Sunday, September 09, 2007

First night of Slichot for Ashkenazim

I think its very interesting that I’m writing this for the day on which Ashkenazim start to say slichot, when I started saying slichot a month ago since I am Sfardi!
So then, I took the slichot which were said yesterday night to find something nice to say and I saw that the slichot start with a sentence which I find has a lot of chutzpah: “We are coming on Erev Shabbat to say Slichot Early” We are coming early? A week before is early? Maybe I should say skoyach: better late then never? What is this?
I then decided to explore the difference between the askenazi minhag and the sfardi minhag.
The reason for the sfardi minhag is clear: No, its not because we eat kitniyot on pessah that we need to compensate. Its known that these 40 days are days of forgiveness and so we do slichot on these 40 days.
The Askenazi minhag is summarized in the Mishna Brura. Orignally, they wanted to do slichot during assara yemei tshouva. This makes sense, they blow the shofar from rosh chodesh ellul and then say slichot on level 2. Then level 3 is kippur and soon I will make a post letting you know that level 4 is sukkot.
Then, they realized that on 4 of the 10 days, you don’t say slichot: Rosh hashana is 2 days, then there’s Shabbat and on yom kippur. So, they added 4 days before rosh hashana.
Then, in order to add even more days, They arbitrarily chose a day in which slichot will be said each year, on Yom Rishon.
Now, we understand everything except for one thing: Why Saturday? Which is yom rishon.
We could say its arbitrary but it doesn’t seem right! Things in Judaism are not usually arbitrary.

In order to answer this I need to go on a small tangent. In this week’s parasha, we are introduced with the mitzvah of tshouva. This parasha is always read either before or after rosh hashana. One who reads the parasha carefully realizes there are 3 types of tshouvas being described: There is first “tshouva ad”, Tshouva until. This is a lower level tshouva. Then, there is a long description of kibboutz galouyot, tshouva to erets Israel, 1948!. Then, we are introduced with the highest tshouva, tshouva el! Tshouva to God! Not only until the door, but you get TO GOD.

So we understand the literal meaning of the parasha but what is the difference between tshouva ad and tshouva el. Also what difference does 1948 make? Why is it significant here?

So, Rav Kook wrote a whole book on the answer to this question called Orot Hatshouva. And I could write 20 books of commentary on that book of Rav Kook, but ill just summarize everything in one minute.

Tshouva AD, is the regular tshouva that we are used to. We sin, we do tshouva in order to return to the way we were before. WE GET UNTIL the way we were before. Its nice but the best.

Tshouva EL is something much greater. Tshouva El starts with a realization. It starts with a realization that everything in the world is constantly returning to God. The vegetation, the animals, the nations. There is this force pushing everything towards God all the time. Our job is then to tap into this force. This force tries to bring about the unifying of God’s name in this world which is basically the goal of this world. Our goal is to tap into this amazing force and join in it and go in the same direction and help the world get to that goal of theirs which is the unification of God’s name in this world.

So, why is 1948 relevant to all of this? 1948 is the start of kibbutz galuyot, it’s the start of our gueoula. Many writers compare galut to night and gueoula to the day and for good reason! At night, its dark, you don’t see anyone. You are just with yourself. Your emphasis is on personal growth. This is true in galut also. The Jewish People didn’t have a respectable part in society. We were forced into a reality of pure internal spiritual work – which we definitely needed. There, what is relevant, is Tshouva AD, correcting our sins, correcting our personal life.
Since 1948, dawn has started again. We can see around us and have an influence towards the people around us. The Jewish Nation is not on the sidelines of society! We can start to actively work towards tikkun olam, towards bringing the world towards the unification of Gods name. 1948 itself is a huge step towards the unification of Gods name since it is the resurrection of God’s nation. We can now tap into this amazing energy, into this amazing force of Tshouva!

We have one question left to answer: Why Yom Rishon? Why did Ashkenazim arbitrarily choose Saturday Night to start Slichot. The logical thing would be to start Friday, to say we are returning to the way we were created, on Friday. We are returning to our original self. But no! The Jewish People is making a greater statement! We are taking responsibility for the whole world. We are going to tap into this great energy and bring the full tshouva to whole entire world. We are going to bring the gueoula for the whole world! The world started being created on Sunday, we are starting slichot on Sunday because we are responsible for the whole world!

Beezrat hashem, as we start slichot, I hope that we all have a meaningful time of tshouva and that we can mamash tap into this amazing energy of tshouva which is, especially in our generation, bringing the whole world towards the revelation of God’s one name. Even when we are doing some small, personal resolutions this new year, like for some of us it can be more kavanah on tfillah, starting to eat kosher, etc… ANYTHING, if when we do these small things, we do them as part of the worldly process of everything going back to God, it becomes so much more powerful for us, and so much more beneficial for the whole entire world!
Beezrat Hashem more...

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