Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday's Thoughts on Teshuva - The R' Mansour Derasha

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.

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' Mansour started by making reference to a statement that when a lion (arieh) roars -- who is not afraid. R' Mansour stated that the chachamim teach that the lion is not a physical lion, instead it is an acronym for Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Hoshana Raba.

R' Mansour then noted that the zodiac of this month is libra - scales. On one side are the mitzvos and the other are the aveiros. If the mitzvos outweigh the aveiros we are inscribed in the good books. If chas v'shalom they do not outweigh, then a person can be written into the other book. The key to winning the balance is the doing of mitzvos, not segulos or red strings. The judgment depends on mitzvos. This can be seen in the tefillah in Shmoneh Esreh - ata zocher, Hashem remembers. However the tefillah also says that nothing is forgotten before the chair of Hashem. But why should the chair make a difference? Chazal state that the kisei hakavod (heavenly throne) is made up of our mitzvot. When we do mitzvot it is strengthened, but when aveirot are done the chair is weakened. (R' Mansour equated this to what is taught in the nursery schools - each mitzva is a brick). When the tefillah states that nothing is forgotten before the heavenly throne it means that Hashem looks at the kisei hakavod and is instantly aware of what we have done.

R' Mansour also mentioned that those who connect to Hashem through the name of Ykvk get life. He connected it to the pasuk v'atem hadveikim. How do we connect? By doing mitzvot. He also connected it to the pasuk where Hashem said to Moshe - zeh shmi v'zeh zichri - Hashem said to Moshe if you connect to my name and my rememberances, you will get great reward. It can be seen in the words of the pasuk themselves. The gematria of shmi is 350, if you add the 15 from yk you get 365 which is the number of negative commandments. The gematria of zichri is 237, if you add vk you get another 11 and this is the 248 which is the number of positive commandments. Hashem tells Moshe the way you connect to me and get "chaim kulchem" is by doing the mitzvos.

The Ari asks - why is a mitzva called a mitzva? R' Mansour gave an introduction before he gave the Ari's answer. The hebrew alphabet can be studied in order and many of our tefillot, like those in the selichot, follow the alphabet in order. There are other tefillot which use the alphabet backwards. However, there is a third way to learn the alphabet, which is through the at bash. This can be seen in some selichot as well. We thus pray to Hashem using many systems, hoping that one of formulations will be successful.

R' Mansour then noted that the at bash for mem is the letter yud and the tzadik corresponds to heh. So the Ari states that each mitzva is like a piece of Hashem since the mem, tzaddik are really yk and then the vk is left intact. However, since we cannot pronounce the ykvk we are given the word mitzva instead, and the mitzva is how we attach to Hashem.

In our new year we commit to resolutions, although they are different than the secular acceptances such as losing weight or quitting smoking. Our acceptances are spiritual, that we will change certain things in our daily lives to become closer to Hashem.

R' Mansour also quoted a statement - when Hashem wants to shower chesed on a person, He looks not for the big things, but instead He looks for small things, even though to us they may seem insignificant. The midrash teaches that two men were chosen to be leaders based on the small things that they did in their careers as shepherds. Moshe chased after a sheep which Moshe thought was escaping. Moshe chased it until it got to a lake and the sheep started drinking water. Moshe realized that the sheep was not escaping, it was just thirsty. Moshe then apologized to the sheep for suspecting it and he carried the sheep back. To us, this does not seem like a big test for Moshe, but this is what Hashem thought was significant and justified his role. David was the same way. He would meticulously take his sheep out to the outskirts of the city so that the sheep would not eat someone's grass. Because of this small act of going just beyond the city, Hashem said - you are worthy of a greater role. In our own lives, we should see that even focusing on small things can cause us to become closer to Hashem and merit his rewards.

R' Mansour brought a proof from Megillat Esther where it states that every day, Mordechai went to see what was going on with Esther. The medrash asks - why was Mordechai going to see what was going on with her? The answer was that he wanted to see if she had some small questions which needed answers. Mordechai at the time was the leader of the Jews with a lot on his shoulders to see if he could foil Haman's plans. But with all that on his mind, he went to to Esther to see if she had a question in the palace.

At the time of the destruction of the 2nd Beis Hamikdash, R' Yochanan Ben Zakai needed to make decisions for the Jews. He had a historical meeting with Vespasian which impressed the Roman ruler. He said to him, ask for whatever you would like. This would set the stage for the next two thousand years. R' Yochanan thinks for a second and then says - give me Yavne and its chachamim - as long as yeshivat Yavne is still in existence, we can rebuild. He also asked for the family of R' Gamliel to be spared, because he is thinking of geulah and that the lineage to moshiach must remain. His final request is that R' Tzadok be given a doctor. Why is this the third request? The first two requests for preserving Torah and the link to Moshiach were great, but to ask for the emperor to call hatzalah for R' Tzadok? The answer is that this is what made R' Yochanan the chief Rabbi. Because at the same time that he is thinking about the big things, he also is thinking about the small things, that this person needs a doctor. The message is, do big things, but don't forget about the small things too.

R' Mansour then told a story about R' Moshe Feinstein. A doctor who had a question about heart transplants went to ask R' Moshe what he thought. R' Moshe said, come back to my apartment, I have written on this. When they walked back to his apartment building they approached the elevator and R' Moshe pushed the button. The elevator came down, opened and closed and went back up without R' Moshe or the doctor getting on. R' Moshe then pushed the button again and the elevator came back down. Again, the door opened and no one got on and the elevator went back up. R' Moshe pushed the button a third time and the elevator came down. This time, R' Moshe got on the elevator and the doctor followed. The doctor asked R' Moshe, why did you wait until now to get on? R' Moshe replied - didn't you see the little boy in the hall? The boy was there with no supervision and I was worried about him. I waited until I saw that there was someone to watch him before I got on the elevator.

This is yet another example of a small thing which coupled with big things made a great leader, truly great.

Another R' Moshe story involved a call which came to his home on a Friday. A person in the house picked up and asked what the caller wanted. On the other end, the caller asked what time was candle lighting. The person in R' Moshe's home asked - why not look it up in the calendar, why are you calling to ask R' Moshe this question. The caller responded - I don't know what you are talking about, I call every week and R' Moshe tells me when candle lighting is.

R' Mansour told a story about R' Gifter who would have a minhag on erev Yom Kippur to go to the florist to buy roses. Why? Because his anniversary was the day after Yom Kippur and he wanted to have flowers on the table so that when his wife came home from shul she would see that he remembered the anniversary.

R' Mansour then made reference to a gemara in Avoda Zara 17-18 about a conversation between R' Yosef Ben Kisma and R' Chananya Ben Tradyon. R' Yosef says, I hear that you are teaching Torah in public and that the Romans might take you. R' Chananya says yes I am, Hashem should have mercy. They have a back and forth exchange. Then R' Chananya asked, am I going to Olam Haba? R' Yosef replies, have you done any great acts? R' Chananya replies that once he had monies for Purim that he mixed with other money. Tosafos tells that he had invited poor people to get money, thinking that he could use this money, but then realized that he could not. He then took money out of his own pocket and gave them money. R' Yosef says - this is great and I wish that I could be like you.

The exchange is bizarre. R' Chananya is teaching Torah in public at great risk to his life. Yet when asked what are you doing that would merit Olam Haba, he tells the story of the money. Why? Because the person is measured by the small things that are done when no one is watching.

In our daily lives we can do this as well. When going to a store, we can hang up our cell phones before we reach the cashier, or not text or email when someone talks to us. We can give proper respect to the people that we are dealing with, and in so doing appreciate that they are tzelem elokim.

R' Mansour then made reference to a gemara in Berachot 18b, which tells the story of Shmuel who was called the son of the man who ate the money of the orphans. Shmuel did not know what to do, so he went to the cemetery to ask his father where the money was. When he got there, the people there helped him search for his father's grave. While he was looking, he saw a friend who had died and was sitting outside and was not entering the heavenly shiur. He asked why and was answered that the person was excluded because when alive he did not enter the shiur of R' Afas and R' Afas was upset that he never went. His punishment was that for as many years that he did not attend R' Afas's shiur, he was excluded from the heavenly shiur.

After this, Shmuel found his father who was alternately crying and laughing. Shmuel asked why he was doing this. His father responded, you are going to die tomorrow, but you also have a great reputation in shamayim.

At this juncture, Shmuel has just been told by a reliable source that he will die tomorrow. His response to this was, tell them in shamayaim to take care of this man so that he can get in to the heavenly shiur. Shmuel did not think about himself, he thought about how the other could be helped.

This is the act of a true gadol, to be concerned about the minor things and to help others. If we can seize on these mitzvos then we can be zoche to great reward as well.

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kosher said...

this is quite long but its fun to read and informative. Thanks for sharing!

Neil T said...

You're welcome. Hope you enjoy.