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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.



Friday,  24 Elul 5774 – September 19, 2014             

              In Parashat Nitzavim, Moshe expresses his concern that there may be those among Benei Yisrael who will ignore the nation’s covenant with God, and say, “All will be well with me even as I follow the will of my heart” (29:18).  The result of this mindset, Moshe warns, is “sefot ha-rava et ha-tzemei’a,” which Rashi explains to mean that God will hold this person accountable not only for his intentional transgressions, but also for his mistakes, for those sins which he commits unintentionally. 

            Rav Yerucham Levovitz explains that the dispensation given for sins committed be-shogeig, unintentionally, is granted only to those who make an effort.  If we conduct ourselves conscientiously, sincerely trying to do the right thing, we can be forgiven for the occasional mistakes that we inevitably make.  But the person described here by Moshe is one who lives and acts “bi-shrirut libi,” as he desires, without mindful restraint and without exercising discipline or caution.  For such a person, Rav Yerucham explained, there is no “shogeig.”  He can never be considered as having made a “mistake,” because he made no attempt to avoid wrongdoing.  A “mistake,” by definition, is an undesirable action which one did not want to commit, and one who made no attempt to avoid such an action can thus not be considered as having sinned “be-shogeig.” 

            To a large extent, our pleas for forgiveness are all based upon the dispensation for “shogeig,” in the broader sense of the term.  As we pray on Rosh Hashanah, “Ata hu yotzeram ve-Ata yodei’a yitzram ki heim basar va-dam” – “You are their Creator, and You know their inclination, that they are but flesh and blood.”  On the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Chava, we “remind” God that we are created with certain natural negative tendencies, that we are inherently flawed and limited.  We appeal for His compassion on the basis of the fact that He understands our inner struggles and sinful inclinations far better than we do.  However, this appeal is valid only to the extent to which we genuinely try to overcome our challenges and resist our negative tendencies.  If we live with the attitude of “bi-shrirut libi eileikh,” shutting out the voice of our conscience and acting freely, then we cannot honestly invoke the plea of “Ata yodei’a yitzram.”  It is only when we try, invest effort, and make a serious attempt to scrupulously follow God’s laws that we can then appeal for His forgiveness for those occasions when we, as flawed human beings, have fallen and failed.


Rav David Silverberg       



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