Category: Teshuvah

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Something you can do to help the situation

בעון נבלות פה צרות רבות וגזירות קשות מתחדשות ובחורי שונאי ישראל מתים יתומים ואלמנות צועקין ואינן נענין שנא’ (ישעיהו ט) על כן על בחוריו לא ישמח ה’ For the sin of vulgar speech many evils and harsh decrees are made anew, and the choicest of … (euphamism ellided) Israel die, and orphans and widows cry and are not answered. As...

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The Simplicity of the Shofar

(Hat tip to my daughter Shifra, who made this point the centerpiece of her speech at her bas mitzvah celebration.)Halachically, a shofar must be a simple instrument. If it has a crack or anything that might shape the note, it is invalid. A cow’s horn, which is layered and therefore not a shofar but a shefarferet, is not usable for...

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Coronating G-d, part II — Pragmatics

I was recently discussing the ideas in my essay “Coronating G-d“. In it I utilized the Vilna Gaon’s distinction between a melekh (king) and a mosheil. A melekh rules with the support of his people, a mosheil rules by strength. I suggested that the reason why accepting Hashem as Melekh is such a central part of Rosh haShanah is that...

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Anu ma’amirekha ve’Atah ma’amireinu

Anu ma’amirekha ve’Atah ma’amireinu. Artscroll renders this line from the machzor as referring to we as Hashem’s designated, and Him as our designator.I would like to suggest a different translation. The mishnah says that Hashem created the world with “eser ma’maros — ten utterances”. Ma’amar means utterances, and in particular, Chazal associate it with the ten statements through which Hashem...

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Mi Keil Kamokha

In Tomer Devorah, Rav Moshe Cordevero explains the 13 attributes of Divine Mercy, in particular showing them as exemplars for us to follow — “just as I Am Merciful, so too you be merciful.” Rather than following the original revelation of these attributes in seifer Shemos, he uses the version in seifer Mikhah (7:18-20) which we say during tashlikh, and...

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Ge’ulah and Accepting Hashem as King

(Significantly expanded May 6th.) When someone hears bad news, such as a death, the gemara (Pesachim 50a) tells them to say the berakhah of “Dayan haEmes“. This phrase is often translated “the True Judge” as though it were a noun-adjective pair. But that would have a hei hayedi’ah (a leading “ha-” prefix meaning “the”) on both words. If “emes” were...

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9/11 and How to Effect Permanent Change

(Significantly expanded in response to writing on the subject for Yashar, the magazine of The Mussar Institute. -micha) I The most powerful High Holidays experience of my life was eight years ago. A week before I went to an office from which one could still see the World Trace Center. By that Rosh haShanah I hadn’t yet returned to work...

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Finding the Means to Return to Your Ideal You

Many thanks to Jon Baker for recording my talk before selichos at the Yavneh Minyan last motza’ei Shabbos. The material: An audio recording is here. And here is the handout. The first two pages were the topic of the opening of the talk, about the Rambam’s two kinds of vidui. The second sheet contains quotes from Mesilas Yesharim discussing the...

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Memories of His Child Ephraim

(My first attempt at this post was seriously flawed, both typographically and in flow. This is a significant reworking. If you have ideas for further improvement, they’re eagerly invited.) I Why is it that we established the custom to read the Torah once annually from Shemini Atzeres to Shemini Atzeres, thereby turning the second day of Shemini Atzeres (the only...

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Selichah, Mechilah, Kapparah, Yir’ah and Simchah

Caveat: Most of these entries are extrapolations from something I learned. In this case, the entry is a chidush on top of an earlier chidush. In Mesilas Yesharim ch. 24, the Ramchal describes the various types of yir’ah (awe / fear). This is the topic of an earlier entry. To quote: 1- Yir’as ha’onesh: fear of punishment. This is the...

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He Should Inspect His Deeds

אמר רבא ואיתימא רב חסדא: אם רואה אדם שיסורין באין עליו, יפשפש במעשיו. שנא’ (איכה ג): נַחְפְּשָׂה דְרָכֵינוּ וְנַחְקֹרָה, וְנָשׁוּבָה עַד ה’. פשפש ולא מצא, יתלה בבטול תורה. שנאמר (תהילים צד): אשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר תְּיַסְּרֶנּוּ יָּ-הּ, וּמִתּוֹרָתְךָ תְלַמְּדֶנּוּ. ואם תלה ולא מצא, בידוע שיסורין של אהבה הם. שנאמר (משלי ג): כִּי אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֶאֱהַב ה’ יוֹכִיחַ[, וּכְאָב אֶת בֵּן יִרְצֶה]....

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Just One Small Cry

I had the severely painful experience this past Sunday of attending the levayah for a six year old boy r”l. Reuven Dovida”h went for a walk with his father R’ Yehuda Herbst and R’ Dovid Reichenberga”h shortly after Hurricane Irene. He touched a fence that was electrified by a downed power line, burning himself and his father. R’ Dovid Reichenberg...

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Hoshin Plan

At one point in my career I was working at a bank that took on a large initiative to formalize its processes. Everything done within the bank had to follow procedures, with the requisite paperwork completed, and every procedure had to conform to a standard called “Six Sigma“. Part of Six Sigma is an idea called Hoshin Kanri, or in...

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Thoughts about Teshuvah

“Aspaqlaria: Aseres Yemei Teshuvah” (49 pages) is a collection of essays adapted from those that appeared here on the subjects of teshuvah, shofar, vidui, and the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. It is in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format, ready for printing.

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Mother’s Day and Teshuvah Week

We don’t feel a need to observe Mother’s Day, because the mitzvah of kibud av va’eim means that every day is Mother’s Day. – Rabbi Shpitzer, my 5th grade rebbe This sentiment is far from uniquely Rabbi Shpitzer’s — but he was my first rebbe from the chareidi world, and so the first person to give me this explanation. Twenty five...

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Two Kinds of Law, Teshuvah, and Par’oh’s Heart

We open the Shemoneh Esrei by referring to Hashem as “Hashem Elokeinu vEilokei avoseinu — Hashem, our G-d, and the G-d of our ancestors….” Three distinct ways of perceiving G-d are being given here: The tetragrammaton refers to the G-d Who “Will be – Is – Was” (taking the letters as a contraction), who is “the cause of existence” (taking...

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From Qeren to Shofar

(Updated after Rosh haShanah 5774 with idea from the Tanchuma.) The Ramban, in his Derashah leRosh haShanah, writes that a shofar is a keli, a formal utensil in the halachic sense. For this reason, while most rishonim hold that a hole in a shofar invalidates the shofar only if the hole is such that it changes the produced sound, the...

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A Mishpat for the G-d of Yaaqov

תִּקְעוּ בַחֹדֶשׁ שׁוֹפָר, בַּכֵּסֶה לְיוֹם חַגֵּנוּ. כִּי חֹק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא, מִשְׁפָּט לֵאלֹקֵי יַעֲקֹב. Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the fullness for our holiday. For it is a choq [a trans-rational statute] for Yisrael, a mishpat [just law] of the G-d of Yaaqov. – Tehillim 81:4-5 The Malbim (ad loc) writes (tr. Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner): We do not...

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And with what? With a Shofar – II

אמר רבי יהודה משום רבי עקיבא … אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: … ואמרו לפני בראש השנה מלכיות זכרונות ושופרות. מלכיות: כדי שתמליכוני עליכם. זכרונות: כדי שיעלה זכרוניכם לפני לטובה. ובמה? בשופר. Rabbi Yehudah said an idea from Rabbi Aqiva …: The Holy One, blessed be He said, “… say before Me on Rosh haShanah, Malkhios, Zikhoronosand Shoferos. “Malkhios: so that...

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The Baal Teshuvah and the Tzadiq

I commented on Gratitude: What does “todah” mean? As it stands, it means “thanks”. The same root conjugated as “vidui” means to “confess”. Last, when the mishnah wants to stress that something is outside of a dispute, “hakol modim” — “all agree”. What do thanks, confession and agreement have in common? When I thank someone, I acknowledge his actions had...