The Parshah of Teshuvah
This week's Parshah, Nitzavim, is called the Parshah of Teshuvah. Moshe realizes that he is about to take leave of his beloved nation, and he wishes to instill within them his most important message, namely, that if they falter in their faith or their observance of the Torah, they are given a chance to return, to do Teshuvah.
"And when all these happen to you, the blessing and the curse And you will consider them in your heart Then you will return to the L-rd your G-d and you will obey Him you and your children, with all your heart and with all your being." (Nitzavim, 30:1-2)
This will trigger a response from G-d:
"And G-d will return your captivity and have mercy on you; And He will return and gather you from all the nations into whose midst He scattered you." (Nitzavim, 30:3)
And again the linked movements, as in a dance:
"And you will return and you will obey Hashem and do all His commands." (Nitzavim, 30:8)
Which will elicit another G-dly response:
"And G-d will give you abundance in everything you do: in children, in cattle, in the produce of your land, for good, because He will return to rejoice over you for good, as He rejoiced over your ancestors." (Nitzavim, 30:9)
According to the RAMBAM, one of the main ingredients of Teshuvah is "Viduy," Confession before G-d (Maimonides, Hil. Teshuvah, 2:2). The climax of Viduy is on Yom Kippurim, where we find numerous repetitions of both the:
"Al Chet," "(Forgive me for this and that) sin" Portion, where we ask G-d for forgiveness for a catalogue of sins, consisting of at least fifty two (possibly fifty eight, depending how one counts) and also the
"Ashamnu," "We have sinned" Section, where we admit culpability for twenty two categories of sin, arranged according to the Aleph-Bais.
For a long time, it bothered me how it would be possible for anyone, even the most wicked person in the world, to commit so many sins! Even if that individual would devote his life to the project of distancing himself from his Maker by violating all of His commands, I think it would be extremely difficult to "accomplish" that "goal."
How then can we come before the King of Kings about whom King David says "Behold, you desire truth in our inward parts," (Tehillim, 51:8) on the holiest day of the year, and lie to Him? Would it not be more truthful, and more meaningful, to confess to sins we remember having actually done?
I think there are at least three possible answers to the above question:
"And you shall not follow your heart, nor your eyes, which are guiding you to be immoral." In the area of "dimyon," imagination or fantasy, it is quite likely that each individual has been in all the forbidden areas.
And, in the realm of "peulah," action or deed, there are many which might not qualify as actual sins, but are in the (light or even dark) gray areas.
As King David said, " And my sin is forever before me." We have to concentrate on these sins, the ones we "own," or perhaps more accurately, the one(s) that "own" us, and work on breaking those bonds of "ownership."
This is important, because it indicates that at least the "Ashamnu" Section, and probably also the "Al Chet" Sections are confessions in behalf of the entire Community of Israel, as indeed, the third Confession of the High Priest was in behalf of the whole House of Israel. And unfortunately, from that perspective, there is little doubt that every last one of the sins mentioned is spoken for.
Thus, far from bringing a falsehood before the Almighty's Throne of Justice, we are attempting to do a thorough inspection, as for "Chametz" before Pesach, using "the lamp of G-d, the human soul, to search out all of our inward parts."
We confess for excessive, inappropriate fantasy and for acts which were related, albeit distantly, to the main categories of sin. We confess for our own sins, which are, or should be, always before us. And we confess as part of, and in behalf of, the entire Community of Israel.
And we dare to hope that in the merit of our three-fold Teshuvah, and in recognition of our long Exile, that the Ribbono shel Olam, the Master of the Universe, "Who with great wisdom conducts the passage of time," do for us what we ask in the Selichot Prayers, "Ata Takum TeRachem Zion, Ki Es L'Chenena, Ki Va Moed," "Arise and have mercy on Zion, for her time for Divine grace has come, for the appointed season has arrived."
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU[http://188.8.131.52/footer.html]