Shabbos Parshas Shoftim
Tiere Reb Pinchas, Askonim, Family & Friends Sheyichyu
שלום וברכה 😊
Boruch Hashem I was Zoicheh to a big Neis this week. I received Hashem’s permission to visit Eretz Yisroel, so I also received the permission of the relevant authorities down here. They even exerted themselves to ensure that I got my passport - it was a fulfillment of the Possuk “Gam Oyvov Yashlim Itoi“- Also his adversaries will make peace with him, becoming allies.
Here is another excerpt from a letter on Elul and the Parsha from the collection of letters my devoted children are preparing in gratitude to Klal Yisroel, originally sent 5776:
Our Parsha, Shoftim, begins with the Mitzvah to appoint "Shoftim Veshotrim" - but they have to be ones who will implement true justice and not the opposite!
Since you and Shmuly asked me to share stories, here goes:
This Water is Too Salty
Koshering meat involves water and salt. Last week, the story was about water - this week it is about the salt. The more stories you hear about the history of the community and the company in “that city” the more you realize that what eventually unfolded was not out of character at all!
Initially, Eisav’s Einiklach did not fully understand what went into producing Kosher meat. When they realized the importance of salt to the Kosher process, they hatched a plan to stop the "Jewish" plant!
My father, Zol Zain Gezunt, had hired a general manager. One day, this manager received a letter from the city. In the letter was the result of the cities monthly laboratory test of the plant’s wastewater. According to the results, that month there had been a violation: excessive amounts of sodium (salt) in the water.
Initially, the general manager thought it was a fluke, but he received the same notice of violation the next month, and the next, and the next! This was an issue. He discussed this with the managers and they brought the problem to my father. No one could understand why the sodium levels were suddenly so high! My father hired a specialist to study the use of salt at the plant. The specialist came to the “surprising” recommendation: the plant needed to reduce the amount of salt it was using!
The plant did everything it could do to keep the salt out of the wastewater, but because of the critical importance of salt to the Kashering process there was no way to reduce the amount of salt without reducing the amount of Kosher meat it produced!
There’s No Way the Water is Too Salty
One day, I overheard the general manager on the phone with the specialist about the yet another violation letter from the city! The city had also begun fining the company $10,000 each month!
I could hear that he was exasperated and out of ideas, so I asked him if I could speak to the specialist. He was happy to hand over the phone. The specialist explained to me that the problem was identified on one line of the lab report which listed the number of milligrams of sodium per 100,000 gallons of water. According to their report, the wastewater from plant exceeded the allowable number of milligrams.
A milligram is a very small amount, especially given that we dealt with salt in the tens of thousands of pounds, and, as the saying goes: "5 out of 4 people have difficulty with fractions." :)
It was difficult to get a handle on it, but I tried, and suddenly Hashem gave me the idea to ask if they could reverse the math and figure out, based on the milligrams per 100,000 gallons, how much salt at the start would result in that amount in the wastewater.
"Sure," he said, “a very simple calculation. I’ll call you back shortly.”
Boruch Hashem, twenty minutes later he called back with his number. I don’t remember the precise numbers, but let’s say, for the sake of the story, that he said 40,000 pounds. This was all I needed to hear. I immediately knew that (surprise!) the lab tests were false and fabricated.
How did I know? Simple! I knew how much salt the plant was buying every month! There simply was nowhere near the amount of salt in the plant to result in that much salt in the water!!
Again, I don’t remember the precise numbers, but let’s say the plant bought and used only 20,00 pounds a month, how could the lab find what adds up to 40,000 pounds of salt in the water? It was twice as much as we started with - an impossibility!
No one assumes the “Heilikeh” scientists could be wrong, or worse, lying, so the specialist’s first thought was that perhaps the plant had purchased more salt in some months. I invited him to review all the salt purchases for the last 9-12 months! He could no longer doubt what I was saying: the amounts of salt the city was claiming we were putting in the water had never been in the plant, never mind in the water! The city's lab was falsifying the tests to hurt the Jewish plant’s ability to produce and to stack up fines of $10,000 a month.
Turns Out the Water is Not Too Salty
At first, the city manager insisted to the specialist hat his lab’s process was accurate, but when the specialist showed him there was never that much salt purchased, proving the city's test results were falsified to hurt the Jewish plant!
It took a few months, but finally the city manager sent a letter saying there was some mistake and they also removed the fines. By Hashem's infinite mercy the Jewish plant was saved from the Goyim and was able to continue to grow!
Of course, their plotting against the Yidden continued, as Chazal tell us "Halacha BiYodua Eisav Soineh Leyaakov" and as their unbridled hatred for the Yid became more and more revealed, true “Mehadrim” in this Halacha as the whole world eventually saw!
The Baal Shem Tov teaches us that from everything we see and hear we need to learn a lesson in our Avodas Hashem.
One obvious lesson: "Shoftim Veshotrim" must be only those who do true justice, not those who are blinded by their hate for the Yid!
Another lesson: even the very small "milligrams" have great significance! Our small actions in doing Mitzvos are very significant, and we also need to correct even the small negative things!
What Teshuva Is… and What It Isn’t
Since we are now in the month of Elul, the month of Teshuva, we started learning the third part of the Tanya, the Igeres Hateshuvah, in the place called Prison. The Rebbe explains that the Preface of the Tanya (in which the Alter Rebbe says that he will explain in what way "Koroiv Eilecho Hadovor Meoid," the Torah is very close to you [easy]) applies to all parts of Tanya.
In Igeres Hateshuvah, the Alter Rebbe explains how doing Teshuva is easy and close for every Yid to do:
Teshuva, correctly translated, means to return to Hashem. In the month of Elul, we are given the extra Koach we need to do Teshuva and it’s through the Teshuva we do in Elul that we prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashanah, when we are inscribed for a Kesivah Vachasimah Tova Leshanah Tova U’mesukah.
It’s self-understood, that to do a Mitzvah properly we need to learn about the Mitzvah. For example, before we are able to do the Mitzvah of Tefillin, we need to learn the Halachos of Tefillin - what are Tefillin? How are they word? When are they word?
The same applies to Teshuva. To properly do the Mitzvah we need to look into the Torah to properly understand it, so let’s learn a few things about the Mitzvah of Teshuva:
There are those who mistakenly think that doing Teshuva is very difficult. They think that doing proper Teshuva means fasting, self-affliction, and relinquishing physical needs. They imagine the true Baal Teshuva is a "Holy Man." They imagine Teshuva comes along with a lot of pain and crying from the depths of their heart for the great damage the person did to himself with his sins.
In the third part of his Sefer Tanya, which focuses on Teshuva, the Alter Rebbe says otherwise. He explains that the Teshuva which creates the fundamental change in the person, changing him from a Rosha to a Tzaddik, from death to life, is something much simpler!
In the Alter Rebbe’s words: "Mitzvas Hateshuvah Min Hatorah Hee Azivas HaChait Bilvad" - The Mitzvah of Teshuva, from the Torah, is only relinquishing the sin.
As soon as the person resolves to abandon his misbehavior and to not return to the foolishness of rebelling, Chas Veshalom, against the King’s commandments, whether it be a Mitzvas Asei or the Mitzvas Loi Saaseh -
this decision in itself, this resolve - this is Teshuva!
Fixing the damage that was done by the Aveirah is actually not part of the core Mitzvah of Teshuva. Teshuva is simply recommitting to his connection with Hakadosh Boruch Hu - from this point on, he is not the same person who was not serious enough about Hashem's Mitzvos! He is a new person, a dedicated servant of the King who will do everything he is commanded and avoid behavior which displeases the King.
The decision to change his behavior going forward is what transforms the person from a Rosha to a Tzadik and breaks the "iron barrier" that separates the Rosha from his Father in Heaven.
This is an important realization. Besides allowing us to detect and reject the Yetzer Hara’s attempt at discouraging us by defining it as fasting and digging into the past, it also gives us the proper appreciation for what Teshuva is all about! It’s not cleaning up a mess in aisle 5!
Teshuva is simply and powerfully return to Hashem :) How does one return to Hashem? By doing His will, which is the Mitzvos!
Of course, after the essence of Teshuva, after the Yid has returned to Hakadosh Boruch Hu by abandoning his mistakes and doing what Hashem wants and avoiding what Hashem wants him to avoid, there is the Shleimus of Teshuva, removing the any negative effects his Aveiros may have caused. This is done through the Charatah, remorse, and saying the words of Vidui, which we say in Davening.
Teshuva in the Torah
Since the key to doing the Mitzvah properly is through learning about it in the Torah, let’s review the beginning of Igeres Hateshuvah:
The Braisoh in Yuma says “There are three types of Kaparah, which correspond to the three categories of Aveiros, and each of these require Teshuva.
If someone didn't fulfill a Mitzvas Asei (for example, he missed putting on Tefillin one day, Rachmanah Litzlan), he should do Teshuva and he is forgiven (immediately,) before he even moves from that spot.
If someone violated a Mitzvas Loi Saasei (for example, he ate something prohibited by the Torah), he should do Teshuva, and he is forgiven tentatively (he is not punished) and on Yom Kippur he is cleansed completely.
Before we the Alter Rebbe turns to the third category, he points out a possible misconception based on what the Braisoh just said.
Hearing that failing to do a Mitzvas Asei is forgiven immediately, while a Loi Saasei requires the cleansing of Yom Kippur, a person might conclude that violating the Loi Saasei was the more severe of the two. Yet, we know the rule that a Mitzvas Asei overrides a Loi Saasei. For example, when the eighth day from birth is on Shabbos, the Bris (Mitzvas Asei) is performed despite the Shabbos prohibitions this violates (Loi Saasei).
To explain these two seemingly conflicting points, the Alter Rebbe teaches us about the inner dimension of the Mitzvos. The Zohar Hakadosh calls Mitzvos "Aivorin DiMalka” - the limbs of the King. This is an analogy: Just as the 248 limbs are vehicles, vessels through which the person’s life and will are expressed, the 248 Mitzvos Asei are the vehicles, the vessels, through which the infinite light of Hashem is expressed in the world.
The Yid’s mission in life is to express and manifest Hashem’s light and desire in the world by doing the Mitzvos, which makes this world a dwelling place for Hashem, a place where Hashem is perceived through the presence of His light and the expression of His will. When the Yid puts on Tefillin, for example, he draws down the Kedushah that is linked to Tefillin, transforming himself and the world into vessels which express Hashem. This is why Hashem says that the Mitzvas Asei overrides the Loi Saasei.
What happens when a Yid misses an opportunity to do a Mitzvas Asei, Rachmanah Litzlan? That moment in time has passed. Hashem’s will, the infinite light of Hashem, was not expressed in that moment! Even when the Yid does Teshuva, firmly and sincerely resolving to never miss that opportunity again, the unique revelation that could have been expressed in that moment was not.
The quicker forgiveness is not because it is easier to fully fix the problem - it is because it is impossible to fully fix the problem! The missed opportunity might drive us to reconnect to Hashem more strongly than before, but that doesn’t make the opportunity unmissed.
In addition to the missed opportunity, there is clearly an underlying problem which caused the Yid to miss the opportunity, and that is the shortcoming in Kabolas Oil, accepting Hashem as his King. When he does Teshuva and strengthens his acceptance of the Yoke of Hashem as his King, that is immediately accepted, and Hashem forgives him on the spot. That is as much as he can do and there is nothing further to be expected from Yom Kippur etc. The absence of the G-dly Light he failed to express cannot be corrected. See how important it is that we take care to do every Mitzvah!
On the other hand, when a Yid violates a Mitzvas Loi Saasei, Rachmanah Litzlan, he is not just missing an opportunity to add light - the Aveirah causes darkness, a blemish on his soul which isolates him to some degree from Hashem and the effects of Kedushah. This is something Teshuva can at least begin to rectify.
Through Teshuva the blemish is cleansed, but it is completely removed only on Yom Kippur, when Hashem cleanses all the Aveiros of Yidden!
Yehi Ratzon from Hashem Yisbareich to give every Yid a Kesivah Vachasimah Tova Leshanah Tova U’mesukah with his and her Geulah Proti and our Geulah Kloli now with Moshiach Tzidkeinu!
A Guten Un Freilichen Shabbos Un Chodesh Elul.
Lokail Goimer Olai…
Nochoin Libi Oshiroh Vazamairoh.
Podoh Besholom Nafshi.
Besuros Tovos, Didan Notzach.
Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka Sheyichye