From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
“Without thoughts of repentance, without the rest and security that it provides, no person could find solace, and spiritual life could not develop on this earth.” (Orot HaTshuva 5:6)
Rabbi Dov Begon – Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir
Message for Today:
He Will Atone for the Entire Congregation
Yom Kippur is the day of purification. As Rabbi Akiva said:
“How fortunate you are, O Israel! Before whom are you being purified? Who is purifying you? Your Father in Heaven! As it says, ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean’ (Ezekiel 35:25). And it also says, ‘The Lord is the mikveh [hope, or ritual bath] of Israel’ (Jeremiah 17:14). Just as a ritual bath purifies the impure, so does G-d purify Israel.” (Yoma 85b).
All this is particularly relevant on Yom Kippur. As Rambam wrote:
“Yom Kippur is a time of repentance for all, for the individual and for the public. It results in forgiveness for Israel” (Hilchot Teshuva 2:7).
Now it is true that the very essence of Yom Kippur atones, as it says, “This is because on this day you shall have all your sins atoned, so that you will be cleansed. Before G-d you will be cleansed of all your sins” (Leviticus 16:30). Yet G-d simultaneously issues us a command. As Rambam wrote: “Everyone is obligated to repent and to confess sin on Yom Kippur” (Rambam, ibid.).
And just as to be purified in a ritual bath we have to do a physical deed, to enter the mikveh, so, too, on Yom Kippur we are commanded to confess, and by such means we merit purification, with G-d’s help. The wording of the confession is entirely in the plural:
“May it be G-d’s will … that You should forgive us for all our sins and pardon us for all our iniquity and atone for us for all our wrongdoings.” We then go on to specify our sins, using a formula organized according to the Hebrew alphabet.
When we confess, we have to have in mind not just to confess on our own behalf, but on behalf of everyone. All of Israel are like one body, with one heart. When someone sins, it’s not just him! It’s also me, for all of us are one people, one soul.
We must learn this lesson from the great rabbis of Israel down through the generations from our inception as a people until this day. This is a point that the entire Jewish People, and every individual member of it, always bore in their hearts. It is like the High Priest on Yom Kippur, who would confess for the sins of all Israel: “Aaron shall press both his hands on the live goat’s head, and he shall confess on it all the Israelites’ sins, rebellious acts and inadvertent misdeeds” (Leviticus 16:21). And because he felt the pain of the people in the aggregate, and of every individual, and he poured out his heart and prayed to G-d, he was successful, and “he atoned for the entire people” (verse 24).
The day is not far off when we will be privileged to see the building of the Third Temple and to see kohanim, levi’im and Yisraelim each performing his task in the Temple service. Leading them all will be the
kohen gadol, the high priest, in the Holy of Holies, praying and atoning for all his people Israel, and blessing them with love.
Looking forward to complete salvation,
With blessings that you be signed and sealed for a good year,
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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner – Chief Rabbi of Beit El
40% of the Jews in Israel suffer from obesity. For some, the situation is more severe than for others, but in any event, there is room for improvement, and amongst men more than women. I am not referring to aesthetics. Who says that a thin person is more handsome than a fat one? Rembrandt, for one, did not feel that way with his paintings. The human being comes in a variety of shapes, beauty is subjective, and there is no arguing about tastes and aromas. Only, obesity constitutes one of the greatest threats to the health of modern man, leading to heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, arthritis, hernias, varicose veins and more.
I am not telling you to go on a crash diet using appetite reducers. This can lead to malnutrition, dehydration or other side effects. Moreover, when people on such diets stop them, they almost all go back to their previous habits and become even more obese.
Neither am I telling you to start obsessive physical exercise. Even strenuous exercise takes off little weight while increasing appetite. Obviously, regular exercise has enormous worth for preserving one’s health, but not necessarily for weight loss.
I also am not telling you to afflict yourself and constantly starve yourself, living in morose suffering. The Torah is a Torah of the living. What I am suggesting is to eat a little bit less and to avoid unhealthy food. That isn’t hard, it’s pleasant and it’s also a good behavior trait.
Rambam writes, “One should not eat everything one desires, the way a dog or the donkey does. Rather, one should eat food that is good for one” (Hilchot De’ot 3:2). Already in our Torah sources we are advised not to overeat.
It is true that sometimes there are medical causes to people being obese, such as having a slow metabolism, but that is rare. Almost always, the reason is very simple: taking in too many calories. Even if each day you only take in 10 grams too many, that will add you four kilos per year, forty kilos over ten years, eighty kilos over twenty years, etc., etc…
The solution is simple: methodical reduction in calorie intake (obviously I am not talking here about people who have special medical problems warranting their seeking a doctor’s advise, but about regular people who just keep on adding weight). That same calculation of grams works in the opposite direction as well.
One must always preserve a balanced, varied diet, including: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. G-d did not create anything in His world in vain. “A person shall ultimately have to render an account before G-d over everything he saw that he didn’t wish to eat, even though it was permissible to him and he could have eaten it” (Mesillat Yesharim 13, quoting the Jerusalem Talmud). This is referring to what people need for their health (ibid.).
Yet one should avoid fattening, unhealthy food: 1) Fat. One should consume lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat milk products, and one should avoid fried foods. 2) Sugar. One should avoid candy, ice cream, soft drinks, cake, jams and chocolate.
One can eat a lot of fruit, but one shouldn’t go too far, since fruit has sugar too. Rather, one should eat one fruit, or fruit portion, at a time. One shouldn’t drink fruit juices, but rather one should eat the fruit itself, chewing well. Vegetables are excellent, cooked or fresh. Eat as much as you like.
You can see that I am not torturing you. Quite the contrary, you’ll feel a lot better.
It’s true that sometimes there are psychological factors that cause overeating. A nervous, frustrated person finds a substitute for happiness in eating. If this is a serious problem for you, then I recommend that you contact Overeaters Anonymous, which consists of support groups, or more precisely, self-help groups, located everywhere, for men and for women, religious or Hareidi. Everyone there is in the same boat, and they help one another, for free. You’ll be able to get the address closest to you by calling the Clearing House of Self-Help Groups in Jerusalem, at 02-5000848, Sundays to Thursdays, 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM.
Sometimes people also suffer from bad eating habits from childhood. Don’t worry. Anything can be improved. Eat a lot of small meals and don’t wait until hunger overtakes you and then you binge. In this the Jews from Germany are right. At 7:00 AM they eat a good breakfast; at 10:00 AM something small; at 1:00 PM a good lunch; at 4:00 something small; at 7:00 PM a good supper, and at 10:00 PM something small. Everything in good measure. This is highly recommended.
At the same time, don’t eat all sorts of between-meal snacks. That’s really foolish. Moreover, be careful not to binge at all sorts of social affairs, even at ceremonial meals, and even at dinners giving thanks to G-d. If G-d performed a miracle for you, it is a mitzvah to thank him, a mitzvah to repent, but not necessarily a mitzvah to eat. How good it would be if we could avoid eating anything outside our own homes! Rambam wrote: “When the wise man sparingly consumes the food that is appropriate for him, he should only eat it in his own home, at his table” (De’ot 5:2). One way to trick yourself into eating less is to stop eating when you feel that you’ve still got room. As Rambam wrote, “One should not eat until satiation. Rather, he should eat about a quarter less than that” (De’ot 4:2). There’s no need to measure. The principle is what is important.
Chew your food well and don’t swallow quickly. Eat slowly and that way you’ll eat less. You’ll also digest it better. In the same spirit, don’t eat fresh bread, but old bread that is dry or toasted. It’s very tasty. And obviously, eat whole wheat bread. Also, in general, try to eat food with cellulose (fruit, vegetables and unprocessed vegetarian foods, which aid in digestion).
Put on your plate an appropriate portion that you plan to eat, and don’t add to it. At night, before you go to sleep, there is no need to eat. Even the Jews from Germany who eat at 10:00 PM are eating “something small”.
Drink a lot of water, a liter or two a day. A disposable cup holds 180 cc. If you engage in physical labor, obviously you’ll need a lot more. By the way, water is delicious. All of this advice should not be adopted all at once, lest it break you. Rather, you should adopt it bit by bit, conveniently. Don’t think all day about dieting. Think about loving G-d and loving your fellow man.
Rabbi Azriel Ariel– Guest Lecturer at Machon Meir
On the Way to Complete Repentance
A Jew stands in prayer on Yom Kippur. His back is bent, his fist beats his heart, and he confesses. “For the sin that we committed against You by acting callously… For the sin that we committed against You by a confused heart,” and he concludes with a request for forgiveness, “Forgive us, pardon us, atone for us.” Yet with all that, the worshipper is not yet at rest. He asks: “Have I truly repented fully? Was my repentance accepted?”
Obviously, we haven’t been privy to the words of the assembly of holy seraphim that we can say what happens “there” [Hebrew: SHAM, which in the Hebrew plural is SHAMAYIM – heaven]. Yet there are a number of things that we can say, making a comparison between repentance between men and repentance between man and his Maker.
When a person tells someone, “I do not forgive you,” or, “I won’t forgive and I won’t forget,” what does he mean? Generally, when he has been badly hurt, there are a number of factors involved: The array of mutual relations with that other person can be out of kilter, with the psychological relationship between them being negative (involving hatred and estrangement). It means that the damage has not yet been rectified on the practical level, and certainly not on the psychological level. Feelings of pain, insult and humiliation still fill the heart. The perpetrator’s personality is perceived as negative in the present, and as far as the future, there is great suspicion. The victim nurses great anger, and in the most severe case, even a desire for revenge, or, in lighter instances, a hope that revenge will be executed by G-d. Sometimes there are also demands for monetary or other practical recompense. Above all else, the victim desires that the perpetrator’s conscience should torture him for as long as he lives, and beyond that.
If the perpetrator seeks to attain complete forgiveness, he must undergo a long, tortuous process: He must recognize the pain he has caused his fellow man. He must view what has occurred between them from the victim’s point of view. He must take responsibility for what he did and even recognize his guilt. He must promise himself and the victim that his personality has undergone a profound change that will enable him to be certain that he will not commit the sin again. Above all else, he must restore to the victim his lost honor – by standing before him in humble self-abnegation, look him straight in the eye and ask his forgiveness.
Obviously, not every injury requires all of these components. Milder affronts can be concluded with only a small fraction of what was described, and that suffices. Yet when severe affronts are involved, there are no shortcuts. It may be possible to “extort” out of the victim a superficial utterance of forgiveness, but within his heart, the residue will remain, and the relations will not be able to return to the way they were. By contrast, if the perpetrator screws up his courage and undergoes the entire process from start to finish, he will achieve “repentance out of love,” in which “intentional sins are transformed to merit,” and the array of mutual relations will be rendered much more cordial and intimate than they were before the affront.
From the way life works in relations between men, we can learn something about the array of relations between man and G-d. When a person repents before his G-d, he seeks to repair the array of relations between them. “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and let a noble spirit support me” (Psalm 51:14). Man seeks to feel close to G-d. “Do not cast me away from before You, and do not take Your holy spirit from me” (verse 13). He seeks to rectify everything that has been corrupted in his ethical psyche. “Create for me a pure heart, O G-d, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (verse 12). He is ready to “compensate” G-d for what he did to Him. It is true that, “You do not wish a sacrifice, or I should give it; You do not desire a burnt offering” (verse 18), yet, “the sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; O G-d, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart” (verse 19). Chiefly, the sinner seeks to cleanse his conscience of the heavy burden of sin that is tormenting him: “Make me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You crushed exult…. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and let a noble spirit support me” (verses 10,14).
Towards that end he must undergo a painful process penetrating to the depths of the soul. He must recognize his sin. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (verse 5). He must seek to understand how he has affronted G-d’s kingdom and universe: “Against You alone have I sinned, and I have done what is evil in Your sight” (verse 6). He must take responsibility for what he did, and he must recognize his guilt, by saying, “I have sinned to G-d,” without seeking to justify himself and without hiding behind excuses such as Adam’s: “The woman that you gave to be with me – she gave me what I ate from the tree” (Genesis 3:12).
It is not easy to undergo all the parts of this process. Generally, we achieve only partial success. We therefore add the words, “For all our sins, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.”
Yet the highest level of forgiveness is called “tahara”, purification, which rectifies the sin at its source, repentance out of love, which transforms intentional sin to merit. That can be achieved only with assistance from G-d, as it says, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean” (Ezekiel 36:25); and, “G-d will remove the barriers from your hearts and from the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love G-d your Lord with all your heart and soul. Thus will you survive” (Deuteronomy 30:6).
Translation: R. Blumberg
From the World of Rabbi Avraham Kook
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