-d leads to not believing in Him. This
progression is demonstrated in the Torah in the actions of
Pharaoh--first he denied Yosef's kindness, then he said, "Who is
Hashem that I should listen to Him?"
(Derech Emunah U'vitachon p. 212)
"The Rock/Tzur that gave birth to you you have weakened. .
Rashi explains: Hashem would like to do good for us, but we
weaken Him, so-to-speak, in that our sins do not allow Him to be
kind to us.
R' Yehuda Alkali z"l (Sarajevo; 1798-1878) writes that this
verse alludes to Haman, who is called the "tzorer"/"one who
terrorizes" the Jews. The difference between the words "Tzur"
and "tzorer" is the letter "resh" which has a numerical value of
200. This is the numerical value of the words "yayin
nesech"/"non-kosher wine," which Haman offered the Jews to drink
at the king's banquet. This alludes to the fact that Haman hoped
to turn the Jews away from G-d (and "weaken" Him) through wine.
Haman attacked Hashem's "rulership"/"malchut." Add 200 to the
word "malchut" (496) and you have "tzarot"/"troubles." These are
the troubles which Haman caused us.
Chazal say that among the earliest creations were Hashem's
"throne" and the plans for the Bet Hamikdash. These are learned
from the verse (Yirmiyahu 17:12), "A throne of honor, exalted,
from the first--the place of our Temple." In Hebrew: "Kisei
kavod marom me'rishon mekom mikdashenu." The first letters of
this verse (kaf, kaf, mem, mem, mem, mem) also add up to 200.
However, Amalek, from which Haman came, weakens the very throne
of Hashem (see Shmot 17:16). Take away the two kafs,
representing "kisei kavod"/"a throne of honor," and the 200
becomes 160. This is the value of the word "kessef"/"silver,"
representing the bounty which Haman offered Achashveirosh.
(Shlom Yerushalayim p.164)
"Return, Israel, to Hashem, your G-d, for you have stumbled
in your iniquity." (From the haftarah - Hoshea 14:2)
R' Shaul Yisraeli z"l (rosh yeshiva at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav)
asks: Why does the prophet direct his call to repentance to
"Yisrael" rather than to "Yaakov"? (The name "Yisrael" denotes
those among the People who have attained the highest spiritual
level. The name "Yaakov" denotes a lower spiritual level.)
R' Yisraeli answers as follows:
Rambam writes that it is impossible for a person to weigh his
own merits against his sins. This is a task that only the
Omnipotent can accomplish.
Why? R' Yisraeli explains that a deed that is done, whether
for good or for evil, does not exist in isolation. It sends out
waves, i.e., it impacts not only the one who did it but also his
surroundings. Also, it begins a chain - each good deed begets
another, and the same is true of a bad deed. Although we know
that these effects exist, they are for the most part
imperceptible to us. Accordingly, one cannot weigh his own
merits or sins.
We are taught that Hashem judges those closest to Him most
strictly. Why? Because their minor errors make greater "waves"
than the intentional sins of lesser people and have a greater
detrimental effect on the world as a whole. [Ed. note: Perhaps
this can be explained by the fact that if one stands near the
center of a circle - representing proximity to Hashem - and turns
away even a hairsbreadth, he will end up more degrees off-course
than would a person standing farther from the center who turns
the same "hairsbreadth."] Thus, it is precisely those who are
called "Yisrael," i.e., who are on the loftiest levels, who must
return even from their iniquities, i.e., their minor sins.
(From the website of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav)
Letters from our Sages
This week's letter was written y R' Yisrael Salanter z"l
(died 1883) and is printed in Ohr Yisrael, No. 15. The
letter is dated on this day in 5637/1876.
The foundation of the days of repentance is to accept upon
oneself to abandon sin. This is the most difficult of all the
tasks that we have on Yom Kippur. The weightiest sin of all is
theft, as Chazal said, "Of a box full of sins, which one accuses
Man must seek [ways] to repent on Yom Kippur, especially from
the most serious sins. What is "serious" depends upon the
circumstances; the easier a particular sin is to avoid, the more
serious the sin is considered to be and the greater is the
punishment. This is what Chazal meant when they said, "The
punishment for not wearing the white strings of the tzitzit is
greater than the punishment for not wearing the techelet/blue
string." The severity of a sin also depends on the identity of
the victim; for example, stealing from a poor person is worse
than stealing from a wealthy person . . .
The same is true with regard to other sins, including bittul
Torah/neglecting Torah study. The easier it is for a person to
study, for example, on Shabbat, when one is free, the greater is
the sin of not doing so. Likewise, the sin of not studying that
which one needs to know in practice is greater than the sin of
not studying other parts of the Torah . . .
One needs to search his ways and make a strong commitment - in
almost every area of his life - to guard at least from those
things that are easy to avoid. In this way, one's teshuvah will
cover the majority of his deeds. Rambam teaches that sins are
not weighed by their quantity, but rather by their quality; one
sin that was easy to avoid counts more than several sins that
were difficult to avoid. Also, within each sin, there are
aspects that are easier to avoid than others . . .
One should study mussar works that speak of the severity of
bittul Torah . . .
Bert Anker, Judy Gabel
and Harvey Anker
on the yahrzeit of their father,
Moe Anker a"h
Rochelle Dimont and family
on the yahrzeit of
husband and father,
Rabbi Albert Dimont a"h