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לימוד תורה

Let us search and examine our ways, within the Religious Zionism

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald                                       

The Parasha in the everyday life- Parashat Nitzavim – 5780

In our Parasha, repentance is mentioned in several contexts:

וְשַׁבְתָּ֞ עַד ה' אֱלֹקיךָ֙ וְשָׁמַעְתָּ֣ בְקֹל֔וֹ כְּכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם אַתָּ֣ה וּבָנֶ֔יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֖ וּבְכָל־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃ וְשָׁ֨ב ה' אֱלֹקיךָ אֶת־שְׁבוּתְךָ֖ וְרִחֲמֶ֑ךָ וְשָׁ֗ב וְקִבֶּצְךָ֙ מִכָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר הֱפִֽיצְךָ֛ ה' אֱלֹקיךָ שָֽׁמָּה... וֶהֱבִֽיאֲךָָ֣֞ ה' אֱלֹקיךָ אֶל־הָאָ֛רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יָרְשׁ֥וּ אֲבֹתֶ֖יךָ וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֑הּ וְהֵיטִֽבְךָ֥ וְהִרְבְּךָ֖ מֵאֲבֹתֶֽיךָ׃ וּמָ֨ל ה' אֱלֹקיךָ אֶת־לְבָבְךָ֖ וְאֶת־לְבַ֣ב זַרְעֶ֑ךָ לְאַהֲבָ֞ה אֶת ה' אֱלֹקיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ לְמַ֥עַן חַיֶּֽיךָ׃

“…And you return to Hashem your G-d, and you and your children heed His command with all your heart and soul, just as I enjoin upon you this day, then Hashem your G-d will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. He will bring you together again from all the peoples where Hashem your G-d has scattered you… And Hashem your G-d will bring you to the land that your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your fathers. Then Hashem your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live.” (Devarim 30:2-6)

An initial ('small') repentance that leads G-d to bring back the people of Israel to the Land of Israel, where the process of the repentance is completed, "your heart and the hearts of your offspring."

Continuing with the Parasha, it is written:

כִּ֚י הַמִּצְוָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם לֹֽא־נִפְלֵ֥את הִוא֙ מִמְּךָ֔ וְלֹ֥א רְחֹקָ֖ה הִֽוא׃

"Surely, this commandment which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach". (Ibid 11)

And in Ramban there:

המצוה הזאת על התשובה הנזכרת כי והשבות אל לבבך (בפסוק א) ושבת עד ה' אלהיך (בפסוק ב) מצוה שיצוה אותנו לעשות כן

"this commandment" refers to repentance. Because the verses "you will return in your hearts" (Devarim 30:1) and "you will return to Hashem your G-d" (Devarim 30:2) [prove that] the commandment (to return) that He commanded us to do is a commandment".

The repentance mentioned in the Parasha is not 'private' directed only to the individual, but 'general' directed to the entire public. Therefore, it is also related to the national framework of returning to the Land of Israel, because only within this framework can the general process be complete and in effect. From our Parasha it is inferred that the awakening of the nation to return to the frameworks of nation and state and the revival of Israel in this land is part of the repentance: "The awakening of the desire of the nation in general to return to its land, to its essence, to its spirit and to its content - in truth, light of repentance. This is expressed in complete clarity in the expression of the Torah: וְשַׁבְתָּ֞ עַד ה' אֱלֹקיךָ֙ "And you return to Hashem your G-d":  כִּ֤י תָשׁוּב֙ אֶל ה' אֱלֹקיךָ "once you return to Hashem your G-d", which connects with  וֶהֱבִֽיאֲךָָ֣֞ ה' אֱלֹקיךָ אֶל־הָאָ֛רֶץ "And Hashem your G-d will bring you to the land". (Orot HaTshuva 17:2)

A personal repentance triggers a process of change and correction that takes place within the person’s personality. This is a complex process. A person is difficult to change and bring about a change in his personality. Nor is he always mentally ready to make changes and so he makes an idealization of the existing situation. However, if the person wakes up and recognizes that he must bring about the desired change and correct the existing situation. But then it is not possible to carry out the process without considering the soul, the personality structure, and the dynamics of what is going on within it.

On the other hand, a public repentance is not a cluster of the total personal processes of the public. It is a process of change and correction that takes place in the 'public soul', in the conduct of the public, in the form of public processes. Therefore, it is not possible to bring about a process of public response without knowing the ways of public conduct and the dynamics of what takes place within it and ignore them.

In recent weeks, there has been a public debate on many questions related to the concepts of the 'general repentance' and to a value-based, social, moral and spiritual correction. Some relate to value and moral processes that affect large parts of the nation, and some relate to certain sectors within it. Unfortunately, most of the call for 'repentance' and correction comes from one sector to another. There are still more who beat on other people’s chests 'You have trespassed’ ‘you have betrayed’, than on their own chest   אָשַֽׁמְנוּ ‘We have trespassed, בָּגַֽדְנוּ We have betrayed’!

Some think that it is enough to condemn a certain phenomenon, which reflects a spiritual or moral problem that exists in the public, that needs changing. By doing so, they have already done their duty and things will change. Even if they speak out publicly against it in harsh language or even publicize an article about it, or a post on social media, all of these are not a guarantee that things will change.

Change at the public level does not take place in a short period of time and with such activities.

It is a long-term public educational process that requires extensive activity in various fields, and the mobilization of the public for this purpose.

It requires an in-depth examination of the roots of the phenomena, analyzing the facts deeply and courageously. It demands to be freed from agendas that guide the drawing of conclusions or, alternatively, to refrain from drawing certain conclusions that are inconvenient and require a far-reaching perceptual change.

Even within us within the national religious sector, there is a sharp discussion that seeks clarity and correction. It concerns the process of secularization that befalls the national religious public, and its great magnitude. Although there is a debate about its size and extent, there is no dispute about its existence and that it reflects a failure that seeks correction. The religious public is seeking redress and is demanding its leader to mark the path.

To rectify the situation, one must look inward and try to point out the causes, boldly and honestly without whitewashing and without looking for the culprit in others. But whoever seeks to conduct corrective and remorse processes without taking into account the public social dynamics, or tries to cast from the individual dynamics on to the public, or to cast his own agendas on reality, will greatly err and mislead the public.

As someone who was a behind-the-scenes partner in the preparation of the great research on this subject, I think there are several significant factors that cause this. They were tested in the study. And data reflect it.

Next week, in preparation for the Rosh Hashanah issue (הַבָּא עָלֵֽינוּ לְטוֹבָה may it come to us at a good time (, we will offer our conclusions (bli neder -without promising).

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