Friday, October 3, 2014

עיצומו של יום - The Awe of the Day

Rav Ezra Shapiro

Rav Yochanan Ben Zakkai lies on his death bed crying as his talmidim enter. "Why are you crying?" they asked. "Two paths lay ahead of you, how can you not cry" he answers.  

Is Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai, who has the zchut of saving torah for future generations, concerned about his din!?! It could be a testament to his humility, it could be the example of אשרי אדם מפחד תמיד. I think that there is another explanation. 

Rav Soloveitchik in Al Hateshuva explains the Rambam’s curious placement of the inner workings of בחירה חופשית in the center of Hilchot Teshuva, splitting Hilchot Teshuva in two. The Rav explains that the Rambam is expressing two distinct types of teshuva. The first - a procedural teshuva, consisting the elements of viduy, charata, kabalah leatid and kapara. The second  - an awareness shift of teshuva. A teshuva which is the result of having stared the implications of בחירה חופשית in the face. That person is met with sudden thoughts of responsibility and repercussion. Not so much the fear of repercussion, as much as an awareness of repercussion and consequence. A sudden new lease on  meaningful choices and a meaningful life. 

When Rav Yochanan Ben Zakkai says that there are two roads ahead he is not necessarily focused on the uncertainty of his future. He might be expressing his very real awareness of שכר ועונש, implication, repercussion and meaningfulness of all that has been. That is עצום, overwhelming.

Gmar din is עצום, the power of עיצומו של יום  is powerful in its effect, independent of the fear of the specific outcome of din. The confidence that the thread will turn white between the horns of the ram does not relieve the immense tension filling the climactic moment when it does.

The awe of walking the trail of Mount Hua Shan is hardly alleviated by the chains which you are carefully grasping onto. There may be no fear of falling but there is certainly an acute awareness of height and of what each careful step means when you are 5000 feet above the ground.

On Yom Kippur Hashem will take us 5000 feet up. He will also given us the chains to grasp onto, we thank him for both and will not come out of the "trail" the same as we entered it.

Bezrat Hashem we should have the focus and awareness tomorrow to gain the sense of awe of standing in din, irrespective of the confidence we have that one week later we will be dancing with our lulavim held high.

Gmar Chatima Tova

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