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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Vayera

Bring Us Back

"Abba, why does the blessing of teshuva (repentance) come after the blessing of daas (intelligence)?"

"The Gemora (Megilla 17b) provides an answer to your question, Avi. The placement of the appeal for siyata di'shmaya (heavenly assistance) for teshuva after 'daas' based upon a verse in the Novi Yishaya (6:10), 'Understand with your heart, repent, and be healed.'"

"I remember learning that Gemora with you, Abba."

"Yes, Avi. The Mishna Brura (115) cites the Seder HaYom, which adds explanation to the Gemora's drasha. 'Hashiveinu' comes after 'daas' because with the daas that the person has acquired, he contemplates his sins. One cannot discern right from wrong without knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Using his intellect, he realizes what he has done wrong, and he appeals to the Almighty to help him subdue and humble the arrogance of his yetzer hara. The Rambam details the process in Hilchos Teshuva (2:2) when he asks, 'What is teshuva? The sinner abandons his sin, removes it from his thoughts, and decides in his heart never to repeat it again, as the verse states, "Let the evil one forsake his way, and the iniquitous man his thoughts" (Yishaya 55:7).'"

"That takes a bit of effort, Abba."

"Precisely, Avi. That is why we pray for siyata di'shmaya in this undertaking. The Yaaros Devash illuminates the teshuva process with a parable. The sinner has been imprisoned by his yetzer hara. The Merciful One is ready to redeem him from his captivity. The baal teshuva (sinner who has resolved to correct his ways) beseeches Hashem, 'Enlighten my eyes with teshuva! Give me a lev tahor (pure heart) which has in it a renewed ruach nachon (correct spirit)!' And so it is, when a baal teshuva begins to regret his sins, the Almighty bestows upon him an abundance of ruach tehora (pure spirit) to bring him back in teshuva."

"That is absolutely beautiful, Abba. I see that the bracha of 'hashiveinu' has two parts. We first address Hashem as our Father, asking Him to bring us back to His Torah. Then we address Him as our King, requesting that He bring us close to His service. What is the difference between the two?"

"That is a very thoughtful question, Avi. Let us go step by step. We are asking Hashem to return us to His Torah. We can only return to His Torah if we were already there - if we already knew it and forgot it. That is exactly what happened. The Gemora (Nidda 30b) relates that the child was taught the entire Torah during the months that he was in his mother's womb. When he emerged into the air of the world, an angel came and hit him on his mouth, causing him to forget everything that he had learned. Therefore, when he studies Torah in this world, he is merely returning to the Torah that he had previously learned. When making this request, we refer to Hashem as 'Our Father.' We beseech Him to use His Fatherly middah (trait) of rachmonus (mercy) to grant us great insights in Torah.ii Siddur Iyun Tefillah p. 282 We also see ourselves as His children who are returning to our inheritance - the Torah. Our Sagesiii Sifrei and Shemos Rabba 33:7 illustrate this with a parable. The son of the king was captured as a little boy and taken to a far away land. Although many years have passed, he will never be embarrassed to ask to return to the royal palace. Why? Because he is the son of the king. 'I am returning to my inheritance!' he says. So too, a talmid chochom who has left the Torah to undertake other endeavors, and after several years, desires to return is not embarrassed. Why? Because he is returning to the inheritance of his father, as the verse states, 'The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the inheritance of the Congregation of Yaakov.'"iiii Devarim 33:4

"What a privilege it is to return to the Torah, Abba! In the second half of the bracha, we request that our King bring us close to His avodah (service). Is there a connection between the two?"

"Yes, Avi. The Siddur Iyun Tefillah (p. 460) explains that one's learning brings him closer to Avodas Hashem. He draws his source from the Rambam,iiv Hilchos Teshuva 6:5 'When a person proceeds along the paths of wisdom and righteousness, he comes to desire them and pursue them. This is expressed in the statement of our Sages, "One who comes to purify himself, [Hashem] helps him"'.vv Gemora Yuma 38b Which avodah is the bracha referring to, Avi?"


"Excellent! The Abudarham cites this peirush from the Gemora.vvi Megilla 2a The Torah states, 'To love Hashem, your G-d, and to serve Him with all your heart.'vvii Devarim 11:13 Which service is performed by the heart? Tefillah. However, there is a more widely quoted peirush that avodah refers to the mitzvos.vviii Abudarham, Rav Hirsch, Etz Yosef, Maggid Tsedek, Iyun Tefillah We serve the King with our avodas ha'mitzvos. Our aveyros distance us from Him and His service. They also allow the foreign government to exercise power over us, which interferes with our service to Him. This is expressed in the Mishna, 'One who takes upon himself the yoke of Torah - the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly responsibilities are removed from him. However, if he throws off the yoke of Torah - the yoke of government and the yoke of worldly responsibilities are placed upon him.iix Avos 3:5 Therefore, we pray for siyata di'shmaya to remove the ole malchus (yoke of government).xx Etz Yosef

"We finish the bracha with the words, 'Blessed are You, Hashem, Who desires teshuva.' Our Father in Heaven only wants the best for us. He does not want to punish us for our sins, rather He wants us to correct them, as the Novi says, 'I do not desire the death of the wicked one, but rather his return from his way, so that he may live. Repent; repent from your evil ways! Why should you die, O House of Israel?' (Yechezkel 33:11)."xxi Abudarham

"I want to do teshuva Abba."

"May Hashem help you Avi."

Kinderlach . . .

We need siyata di'shmaya with everything, including teshuva. Even after we identify our mistakes and resolve to correct them, we must appeal to the Almighty for Divine assistance in correcting our behavior and returning to Him. We relate to Him as our Father when we ask Him to help us learn Torah. Additionally, we see ourselves as His subjects and Him as our King, when we request that He bring us close to His service (proper tefillah, mitzvah observance). We know that He desires our closeness; therefore, He will help us. We need only initiate a small opening of teshuva and pray for siyata di'shmaya. We can be assured that He will widen that opening and bring us close to Him.xxii Shir HaShirim Rabba 5:2

i Siddur Iyun Tefillah p. 282
ii Sifrei and Shemos Rabba 33:7
iii Devarim 33:4
iv Hilchos Teshuva 6:5
v Gemora Yuma 38b
vi Megilla 2a
vii Devarim 11:13
viii Abudarham, Rav Hirsch, Etz Yosef, Maggid Tsedek, Iyun Tefillah
ix Avos 3:5
x Etz Yosef
xi Abudarham
xii Shir HaShirim Rabba 5:2

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