Rosh Hashana 5766 – Gilayon #465
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(Song of Songs 6:7)
said: The sinners of
fortiori argument] referring to the Golden Altar. The Golden Altar was
overlaid with gold no thicker than a dinar
coin, but it withstood the fire for some years, but [compare that altar to] the
seeds], for it is said, Behind your veil, you brow [rakateikh][gleams] like an open pomegranate. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: Do not say rakateikh [your brow], but rather reikateikh [your empty ones], for even
the empty ones amongst you are full of [fulfilled] commandments as a
pomegranate [is full of seeds]. All the more so [that the
R. Hana bar Bizna said in the name
of Shimon Hasida: Any fast in which the sinners of
do not participate is not a [acceptable] fast; for helbana[galbanum] has a foul odor, but Scripture included it among the ingredients of
the incense. Abayeiy connected this [with the verse]:
He founded his agudah [literally: bundle] upon the
earth (Amos 9).
vegetables and fruits are eaten, whose names allude to beneficence, such as:silkei [beets], kartei [leeks], rubiya
[pumpkin] and tamarei [dates]. Before
eating each species of vegetable, one should recite a [prayer of the formula] "May
it be Your will.." relating to the appropriate
rubiya, one should say: "[May it be Your will] that our merits increase [she'yirbe'u]."[Upon eating ] kara: "…that
our merits be recited before You" (in the Sefardic
tradition: "…that You tear-up the evil decree made against us, and that
our merits, etc.).
(Sefer Ha'Toda'a: Rosh HaShanah
– Leil Rishon shel Rosh HaShana)
On the Obligation to Place the Individual and the
Community in a Positive Light
Merit and uprightness stand
before His throne,
and compassion before His glory.
"El Adon al Kol HaMa'asim," Hirsch Siddur
In two of
his works, R. Eliezer Papo
brings up the need – actually, the obligation – of limud
zehut; to always present
in a positive light at all times, but especially during the season of the Days
of Awe. R. Eliezer Papo
lived from 1785 to 1828.1 He was born in Sarviego,
Bosnia, and produced a series of books that became classics; among these are
found the ethical treatise Pela Yo'etz,2
and Beit Tefilla3 a
collection of his original prayers that became accepted throughout world Jewry.
One of R. Eliezer Papo's discussions of the
obligation of limmud zehut
appears in his Pela Yo'etz
in the section on "Sanigoriya"[apologetics]4 The author begins by mentioning that it is known that
the Holy One blessed be He "wants Israel – both as a collective and as
individuals – to be morally defended.5 He first lists a few examples
where the Sages speak of great people who spoke ill of Israel and were
punished, including Elijah6 and Moses.7 In contrast,
Gideon merited saving Israel because he defended them morally.8 This
passage bears similarity to what the HIDA (1806-1724) wrote in his Tziporen Shamir. There
he mentions that one must always practice limud
zehut regarding Israel, both as a collective and
as individuals, and cites the example involving Gideon.9 He also
devotes the section on Kavod Yisrael [the honor of Israel] in his book Devash le'Fi to the
need for limmud zehut
regarding Israel, where he brings several supporting examples.10
underlying principle behind the idea that one should not find fault with
is that "everything a person says leaves an impression and stirs the
celestial retinue. If he speaks accusingly he stirs the accusers; and if he
speaks defensively, he stirs the defenders, and his words bear fruit." The
source of this motif may be found in the Zohar, parashat Tzav.11 There it is stated that speech
below stirs up speech above. The speech below rises through the firmaments
until it ascends and stirs up whatever it stirs up; if for good – [that is]
good, and if for evil – [that is] bad.12
the above, preachers must always be very careful, and especially so during the
days of judgment, not to find fault with the people and not to explicate its
sins, since that might stir up judgment against it. Rather, they should take a
positive tack and point out the path which is worthy of being followed. The BeShT (1700-1760), for example, is known to have criticized
those preachers who would berate the community for their unmeticulous
observance of the commandments, scare them with descriptions of the tortures of
Gehenna, and pile upon them difficult penances.13
In his Devash le'Fi , the HIDA states
that "One who preaches rebukes [tokhaha]
to the people" must take great pains not to slight the honor of Israel,
nor to accuse it.14
R. Eliezer Papo even raises the
demand that if someone finds himself in a synagogue of "ignoramuses"
and hears them being criticized, he must take himself in hand and speak well of
the congregation, even if he must employ claims that are not entirely evident and
explanations whose truth is unclear. In this connection, R. Eliezer
Papo brings up some possible arguments that could be
used in such circumstances; despite the fact that the people are economically
strained and live in exile, they did not toss-off the observance of the
commandments, and their sins are all either coerced or unintentional, for they
are ignorant of the prohibitions and their gravity. He continues and brings an
idea that originated in the literature of the Sages, that if someone tends to
think the best of others, God will also judge him in a favorable light.15
Since God loves compassion,16 He will
accept "any kind of argument that is lomed
zehut." This implies that weak arguments
that are not entirely aimed at the truth are also acceptable to God.
section titled Sanigoriya of his Damesek Eliezer,17
R. Eliezer Papo expounds
upon the theme of the obligation to be lomed
zehut regarding the public and individuals. Its
opening passage is clearly similar to the section from Damesek
Eliezer mentioned above, both in terms of its
ideas and its language. However, in contrast to Pela
Eliezer mentions that limmud
zehut is right and proper during the Days of Awe,
and also in any time of public distress, whether it involves a heavenly decree
or a decree of earthly kings. While Pela Yo'etz makes quick mention of a few good apologetic
arguments in the concluding part of the passage, most of the section in Damesek Eliezer is
concerned with a detailed and broad-ranging apologia of two thousand words in
length. R. Eliezer Papo
suggests that it be recited tearfully in synagogues and houses of study, in
accordance with the view that "the gates of tears are not locked."18
He states that the best time for the recitation of this plea for the defense is
during the last watch of the night, when the forces of mercy awaken in the
world. R. Eliezer Papo
offers no details regarding his formulation of the apologia, but it is a longer
version of a similar text only a third its length that can be found in R. Eliyahu HaKohen HaItamari's (d. 1729)19 Midrash
Talpiot.20 That text appears in Anaf
Gerushim u'Melitzot Gadol al Yisrael, but it is
not brought there in connection with a discussion of limmud
zehut, and it is not presented as a text for
R. Eliezer Papo formulates a series
of arguments, concentrating upon
suffering and its steadfast observance of the commandments. The first and
central argument concerns limmud zehut regarding the residents of the
risked their lives, leaving their families and moving to the
Land. Indeed, "men, women, and children, youths and the
elderly" live their lives in hunger and must resort to begging. Despite
all that, "in their exile, humiliation, and poverty" they observe the
commandments "and even the "ne'er-do-wells of Israel are full of
commandments as a pomegranate [is full of seeds].21 Those who do sin
have been driven to distraction by poverty, and they are to be judged by "the
law concerning the drunk and the fool…who have gone mad from their many
troubles." He states that the holy nation "is without blemish and the
Holy One blessed be He testifies on its behalf: You are all beautiful, my
love, and you are without blemish (Song of
Songs 4:7)." At this point, R. Eliezer Papo presents a long list of commandments that are observed
despite its great suffering.
troubles suffered by
also gain it merit: they serve to clean it of sin, freeing Jews of guilt for
their transgressions. Due to their multitude of troubles, "all their sins,
transgressions, and iniquities are already forgiven." Therefore,
anyone who speaks accusingly or poorly of them will pay a price. It is
customary that no one speaks accusingly of a prince before his father the king
even when there is a basis for the accusation; all the more so if someone would
speak accusingly of a prince "who had already received twice [the deserved
punishment] for his sins, through great afflictions." These ideas also
appear in Midrash Talpiyot.
the numerous tribulations suffered by
even the greatest accuser – Samael – is forced into
silence: "He has no mouth with which to speak against
for he has no basis for accusations, given the troubles
has endured." The ministering angels must ask for the hastening of
salvation, since impudence towards Heaven is effective,22
even if he who asks impudently is unworthy. This is all the truer regarding
which is deserving and whose salvation is the
salvation of the Divine Presence.
worth mentioning that in his Mikhtav Me'Eliyahu, R. Eliyahu Dessler (1892-1953) states that a person could lose in
judgment on Rosh HaShana and
fail to enjoy the Divine mercy he needs if he does not judge his fellow in a
R. Eliezer Papo made use of various
motifs that may be found in the writings of the Jewish sages who preceded him,
but he formulated and developed a more complete and organized doctrine – both
practical and theoretical – regarding limmud
zehut towards Israel. His worldview does not seem
to have received the attention it deserves, and it calls for further
consideration. It would also be appropriate to compare it to the approaches of
other Jewish sages, and to locate it both within the framework of limmud zehut in
Jewish thought through the ages and its various strata as well as within the
thematic context of the significance of suffering.
 Further details
may be found in D. Yehudief, "Introduction” in
R. Eliezer Papo, Hesed le'Alafim: Shulhan Arukh Yoreh
5637, pp. 11-31.
2 (Konstidina, 1824).
3 (Bilograd, 1860).
4 (pp. 51a-b).
5 See Shir HaShirim Rabbah
6 See note 5
above. All see Mekhilta De'Rabbi
Yishamael, H.S. Horowitz and Y.A. Rabin edition, Bo, Massekhet DePas'ha,
Parasha 1, pg.4; Pesikta Rabbati, M. Ish-Shalom edition, Eikha Yashava Badad, 138a; Avot DeRabbi Natan, S.Z. Shechter edition, B version, chapter 47, pg. 129.
7 R. Eliezer Papo makes a short
mention of Moses in Pela Yo'etz; "And even greater than this, we see that
Our Master Moses, of blessed memory, was punished because he said and they
will not believe me. A similar formulation may be found in Damesek Eliezer,
see the passage quoted by note 17. The origin of this idea is found in Tanhuma, Shemot, 23; Midrash Shemot Rabbah, A. Shinan edition, 3,
12(1), pp. 134-5.
8 L. Ginzburg, "Mahadurot
Hadashot shel haTanhuma al Sefer Devarim, Parshiyot Va'Ethanan, Shoftim” in Ginzei Schechter, book 1, Kitei Midrash ve'Hagada,
Newark 5688, pg. 132; Tanhuma, Shoftim,
9 HIDA, Horesh MiTza”L, Tziporen Shamir, Livarno , siman 9, ot 142, pg. 53a.
10 HIDA, Devash LeFi,
20, ot 18, pg. 36b.
11 See Zohar, Tzav, 31b.
12 As found in
Sefer HaZohar al Hamisha Humshei Torah, vol.
7, Sefer Vayikra ve'Hashmatot le'Sefer Vaykra,
5758, pg. 172.
13 See, for
instance, A. Yaron, "Aharit”
in S.Y. Agnon, Sippurei
ha'BeShT, 2nd edition,
5763, pp. 233-234.
14 HIDA, Devash Le'fi,
passage cited in note 10.
127b; Avot DeRabbi
Natan, S.Z. Shechter
edition, A version, chapter 8, pg. 47.
16 See Micah
5652, Ot Samekh, Sanigoriya, Ot Bet 31a-32b.
18 Berakhot 32b; Bava Metziya 59a.
19 On R. Eliyahu HaKohen see Z. Greis, Sifrut HaHanhagot,
5750, pp. 2-3, 99-101.
20 Part I, Izamir , 104c-105a.
21 Berakhot 57a; Eruvin 19a; Megilah 6a; Hagiga 27a; Sanhedrin 37a.
22 Sanhedrin 105a; J. Ta'anit 2:1 [65b].
23 R. Eliyahu Dessler, Mikhtav Mi'Eliyahu, (A.
editor) part five,
Dr. Ya'el Levin's published
studies deal mostly with various aspects of women in Judaism. She has also
composed a series of prayers.
Lord our God, place Your awe upon all whom You have
made…Now, O Lord, grant honor to Your people."
ignore the fact that in the common perception of many generations there
sprouted the corrupted and misleading conception that the Blessed Lord
has a special attitude to
and to dealing with their affairs.
does exist a special relationship, but it receives
expression not through greater privileges but in the obligations and
missions with which
is charged, to be God's witnesses on earth, to work for the perfection (tikkun) of the world under the reign of the
Almighty. In the framework of this universal tikkun,
and only following the yearning for "Now, Lord our God, put thy awe upon
all whom thou hast made" will there come the tikkun
of "Now, O Lord, grant honor to thy people, glory to those who revere
thee, free speech to those who yearn for thee, joy to thy land and gladness to
anticipation of the redemption of
is not a function of
being a "a nation in awe of You". If
does not meet that qualification, it deserves no special relationship.
Rosh Hashana is intended for every man who – in honest
consciousness – considers himself to be a believer, who is willing to examine
whether he is capable of serving God out of love. Such a person is in no need
of the "Unetaneh Tokef"
prayer with its descriptions of the celestial Day of Judgment; such a
person accepts Rosh Hashanah as the day in which man meditates upon the lofty
idea of perfecting the world under
the reign of the Almighty. The redemption of
receives its meaning through the realization of this ideal;
has been appointed to be the ideal's messenger on earth.
(Y. Leibowitz: Sihot al Hagei Yisrael U'Mo'adav pp. 169-170)
Only the God of
Thoughts Can Evaluate Who Is a Sinner and Who Is Righteous
One whose sins exceed his
merits dies immediately in his wickedness, as is written, For most of your
sins, and so a society whose sins are many is annihilated immediately, as
is written: The outcry in Sodom and Amora – how
great it is!, and similarly the entire world, if their sins exceed their
merits, they are destroyed immediately, as is written: Now God saw that
great was humankind's evildoing on earth. This weighing is not done
according to the number of merits and sins, but considers the relative weight
of each sin and merit; there is a merit which may outweigh a number of sins, as
is written: for some good has been found in him, and there is a sin
which outweighs several merits, as is written: A single error destroys much
of value – and weighing is done only in the mind of the God of thought, and
He alone knows how to evaluate the merits as against the sins.
(RaMBaM, Mishneh Torah,
Laws of Repentance, 3:2)
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