Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday's Thoughts on Teshuva - The R' Frand Derasha - Part I

Regular readers of this blog may recall that during the aseres yimei teshuva I try to put up additional posts with summaries of teshuva derashas. This year there will (iyh) be summaries of two derashos posted during the aseres yimei teshuva - the Rabbi Mansour Teshuva Derasha on Wednesday and the Rabbi Frand Teshuva Derasha on Thursday and Friday.

Same rules as always apply to these posts. I have attempted to reproduce portions of the shiurim to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the magidei shiur.

R' Frand started with a story about the Ponevitz yeshiva. As with many yeshivos, space was at a premium during the yomim noraim. One year, one of the administrators thought of a way to make space for the boys - section off part of the ezras nashim (women's section) and let the boys use it. R' Shach zt'l said absolutely not. He asked -- who are the women who come on the yomim noraim? Not women with young children. These were women who were widows or women who may have been childless or older women who never married. R' Shach said that the prayers of the boys on the high holidays ascended to the heavens on the backs of the prayers of these women.

R' Frand then linked this story to the Haftorah for the shabbos before Tisha B'Av wherein Isaih prophesied that Hashem will not listen to the Jews' prayers and turn away from them -- truly chilling words.

R' Frand said that this is a plague which we still suffer from today as it often seems like our prayers are not heard. R' Frand then dedicated to the shiur to how we can get out prayers listened to.

The prophecy of Isaiah offers ten steps which can be taken to bring us back to having our prayers listened to. These include cleansing one's self, stopping doing evil and more. Rashi (quoting a pesikta) explains that ten steps are connected to the ten days of repentance. The ninth step is Rivu Almana - help the widow. This is the avodah of erev Yom Kippur. If we follow the steps, Hashem will once again answer our tefillos.

R' Frand then quoted a different formula for teshuva. The Tanna Dibei Eliyahu teaches that the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur connect to the aseres hadibros. Some are easily connected - Anochi with the first day of Rosh Hashana, a day to recognize and accept Hashem as our G-d.

Using this progression, the avodah on erev Yom Kippur would connect with not bearing false witness against another Jew. But how often do we even testify against Jews that we could fix it this way? And how do these two concepts connect?

R' Frand prefaced by talking about what it means Rivu Almana. It does not only mean that we should listen and help an almana when she comes to the door to ask for money. We need to use our creativity and planning to think of innovative ways to help an almana.

R' Frand then told a story about R' Zelig Epstein zt'l (recorded by R' Mordechai Kaminetzky) who helped an almana. A couple who survived the Holocaust came to the US. Soon after, the husband took his own life. R' Zelig began to help to support the wife emotionally. But then one of her children became ill. R' Zelig helped with the treatment for the child, but the child got sicker and died on Erev Yom Kippur, so close to Yom Kippur that they could not bury before Yom Tov. On the way to shul on Yom Kippur eve, he became concerned that the woman might take her own life. He decided not to go to shul and instead to go to her home. But he also realized that it would take an hour to get there and that it might be too late. So R' Epstein went into Torah Voda'as during Shema of Ma'ariv and asked R' Yaakov Kaminetzsky can he take a bus on Yom Kippur to get to the woman's home and R' Yaakov nodded yes and pointed to the coins in his box that he was going to use for bus fare after Yom Kippur, so that R' Zelig could take them and use the bus to get to the woman. That was Rivu Almana.

R' Frand then quoted Rashi on Chumash that Almana does not only mean a widow. R' Frand said that an almana can be a person out of work for six months, or a person with a child at risk, or with a terrible disease or no child at all. Rivu Almana means step out of our box and think about someone else. For most people out of sight means out of mind, so we must expand our definition of me. He quoted R' Shimon Shkup, the ani is the person, if you are bigger it is your wife, children or neighbors. But if you are a true adam gadol, your ani is all of klal yisrael. An adam gadol is not only knowing shas gemara, it's knowing how to care about all fellow Jews [Ed. note - see R' Mansour shiur from last night for a great story about R' Moshe Feinstein and the elevator, showing how he was an adam gadol].

R' Frand said that we are resistant to helping others because we think that we will be overwhelmed. But the opposite is true -- the more we help others, the more content we will be.

R' Frand then told a story about a friend who was fighting lung cancer for two years, despite never having smoked. The man said that he has watched others fight disease and realized that the only thing that they have is how they handle their problems. The man said that he had a chance to observe R' Nosson Tzvi Finkel try to help others despite advanced Parkinson's disease. R' Finkel was not a man with Parkinson's disease. He was a man who was trying to help others who happened to have Parkinson's. The man told R' Frand that he has learned that by turning his attention to helping others he is less obsessing about himself and he is a happier person. All because the man had expanded his Ani.

R' Frand then quoted the Tolner Rebbi who connected the Lo Saa'neh (false witness) with Rivu Almana. Why is bearing false witness in the Ten Commandments? Because it is a premeditated act! Killing or adultery can be crimes of passion. But bearing false witness requires planning and creativity, all to do someone injustice. So on erev Yom Kippur we have to do teshuva for all the premeditated evil - by doing planned, premeditated good. We need to take the opportunity to think and act to help others who cannot help themselves.

This concept applies even if you can't give the person their ultimate goal. You may not be able to give the childless woman a baby, but just knowing that someone took the time to call is enough to make their day.

The Tolner Rebbi tells over a story about a 15 year old girl in Jerusalem who was upset and did not want to leave her house because of vicious, untrue rumours about the girl. The girl's father wanted to buy her a seat on Rosh Hashana, but she did not want to leave her house. R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach heard about the girl and called her on erev Rosh Hashanah to ask how she was doing. When they got off the phone, the girl asked her father to buy her a seat. The father told R' Shlomo Zalman - you have been michayeh meisim. We may not be R' Shlomo Zalman, but there was no one busier than him, and he still took the time to call this 15 year old girl. We can take the simple step of picking up the phone and calling.

R' Frand digressed to say that someone may have a yatom or almana or alman in their own house, if they are neglecting their family for other pursuits.

We can now understand why R' Shach said not to take space away from the women. Because taking space away would be the antithesis of Rivu Almana, if the yeshiva put these unfortunates down by eliminating the places for them to pray on the high holidays.

I hope iyh to post the second half of this shiur tomorrow before Yom Kippur.

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