Halacha for Monday 20 Elul 5777 September 11 2017

Atonement for Sin, Torah Study, and Sinners in Our Generation

In the previous Halacha we have discussed four varying levels of sin. We have also pointed out that there are some sins for which one cannot obtain atonement until suffering or death befalls him, as the verse states, “I shall remember their iniquities with a staff and with affliction their sins.”

Since we have already discussed the general ideas of these matters, let us now discuss what one must do as a result.

The Rectification Procedures and Self-Inflicted Suffering Found in the Works of the Mekubalim
Indeed, in the Mussar works of the authentic Mekubalim we find many different rectification procedures for a vast array of sins, so that one’s sins may be completely forgiven. For instance, in the Sefer Reshit Chochma, the author, Rabbeinu Eliyahu di Vidash zt”l, is very stern regarding sinners and writes that for every sin, one must fast a certain amount of times or immerse himself in ice-water and the like. This was based on the knowledge that the Mekubalim had of the flaws one causes based on the specific sin one performs.

However, as the generations progressed, people became weaker and are no longer capable of fasting the prescribed amounts of fasts quoted in the works of the Mekubalim to rectify the sin; thus, one should no longer follow these rectification processes.

“Leshon Chachamim”-The Great Work Authored by Rabbeinu Yosef Haim
Later, the great Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l of Baghdad arose and authored his Sefer Leshon Chachamim which incorporates different rectification processes for many kinds of sins. He authored this work based on his knowledge of the repentance process which was second to none and is much more lenient regarding the various rectification procedures. Nevertheless, even according to his words, a sinner must fast a prescribed amount of fasts for every specific sin; some sinners will indeed have to fast hundreds of times in order to atone for their sin and not everyone can withstand this.

Descent of the Generations
Even from the generation before us until our current generation, we can feel how much weakness has descended upon the world. Indeed, until approximately thirty years ago, there were individuals who lived among us and fasted for several days consecutively while continuing to function normally, such as the saintly Hagaon Harav Reuven Sharabani zt”l and the saintly Hagaon Harav Yisrael Abuchatzera zt”l (the “Baba Sali”) who would fast from Motza’ei Shabbat directly until the next Shabbat night, all the while never ceasing to learn Torah and no harm would befall them. We most certainly would not be able to withstand such rigorous fasting.

The Enactment of Rabbi Yitzchak Alfieh-The Fast of Speech
Thus, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Alfieh zt”l, one of the greatest Rabbis of Jerusalem, a pious and holy individual, and well-known miracle-worker, instituted the order of the “Ta’anit Dibbur” (lit. “Fast of Speech”) and publicized that whoever would not speak mundane words for an entire day and only speak words of Torah and prayer, this would be considered like several fasts and would be extremely beneficial for the atonement of one’s sins.

It is therefore proper for every person to use at least one day during this period to make a “Ta’anit Dibbur” for an entire day and dedicate that day completely to Torah learning and prayer and one shall merit a great atonement for his sins. Indeed, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l would advise his students to follow the enactment prescribed by Harav Alfieh zt”l and observe a “Ta’anit Dibbur”.

Torah Study Above All
Above all is the level of one who toils in Torah study, for the Torah protects one from enduring suffering. Not only that, but it also serves to atone for one’s sins. We have seen many times that when people approached Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l in order to seek advice for atoning for a particular sin, he suggested that they delve into the Torah learning associated with that sin. For instance, if one desecrated Shabbat, Maran zt”l would tell him to delve deeply into the laws of Shabbat and to take care to observe the laws of Shabbat, for by doing so, this would serve as a great rectification for his soul by correcting the sin he has transgressed and it will also protect him from enduring suffering as well as graciously being accepted by Hashem. (A woman is likewise granted atonement of her sins by delving in Torah study.)

Non-Religious Jews Who Have Repented
All of the above applies to one who has transgressed prohibitions advertently. We must point out though that nowadays, an individual who has grown up in the secular, non-religious education system and has since repented and become a Ba’al Teshuva, is not considered having transgressed the Torah advertently and the process of repentance offered to him should be made much more lenient. This kind of individual should strive to toil in Torah study, stick to his new path, and cleave to Torah scholars; by doing so, he shall be granted full repentance.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of Precedence Regarding Blessings (Continued)

In the previous Halacha we have explained that there are instances that priority is given to recite a blessing upon a certain food over another because of the innate significance of the given food, for instance, because it is a fruit that belongs to the Seven Species of fruits that the Land of Israe......

Read Halacha

The Month of Shevat and the Law that Food Must be in Front of the Individual While Reciting a Blessing

Next Wednesday (actually, beginning from next Tuesday night) will mark the Fifteenth of Shevat or Tu Bishvat. We will therefore begin a segment on the laws of Blessings of Enjoyment. In following Halachot we shall discuss some more laws pertaining to reciting blessings which we have discussed in the......

Read Halacha

Precedence Regarding the Order of Blessings (Continued)

Summary of the Laws Explained Thus Far In the previous Halachot we have explained that there is an order of priority regarding blessings, sometimes because of the innate importance of the food and sometimes due to the importance of the blessing. Priority of “Boreh Peri Ha’etz”......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Blessing on Fruits

In the previous Halachot we have explained that there is an order of priority regarding blessings. Thus, if one wishes to partake of apples and dates, one must recite the blessing on the dates, for they are one of the Seven Species. Precedence Regarding Blessing-Only Preferable Maran Ha’Be......

Read Halacha


Question: Is one permitted to act stringently in any situation one pleases?

Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed that one must wait six hours between eating meat and cheese in accordance with the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. This law is based on a Gemara in Masechet Chullin (105a). For the purpose of our discussion, we shall quote the words of the G......

Read Halacha

Eating Meat Dishes after Dairy Foods

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the laws of eating dairy foods after meat. We have explained that one must wait six hours between eating the respective foods. We shall now discuss the laws of eating meat dishes after dairy foods. The Opinion of the Gemara which Permits Eating Meat aft......

Read Halacha

Some Detailed Laws Regarding Eating Cheese after Meat

In the previous Halachot we have mentioned that after eating meat, one must wait six hours before eating dairy products. A Woman who has Given Birth or is Nursing A woman who is within thirty days of having given birth may eat dairy products after eating meat and she need not wait six hours. It ......

Read Halacha

Eating Dairy Items after Eating Poultry

In the previous Halacha we have discussed in general the law that one must wait six hours after eating meat before eating dairy foods either because the nature of meat is to get stuck between one’s teeth or because meat gives off a taste in one’s mouth for a prolonged amount of time. ......

Read Halacha