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Torah Attitude: Succos: With love and fear
How can we be expected to "switch" from the mood (or mode) of awe and fear to the mood (or mode) of happiness? Balance is especially important when we educate our children. We must strive to develop awe for G'd. When a person repents because he is in awe of G'd his intentional sins are not totally forgiven. But when a person does teshuvah out of love for G'd, his sins are considered like merits. On Succos we spend seven days in the succah and experience a special closeness to G'd. On Succos we are not switching to another mode or program but we are taking the next step of teshuvah suited to our newfound appreciation and love for G'd. May we be able to utilize these special days to get even closer to G'd and his Torah.
Switch from awe to happiness
We mentioned last week that human beings are not like robots that can be programmed to act one way and then be switched to act differently according to another program. With this in mind an obvious question arises. Just a few days ago, Jews worldwide stood in awe in the synagogues on Yom Kippur, asking G'd for forgiveness and imploring Him to inscribe everyone in the Book of Life. But as soon as the fast day of Yom Kippur came to an end, we started to prepare for the Festival of Succos, "the time of our happiness" (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 624:5). How can we be expected to "switch" from the mood (or mode) of awe and fear to the mood (or mode) of happiness?
Love and fear G'd
In order to answer this question we must first analyze how we are expected to serve G'd in general. Every morning in the blessing before Shema we ask for Divine assistance to both love and fear G'd. The Jerusalem Talmud (Sotah 5:5) explains that we must use both love and fear when we serve G'd. For if we only serve Him out of love, we may come to lose the respect we need to accord Him. On the other hand, if we only serve out of fear and awe, it is likely that we will eventually reach a point where we will want to give it all up.
This balance is especially important when we educate our children. For this is the only way we can ensure that they will continue to be careful to practice Judaism and enjoy fulfilling the commandments.
Awe for G'd
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto (Path of the Just, chapter 24) explains that rather than being scared of G'd and fearing His punishments, we must strive to develop an awe for G'd, Who on the one hand is so exalted, and on the other hand does so much for us and provides us with all our needs throughout our lives. If we keep this in mind, how can we do anything against His will and upset Him?
Awe does not totally forgive sins
Rabbi Luzatto also discusses (Chapter 19) the importance of combining our service of G'd with both love and fear. He further explains that when we serve G'd with love it will make us happy, just like any relationship between two people who feel a mutual love bring them happiness. The Talmud (Yuma 86b) teaches that when a person repents, it makes a major difference whether he repents out of fear or awe for G'd or whether he repents out of love for G'd. When a person repents because he is in awe of G'd his intentional sins are not totally forgiven. Rather, they will be considered as if they were done without intent. But when a person repents because he loves G'd, says the Talmud, this person's sins will be turned into merits.
Love makes sins like merits
Rabbi Dessler explains that even when a person decides to do teshuvah and repents out of fear or awe, he regrets his past sins. He now realizes what he did wrong, and in his present situation his sins are therefore considered as unintentional mistakes. But when a person does teshuvah out of love for G'd, it is a totally different situation. This person understands how he contaminated himself with his sins and made himself dirty. At the same time, he is aware of the exalted greatness of G'd, and he comes to realize the tremendous love G'd shows him by being ready to forgive him. For by forgiving him it is as if G'd himself takes the person and cleans him of all his dirt and purifies him (see Isaiah 4:4). This person obviously wants to reciprocate and express his appreciation and love for G'd. Since his sins were instrumental to bring him to appreciate G'd's kindness more than he ever did, therefore the sins themselves are considered like merits.
Special closeness to G'd
The great Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, writes that on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we can reach high levels of teshuvah out of fear and awe. But when we have come to understand that on Yom Kippur G'd is ready to forgive our sins, this brings us to the higher level of teshuvah out of love for G'd. This love is expressed on the festival of Succos. We spend seven days in the succah and experience a special closeness to G'd, as we move out of our regular houses and dwell in the shadow of His Divine presence in the succah.
Next step of teshuvah
We can now well understand why Succos, "the time of our happiness", that expresses our love for G'd, is the natural follow up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, "the days of awe". We are not switching to another mode or program. On the contrary, we are taking the next step of teshuvah suited to our newfound appreciation and love for G'd.
May we be able to utilize these special days to get even closer to G'd and His Torah. In this way, we will be ready to rejoice with the Torah on Simchas Torah and start the new cycle of Torah reading with Bereishis on a higher level.
These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto. Chag Sameach and Gemar Tov to you and your family!
These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.
Shalom. Michael Deverett
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