Friday, August 16, 2013

HILKHOT TESHUBA 1:1: to be or not to be specific?

Maimonides explains that the commandment of Teshuba is fulfilled when we recite the Viduy.  Viduy is the verbal confession of our transgressions, while feeling regret and shame for the wrong things we have done.

The Viduy/confession is done privately. We do not disclose our sins in front of other people or a minister, but only in front of God. Whispering the confession to ourselves.

There is a discussion in the Talmud (Rabbi Yehuda ben Baba vs. Rabbi Aqiba) if one needs to specify his or her wrongdoings or one can just state in general terms that he has acted wrongly. It is similar to the situation we would face when we want to apologize to someone we have offended: should we apologize mentioning the specifics of our wrongdoing or should we just say a general "I'm sorry for what I have done to you "?

According to the Shulhan Arukh it is not necessary to mention every specific sin that one has committed. This leniency aims specifically at not discouraging a person who wants to repent. Since he might not be capable --or courageous enough-- to recalling the particulars of his wrong behavior. A general confession facilitates the process of Teshuba.  

Maimonides, however, rules like the first opinion and indicates that one should mention in his private confession everything wrong he has done. Teshuba 1:1, "and then one shall confess, I have done so and so...".

If we wish to follow Maimonides opinion we need to apply ourselves to a deep process of introspection. Exercising our memory and struggling against our impulses of denial and self advocacy. While reviewing our past actions it might help to write down all misdeeds we can remember. Including obviously, unpaid debts and apologies we owe to our peers. 

In the context of Maimonides opinion the text of the Viduy --the one we say for Selihot, for example-- should be seen as a reminder of the points we should recall, repent for, and hopefully correct.

This challenging spiritual/ethical/intellectual activity cannot be done overnight. We dedicate to it forty days, from the beginning of Elul until Yom Kippur: the day we devote ourselves entirely and exclusively to the exercise of Teshuba/Viduy.

Shabbat Shalom!

Candle lighting in NYC:       7:33 pm
Shabbat ends in NYC:           8:32 pm

Here's my list. I invite readers to suggest other examples that particularly irk them. 
by  David A Harris

Thursday, August 15, 2013

HILKHOT TESHUBA 1:1. Teshuba and "Chutzpa".

The rabbis considered 'shame' (busha) as one of the three components of the Jewish ethico-genetical makeup. Together with the practice of benevolence (gemilut hasadim) and compassion (rahmanut). The Rabbis went as far as to say that presumably, whoever does not posses the trait of shame "his ancestors did not stand at Mt. Sinai" (an euphemism to say that he might not be ethnically Jewish).

Besides seeing "shame" as an innate condition of the Jewish character--in complete contradiction with the alleged Jewish 'chuptza'-- the Rabbis explained that "shame" is a prerequisite for a perfect Teshuba (repentance).

Maimonides writes that when a man or a woman commits a sin... "they shall confess [or articulate] the sin they have done... by saying, `O Lord, I have sinned, I have transgressed and rebelledin front of You. I have done such and-such. And I am ashamed of my actions,  and I regret them and I will never do them again'."

Besides the confession, the regret and the resolutions, etc., the feeling of shame is a critical step for a sincere process of Teshuba.


Because unlike guilt, which is a private feeling, shame consists in the uncomfortable sensation of knowing that our flaws and misdeeds are known to others.   Feeling 'shame' while articulating our sins in front of God means therefore that we really realize God's Presence!  

Allow me to explain: God is invisible. It is extremely challenging to be aware of His constant presence. Therefore, we are not easily ashamed of doing something wrong in front of God (=privately) as we are naturally ashamed of doing something wrong in front of other people. Now, feeling embarrassed of our transgressions in front of God means that we have achieved an elevated level of closeness to God. It means that we are certain of His existence and that His presence is so real to us as the presence of other people (Remember what Rabbi Yohanan said on his deathbed?  יהי רצון שתהא מורא שמים עליכם כמורא בשר ודם ) .  The higher the state of our awareness of God's presence, the higher the feeling of shame we feel when we confess in front of God. And vice-versa.  

WATCH and understand the new normal of Europe 
The Horrific Muslim Infiltration Of Britain - Luton 2012
The Muslim Infiltration Of Britain - Luton 2012

Monday, August 12, 2013

The # 1 Mitzva of the Tora

The first Mitzva of the Tora and the first blessing given by haShem to humankind is to marry and have children. Genesis 1:28 says: "And God blessed them [Adam and Eve] and God said to them, reproduce and multiply, fill the earth and be its master".  

The Rabbis of the Mishna debated on the point at which the Mitvza of having children is considered fulfilled.

Bet-Shamai said that this Mitzva is fulfilled by having two boys. Same as Adam and Eve who, at the beginning, brought two boys to the world: Cain and Abel.

Bet-Hillel, however, says that this Mitzvah is not considered fulfilled until one has at least a boy and a girl. Because this is how God created the first prototype of humankind:  one man and one woman. 

The Rabbis resolved the discussion ruling like Bet-Hillel. 

Why? Among other things because the first word of this commandment peru literally means: to "reproduce". A husband and a wife must first produce a replica of themselves, i.e.,  a man and a woman. Leaving in the world the same number and kind of lives that God originally planted on this planet.  

One more thing: although the Mitzvah of peru urbu is fulfilled by having a boy and a girl the Rabbis said that it is a great merit to have as many children as one can. This guidance can be learned from the second word of this Mitzva:  urbu which means: "multiply". The first word "reproduce" means bringing to the world a replica of yourselves, the second word "multiply" means to increase yourselves by "bringing into this world more lives than yourselves".

Obviously this Mitzva is not exclusively in our hands. To fulfill this Mitzva one first has to get married. And then the spouses need the most beautiful gift of HaShem: the blessing of having children.

In honor of the wedding of my daughter Mijal Bitton and her fiancee Sion Setton.

See how HASHEM blesses Medinat Israel

How Israel is making a world of difference.