Parashas Nitzavim and Vayelech

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Believe in Yourself; Believe in G-d

Taste of Talmud

Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah taught:  Those who have transgressed a positive commandment will be forgiven immediately upon fulfilling the necessary requirements for repentance.  Those who have transgressed a negative commandment will not be totally forgiven until they also fulfill the requirements of Yom Kippur, as it says, “For on this day I will forgive you for all of your sins” (Leviticus 16:30). One who has transgressed a commandment which carries with it the punishment of excision (G-d forbid), however, will not be fully forgiven until his death (Yoma 86a).  Rabbeinu Yona of Gironde illuminated the path of repentance for the Jewish nation for all time in his magnum opus, Shaarei Teshuva (Gates of Repentance).  In the fourth chapter he prescribes a number of actions one could take which have the power to nullify an evil decree.  These include: A) Charity, B) Kind Deeds, C) Speaking warmly to poor and downtrodden people, D) Visiting the sick, E) Burying the dead, F) Comforting mourners, G) Gladdening the heart of a bride and groom and, above all, H) to increase one’s study of Torah, as it says, “with kindness and with truth (Torah) sin will be forgiven (Proverbs 16:6).”

Taste of Halacha

We are commanded to do Teshuva in this week‘s Parasha (Deut. 4:30).  What does this entail?  The Rambam delineates the four integral components of a proper teshuva.  A person who is entangled in sin must first leave his old ways. This includes making a serious resolution in his heart not to continue to sin any longer.  Without this step anything else is like going to the Mikvah while still holding a dead carcass in your hand.  The second step in teshuva is to feel remorse over one’s past misdeeds.  Remorse is the feeling one has when he is not happy with the way he behaved and he chastises himself for not having the fortitude to control himself.  The third step is for the penitent to express in words the specific actions which he is resolving to mend.  Finally, for the teshuva process to be complete, he must accept upon himself a plan of improvement for the future.  Rabbeinu Yona has a far more detailed version of the Teshuva process.  His version includes a 20-step process of repentance.  Most notably, he includes 1) guiding others away from the particular misdeed, 2) searching for positive ways to help others, 3) Praying to G-d to erase his sins, 4) To study the severity of the sins which he had committed, 5) Curtailing his physical indulgences, 6) a feeling of embarrassment over past misdeeds, and 7) developing feelings of pain and sorrow for acting in ways that have angered G-d.

Taste of Parasha

Five inmates stealthily burrowed a tunnel through which to escape to freedom.  Low and behold, the dawn of a new day found four of the five prisoners well on their way to freedom.  Just as surprised as the jail warden was that his prisoners had flown the coop, he was even more shocked to see one of the prisoners sitting meekly in his cell.  The warden began to beat and berate the man for having remained behind.  By not even attempting to escape, he had shown himself to be not only imprisoned in body but in spirit as well.  The prisoner had shown that he was not even willing to attempt to begin life anew; to turn over a new leaf.  He had shown himself to be so enmeshed in his evil ways that he was not even able to hope for a better future.  Rabbeinu Yona says: Repentance too, is an escape hatch which G-d gave to us as a gift. We must always be looking for those tunnels and avenues which will lead us to see the light of truth.  We must know that we can always refresh and renew ourselves. All we have to do is merely open our mouths and tell G-d that we want to improve and we are on the road to improvement.  In Deuteronomy (14:30) it says, “This matter (repentance) is very close to you, it is in your mouth and your heart to do.” Rabbi Yechechezkel Levenstein Zt”l learns from here that our escape to freedom, from the shackles of our sins, begins with our hearts and our mouths.  We have to tell G-d that our desire is to return to Him and ask Him to guide us through the dark tunnels back to Him.”

About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and Yeshiva L' Baalei Batim. He is the owner and director of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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