In lieu of a "Rosh Hashanaah Message" this year, I am posting a few short and light Divrei Torah I created that pertain to Yomim Noraim:
1) Teshuva M’Yirah turns your aveiros into Shogeeim.
Question: Why shogegim?
My answer: Because someone who does Teshuva M’yirah doesn’t really regret that he did an aveirah – he regrets that he incurred a punishment – his “yirah” is fear of getting punished – the aveirah in and of itself is not his issue. Therefore, Hashem removes the punishment , but leaves him with the aveirah. An aveirah that comes without a punishment – that’s the status of a shogeg.
2) Teshuva Gemmurah
The Rambam writes that a “complete” Teshuva (i.e. a higher level of Teshuva) takes place only when a person relives the previous situation in which he sinned – finds himself alone witht eh same woman he sinned with, in the same place, with the same desire – and refrains. Question: How wxactly does this experience enhance a person;s Teshiva? After one regrets his deed and commits not to repeat it, what precisely does this experience add to the Teshuva process?
My answer: The point of this experience is not to test him with the same level of Nisayon, but rather to show him that the first time he did the aveirah he no excuse. Sometimes a person does regret the sin he did, but still harbors doubts in his mind as to his ability to have been able to refrain. He may say “I really regret what I did, but you know, it was really hard not to”. To totally rid himself of this attitude, he goes through the exact same experience again, and refrains – if there is any way to distinguish ofrdifferentiate between the circumstances he is in now and the time he did the aveirah, then it does nto filfull the criter of oso isha osos perek oso medinah etc; - he relives the past experience and sees that he refrained this time, which emans that the first time he did it, he indeed could have resisted as well. This intensifies – or, “completes” in the language of the Rambam – his regret of his past deed.
3) On Rosh Hashanah, Tzadikim are inscribed for life; Reshaim for death; Beinonim are deferred until Yom Kipur. If they do Teshuva, they get life, if not, then death.
Rav Yisroel Salanter asks: In the dyas between RH and Yom Kippur, the Benoni could have done so many more Mitzvos than aveiros, thus tipping the scales and changing his status from a Beinoni to a Tzadik by the time Yom Kippur arrives. Yet form the Gemora is seems that no matter how many more Miztvos you do and how big a Tzadik you become, if you do not do Teshuva, you get death. Why? (Rav Yisroel Salanter answers that the aveirah of not doing Teshuva is so sever that it outweighs all the Mitzvos a person can possibly do).
My answer: The judgment on Rosh Hashanah is based on what you did the past year. That decides whether you live or die. Any subsequent Mitzvos and aveiros you do, even if they are done durng aseres yemei teshuva, go on the scale of next year’s judgment. Once the year is up, so is oyur chance to change. The only thing that can save you after Rosh Hashanah is something that goes back in time and retroactively erases the past aveiros that you did during the prior year. That is Teshuva. Everything else you do goes on next year’s reckoning.
4) Hachzireinu B’teshuva Sheleimah Lifonecha
Question: Of all the 613 Mitzvos, why is it that the only specific Mitzvah that we pray to Hashem to give us is Teshuva. We do pray in general to serve Hashem, but here we have a specific action – Teshuva – singled out as a special prayer. Why is Teshuva unique in that it deserves a special prayer outside of the general prayers that we say to serve Hashem?
Another question: in this prayer, we do not ask for just “Teshuva”. We ask for “teshuva sheleimah”. What is “incomplete teshuva” that we need to specify that we want “teshuva sheleimah”
My answer (which starts with one more question): The Rambam writes that in order to “Teshuva Gemurah” you have to be in the exact same position you were in the first time, with the exact same woman the sin was done with,. However, the Rambam also wrotes in the next Halachah that a Baal Teshuva is supposed to stay far, far away from the thing he sinned with. So if the Baal Teshuva is supposed to stay far away form that woman, and women in general, how in the world is he ever going to get to do Teshuva Gemurah?
The answer is, it is clear from here that Teshuva Gemurah , although great merit, is only obtainable as a gift form G-d, and is not something we are allowed to pursue on our own. On the contrary – our responsibility is to run away from the circumstances that caused us to sin. If, despite his efforts, he finds himself in the unwelcome circumstances of being tempted again, then, he resists and he gets Teshuva Gemurah.
Support for this: As part of the circumstance needed for Teshuva Gemurah, the Rambam includes the person being in Yichud with the same woman. Certainly the Rambam is not suggesting that a person purposely put himself in Yichud with the woman, for that would be assur. Rather, the Rambam is describing a situation that happened not by your design by accident. So it is no big chidush that just as you are supposed to avoid Yishud with the woman yet it is a requirement for Teshuva Gemurah, so too you are supposed to avoid all contact her altogether, and yet that contact can still be a requirement for Teshuva Gemurah.
What comes out is, Teshuva Gemurah is unique among Mitzvos in that even though it is a great merit, we are not allowed to pursue it. In fact, we are obligated to run away from it, even if we know we can resist the temptaiton. Only Hashem can grant it to us in His benevolence, despite our best efforts.
Therefore, we pray to Hashem, Hachazireinu beteshuva sheleimah lifonechah – Hashem, please give me the great merit of Teshuva Gemurah, because I am not allowed to pursue it on my own. This one merit, I cannot try to obtain. Only You can give it to me.
That’s why we pray for not plain Teshuva, but Teshuva sheleimah, and only for Teshuva Sheleimah. Because everything else we can pursue on our own. This can only come from Hashem.
5) Stolen Shofar
The Rambam rules that if you steal a Shofar and blow it, you fulfill the Mitzvah of Shofar and it is not considered Mitzvah Habah Baveirah because in order to disqualify a Mitzvah due to Mitzvah Habah Baveirah, the actual “cheftza d’mitzvah” has to eb stolen, meaning, the item through which the Mitzvah is accomplished, and that item in this case is not the Shofar itself, but the sound of the shofar – the mitzvah is to ehar the sound of the shofar. The shofar itself is only a tool to manufacture the cheftza dmitzva – the sound – but it is not the cheftza dmitzva itself. And since the sound was not stolen but the shofar itself – you cant really “steal” a sound as it is an abstract entity - there is no issue of mitzvah habah baveirah here.
To this, the Raavad adds a cryptic statement (which comes from the Yerushalmi):
“Even if you were able to steal the sound, ‘yom teruah yihiyeh lachem’ nevertheless”.
Question: What does the Raavd mean by this?
My answer: The Rambam separated the status of the Shofar from that of its sound – the sound is what makes you fulfill the Mitzvah, whereas the Shofar is just a tool to generate the sound. The Raavad is taking that one step further: It says nowhere in the Torah that you have to hear any sound. What it says is that Rosh Hashanah should be “a day of blowing for you” – the Mitzvah is to transform the day into a “day of blowing”. Thus, it is neither the Shofar nor the sound that is the cheftz dmitzvah. – the day itself is the cheftza demitzvah. Both the shofar and the sound are tools to make the day into “yom teruah”. Therefore, when the Rambam says that a stolen shofar is kosher because you cant steal the sound, the Raavad comments: Even if you could steal a sound, it would nto matter, because “yom teruah yihiyeh lachem mikol makom” – even if the sound would be stolen, the day would not be stolen, and the day would be considered a Yom Teruah regardless.