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A few weeks ago we discussed this following statement of Chazal. During the Eseres Yamei Teshuva it is crucial for us to understand it more fully.

R. Kruspedai said in the name of R. Yochanan: Three books are opened on Rosh Hashana: one for the absolute resho'im (utterly wicked), one for the pure tzaddikim (wholly good), and one for the beinonim - the average class of people. The wholly righteous are immediately inscribed and sealed for life; the entirely wicked are immediately inscribed and sealed for death; the average class are held in the balance from Rosh Hashana till Yom Kippur; if they prove themselves worthy they are inscribed for life, if not they are inscribed for death. (Rosh Hashana 16b)

"Each and every person has merits and sins. A person whose merits exceed his sins is [termed] righteous. A person whose sins exceed his merits is [termed] wicked. If [his sins and merits] are equal, he is termed a Beinoni….

"Just as a person's merits and sins are weighed at the time of his death, so, too, the sins of every inhabitant of the world together with his merits are weighed on the festival of Rosh HaShanah. If one is found righteous, his [verdict] is sealed for life. If one is found wicked, his [verdict] is sealed for death. A Beinoni's verdict remains tentative until Yom Kippur. If he repents, his [verdict] is sealed for life. If not, his [verdict] is sealed for death." (Ramban, Teshuva 3:1,3)

The Lechem Mishneh asks on this a very straightforward question. If a beinoni is one whose mitzos and aveiros are evenly balanced, why is his lack of teshuva such a terrible aveira that he deserves the death penalty? Let him do just one more mitzvah and swing the balance toward the side of mitzvos?

Rav Yitzchak Blazer, talmid of Rav Yisroel Salanter was bothered by this. He answered, that we know the importance of these 10 days. "Seek Hashem when He is to be found; call out to Him when he is near" (Yeshaya 55:6). Chazal (Rosh Hashana 18a) tell us that this refers to the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. During this time Hakadosh Baruch Hu comes near to each and every one of us in order that we do teshuva. [That implies that every Jew innately knows that this is the time to start rectifying himself and straightening out. He feels it in his bones.] If one does not take this extraordinary opportunity of Divine closeness, his sin is extremely serious. No simple mitzva can outweigh this terrible transgression and so he is liable of the death penalty. If however he does teshuva, then he has determined his verdict: he is written down in the Book of Life.

During the Aseres Yamei Teshuva it is very important for the beinonim to do teshuva. The text of the gemara is that the beinonim are "hanging and standing until Yom Kippur." Their fate is hanging in the balance.

The Alter from Novohardok, zt"l, used to take this Chazal literally. The Beinoni is "hanging." The verdict has been given, and he has been led to the execution platform. He is standing on a stool and the noose has been placed around his neck. All that is left is to kick the stool out from underneath him and…. The beinoni must consider himself literally hanging there. What is the Beis Din waiting for? Something has not been decided yet. If he does teshuva they will give him a pardon.

That's what the stool is for.

This implies that the verdict of the beinoni isn't being pushed off until Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashana is the Day of Judgment. The beinoni has been judged already in the Book of the Dead. The verdict has been given. It just hasn't been written down. Hakadosh Baruch Hu, in His great mercy, wants to pardon him. So he is given some time until Yom Kippur to see if he repents. He has a chance to get the verdict pardoned.

What is a beinoni? The above Rambam states that, "If [his sins and merits] are equal, he is termed a Beinoni." This implies a simple totaling of his mitvos and aveiros and whichever is more is the deciding factor. However the Gemara (Brachos 61b) paints a slightly different picture:

"R. Yosi HaGalili says, The righteous judge themselves with their good inclination, as it says, 'My heart has died within me' (Tehillim 109:22). [My yetzer ho-ra is as if it's dead; I can bend it as I wish. - Rashi] The wicked judge themselves with their evil inclination, as it says, 'From the depths of my heart I say, that the word of transgression speaks to the wicked man; there is no fear of God before his eyes' (Tehillim 36b). Average people judge themselves with both inclinations, as it says, 'For He will stand to the right of the needy to save [him] from those who judge his soul' (Tehillim 109:31). Raba said: 'People such as we are beinoni.' Said Abaye to him: The Master gives no one a chance to live! [If you are a beinoni, then there is no real tzaddik in the world. - Rashi] Raba further said: The world was created only for either the totally wicked or the totally righteous. Rava said: Let a man know concerning himself whether he is completely righteous or not!"

The Gra elaborates on this gemara. When the gemara states that by the tzaddikim, their yetzer tov, good inclination, judges them, it means it leads them. All his thoughts and decisions come from his yetzer tov. By the reshoim it is the opposite: their evil inclination, their yetzer ho-ra rules over them and leads them. The beinonim however, are controlled by both. Thus this is the way a person can know if he is truly a tzaddik or not. Who controls his thoughts and his decision making? His yetzer ha-tov, or his yetzer ho-ra.

The Sifsei Chaim elaborates on this Gra. The tzaddikim are run by their good inclinations. They have no real battle. And even when their yetzer ho-ra confrontations them, they decide in favor of the yetzer ha-tov. The wicked are run by their yetzer ho-ra. They also have no battle. They know what they want to do and that's what they do. The beinoni, however, has a fight going on within himself. He has a constant battle between the yetzer ha-tov and the yetzer ho ra. Moreover, not only are his evil actions directed by their yetzer ho-ra, his yetzer ho-ra joins the yetzer ha-tov in deciding how to perform mitzvos! For example when one buys an esrog, he buys the most beautiful one. His Yetzer Hatov thinks he is buying it in order to beautify the mitzos - Hidur Mitzva! While the yetzer ho-ra knows that what he really wants to do is show off in front of his friends and family.

The Nesivos in his Emes LeYaakov explains (very similarly to what we discussed last week) that the writing in the books on Rosh Hashana is not a verdict as to what is going to happen this coming year. Rosh Hashana is the day when the person's status is determined: tzaddik or rosha. The gemara in Kiddushin (39b) discusses the decrees on a person. A tzaddik has more mitzvos while a rosha has more aveiros. Sometimes having more mitzvos gives one a better Olam Hazeh, and sometimes not. (It could be that being a tzaddik, the Beis Din Shel Maalah has determined that he should inherit a really fabulous Olam Habo. However, his few aveiros are going to spoil everything. It will be like living in a mansion with some broken windows, or where the paint is peeling off the walls. It's a beautiful mansion, but the blemishes ruin it. Therefore, they determine that this tzaddik should suffer in this world, in order to take care of his few aveiros, leaving him spotless for the next world.]

Therefore Rosh Hashana is the Day of Judgment to determine ones status: tzaddik or rosha. Yom Kippur is the day when his fate in this world for this coming year is sealed.

A beinoni, however, is in a predicament. He's neither tzaddik nor rosha. Sometimes his yetzer hatov controls him, but sometimes his yetzer ho-ra takes control. Who is he? What kind of verdict can he receive? Really he isn't a tzaddik. He gives in to his yetzer ho-ra enough to be a problem. He should be inscribed in the Book of the Dead for not being a tzaddik. But he also has a good inclination to him that often wins. Therefore the Beis Din Shel Maala judges him on Rosh Hashana like a rosha. But his verdict is not final. He still has a chance. He can do teshuva and receive a pardon and be rewritten in the Book of Life. The Beis Din puts him on a stool, and puts the noose around his neck. There he is left hanging and standing until Yom Kippur. He is given a chance to do teshuva and receive the verdict of a tzaddik. That is our job these 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

As the Baale Mussar used to scream out: Yidden! Do teshuva!

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו לאלתר לחיים טובים בתוך ספרי צדיקים!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Rosh Yeshiva Medrash Chaim
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood). You can access Rav Parkoff's Chizuk Sheets online:
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