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Tuesday, September 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Yonah and Yom Kippur



Yonah and Yom Kippur


Every Yom Kippur for the haftarah at minchah, we read sefer Yonah. As is the case with any haftarah, there are specific reasons why this haftarah is chosen. The following is a list of significant connections between Yonah and Yom Kippur which I heard many years ago in a chaburah from R' Elie Wolf, who has since written an entire set of seforim on haftaros:

1. Teshuvah

Ba'eir Heiteiv in the name of Levush writes the most obvious connection. The story of Nineveh's doing teshuvah is meant to inspire us to do teshuvah on Yom Kippur. Radak and Me'iri add that sefer Yonah shows us that even gentiles can do teshuvah. This should serve to convince us that surely teshuvah is within our reach. Pirkei d'Rabi Eliezer also writes that when the men on the ship saw that the waters calmed after throwing Yonah in, they realized that it was a miracle and they did teshuvah and converted.


2. And how

Sefer Yonah also teaches us how to do teshuvah. The mishnah (Taanis 2:1) teaches us that on a fast day, the elder of the congregation would inspire the masses by declaring that when the people of Nineveh did teshuvah, the pasuk does not say that HaShem saw their sackcloth and their fasting but rather (3:10) "and Elokim saw their deeds for they had returned from their evil ways." As we read in the haftarah this past shabbos, (Yoel 2:13) "and tear your hearts, not your clothes." The key to teshuvah is changing one's inner self, not ones exterior appearance.


3. You can run, but you can't hide

When Yonah is first instructed to go to Nineveh to tell them to do teshuvah he tries to run away. He thought that by doing this, HaShem would no longer be able to communicate with him. Nevertheless, HaShem delivered the message by other means. Abudarham writes that this teaches us that there is no escape. It is futile to attempt to evade the grasp of Divine judgement. Sha'ar HaTziun (622:6) expounds on this lesson, a truly significant one for Yom Kippur.


4. Every little bit helps

Chizkuni writes on parshas Noach (Bereishis 10:11) that Ashur broke off from the rest of the pack to build Nineveh because he did not approve of what was going on with the building of Migdal Bavel. It was this move that merited his descendants, thousands of years later, the opportunity to do teshuvah. This shows us how even the smallest deeds can have such far reaching outgrowths. The sefer Shai LaTorah cites a gemara in Avodah Zarah 17a. R` Elazar ben Durdaya was a man deeply entrenched in sin who wanted to do teshuvah. He placed his head between his knees and cried until his soul left him. A bas kol declared that he has his place in olam haba. Rebi (R' Yehuda HaNasi) cried out "one can earn his place in the world to come over many years, yet one can do so in just one moment!" Asks Shai LaTorah, what was Rebi crying about? Surely his place in Olam Haba, having been acquired over many years, was greater than one which is acquired in a single moment. Rather, from this concept of acquiring one's place in only one moment, Rebi realized how each moment in one's life has this potential. This shows how precious each and every moment is and how we must make the most of every minute of our lives.


5. Wake up!

When the crisis on the ship reached a critical point, Yonah mysteriously goes down to the bottom of the ship to take a nap. The head sailor finds him there and demands of him (Yonah 1:6) "Why do you sleep? Get up and pray to your God!" The concept of sleep is directly related to teshuvah as well. Rambam writes (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4) the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah, although a Biblical decree, also has an inherent symbolism: "Wake up sleepers from your slumber..." One who neglects to do teshuvah is spiritually sleeping. The Chida, as well, learns that this pasuk is a charge to us to do teshuvah. Additionally, the Zohar, in relation to doing teshuvah says "Now is not the time to sleep!"


6. It's my fault

In the wake of troublesome times in Eretz Yisrael a few talmidim approached the Brisker Rav and expressed to him how terrible it was that all the chilul Shabbos in the country was causing these difficult times. The Brisker Rav retorted, "What gives you the right do blame the situation on someone else? Perhaps it is your iniquities that are the cause of these trying times." When Yonah was pressured by the other passengers on the ship to come up with a remedy for the situation, he did not look to others for blame even amongst a ship full of idol worshipers.. He was quick to accept (1:12) "For I know that it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you." Yom Kippur is a time when we all must be honest with ourselves and accept responsibility for all our actions.


7. Daven while you can

As everyone knows, Yonah was swallowed by a large fish. This fish is referred to at the beginning of Perek 2 as a dag, a male. However, the next pasuk tells us that Yonah prayed from the dagah, a female fish. Rashi on the first pasuk writes that Yonah had a lot of room in the male fish and was not motivated to pray. HaShem therefore had him "traded" to a pregnant female fish with much denser innards and Yonah became very uncomfortable. Only then did he decide to daven to HaShem. Although many are driven to prayer and repentance in times of tragedy and need, the lesson from Yonah is to work on these connections to HaShem even when times are good, so that we never see those trying times.


8. Thou shalt not steal

As part of the spiritual revolution of the people of Nineveh we are told (3:8) "...and each man repented from his ways and from the theft that was in their hands." A large component of the teshuvah in Nineveh was related to stealing. The Maharam Shif at the end of Bava Kamma writes of the gravity of the sin of stealing and how it steals the judgement. He suggests that the essence of ne'ilah at the end of Yom Kippur is an atonement for the sin of stealing as echoed in the refrain "lema'an nechdal mei'oshek yadeinu," so that we may withdraw our hands from thievery. The sefer Shai LaTorah quotes R` Yosef Dov Soloveichik on the words from selichos, "Haneshamah lach..." Since our neshamos belong to HaShem we must use them only in the way that He determines. If we misuse our neshamah, we take on the status of a sho'eil shelo mida'as, a borrower without the knowledge of the owner who is considered, in halachah, a thief. Sefas Emes writes in Parshas Naso that the reason why the topic of confession is specifically written in relation to stealing (Bemidbar 5:7) is because every sin really contains an element of stealing from HaShem. Sefer Yonah teaches us the severity of stealing while at the same time making clear that teshuvah must also involve an improvement in our relationship with our fellow man, not only our relationship with HaShem.



Have a Gemar Chasimah Tov(ah).

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:


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Friday, September 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeilech / Shuvah

At the beginning of parshas Vayeilech, Moshe proclaims to the people (31:2) "I am 120 years old on this day. I can no longer go out and come in, and HaShem has told me 'You shall not cross the Yardein.'"

 

Rashi comments that when Moshe says he can no longer "go out and come in," we know he could not possibly be referring to any physical deficiencies. His first interpretation is that Moshe is not referring to his ability to lead B'nei Yisrael - not that he is not able, but that he is not allowed. Rashi suggests that the rest of the pasuk is in fact an explanation of this statement. Moshe is saying "I can no longer lead you because HaShem has told me that I may not cross the Yardein."

 

The difficulty with this explanation is the use of the vuv hamosif – "vaShem amar eilai…" - the additive vuv which is usually meant to add something separate, rather than to imply causation.

 

Perhaps Moshe is indeed referring to his leadership as Rashi suggests initially, but is still making two separate statements. First, he conveys to B'nei Yisrael that his ultimate desire is to lead the people into the Promised Land. Alas, he has been told that he will not lead the people and Yehoshua will take over. But lest one think that it is Moshe's ambitions of grandeur and craving for honour that are fueling that desire, Moshe assures the people that he would have been more than happy to forgo his position of leadership and enter the Land as a layman while Yehoshua leads. All he wanted was just to enter Eretz Yisrael. But even this was not to be, for HaShem had told him that under no circumstances would he be crossing the Yardein. So in this pasuk, he is indeed making two separate statements relating to his desire to either bring or accompany the nation into Eretz Yisrael.


Have a good Shabbos and a gemar chasimah tov.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:


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Sunday, September 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

The main component of the Rosh HaShanah davening is comprised of the sections in mussaf known as malchios, zichronos and shofaros. Each section contains 10 pesukim from Torah, Nevi'im and Kesuvim relating to their respective topics. The gemara (Rosh HaShanah 16a) explains that the purpose of malchios is to proclaim HaShem's ultimate kingship. Of the pesukim referring to kingship, 2 of them, (Ovadiah 1:21, Zechariah 14:9) refer to HaShem's recognized kingship over all humanity in the days to come. At first glance, this seems puzzling. If we are supposed to be proclaiming HaShem's dominion over us today, how do we accomplish this by speaking of HaShem's future kingship?

 

I believe the answer lies in the following simple thought: The fear instilled by a human king, no matter how intense, is never of an everlasting nature. One may be scared of him today, but he may be dead tomorrow. Even the most tyrannical dictatorships can be overthrown in the blink of an eye. There is always that little bit of fear missing, that notion that the king will not rule forever. Therefore, on Rosh HaShanah, when we must declare HaShem's ultimate kingship, we must also stress the eternal and everlasting nature of His Dominion. We must stress that HaShem's kingship is not only a current one but one that will last forever and will be accepted by all in the days to come. May we all merit to see these days speedily.


Have a good Yom Tov and Shanah Tovah.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Remember us for the Good

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Friday, September 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim

This short parsha contains a most important discussion of the significance of teshuvah and the study of Torah. The pesukim proclaim

 

 "For this mitzvah (the whole Torah, according to Rashi) that I command you today is not removed from you, nor is it far. It is not in the heavens that you may say who will go up to the heavens and take it for us and teach it to us and we shall do it. Nor is it across the sea that you may say who will cross the sea and take it for us and teach us and we shall do it." (30:11-13)

 

At first glance, this passage seems to be expressing a leniency, comforting us that Torah and  teshuvah are not out of our grasp. These are not difficult things for us to achieve. However, R' Kulefsky, zt"l, points out that Rashi reveals that in fact, the passage may be indicating the exact opposite. Rashi quotes from the gemara (Eiruvin 55a) that while the Torah is reassuring us that it is not across the sea or in the heavens and therefore, one need not journey there to attain it, it is implying that if it were, we would be expected to go such lengths. The Torah is, in fact, relating a stringency in HaShem's expectations of us. No matter how far from our reach the Torah is, no matter what extremes are necessary to grasp it, those extremes are nevertheless expected of us.

 

R' Kulefsky would illustrate this idea with a story that was told of R' Zalman of Volozhin, the brother of R' Chayim. When studying late at night, if he were to need a sefer which was not immediately available to him, he would not simply move on. He would travel even to another city to obtain that sefer. His actions were based on the above. If the Torah were across the sea or in the heavens, one would be expected to sojourn there to attain it. If the Torah he seeks is in another city, surely he is expected to make the journey.

 

Have a good Shabbos and a kesivah vachasimah tovah.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Nitzavim Takes it on the Nee
Dikdukian: Don't you Worry

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