Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday's Thoughts on Teshuva - The Rabbi Mansour Derasha Vol I

Last night, Mrs KB and I went to see R' Mansour give a teshuva derasha in Far Rockaway. I will attempt to summarize the derasha in this post, but cannot hope to replicate the awe inspiring delivery. Same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce the derasha 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 R' Mansour.

R' Mansour began the derasha by making reference to Devarim 30:12 wherein the Torah states (I paraphrase) that the Mitzva which Hashem is commanding today is not far away or in the heavens or across the sea, as it is very near.

R' Mansour observed that while the Torah talks about how the mitzva is at hand and accessible, it does not actually tell the reader which mitzva it is speaking about. However, the Ramban explains that the mitzva is teshuva.

R' Mansour then asked why does Hashem tell us that the mitzva of teshuva is easy to accomplish, when we are not given similar encouragement as to the mitzvos of keeping Shabbos or Pesach?

Before answering the above question, R' Mansour analogized the mitzva of Teshuva to dieting. A person who starts a diet will be enthusiastic in the beginning, but then may lose interest as time passes. Similarly, a person who accepts to do Teshuva may start off very gung ho, but may lose his enthusiasm as time passes. Also, much like dieting, once a person gets to his level of observance that he has strived to reach, he may have issues maintaining the level of frumkeit.

R' Mansour next made reference to the Ari who discusses the mitzva of wearing a tallis at Kol Nidrei. It is accepted that men should come to shul early, specifically before sunset so that they can put on a tallis and make a brocha on it before shekiya. This is a sign that we are trying to observe as many mitzvos as we can before Yom Kippur. However, there is another opinion that on Yom Kippur eve we never make a brocha on the tallis, even if we arrive early, as the tallis is not ours, it belongs to Hashem.

With these introductory remarks in place, R' Mansour then began a novel development of the mitzva of teshuva. He quoted R' Pincus (I assume to be R' Shimshon Pincus) who states that Hashem appears to people in different "forms." Sometimes Hashem is the G-d of mercy, while other times He may be kindness or of judgment or war. But what is his "form" (R' Mansour said that k'viyochol it can be analogized to hats) for Teshuva? R' Pincus answers that Hashem comes to us in the form of a mother.

R' Mansour then digressed to discuss the roles of father and mother. A father will pick up a child and want to play with him and take him out. However when the child spits up or soils himself, the father will return him to the mother, saying - you clean up the baby. The mother then comes and cleans the baby and is not the least bit bothered by the child's stench or appearance.

This is the role that Hashem plays when a person comes to do Teshuva. The sins that a person commits soil the person's soul. R' Mansour said that there is a prayer said by Sefaradim on Yom Kippur called "Keili Meshukadi" (if I wrote it down correctly) which contains a phrase that if our neighbors could truly "smell" us they would run away from us.

R' Mansour next quoted R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach who explains the principle that a person who attends a bris has his sins cleaned. R' Shlomo Zalman explains that Eliyahu Hanavi comes to the bris and sees or smells the sins of the audience. In order to prevent Eliyahu from becoming angry, Hashem cleans the stench of sin so that Eliyahu will not strike. Once Eliyahu leaves, the smell returns, however for the moment that he is there, we benefit from having our sins removed.

R' Mansour remarked that if Hashem came to us as a father, He would not clean us from our sins. However, if He comes to us as a mother, He cleans us and then returns us like a baby from its bath - wrapped in a fresh towel.

R' Mansour explained that this too is why losing weight is difficult since Hashem only helps us do Teshuva, not diet. R' Mansour gave numerous examples of the help that Hashem gives to one who wants to do Teshuva including the Gemara in Yoma which praises the Jews because of who they become pure in front of and who purifies them. He also referenced the statement of - open for me an opening the size of the eye of a needle.

R'Mansour gave the following eye opening analogy. Think of a person who goes to a hotel and when he gets to the room he notices the room is dirty. The hotel guest calls the front desk who says that they will send someone up to clean the room. When he hears a knock at the door, he opens it and sees ... the owner of the hotel. The guest is of course shocked and asks - don't you have an employee to do this for you? However, the owner of the hotel answers, I want to do it myself - this the role of Hashem as the mother on Yom Kippur.

R' Mansour then returned to discuss R' Pincus' thought and asked - how does the mother know the child needs to be cleaned? Because the child cries when it is uncomfortable sitting in its own stench or soiled clothes. Similarly, we must cry out to Hashem so that He knows that we want to be cleaned. This is accomplished through the sobs of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Normally, a musical instrument is used to play a tune, but this horn makes noises which sound like sobs and the ba'al tokeiah on behalf of the community to ask Hashem to come and clean us.

R' Mansour next observed that in listening to the portions of the Avinu Malkeinu which are read aloud, the sentence said the loudest involves asking for the sick to be healed, followed by requests for help with parnasah. Meanwhile, the request that Hashem cause us to return in Teshuva is not said with as much fervor.

R' Mansour next asked a philosophical question - if everything is in Hashem's hands except fear of Hashem, then why does Hashem help us do Teshuva? R' Mansour answered that He helps us because He has an interest in us. He told a "story" about a man who came to shul for Krias HaTorah and asked the gabbai to make a mi shebayrach (prayer for healing) for Frank Ben Mary. The gabbai said to him - is Frank Jewish? The man said no, he is not? The gabbai then asked - why do you want us to pray for him? The man answered - because he owes me money and I want him to live so that he can pay me back. So too, Hashem has an interest in us, but what is His interest?

I hope I'YH to complete the summary of the derasha in tomorrow's post.

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