Shabbat Tazria - Yom Kippur Katan 5760
"Remember for us
the Covenant of the Thirteen"
we will read Parshat Tazria. This Parshah and its frequent companion,
Parshat Metzora, both deal with
the spiritual disease called "Tzaraat," and the steps towards
purification that must be taken by one smitten with the "disease."
Our Sages teach in Masechet Arachin
15b that the primary cause of Tzaraat is "leshon hara,"
slander, a sin calculated to undermine
the fabric of society, as the slanderer asserts his superiority above
all others. Therefore, its cure
must of necessity "cut him down to size" by first isolating
him from the society that he tried to undermine,
the Community of Israel, then compromise his physical appearance by shaving
off all his bodily hair, and require of him a sacrifice that includes the
lowly bush "hyssop," symbolizing humility.
we celebrated Purim, that unusual holiday described in the Talmud as one in
which the Jew is obligated to drink alcoholic beverages to the extent that
he cannot distinguish between "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed
be Mordechai." This
obligation to "cloud one's consciousness" or "induce
forgetfulness," however it be understood and many explanations have
been offered, seems on the surface
somewhat unusual in the context of the body of obligations of Judaism, which
seem to require focused consciousness at all times!
And on the
other hand, Pesach, that great and inspiring holiday that celebrates the
Exodus of the Jewish People
from Egypt, and enables us to identify with them as they left the land of
their oppressors, accomplishes its goals also by means of food and drink:
Matzoh and Marror, the Four Cups of Wine.
Its purpose is to elevate and
sharpen our consciousness !
Purim and Pesach, on the day before Rosh Chodesh Nisan, falls "Yom
Kippur Katan," Yom Kippur "in miniature," with its own
customs: fasting and a special Service.
Now let us
be clear. Purim was established
by the "Anshei Knesset Hagedolah," at the request of Mordechai and Esther. Pesach
is one of the "Three Regalim," the three Pilgrim Festivals mandated
by the Torah. And Yom
Kippur Kattan is only a "Minhag," a custom, and its observance,
especially in our times, is rather spotty.
existence of the Minhag does reflect a specific desire, or intention, on the
part of the ones who established it. On
the surface level, one might say that it represented a withdrawal from the
physical - from all the food and drink.
But deeper than the issue of food and drink, was and is the desire to
have a day dedicated to Repentance and Atonement.
the Torah , which set the basic calendar of the Jewish People, felt that one
set of "Yamim Noraim," High Holy Days, were sufficient, and would
suffice for the entire year. But
maybe those who set up the Minhag of Yom Kippur Kattan felt that Yom Kippur
was too far away, and invented "Yom Kippur Kattan" to assuage that
Here at the
OU, we observed a special service on Yom Kippur Kattan, dedicated to
Repentance and Atonement, but also to offer prayers for the thirteen Jews
imprisoned in Iran on false charges of espionage for Israel and the United
States. That charge in Iran, if
"proved" (and where the Judge is the same as the Prosecutor, that
hardly seems in doubt), the penalty is death.
One of my
colleagues at the OU remarked that the expression "Zechor lanu brit
shlosh esray," "Remember for us the covenant of the
Thirteen," which always refers to the Thirteen Attributes of G-d, has
taken on a new meaning this year - the Year
of the Thirteen Imprisoned Jews.
written by Betty Ehrenberg, Director for the OU of the Department of
International and Communal Affairs was read, to add to the level of "hitorerut,"
involvement. It apprised us of
the most recent developments in Iran and concluded with "May Hashem
hear our prayers and bring about the swift return of our brothers to their
I would like
to translate a small portion of the Service that was held, beginning with
parts of "Tehilim"/Psalm 102:
Prayer of the afflicted, when he faints, and pours out his troubles before
Hashem, 'Hashem, hear my prayer, and let my cry reach You, hide not Your
Face from me in the day of my
distress. Listen to me on the
day that I call; hurry to answer me. For
my days are consumed like smoke
You will arise, and have compassion upon
Zion, for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come.' "
I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars,
that You have established; What
is man, that You remember him? And
the son of man, that You even notice him?
Yet You have made him only a little lower than the angels, and
crowned him with glory and honor
part of any Atonement Service is the "Viduy," the Confession
before G-d. I would like to
translate part of the Viduy composed by the RAN, Rabbeinu Nissim of Gerona,
who lived in the fourteenth century, which is incorporated into the Yom
Kippur Kattan Service. But
first it is necessary to explain briefly three references made by the RAN in
The first is
the "Ba BaMachteret," the "Thief who is caught in the
Tunnel" leading into the house in the dark of night.
He shows by his actions that he
is afraid of man, but not afraid of G-d.
It is also assumed, unless there is specific reason to invalidate the
assumption, such as if the thief is the father, and the victim is the son,
that the thief has the intention of killing the owner of the house, if he is
caught. Therefore, we say
regarding him "He who comes to kill you, kill him first."
reference is to the "ben sorrer u'moreh," the child who has gone
completely amok. In fact, one
opinion in the Talmud is that the definition of the "ben sorrer u'moreh"
requires him to be so evil that it is impossible for the case ever to have
arisen. In any case he is
killed by the Jewish Court to prevent the emergence of the Monster he would
reference is from the Laws of Claims in the Monetary Realm. The "Kofer HaKol," denies the charge completely.
He says the loan, for example, never happened.
He is allowed by the Jewish Court to leave without paying a penny (or
a Shekel, or whatever), based on the principle of "Hamotzi me-chaveiro
alav ha-raayah," meaning that the one who wishes to extract money from
his neighbor has to prove his case. On
the other hand, the "Modeh," the one who admits that the loan
occurred, has to pay the entire amount.
of the Universe, before I utter a word, let me admit that I have nothing to
say, nor am I so brazen as to
raise my head, for since my sins are too numerous to be counted, and the
list of my errors too long to
describe, they are a load too heavy for me to bear.
I admit before You, my L-rd, with bowed head, and bent posture, and
with crushed pride, weakness of strength, a broken heart and a humble
don't have the words to admit my guilt before You, my sins are too great for
me to bear, my errors too long to describe, I am ashamed and embarrassed, as
a thief caught in a tunnel."
can I approach You, what healing can I request?
I have been like a "ben
sorrer u'moreh," a completely rebellious child, like a slave who
rebels against his master, as a student who dares dispute his teacher.
That which You declared pure, I have declared impure; that which You
declared impure, I declared pure. That
which You permitted, I have prohibited; that which You prohibited, I
permitted. That which You
loved, I hated; that which You hated, I loved.
That which You treated lightly, I treated stringently; that which You
treated stringently, I treated lightly.
That which You drew near, I pushed away; that which You pushed away,
I drew near. But
I didn't mean to make you angry!"
of the Universe, not for myself alone do I pray and admit guilt; for in
behalf of myself and in behalf of all Your Congregation who stand before
You. And even though I am not worthy and lack the merit to confess even for
myself, and certainly not for
others. But I rely on Your firm
practice to withhold Your anger, and Your Characteristic of "passing
over lightly" things which would anger You, and Your custom of having
mercy on all Your creatures."
of the Universe, the Custom of Your Righteous Court is not like the practice
of earthly courts. For the
characteristic of human beings is that if one makes a monetary demand upon
another, if the accusation is completely denied, the accused is freed from
having to pay anything. And if
he admits, he is required to pay. But
in Your Righteous Court, it is not so.
Rather, if one denies his guilt, woe to him and woe to his soul; but if
he confesses, and changes his ways, You take pity on him."
The names of
the thirteen Iranian Jews who are in mortal danger, and for whom we are
asked to say Tehilim, preferably Chapters 130, 121, 20, 120, 142, are as
Asher ben Saltana
Naser ben Poran
Farhad ben Hamedam
Ramin ben Minzal
Javid ben Mochtaram
Navid Navir Balazadeh
Obligation "Do not stand idly by your brother's blood" (Vayikra
19:16) would seem to require at least some action by us in their behalf,
like contacting our Congress-persons, etc.
If you have any questions, please call 212-613-8124.
In a similar
(horrible pun) vein, one might telephone Debbie Jacobson, at 914-354-0379,
with regard to the urgent need of platelets donated from people with O+
blood-type for her brother, David Rapp, 35, from Lawrence, New York, who was
recently diagnosed with leukemia.
in Kiddush HaChodesh for Chodesh Nisan, the Month of Redemption, we asked
the Master of the Universe to gather our People from all over the World, and
help us to become "chaverim," loving friends, with each other.
May this process begin "b'chipazon d'geulah," with the
haste of redemption, as we hurriedly help each other prepare for the
glorious Holiday of Pesach.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU