Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts on Yom Kippur (courtesy of R' Frand)

Tonight I attended an airing of Rabbi Frand's Teshuva Drasha. The topic of the drasha was "The Yamim Noraim - Getting our Priorities Straight." The shiur had been originally given on Sunday in connection with Just One Life (an extremely worthy charity). I have attempted to summarize some of the hour long shiur in this post. As always, any perceived inconsistencies are the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

R' Frand started by discussing the sei'r hamishtale'ach (commonly known as the scapegoat). He talked about the uniqueness of this sacrifice as it did not have a shechita, a zevicha and was not brought on an altar. He said in the name of the Klei Yakar that the sei'r was tied to Esau (who was known as an ish sei'r) and that the sacrifice was connected to Esau because Esau is involved in all of our sins.

R' Frand also mentioned (although I did not catch the source) that the "ish itti" who accompanied the animal was someone who was known to be seriously ill and would not live out the year.

R' Frand then gave an insight into the connection by quoting to a Tanna D'vei Eliyahu which told the following midrash. When Ya'acov and Esau were in the womb they had a conversation about what was awaiting them. Ya'acov said that there are two worlds, a physical and a spiritual. The physical world (Olam Hazeh) was eating, drinking and material possessions. The spiritual world (Olam Haba) was devoid of such things.

Ya'acov and Esau agreed that Esau would receive the Olam Hazeh and that Ya'acov would be entitled to the Olam Haba. This deal was consummated at the selling of the bechorah. Later, Esau met Ya'acov and saw that he had four wives, many children and flocks of animals. He said to Ya'acov - but the physical world was meant for me! Ya'acov responded that these things are only here to help me get to the spiritual world, they are a means and not an end.

R' Frand then mentioned a personal mashal to show how we sometimes lose sight of what's important. He said that when his first child was fifteen months, R' Frand and his wife bought him a toy truck as a chanukah present. When they gave their son the wrapped present, he tore open the wrapping paper and began to play with the box instead of the truck. Try as they might, the child could not be coaxed to play with the truck, as he wanted the box.

R' Frand equated this to our fixation on the physical aspects of this world and ignoring the fact that they were only a means. There were a number of great stories and examples which I will unfortunately have to skip as I am short on time. One that I do want to mention is that he said that people are into "window treatments." He said that when he was growing up you had shades, blinds, curtains or drapes. But now, people spend fortunes on window treatments - are the windows sick?

R' Frand also made reference to the b'nei gad and reuven who wanted to stay on the other side of the Jordan River. He cited to their request to Moshe - we want to build pens for our sheep and cities for our children they said to Moshe. Moshe was incredulous. Do you prioritize your sheep over children by mentioning them first?

But the question can be asked - would any parent really value their sheep more than their child? The answer of course is no, but the form of the request shows that they were being influenced by the physical world of Esau, even though they would never actual make such a choice.

R' Frand then mentioned how Esau got his hooks into us. He talked about the famous battle between Ya'acov and Saro Shel Esau which is discussed in Parshas Vayishlach. The Torah states "Va'yaar ki lo yachol lo" - Esau saw that he could not defeat Ya'acov so he hit him in Ya'acov's thigh (yerech). R' Frand explained that Esau tried to get Ya'acov to value the physical world, but was unsuccessful. So he struck him in his thigh - the foundation of the body and the source of future generations. As a result, there is a tai'va for the physical in all of us.

So back to the original questions - why was the ish itti someone who was not going to live out the year? Because this person was aware that he was short on time in this world and was not going to be influenced by the physical.

R' Frand then mentioned the Zohar in discussing that Esau had left Ya'acov -- Ya'yashav Bayom Hahu Esau L'Darco (Esau on that day went back). When did Esau leave Ya'acov? On Yom Kippur at Nei'lah. R' Frand then returned to a theme from prior drashos about the difference of Nei'lah - a tefilla which contains unique prayers such as Ata Nosein Yad L'psohim (you, Hashem give a hand to the sinners) and that we ask to be saved from Oshek yadeinu. R' Frand asked - do we really steal and therefore we need to ask for forgiveness from theft? In most cases no. Rather, we are afflicted with the sickness of the physical world which impacts our actions in many ways. For some, our desire for the physical will drive us to steal. For others, it will impact the way that we treat others or prioritize our needs. When does this influence of Esau leave us? When we daven Nei'lah and ask to be released from these wrongful priorities.

R' Frand closed with a quote from R' Chatzkel Levenstein. He said that R' Chatzkel once gave a shmuz in which he talked about Hollywood. In the shmuz he said that there is a place where actors and actresses make great sums of money. But what do they say when an actor dies? Do they stand at the open grave and say he was handsome? Or that she owned many cars or he owned many houses? No, they discuss how the actor honored his parents or never forgot a childhood friend or devoted time to charity. Why? Because before the open grave the falsities of this world must give way to the truth of what is important in life.

Yom Kippur is that day when the cellphones are away, the TV is off and we are sitting in shul thinking about our lives. If we are worthy, we can use that opportunity to recognize that this world really is a corridor to the world to come and that the physical is merely there to get us where we need to be. If we can intenalize this we can write off the Esau influence and incorporate Ya'acov into our lives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it so much that I am going to read it to my minyan after KolNidre