Confused and Comatose

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13 Sep 2021
Yom Kippur

Naaleh_logo Shiur provided courtesy of

Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

The last sin that we pronounce in our list of our confession, of our Al Chets, is “for the sin that we have sinned before You btimhon leivov/through confusion of the heart.” What does “confusion of the heart” mean? Artscroll explains it as a failure to understand why troubles happen, a doubting of faith and of the validity of the Torah and its applicability to modern times. Rabbi Meislisch clarifies this idea and extends it to mean a lack of faith not only in Torah, but in God Himself, viewing all that happens as natural occurrences.

The term itself is found in the Torah in the rebuke of Parshat Ki Tavo, reminds us Rabbi Rothberg. It refers to a clogged, stopped up heart. Since this is the final sin of the list in our confession, we must consider it some form of conclusion that encapsulates and brings closure to the entire list of sins. Because true teshuvah does not stop at expressing regret but requires us to commit to avoiding the sin in the future, it behooves us to really understand this phrase, this sin.

One of the clearest and strongest messages for teshuvah appears in the prophecy of Hoshea, in the verse that forms the basis of of the Haftorah for the Shabbos between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: “Shuvah Yisrael ad Hashem elokhecha ki koshalta be’avonecha/Return Yisroel [up/until] to Hashem your God for you have stumbled in your sins.” Rabbi Scheinerman explains that we need to return to the full belief until Hashem is truly your God, that there is nothing else. This is the natural state of our hearts. If we are not in that state, it is because our hearts have become clogged up through sin. By doing teshuvah, we apply Drano and remove all the debris caused by sin, we open our hearts up again to the full flow of Godliness within us. Teshuvah for the confusion of the heart therefore sums up teshuvah for all the sins, known and unknown, to which we are confessing.

Every person is born with an innate belief in God, like the instinct of a bird to build a nest. But that instinct can be corrupted through the human emotions of ta’avah/desires and ga’avah/pride, arrogance. It is not false beliefs that lead to sin, but desires that go counter to Torah precepts. Denying God’s rulership is the rationalization we use to convince ourselves that we are doing nothing wrong, explains Rabbi Wolfson in Wellsprings of Faith. This attitude blinds us to recognizing God in every aspect of nature, from the beauty of a fruit to the scurrying of the squirrel, adds Rabbi Schmeltzer. From there, we easily move to attributing everything that happens to coincidence rather than to God. It is when we attribute everything to happenstance rather than to God’s will that Hashem may bring about calamitous situations in an attempt to wake us up from our cold, uninvolved relationship with Him, notes the Rambam.

So many things happen by “chance,” but ‘chance” is ultimately coordinated by Hakodosh Boruch Hu. When Ruth “chanced” upon the field of Boaz, it was Hashem sowing the seed for the Jewish monarchy. [When Eliezer asks Hashem to coincidentally have the right girl come out, appropriate to be the bride of Yitzchak, Eliezer knew that Hashem could and would coordinate the event. CKS] Sometimes we recognize Hashem’s hand in meeting the right person at the right time, in even small “coincidences”. Instead of attributing it to luck [How lucky, you just saved me a phone call], attribute the fortuitous meeting to Hashem’s easing your path, writes Chochmat Hamatzpun.

Don’t get jealous of the rich man you are passing. Realize that wealth does not translate to joy, and wealth itself is transitory. You cannot take it with you when you pass from this world. If you are jealous of the good he can do with his money, you must realize that you can do so much good with what you do have, from giving with kind words, teaching Torah, or a myriad other acts of chesed. It is indeed these kinds of giving, not just financial, that leads one to acquire true wealth, wealth that he can take with him, writes Rabbi Pliskin. It is the spiritual wealth that has lasting value, not the glitter of gold. Wisdom is recognizing true value in the world.

The desire for wealth and honor blinds us and causes confusion of the heart. While we are meant to work, we must not confuse our effort with the achieved results. Results are in the control of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, and how much material wealth we will have is determined on Rosh Hashanah, as are the results in every aspect of our lives, notes R. Yechezkel Levenstein.  Focus needs to be on acquiring spiritual wealth as we prepare for Yom Tov. While it is indeed necessary to shop and cook, we must still take time to think of how we can repair the failed recipes we’ve fed our spirits.

We sleepwalk through life, oblivious to our sins. How many times do we speak without being aware they are words of loshon horo, for example? The shofar blasts of Rosh Hashanah are wake up calls. But all year long we should heed the messages that are meant to wake us up, writes Rabbi Rothberg in Moda Labinah. The mezuzah on our doorpost should remind us that Hashem is knocking on our door, rousing us from our slumber while our hearts are still awake to His call. Rabbi Wolbe notes that the Rambam would pause to acknowledge Hashem every time he kissed the mezuzah. The mezuzah, like the recitation of blessings, are meant to keep us constantly awake and aware of Hashem’s constant presence.

We are awake but in a deep trance-like state, a state of being in a zone of mindless action. Therefore, it is not enough just to continue to do more mindlessly; one must wake up and act purposefully, writes Rabbi Bernstein. Find in the call of the shofar the light of Hashem. Rabbi Weissblum, citing the Chovos Halevovos, notes that the yetzer horo wants to keep us in this trance-like state. He is like the sandman, hoping to sprinkle sleeping potion into our psyches so that we may be davening, but are actually sleep talking, or doing even other mundane activities in this state. For example, how often when we are we driving, do we arrive at our destination, and wonder how we got here? How many times do we enter a room and forget why we went there?

Our brains must take control. Our intellect is the spiritual half of us that must control our animal-like body, writes the Ohr Yechezkel. Hashem created us with the ability to think. In A New Approach to Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur, Rabbi Berkowitz develops this idea more fully. We are indeed a physical body, just as are the animals. This is our nefesh component. But Hashem breathed into us a neshamah, part of Himself, which Rabbi Berkowitz defines as the logical, discerning mind, the voice of reason. We are preprogramed with this knowledge while still in the womb, a knowledge of self that is completely aligned with Hashem. While the nefesh is how the yetzer horo communicates with us, Hashem communicates with us through our neshamah. It is up to us to choose which voice we listen to. We determine whether we identify primarily as a body with neshamah included, or as a neshamah housed in the body.

We are in this constant struggle, writes Rabbi Weissblum, and we must remain constantly aware and on alert. We begin by focusing on one area to act as our alarm clock. From there we can prime ourselves to see Hashem’s hand in everything, and we can approach each mitzvah with excitement, writes Rabbi Egbi. That excitement will keep us awake and ready to reciprocate God’s love for me.  We ask Hashem to help us awaken from the slumber of our hearts, to create potions to keep me awake in both aspects of self and heart. May we live the coming year fully awake, with our hearts open to receive Hashem’s messages and to reciprocate His love for us through living the life He expects of us.

Gmar chatimah tovah.