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לימוד תורה

The repentance and the social component

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in the everyday life- Shabbat Teshuvah / Yom Kippur and Parashat Ha’azinu - 5781

At the end of the poem in Parashat Ha'azinu, Moshe Rabbeinu commands the people:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֲלֵהֶם֙ שִׂ֣ימוּ לְבַבְכֶ֔ם לְכָל־הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מֵעִ֥יד בָּכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם אֲשֶׁ֤ר תְּצַוֻּם֙ אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֔ם לִשְׁמֹ֣ר לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֖י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃

"he said to them: Take to heart all the words with which I have warned you this day. Enjoin them upon your children, that they may observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching". (Dvarim 32:46)

The phrase 'to heart' refers to the two forces in man's heart, the good inclination יֵצֶרַ הַטוֹב and the evil inclination יֵצֶר הַרַע‎, both of which are required to succeed in the challenge of keeping the Torah and the mitzvot and to face temptations:

ויזהיר משה בכאן שישים האדם כל מחשבתו בתורה, וזהו שאמר לבבכם ולא אמר שימו לבבם כדי שיעבדו להקב"ה בשני יצרים, ביצר טוב וביצר רע, וכן דרשו רז"ל בראתי יצר הרע בראתי לו תורה תבלין.

"In this verse Moses warns the people that everyone should pay careful attention to the words of the Torah; therefore, he speaks of לבבכם instead of לבכם He urges people to serve Hashem with both parts of our hearts, the good urge as well as the evil urgeיצר הרע  This is why, the Sages said in Kidushin 30, quoting G-d: “I did create an evil urge, but I also created the Torah as its antidote.” (Rabbeinu Bahya ibid)

The Yetzer HaTov is the source of motivation in a man's heart, to act his best and observe the Torah and the mitzvot. And the Yetzer HaRa is meant to challenge the person to uphold the free choice and ensure that he is conscious of his actions and they come from his free will. At its core, the evil inclination is meant to challenge the person and not to frustrate him. But in fact, in many cases it does succeed in tripping the person. Therefore, one of its names is a מכשול 'stumbling block'. (Sukkah 52a)

Moshe Rabbeinu commands to pass on the Torah and the mitzvot to the sons and future generations: "he said to them: Take to heart all the words, the revealed and the hidden, which I testify to you today that you will command your sons, because I know that you have heard My words and will not forget, but your sons need a new will, so they can keep all the words of this Torah" (Tzror HaMor on Torah Devarim, ibid)

The challenge of the generations who did not live the desert period and the Giving of the Torah is more complex. They will face other challenges. And so, parents and teachers need to give them the tools that will enable them to deal with these challenges.

Yom Kippur is a day of repentance and soul-searching. Repentance on the obstacles we did not pass through successfully and soul searching for what led to it. In preparation for this, we have Shabbat Teshuvah (the Shabbat that occurs during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Among the other things we must address in our soul's reckoning are the tools we are giving our sons and future generations to face the challenges of Torah observance in our generation.

In these past weeks, we have devoted our articles and dealt with various aspects of the phenomenon of not-being-religious-anymore and its magnitude, its causes and how to deal with it.

Maimonides marked the social component as an influential factor:

דרך ברייתו של אדם להיות נמשך בדעותיו ובמעשיו אחר ריעיו וחביריו ונוהג כמנהג אנשי מדינתו לפיכך צריך אדם להתחבר לצדיקים ולישב אצל החכמים תמיד כדי שילמוד ממעשיהם

It is a natural tendency of man to be influenced in his ideas and conduct by his fellows and associates, and to follow the usage of the people of his state. Because thereof, it is necessary for man to be in the company of the righteous, and to sit near the wise, in order to learn from their conduct, (Mishneh Torah Human Dispositions 6:1)

And this because: “Man is social in his nature, and his nature is that he needs to be in a group, and is not like the other animals that do not have to”. (The Guide for the Perplexed Second part, Chapter 40)

In a survey conducted by a Survey Institute led by my friend Dr. Ido Lieberman among thousands of graduates from the religious educational system published about two years ago, there are many findings regarding this phenomenon, its extent and causes.

This is the most recent comprehensive and professional survey conducted in recent years among graduates of the Religious- Zionist public educational system.

It is important to pay attention to his findings so that the soul searching is not 'in the air'.

It turns out that the highest percentage of “becoming non-religious” occurs at the age of military service. The main reason given by the respondents was defined as 'lack of interest in religious life' and only after, the reason of belief ('theology and philosophy').

A clearer picture is obtained. Leaving the 'religious framework' has a very strong influence: the attention and time on the agenda, the regular processes of spiritual empowerment and religious motivation. Frameworks that by their mere nature, reduce the exposure to temptations of a certain kind (even if they don’t prevent them completely). And the social atmosphere as well as the social discourse turns it in the religious direction. (Even if it has significant elements of contemporary general culture).

The transition to frameworks that do not have this element and the exposure to temptations creates a great erosion that leads to 'lack of interest in religious life'.

There is no doubt that this should be considered and given the appropriate tools to deal with the challenge.

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