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לימוד תורה

The failure of the conception and its repair

The Parasha in our everyday life – Parshat Vayelech -Shabbat Tshuva - and Yom Kippur 5783

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Head of the Hesder Yeshiva 'Meir Harel' Modiin

The most effective way to prevent future failures, is to identify the possible causes of breakdown from the outset, and take care of them. There are certain factors that may lead to collapse in a certain area, however there are general factors that are the common cause for many deficiencies. This is also true to prevent failing in the personal sphere as well as in the public and organizational one.

Since Yom Kippur 1973, the jolting experience of the Yom Kippur war has been added to the atmosphere of Yom Kippur. A war that began with a terrible failure, and ended with a 'turnaround' and an unprecedented victory on a historical scale. In the north, the IDF positioned itself deep in Syria 40 km from Damascus, and in the south the IDF crossed the canal and positioned itself 101 km from Cairo.

This year we will mark the war’s fiftieth anniversary and we will praise the heroism of the warriors who brought about the turnaround, as we thank Hashem

עַל נִסֶּיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל יוֹם עִמָּנוּ, וְעַל נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ וְטוֹבוֹתֶיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל עֵת, עֶרֶב וָבֹקֶר וְצָהֳרָיִם.

“…for Your miracles of every day with us and for Your wonders and benefactions at all times— evening, morning and noon”.

This year too, attention will be paid to the 'perception' that blinded the captains on the eve of the war, even though ‘the writing was on the wall’, and to its failure in the beginning. There is no doubt that there was also a sophisticated and successful deception by the Egyptians and Syrians, which succeeded in deceiving our Intelligence Division, but there is still room to analyze in depth how this 'perception' was created. The 'conception', believed that unless a number of preconditions were met, the Egyptians would not start a war. Some took this with arrogance and underestimated the ability of the Egyptians and Syrians following the flash victory in the Six Day War. And others trace this in the character of some of the top Military Intelligence and the political echelon who formulated the 'conception'; who saw themselves as ‘all knowing’, with the authority to decide anything, in a way that did not allow them to be attentive to their subordinates, and to be proven wrong. The subordinates warned about preparations for war and the officials ignored them.

Every person and every organization must formulate for themselves ‘conceptions’ in different fields, depending on the situation and according to the goals, otherwise they will not be able to conduct themselves. However, a ‘conception’ gives place to fixation. Its holder may become confined to it and cling to it with fanatical devotion, even when it is no longer relevant, either because the situation has changed, and perhaps some of the goals have also changed, or because the reality shows otherwise. The obvious conclusion is that every ‘conception’ should be checked from time to time in an up-to-date manner. In the Yom Kippur war, we paid a heavy price. This year we will check, have we learned the lesson?! Lest we too are prisoners of the ‘conceptions’ we have created for ourselves. Are we reading the reality around us correctly?!

יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים הוּא זְמַן תְּשׁוּבָה לַכּל לַיָּחִיד וְלָרַבִּים וְהוּא קֵץ מְחִילָה וּסְלִיחָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. לְפִיכָךְ חַיָּבִים הַכּל לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה וּלְהִתְוַדּוֹת בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים.

“Yom Kippur is the time of Teshuvah for all, both individuals and the community at large. It is the apex of forgiveness and pardon for Israel. Accordingly, everyone is obligated to repent and confess on Yom Kippur”. (Rambam Mishneh Torah Repentance 2:7)

One of the challenges of ‘repentance’ and the correction of failing and wrongdoing, is to identify the ‘conceptions’ of life and conduct, which caused failures and sins, and to change them. It is very difficult for a person and the public to admit to a mistake and take full responsibility for it (‘to confess’), and it is difficult to change and be changed (‘acceptance for the future’). Especially when it comes to a general ‘conception’ that guides our lives.

Therefore, we are given Yom Kippur as a day of soul-searching and repentance. The fast, the rest of the laws of the day, and the uplifting prayers, create for us the conditions for angelic empowerment, which gives us the strength and power to examine whether we have gone wrong and where, to take responsibility and take it upon ourselves to make amends for the future, and bring about complete change.

In our Parasha, Parshat Vayelech, we read about Moshe's parting from his people. And about G-d's warning against a similar phenomenon that might occur in Israel, a tendency towards idolatry, and about its punishment:

וְחָרָ֣ה אַפִּ֣י ב֣וֹ בַיּוֹם־הַ֠ה֠וּא וַעֲזַבְתִּ֞ים וְהִסְתַּרְתִּ֨י פָנַ֤י מֵהֶם֙… וּמְצָאֻ֛הוּ רָע֥וֹת רַבּ֖וֹת וְצָר֑וֹת …

Then My anger will flare up against them, and I will abandon them and hide My countenance from them… and many evils and troubles shall befall them...” (Devarim 31:17)

The troubles are going to hurt and bring about soul reckoning and remorse:

וְאָמַר֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא הֲלֹ֗א עַ֣ל כִּי־אֵ֤ין אֱלֹקי֙ בְּקִרְבִּ֔י מְצָא֖וּנִי הָרָע֥וֹת הָאֵֽלֶּה׃

"And they shall say on that day, “Surely it is because our G-d is not in our midst that these evils have befallen us.” (Ibid) although there is a risk that it will not bring them to a full recognition and ‘confession’ of their error:

איננו וידוי גמור כענין והתודו את עונם אבל הוא הרהור וחרטה שיתחרטו על מעלם ויכירו כי אשמים הם

"This is not a total confession like [the confession in the verse] And they shall confess their iniquity, but it is a reflection and a regret. They will feel sorry for their iniquity and recognize that they are guilty". (Ramban ibid).

A real, complete and absolute change will only occur when there is full recognition of our mistakes:

עד שיוסיפו על החרטה הנזכרת וידוי גמור ותשובה שלימה

“… until they add to the aforementioned regret real confession and perfect repentance” (ibid).

אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ. הַחֲזִירֵנוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה שְׁלֵמָה לְפָנֶיךָ!

Our Father, our King! Bring us back in wholehearted repentance before You.

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