Teshuva and the Redemption of the Soul
הרב אריה שטרן
A. The Gemara in Masechet Yoma (86b) teaches:
R. Yonatan said: How great is teshuva (repentance), which draws the redemption closer, as it says, "A redeemer will come to Zion, and to those of Yaakov who repent from willful sin." (Yeshaya 59:20) What is the reason that "A redeemer will come to Zion?" Because of "those of Yaakov who repent from willful sin."
The Maharal (Netivot Hateshuva ch. 2) explains that when a person repents, he separates himself from the yetzer hara (evil inclination), and thereby goes out to freedom. A sinner is subjugated to the "old and foolish king" (Kohelet 4:13) – the yetzer hara. Why is the yetzer hara called a king? Because everyone listens to him, and when a person in under the control of his yetzer – it rules over him. When a person goes free from his yetzer hara, this is redemption, and thereby he also draws closer the redemption of Am Yisrael from the nations that rule over it.
The Maharal adds that already in the laws of the Torah we find a basis for this connection of redemption and teshuva. The Yom Kippur of the Jubilee is also the redemption of the slaves and lands, as it says, "You shall provide redemption for the land." (Vayikra 25:24) This is because Yom Kippur represents the redemption of man's soul, which goes free from the yetzer hara that he is subjugated to, and therefore the emancipation of the slaves is juxtaposed to the redemption of man's soul.
Based on this we can well understand the intention of the Ba'al Shem Tov that the focus of our prayers for redemption has to be on the individual redemption, which is the redemption of the soul. This is what it says, "Draw near to my soul, redeem it" (Tehillim 69:19) – "my soul" specifically. I.e., a person should primarily take care of the redemption of his soul from the subjugation of the body and the yetzer hara, which is something dependent on him. Through the redemption of his own soul, a person helps the general redemption, which will sprout from the redemption of the souls.
B. The Gemara in Rosh Hashana (16a) teaches: "R. Yitzchak says ... Why is [the shofar] blown when sitting, and blown [again] when standing? In order to confound the Satan." Tosfot quotes, in the name of Aruch, from the Yerushalmi: "It says, '[G-d] will eliminate death forever,' and it says, 'On that day a great shofar will be blown.' When [the Satan] hears the sound of the shofar one time he will be a somewhat scared. When he will hear it a second time he says: Certainly this is the shofar of, 'A great shofar will be blown,' and the time has come to be eliminated. He gets confounded and doesn't have time to prosecute." Doesn't he know that this is practice of Israel, so why does he get confounded?
The Rambam writes about shofar blowing (Hil. Teshuva 3:4):
Even though blowing shofar on Rosh Hashana is a Divine decree, it has an allusion. I.e., the sleeping – awaken from your sleep, and the slumbering – awaken from your slumber. Search your ways and repent, and remember your Creator. These are those who forget the truth in the vanity of the temporal, and squander all their years in vanity and nothingness that does not help or save. Look to your souls and improve your ways, and let each one of you leave his evil path and his thought that is not good.
At first glance the Rambam's reason is a new one, and it is not the reason given by the Yerushalmi, to confound the Satan. However, the truth is that they are the same, and it all amounts to one reason. So long as a person is subjugated to his yetzer, he is like someone who is sleeping, who doesn't take to heart the true path. This is, in fact, the yetzer hara's way of taking control over man – to put him to sleep, and to make him forget what is required of him in the service of Hashem. This is the notion of sleep, that the body exists without the soul and the mind to direct him and lead his life.
On Rosh Hashana a person has to wake up from his sleep and to rule over the body through the soul and mind. Thus, the shofar blowing serves to arouse the individual redemption, the redemption of the soul, about which it says, "Draw near to my soul, redeem it." Through this, the redemption of the nation is aroused, since, "How great is teshuva (repentance), which draws the redemption closer," and through this the Satan is confounded, since when the time of redemption comes he will no longer exist.
This basis of this idea is in the Gemara Rosh Hashana (33b), which derives the laws of shofar blowing on Rosh Hashana from the shofar blowing on Yom Kippur of Yovel: "It says about the Yom Kippur of Yovel, 'You shall pass a shofar of wailing.' I know only in Yovel, from where do we know Rosh Hashana? It says, 'In the seventh month.' It seems unnecessary to say 'the seventh month," so what is the meaning of 'the seventh month?' That all the blasts of the seventh month shall be like this."
In general, when we learn two things from one another with a gezeirah shava, there is also some inherent connection to the two of them. Indeed, the shofar blowing of Yom Kippur of Yovel heralds the redemption of the slaves and the land. So, too, the shofar blowing of Rosh Hashana should arouse the sleeping from their sleep and bring to the redemption of the soul. This also explains the opinion of R. Eliezer in Masechet Rosh Hashana (11a) that Israel are destined to be redeemed in Tishrei, as derived from "shofar" "shofar:" It says about Rosh Hashana, "Blow the shofar at the moon's renewal," and it says about the redemption, "A great shofar will be blown." The shofar of Rosh Hashana is the shofar of the individual redemption of each person, and from it flows the general redemption.
C. Based on this, there is a similarity between the month of Nisan and the month of Tishrei, that in both of them we are dealing with redemption and freedom. However, there is a great difference between them: In Nisan the redemption is initiated from Above, even though Yisrael are not worthy, but rather bare of mitzvot. The reason for this is that in Nisan the process goes from the redemption of the group to the redemption and freedom of the individual. On the other hand, on Rosh Hashana the redemption is initiated from below, aroused by the repentance of Am Yisrael. Thus, in Tishrei the process is in the opposite direction, from the redemption of the individuals to the redemption of the group.
It is likely that this is what R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua dispute in Rosh Hashana (11a). R. Eliezer maintains that Am Yisrael are destined to be redeemed in Tishrei, whereas R. Yehoshua maintains that they were redeemed [from Egypt] in Nisan, and are destined to be redeemed in Nisan. They follow their opinions, as we find in Sanhedrin (97b):
R. Eliezer says: If Israel repent – they will be redeemed; if not – they will not be redeemed.R. Yehoshua said to him: If they do not repent they will not be redeemed?! Rather, G-d will establish over them a king whose decrees will be as harsh as Haman's, and Israel will repent, and he will return them to good.
The Gemara continues:
R. Eliezer says: If Israel repent they will be redeemed, as it says, "Return, O wayward sons, and I will heal your waywardness." (Yirmiya 3:22)R. Yehoshua said to him: But it already says, "For naught you were sold, and without money will you be redeemed" (Yeshaya 52:3) – without teshuva and good deeds.
Thus, R. Eliezer follows his opinion that the redemption is dependent on repentance, and maintains that they are destined to be redeemed in Tishrei. R. Yehoshua, who follows his opinion that redemption is not dependent on teshuva, maintains that they are destined to be redeemed in Nisan. Both opinions are valid, as the Gemara states there (98a): "In its time I will hasten it. If they are worthy – I will hasten it; if they are not worthy – in its time."
קוד השיעור: 3909