Torah thought forFriday 12 Tishrei 5783 October 7 2022

Parashat Ha’azinu - Today Maran zt”l was born - Progressing From Teshuva From Fear to Teshuva From Love

(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

We are currently in the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, so we will say something relevant to these days.

In this week’s Parashah, Moshe Rabbeinu a”h said, “Listen heaven! I will speak! Earth! Hear the words of my mouth!” (Devarim 32:1). Our chachamim explained (quoted in Rashi), that Moshe requested that the Heavens and Earth listen, and that they be witnesses that Moshe warn Am Yisrael that if they observe the Torah, He will spoil them with goodness and blessings. As it states, “The vine gives forth its fruit, the land gives forth its produce, and the heavens give forth their dew” (Zechariya 8:12), And if chas veshalom they won’t keep the Torah, then the following will apply to them, “…He will lock up the skies so that there will not be any rain. The land will not give forth its’ crops” (Devarim 11:17).

When did Moshe warn Am Yisrael? In the earlier Parashiyot, in Parashat Ki Tavo and Nitzavim. There the Berachot and Curses are mentioned, in which Moshe warns Am Yisrael not to forsake the Holy Torah.

In Parashat Nitzavim it states, “When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, you will finally return to Hashem your G-d and obey him” (Devarim 4:30), and following that it further states, “You will repent and obey Hashem” (ibid. 30:8). We must understand why does the Torah repeat that we should make teshuvah?

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains that there are two types of teshuvah. There is teshuvah from fear and teshuvah from love. When a member of Am Yisrael hears all the Berachot and Curses, he returns in repentance, however this is teshuvah from fear, he is afraid of Hashem, afraid of the frightful punishments that are mentioned in the Torah, therefore he repents.

After this the person continues to rise. He becomes closer to Hashem, not because he is afraid but due to his love of Hashem, may His Name be praised. A person should consider how many kindnesses Hashem has done for him. There are many mighty and strong men that whilst walking in the street suddenly collapse, “They slumped and fell” [see Tehillim 20:9], and when they scream out Hatzalah are there for them, but there is nothing that can be done for them. Yet we are Baruch Hashem alive, and we must thank Hashem. Therefore it states, “Let all souls praise Hashem” (Tehillim 150:6), as our chachamim explained, for each and every breath that a person breaths they must praise the Creator! A person should consider how much goodness there is in the world, “How can I repay Hashem for all His bounty to Me?” (ibid. 116:12), and then he is stirred to love Hashem, who is good and does good to those who are bad and good, and so he can repent from love, for with the merit of teshuvah from repentance this turns intentional sins into merits!

Therefore it was repeated. The first time refers to teshuvah from fear and afterwards teshuva from love. It is impossible for a person to repent from love unless he has first repented from fear. This is because it is like ascending a ladder and if a person attempts to jump the levels, he is sure to fall back. Rather he must ascend one level at a time and in this way, he will merit to teshuvah from love. Then Hashem sees his love of Him and transforms his sins to merits and hears his prayer.

What will assist the person most to bring him to love Hashem? The prophet says, “Take words with you and return to Hashem” (Hoshea 14:3). What are things to take? These are Torah words! A person who studies Torah, hears words of Torah, then his heart is aroused to love Hashem. These are the words of Maran zt”l.

During these days, with the help of Hashem we have experienced the Yamim Noraim, Rosh Hashanah, Ten Days of Teshuvah and Yom Kippur. We have merited to stand and beseech Hashem, “sanctify us in Your holiness”, and to repent. However, during the Yamim Noraim, the teshuvah comes from pressure and fear, a person worries, he is afraid what will be with himself and his family, he is anxious about what is to come, therefore he endeavours to repent before Hashem and supplicates before Him that he will forgive him and be good to him.

But now, ahead of Sukkot, “The Time of Our Joy”, the soul is relaxed. A person goes from a permanent home to a temporary abode, he sits in the shadow of the Shechinah, “The Shadow of Faith”, and then he is directed even more to fill his heart with joy, “You shall rejoice on your Festival…so that you will be only happy” (Devarim 16:14-15), and from the increased goodness and joy he must consider how great are Hashem’s kindnesses to us. At that moment when the soul has these feelings, he takes it upon himself further resolutions in serving Hashem. Or at least he strengthens himself even more to maintain the things that he has already accepted upon himself. Then he merits to the highest level of teshuvah from love! When he arouses himself to love Hashem, then also from Heaven love is aroused towards him. The person becomes beloved to Hashem, for He is our King and we are the sheep of his pasture, even today, if we but heed His call! [see Tehillim 95:7].

A love such as this, we saw by Maran the Grandfather zt”l, that today 12th Tishrei his soul appeared in the world. The rav zt”l would sit and toil in Torah, faithfully and with great love! I heard from my uncle Rav David Yosef Shlit”a, that once, during the month of Ellul, Maran zt”l returned home late after almost the entire day he had travelled around Israel to merit many with Torah. The rabbanit a”h, would normally wait for him and when he arrived, she would heat up his meal for him and he would then eat, after which he would revert to his studies. However that night, the rabbanit was busy talking on the telephone and didn’t notice the rav come home. The rav entered the kitchen and saw that there was no food, so he immediately went to his room to study and he sat there studying Torah. After a short while, the rabbanit realised and immediately begged him to get up and go to the kitchen and eat. The rav replied to her, “Just a few more minutes! Just 5 more minutes.” Until the rabbanit was very tired. She said to him, “The food is on the table!” The rav replied to her, “In a few minutes I’ll come and eat”. And the rabbanit went to her bedroom.

In the morning, the rabbanit realised that the rav hadn’t slept, she got up and saw that the food was still on the table. She turned to him and said to him, “The food is still on the table, why didn’t you come to eat it?” He replied to her, “I said to you, I am going to come, just a few minutes…”

They said about him, “Were any man to offer all the treasure of his home to entice you away from your love,” the love that Rebbi Ovadia Yosef had for Torah “they would scorn him to extreme”! (Shir HaShirim 8:7).

Shabbat Shalom um’vorach, tizku leshanim rabot neimot vetovot!

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