by Zvi Akiva FleisherBack to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues
SHABBOS ROSH HASHONOH 5760 BS"D
As the new year of 5760 livrias ho'olom is almost upon us, the words of the Baal Hatanya come to mind. In Dvorim 11:12 it says "Tomid einei Hashem Elokecho boh meireishis hashonoh ad acharis shonoh." The Baal Hatanya asks, "Since the verse already says that Hashem's eyes are upon the land TOMID, continuously, what is being added with the words, "meireishis hashonoh ad acharis shonoh?" He answers that the verse tells us that one should not think that there is a continuous influence of Hashem upon the world always, but rather, that for each particular year Hashem sends a unique influence, hashpo'oh, upon the world.
The minimal volume of a kosher mikveh is 40 "so'oh." A "so'oh" contains the volume of 6 "kavin." A "kav" contains 4 "lugin." A "lug" contains 6 "beitzim." According to this a mikveh contains the volume of 5,760 "beitzim." 40x6x4x6 = 5,760. The mishneh brought in the gemara Yoma 85b quotes Rabbi Akiva, who equates the cleansing process of teshuvoh with a mikveh. YH"R that this upcoming new year, 5760, receive a great hashpo'oh of the cleansing power of a mikveh which contains 5,760 "beitzim," and may we be zocheh to a teshuvoh shleimoh to Ovinu ho'Ov hoRachamon, hoRotze bis'shuvoh.
The Ramban says that from the verse in Dvorim 30:11 "Ki hamitzvoh hazose" we derive that it is a mitzvoh to repent, to do teshuvoh, for our sins. However the Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 1:1 says that when one repents he is required to also confess verbally that he has sinned. In his Sefer Hamitzvos, positive commandment #73, the Rambam likewise says that when one repents etc. The Minchas Chinuch in mitzvoh #364 derives from the manner in which the Rambam explains teshuvoh, that there is no mitzvoh to repent, but rather, if one is repenting he is required to verbally confess his sin(s) to effect an acceptable teshuvoh.
The Meshech Chochmoh in parshas Va'yeilech d.h. "V'omar" gives us a wonderful insight into the logic behind the Rambam's position.
The Chidushei hoRI"M explains a mishneh dealing with teshuvoh, which is brought in the gemara Yoma 85b, according to the Ramban and the Ramban. The mishneh says that one who says, "I will sin and repent, I will sin and repent," is not afforded the opportunity to repent. (The reason for this seems to be that since the person relied upon the opportunity to repent to sin in the first place, the instrument which helped bring about his sinning, namely the opportunity to repent, cannot be used as an instrument to cleanse the sin.) If one says, "I will sin and Yom Kippur will cleanse my sin," Yom Kippur is ineffective.
The Chidushei hoRI"M asks why in the case of repentance is "I will sin" mentioned twice, while in the case of Yom Kippur it is only mentioned once.
He answers according to the Ramban who posits that there is a mitzvoh to repent, there is a possibility that a person who has never sinned will sin in order to have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvoh of repentance. This only holds true by the first sin. However, if a person sins a second time, relying upon the cleansing powers of repentance, it is obvious that the second time he is misusing this power, hence rendering it ineffective.
However, since the cleansing process of Yom Kippur is not the fulfillment of a mitzvoh but rather a gift, relying on Yom Kippur to bring about forgiveness renders the power of Yom Kippur ineffective even when sinning the first time.
How do we explain this mishneh according to the Rambam? Since the Rambam does not consider repenting a mitzvoh, why does the mishneh mention it twice?
In hilchos teshuvoh 4:1, the Rambam quotes our mishneh verbatim except that "I will sin and repent" is mentioned only once. This is in keeping with his opinion that there is no mitzvoh to repent, hence a person renders teshuvoh ineffective even when sinning and relying on teshuvoh the first time. Most likely, this was also his text of the mishneh.
Commentaries raise a serious question on the position of the Ramban. Our verse, "Ki hamitzvoh hazose," refers to the mitzvoh of learning Torah according to the gemara Eiruvin 55a, so how can the Ramban apply this verse to teshuvoh? Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner in Nefesh Hachaim answers that this gemara is not contradictory to the Ramban. He says that Talmud Torah itself cleanses sin just as repentance does. This is why in Shmoneh Esrei in the blessing of repentance we say, "Hashiveinu ovinu l'sorosecho ......
v'hachazireinu bis'shuvoh shleimoh l'fo'necho." Why is returning to the Torah mentioned here? We see that the study of Torah is also a form of repentance.
Similarly, the Sefer Oros Y'mei Rachamim, page 143, says in the name of Rav Aharon Kotler zt'l, that the learning of Torah is a component of the teshuvoh process. We can see this from the continuation of the theme of teshuvoh as mentioned in the verses that follow. Verse 14 says, "Ki korov eilecho hadovor m'ode B'FICHO," which refers to verbal confession, "U'VILVOVCHO la'asoso," which refers to regretting the past and committing to do that which is proper in the future. Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says on these words, "A'rei koriv l'chone pisgomo b'veis mid'r'sheichone" - the word of the Torah is close to you in your study halls. We see that the study of Torah is a component of the teshuvoh process.
Perhaps another proof can be brought for the correlation between the study of Torah and teshuvoh. Verses 12 and 13 say, "Lo vashomayim hee, v'lo mei'eiver layom hee." The Targum Yerushalmi says on "Lo vashomayim hee," do not say that you need someone like Moshe who ascended to the heavens, to bring you the Torah; "v'lo mei'eiver layom hee," do not say that you need someone like Yonah who traveled the ocean, to awaken your heart to repentance.
Since our verse is discussing repentance, why would it enter one's mind that it necessary to have someone like Moshe to bring us the Torah, since that is not part of the teshuvoh process? Indeed, we see from here that Torah learning is integral to the teshuvoh process.
Although the Rambam does not count teshuvoh as a mitzvoh min haTorah, he also discusses the attitude and approach to limud haTorah in the final chapter of hilchos teshuvoh. Why does he place these matters in hilchos teshuvoh? This also seems to indicate that the learning of Torah is a component of teshuvoh.
According to the Ramban why is there no brochoh instituted for the act of teshuvoh? The Beis Yitzchok Y.D. #168 s.k. 12 answers that a blessing is never instituted for a mitzvoh that can only come about through an aveiroh first being committed. An example for this would be the mitzvoh of "hashovas g'zeiloh," the returning of an object that one stole. The Bircas Aharon on Brochos maamar 308, answers that a mitzvoh which is done only by the mind and not in action requires no brochoh. An example for this would be "bitul chomeitz." Although a blessing is said prior to the search for chomeitz on the night of the 14th of Nison, nevertheless, no blessing is made at the time of bitul on the morning of the 14th.
Perhaps another answer might be that a person does make a blessing on the act of repenting. The mishneh in Pirkei Ovos 2:10 and the gemara Shabbos 153a say that a person should repent a day before his death. In practical terms this means that he should repent daily. We make a daily blessing (save Shabbos and Yom Tov) of "Horotze bis'shuvoh."
Is teshuvoh effective for non-Jews? The Medrash Tanchumoh in parshios Tzav and Haazinu derives from the words "Yiso Hashem ponov EILECHO" (Bmidbar 6:26), that teshuvoh only applies to the Jewish nation. There seem to be contradictions to this from the teshuvoh of Odom Horishon (Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer ch. 20), Kayin (M.R. Breishis ch. 22, Targum Shir Hashirim 1:1), and from the story of the repentance of the people of the city of Ninveh, as related in the book of Yonah. As well the Targum translates the words "Im teitiv s'eis" (Breishis 4:7) as "If you will better yourself your sin will be forgiven."
1) The Sheim miShmuel in his writings on Yom Kippur page 126 says that although a superficial teshuvoh does not help for non-Jews, one done from the depths of the heart will be effective. This is a bit difficult to understand since a Jew's teshuvoh is also ineffective if done superficially as clearly stated in the Rambam hilchos teshuvoh 2:2, "Ad she'yo'id olov Yodei'a taalumos etc." However there are indications from the gemara Kidushin that just a passing thought of repenting is considered a level of teshuvoh.
2) Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman in Kovetz He'oros explains that although regretting good that one does also negates the good, regretting the bad that one does negates the bad in a more powerfully effective way. Even if one can delete the rewards he would otherwise have received for his mitzvos by regretting having done them, nonetheless the positive spiritual effect the mitzvos had upon him remain. He is still a refined elevated person. The special gift of the efficacy of teshuvoh for wrongdoing is that it not only wipes out the sins and their accompanying punishments, but that it also cleanses the soul from the negative effects of the sins. This level of cleansing does not apply to a non-Jew according to the Medrash Tanchumoh.
3) Perhaps another answer can be given based on a Medrash Vayikro Rabboh 29:6. In T'hilim 81:4 it says, "Tiku bachodesh shofar." The medrash says that when the shofar is blown one should be drawn to repent through BACHODESH, "CHADSHU maa'seichem," and through SHOFAR, "SHAPRU maa'seichem."
This play on words tells us to repent through renewing our actions and improving our actions. What are these two levels? (There is a beautiful answer given by Rabbi Yitzchok Blazzer of St. Petersburg in Kochvei Ohr.)
Possibly CHADSHU means to have such a major change in attitude that a person is considered a different person with a new set of values. Indeed the gemara Rosh Hashonoh 16b says that Rabbi Yitzchok says that four actions bring one to repent. One of them is a change of name. The Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 2:4 when listing these four actions says that changing one's name means that the person is considered a totally new person, "acheir hu." The medrash also tells us that if a person has not gone to such an extreme there is still a level of repentance through just improving one's actions, SHAPRU maa'seichem, abeit that this is a much lower level of repentance. Perhaps the lower level does not apply to non-Jews but if a person goes through a total change he is considered another person and thus the sins he has previously done are not his. Indeed the people of Ninveh repented to the extreme, even removing a stolen beam which they built into the central structure of their homes (gemara Taanis 16a), thereby destroying their home, to return it to its rightful owner, an act which goes beyond that which is required to repent, as it is sufficient to replace the beam with a similar one. This demonstrates a total change in the person. We can say the same about Odom's and Kayin's repentance. Perhaps this is the intention of the above-mentioned Sheim miShmuel.
4) Possibly another answer can be offered based on the gemara Yoma 86a which says that when a person's repentance is brought on by a great love of Hashem, "teshuvoh mei'ahavoh," his previous sins are turned into merits. If his repentance is brought on by fear of retribution for his sins, "teshuvoh mi'yiroh," then his sins are cleansed but do not become merits. Perhaps the level of "teshuvoh mei'ahavoh" only applyies to bnei Yisroel and not to non-Jews. However, non-Jews still have the opportunity to repent on a level of "teshuvoh mi'yiroh."
The Medrash Vayikro Rabboh in parshas Emor chapter 29 says regarding the term VA'ASI'SEM which is mentioned only by the korban of Rosh Hashonoh (Bmidbar 29:2) rather than V'HIKRAVTEM which is mentioned by all other mussofim: "Hashem said to the bnei Yisroel, 'My children, I consider it as if today on Rosh Hashonoh you were made, as if I created you anew.'" Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner zt"l said, "Teshuvoh is not to improve one's self, but rather to CHANGE ONE'S SELF. Nisht verren besser, nohr verren ANDERSH."
The Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 5:4 says that a person should not think that he is forcibly drawn to any specific path, ideology, or action. Hashem has given him free will and choice to do as he wishes. He brings verses from the Prophets to substantiate this. It would seem that this statement of the Rambam is the FOUNDATION of repentance. If a person justifies himself by feeling that he is forcibly drawn to any path, by virtue of environment, his nature, etc., there is no hope of his squarely placing his finger on the true culprit, HIMSELF! I, AND I ALONE, AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY ACTIONS!!!
The Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 6:5 asks, "Since the Torah states (Breishis 15:13) "And they will enslave them and they will persecute them," why are the Egyptians deserving of punishment?" He answers that since the Torah did not mention any specific person, each Egyptian had the free choice to not persecute the bnei Yisroel.
Two questions are raised on this answer.
1) Why didn't the Rambam answer that no specific NATION was mentioned?
2) Why didn't he answer that even with a verse telling us that in the future the bnei Yisroel would suffer servitude, it is not conclusive that it must come to fruition?
The gemara Shabbos 55a says that although a prophecy for good must be fulfilled, a prophecy for bad can be averted (through merits and prayer).
Possibly we can answer that the Rambam could indeed have answered that there was no specific NATION mentioned, let alone persons, but he wanted to avoid our making a mistake by inference. If he were to say that no nation was mentioned in the Torah, then we might conclude that if a nation were to be mentioned, even though no specific persons were mentioned, they would be excused. Therefore he said that as long as no specific persons are mentioned, each individual is free to behave properly, even where a specific nation was singled out. Possibly the reason the Rambam did not apply the gemara in Shabbos 55a is because that would only explain why there is free will, as the possibility of rescinding exists. However the Rambam clearly asked "v'lomoh nifra mei'hem, and why did he punish them?" As long as the prophecy was not retracted they deserve no punishment. Therefore, he answers that the prophecy was not pinpointed to be fulfilled by any individual, and whoever treated the bnei Yisroel harshly was justifiably punished.
A theoretical question can be raised. What if every Egyptian made the right choice and would not have lifted a finger against the bnei Yisroel? What would have become of the verse in Breishis 15:13? If you answer that they would have suffered under the hands of another nation, as there was so specific nation mentioned, then what if every individual of that nation, and all of the nations of the world would have acted properly? We must say that if all the above took place, indeed, Hashem would have retracted, as per the above mentioned gemara Shabbos 55a.
The gemara Rosh Hashonoh 16a says: Hashem says to the bnei Yisroel, "Say IN FRONT OF ME "malchios," verses of kingship, so that you will accept me as King over you; and with what? With a shofar." The Sfas Emes asks, "Why does the gemara ask, 'And with what?' It already said that you will accept me as King by saying verses of kingship. There is no indication of a need for any accompaniment to saying the prescribed verses." He answers that the gemara asks, "And with what?" because Hashem said, "Say IN FRONT OF ME." The gemara is asking, "How do we reach the level of being IN FRONT OF Hashem? The gemara answers, "With a shofar." The gemara Rosh Hashonoh 26a says that when we sound the shofar, it is as if we are "lif'nim," in the Beis Hamikdosh, directly IN FRONT OF Hashem.
Why do we use an apple?
1) The Ta"z, Orach Chaim #583, s.k. 2, says in the name of the Mahari'l that we allude to the kabbalistic "holy orchard of apple trees."
2) A commentary on the Matteh Efraim brings the Holy Zohar who says that Yitzchok gave Yaakov the blessings (Breishis 27) on Rosh Hashonoh, contrary to Rashi's commentary that it took place on Pesach. Yitzchok said (27:27) "The fragrance of my son's garments are as the fragrance of the field that Hashem has blessed." The Kabbalists say that this is the fragrance of the "holy orchard of apple trees." Since this took place on Rosh Hashonoh we use an apple.
3) The Nacha'lei Binoh brings that "tapuach" equals in gematria "pru u'rvu," and d'vash equals "ishoh." Rosh Hashonoh is a day that is auspicious for prayers for barren couples to be blessed with children.
4) The Imrei Noam Al Hamo'adim vol. 2 says that the gemara Z'vochim 62a says that Hashem looks at the ashes of Yitzchok, who was considered as if he were sacrificed (Medrash Rabboh B'reishis Ch. 56) piled on the altar. The pile of ash that collects on top of the altar is called "tapuach" in the gemara Tomid 28b. On Rosh Hashonoh we want to recall the merits of Avrohom's eagerness to fulfill Hashem's will to sacrifice Yitzchok, and Yitzchok's to be sacrificed.
We say in the piutim of shacharis on the first day of Rosh Hashonoh , "T'muchim b'deshen SEH AKEIDOH." We rely on the merit of the ash of the bound sheep (Yitzchok). SEH AKEIDOH and TAPUACH are equal, each being 494 in gematria.
5) The Chidushei haGaonim (a commentary on the Ein Yaakov) in gemara Brochos, Perek Horo'eh, says that one who sees himself consuming apples in a dream, may take this as a sign that a good, sweet, prosperous life awaits him.
The source for this custom is a gemara Krisus 6a. We eat certain items whose names indicate positive concepts (or negative concepts for our enemies) and accompany this with a supplication that it be the will of Hashem that these positve concepts come to fruition. The Eliyohu Rabboh Orach Chaim #583 says that we should do this both nights of Rosh Hashonoh. The Bnei Yisos'chor (Tishrei, maamar 2, #11) says that although some authorities say to do this both nights, he has seen his teachers using the "simonim" only on the first night. He brings from the Holy Zohar that on the first day of Rosh Hashonoh judgement is stringent and on the second day it is lenient. The first day corresponds to Leah whose soul-source corresponds to stringency, and the second day to Rochel whose soul-source corresponds to leniency, (as per commentaries to Breishis 29:17). Since Rochel gave her "simonim" (omens) to Leah, there is only a need to use them on the first night.
"Sheh'n'h'yeh L'ROSH v'lo l'zonov" - That we should be for a head and not for a tail. The Yeitav Lev in his commentary to parshas B'midbar says that the four letters of L'ROSH, lamed, reish, aleph, shin, are an acronym for "La'asos R'tzone Ovinu SHebashomayim."
Why don't we say "sheh'n'h'yeh rosh v'lo zonov?" The Ohr Yitzchok answers that this refers to the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos 4:14 that says, "It is preferable to be a tail to a lion than a head to a fox." We are praying that we be connected to a head, L'rosh, even at the low end, rather than being connected to a tail, L'zonov, even at the top level.
The Mishnah Bruroh #600 s.k. 4, brings from the Ma'as'eh Rav that the GR"A of Vilna refrained from eating grapes on Rosh Hashonoh, and said that the reason for this is "al pi sode," a hidden kabbalistic reason.
Approximately thirteen years ago my son was learning the Prophet Shmuel close to the time of Rosh Hashonoh, and asked me the following: We find in Shmuel 2:25:18 in the story of King David and Novol, that Avigayil sent King David and his men one hundred clusters of raisins for the upcoming Yom Tov. Rashi and other commentaries bring from the medrash that the Yom Tov was Rosh Hashonoh. According to the previously mentioned Ma'a'seh Rav, one is to refrain from eating grapes on Rosh Hashonoh, so why did Avigayil send raisins?
Two answers might be: 1) Regarding this matter, grapes and raisins aren't to be considered the same.
2) Since the reason is "al pi sode," it is possible that there are different time or location factors, and what might be permitted at one time or location might be prohibited at another.
Michoh 7:18,19,20: "Mi Keil komochoh ...... MI'MEI KEDEM" - The Bnei Yisos'chor, Elul maamar 2 #8, says that the thirteen attributes of mercy mentioned in Shmos 34:6,7, are called the lower attributes, and correspond to the higher thirteen attributes in Michah. In many machzorim, in the Tashlich service, where the verses of Michoh are mentioned, the corresponding thirteen attributes of Shmos 34 are written on top of the verses of Michoh. We also have the thirteen exegetical rules with which the Torah is explained, known as the "Breisa of Rebbi Yishmoel," which is part of the daily Shacharis service. These thirteen rules correspond to the thirteen attributes of mercy as well. The thirteenth attribute in the Torah is "V'nakei," meaning "Hashem will cleanse." The gemara Shvuous 39a and Yoma 86a bring Rebbi Elozor who asks the apparent contradiction in the verse. The verse first says, "V'nakei," Hashem cleanses, and immediately afterwards, it says, "v'lo Yynakei," Hashem will not cleanse. Rebbi Elozor answers that Hashem will cleanse those who repent, and will not cleanse those who do not repent. The thirteenth rule of Rebbi Yishmoel is, "And also when two verses contradict each other, a third verse will come to answer the conflict." In some siddurim, we find the text, "V'CHAN shnei k'suvim," meaning that we have HERE two apparently contradictory verses, rather than the more common text of "V'CHEIN shnei k'suvim," and ALSO two verses, etc. The intention of "and HERE we have two contradictory verses," means that HERE at the thirteenth rule of Rebbi Yishmoel we have the corresponding thirteenth attribute of mercy, "V'NAKEI," which is contradicted by a second verse "V'LO Y'NAKEI."
The third verse that answers the contradiction is the corresponding thirteenth attribute in Michoh, "Mimei kedem," from days of yore. This, the Bnei Yisos'chor says, refers to t'shuvoh, which was created before the world was created (Medrash B'reishis 1:4, Medrash Shochar Tov Tehillim 90). This is Rebbi Elozor's answer to the contradiction. Hashem cleanses those who repent.
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