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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Month of Elul

Repentance And Yom Hakipurim - A New Existence

Slichot has a unique order of prayer. After sin the world is created afresh with the potential of global tschuva. Global tschuva necessitates a special tfillah. Yom Hakippurim is connected to a unique tschuva and the creation of a new world.
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1. Slichot has a unique order of prayer.
2. After sin the world is created afresh with the potential of global tschuva.
3. Global tschuva necessitates a special tfillah.
4. Yom Hakippurim is connected to a unique tschuva and the creation of a new world.

When we examine the special period of the month of Elul we understand that Judaism demands from us a structural change. Tschuva (repentance) and tfillah (prayer) are the desired goals at this time. As it is stated "Call to him so that he can be near."

Rabbeinu Yonah states in the fifteenth principle that one of the basic axioms of tschuva is tfillah:
"One should pray to Hashem and request mercy for repentance of one’s sins as it is stated 'Take with you your sayings and return to Hashem’. This represents the idea of confessing one’s sins. The verse 'And they said to him overcome sin and do good’ signifies the concept of tfillah. As it is known a bad deed extinguishes a good one. Therefore to "do good" in this sense is to hold onto the good deed which has been done, for in the process of tschuva sins are forgiven and the merits of one’s mitzvoth are awakened and one’s light is kindled."

Thus we derive from Rabbineu Yonah that tfillah is an important part of tschuva. Tfillah is especially needed to keep us on the path toward the light of Torah and mitzvoth and away from sin. This can explain the special patterns and order of the prayers during the days of awe. The common denominator is that we beseech Hashem to forgive us and assist us in our efforts for repentance. All our prayers (including slichot) begin with Ashrei and end with Kaddish Titkabal. In addition we see that it is required for the shliach tzibor to wear a tallit.

The Gemarah in Rosh Hashana (pg 17b) states " Hashem Hashem- I am the one before man sins, and I am also the one after man sins, and man shall repent ". The Gemarah further explains in the 13 principles of faith the idea of cleansing. "Hashem cleanses those who repent and does not cleanse those who do not repent." The concept of tschuva is mentioned in two of the 13 principles of faith. The Gemarah alludes to the two stages of tschuva, one being after man sins and does tschuva and the other of cleansing him of his sins. What exactly is the Gemarah alluding to with this idea of two stages?

The Maharal from Prague explains in his book Nativ Hatschuva the concept of two types of tschuva. There is tschuva for some of the sins and tschuva for all sins. The second principle of the 13 principles of faith relates to a complete tschuva whereas the cleansing (nakeh) corresponds to the repentance of part of the sins. The Maharal brings forth this concept from the Gemara of Rosh Hashana. The 13 principles of faith describe the many manifestations of our relationship to Hashem. Even with our limited intellect, we understand Hashem’s mercy or benevolence. But the idea that Hashem’s name has special meaning in this world is more difficult to grasp. In fact, the name of Hashem is the source of everything. Our sages of blessed memory say that man merits to exist in the world that Hashem created on condition that he does not sin. " I am the one before man sins ." Once there is sin man’s right to be a part of the world ceases to exist. The process of tschuva over sin necessitates the recreation of the world, which occurs with the renewal of Hashem’s name. This is what the Maharal was alluding to with his idea of tschuva for part or all of the sins. In order for the world to be renewed and transformed to it’s previous state before the existence of sin, there must be complete tschuva. Complete tschuva allows for the possibility of returning the world to it’s former pure and sinless state. Only after this is established may a partial "cleansing" tschuva exist."

In the same Gemarah of Rosh Hashana an additional idea is presented.
"And the Lord passed before him, and proclaimed: 'Every time Am Yisrael sins they need to say this prayer and I will forgive them.’ Rabbi Yochanan says that if it was not for this verse we would not be able to know what to say. This comes to teach us that The Holy One Blessed Be He wore the talit as the shaliach tzibor and taught Moshe the order of prayer for repentance." We see that Hashem not only needed to command Moshe Rebbeinu to pray but He also needed to instruct him as to how to fulfill this commandment. Here Hashem in his infinite mercy show us how to pray and if this were not the case we would not know what to say. What is the meaning behind this?


When the children of Israel stood before the Red Sea it is written: " Moshe cried out to Hashem" Hashem answered him "Why are you crying out to me? Is the answer with me?" Rashi explains this to mean: "Now is not the time to pray, speak to the children of Israel and go forth." Am Yisrael is in the midst of a difficult situation and don’t know what to do. On one side of them are the Egyptians on the other the Sea. One would think that tfillah would be the most appropriate reaction to this situation. Hashem answers "This is not the time to pray". And further on it is written: " The sea went back to its original position"- The sea returned to its original stipulation. Hashem created the world with the condition that the sea will part upon the arrival of the children of Israel. And so we learn that there are situations in which tfillah is necessary and can influence the outcome of a situation and and those in which it will not. Our tfillah is only affective if it is not connected to Hashem’s blueprint of the creation of the world.

The mitzvah to pray is only for the pure world and does not apply to the world in which man sins because it has no affect on it. Thus The Holy One Blessed Be He needs to don his talit and show us the way to return the world to its pure form. Sin changed the world and the influence tfillah has on the world. The world of sin needs a different kind of tfillah as was revealed to Moshe after the sin of the Golden Calf.

However , the Rambam shows us in Hilchot Tayanit:
"It is a mitzvoh from the Torah to cry out. For every problem that descends upon the congregation, this is one of the ways of repentance. When trouble comes one should cry out that our evil acts have brought this about."

In Hilchot Yom Hakippurim it is written "There is another mitzvah on Yom Kippur to cease from eating and drinking." The Torah commands us to afflict ourselves. The Rambam sees this as a cessation from the material world.

In the end of the Gemarah of Tayanit it further states:
"There were never days as good as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur for Am Yisrael... on the day of our wedding and the day of the happiness in our heart. The day of our wedding is the giving of the Torah, the day of the happiness in our heart is the building of the Temple".

Immediately after the event of our wedding the sin of the golden calf occurred, whereupon the tablets were given again. On Yom Kippur we received the tablets a second time and this required from us a new tfillah. On Shavout there is a mitzvah to eat and rejoice, whereas Yom Kippur, which is also the day of receiving the Torah the emphasis is one of fasting. It is not a fast of repentance, but as the Rambam states, rather a cessation in order to reach a higher level of spirituality. It is the acceptance of the Torah in a world that has been newly created.

This explains the words of Rabbeinu Yonah "In all your sins before Hashem you shall be purified ". We should purify ourselves through repentance. The language that the Torah uses for repentance is one of returning to Hashem whereas Yom Kippur speaks of purification. Why the difference in language? Returning signifies that once man has sinned he is commanded to amend his ways and return to his pure essence. But there are different types of tschuva. The Maharal brings forth two types of tschuvah- one for part of our sins, and the other for all sin. This concurs with Rabbeinu Yonah who also differentiates between the two mitzvoth of tschuva. One is a general commandment for tschuvah "And you shall return to your G-d". The other is connected to Yom Kippur and involves a renewal of Torah and tfillah. This is the special tschuva of " Before Hashem you shall be purified".

With the blessing of gemar chatima tova.
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