Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Call to Teshuva - From Derashot Layamim Hanoraim, pp. 19-20
The gemara (Chagiga 15a) relates the following story. R. Meir said to his former teacher, Elisha ben Avuya (known as Acher), who had become an apostate: “You too return (do teshuva).” Acher responded: “So have I heard from behind the partition: ‘Return wayward sons except for Acher.’”
What do we make of this story? How could it be that Acher heard a bat kol (voice of Divine origin) that said that everyone could do teshuva and that the same bat kol said that he could not? He saw and understood the terrible situation that all who were stuck in the mud and filth of sin were in. He heard that every sinner, despite his situation of being in the gates of impurity, still has an opening to return, yet only he, of all people, had no way back. He had to drink from the cup of poison to the end and be doomed. It is also strange that Acher accepted this decree without even appealing it.
It seems that this bat kol, whose first part is true and whose second part is deceptive, is the lot of sinners in general, not just Acher. Whoever wallows in the filth of sin sees it as a path that leads only to death. Despite this fact, he sees that others are capable of extricating themselves. Only when it comes to himself, does the sinner think that there is no return. It does not occur to him that if there is teshuva in the world, then it applies to him also, for there are no exceptions. He does not take the opportunity to realize that if he just applies himself to the effort to do teshuva, he too will succeed in having Hashem accept it.
He does not realize that the defeatist attitude is part of the working of the yetzer hara. Not only does it inject the foolish idea of sinning, prior to its commission, but it also creates the illusion afterward that he is an exception to the rule of the possibility to repent. The yetzer hara creates the illusion that the gates of teshuva are sealed before him.
Every sin creates for the sinner an illusion of ropes that tie him down and leave him no choice but to continue on the path upon which he set out. It seems to him that the conditions under which he leads his life, the friends with whom he associates, the way people look at him, and his past actions necessarily mold his future so that it resembles his past. How can he change? How can he turn his back on his friends with whom only yesterday he “partied” wildly? How can he deny the words that he said yesterday, when he spoke with such haughtiness and disregard, and divorce himself from such behavior and become a changed person?
Even for someone who looks to sin, the path toward repentance is still open. The sinner, like Acher, is aware of that as he heard that others are invited to return. He only does not hear when it comes to himself. The original inspiration to act comes from the person himself. We have to learn that the ropes and chains that appear to be tying down our hands are only false illusions. If we try to break them, we will find that they are no thicker than spider webs.
“Seek Hashem when He is found”- these are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. There are no days that are as conducive for teshuva as these. Let us see this imperative as one that is addressed to us and rip off the fake bonds. Let us pray from the depths of the heart: “Return us in a full repentance before You.”
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z"l.May their memory be a blessing!