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Weekly Thought - Ki Tavo

Friday, 27 August, 2010 - 12:19 am

Beginning the first day of Elul, our custom is to say chapter 27 of Tehillim “LDovid Hashem Ohri vYishi” twice a day. We continue saying this chapter throughout Elul and Tishrei until Hoshana Rabba.

The first pasuk in the chapter mentions Hashems name twice. The first mention is “LDovid Hashem Ohri vYishi Me-mi Irah”, and the second is “Hashem Maoz Chayai Me-mi Efchod”. While one could say that this repetition is poetic, there is nevertheless a deeper meaning that needs to be explored.

The Gemorah asks a similar question about the repetition of Hashem’s name at the beginning of the 13 Attributes of Mercy. The Gemorah answers that one name of Hashem relates the state before sin while the second name relates to after sin. According to this answer, what is it about an individual’s situation before sin that necessitates Hashem’s mercy (the first mention of Hashem’s name), that requires inclusion as one of the 13?

The Rebbe explains that we seek Hashem’s mercy before sin for help in dealing with our yeitzer hara. The first method that the yeitzer hara employs is confusion. We begin by losing clarity regarding the value and differences of right over wrong; issues become murky, grey areas arise. The yeitzer hara even arises in our thinking disguised as acting in our best interest (As the Rebbe Rashab describes; “Appearing as a Chossid wearing a silk kapote” (HaYom Yom)). Eventually he evolves into the outright chutzpa of presenting that which is blatantly wrong as right! Dovid HaMelech answers this confusion in proclaiming, “Hashem Ohri!” Hashem in His infinite mercy illuminates our lives and helps clarify what is right and what is wrong.

Still, even when we are aware that we are Yidden and we are connected with Hashem, we can be seduced by sin in our illusion that we are too weak or incapable to fulfill Torah and Mitzvos properly. To address this Dovid HaMelech adds, “V’Yishi” Hashem will help and give us the strength to overcome sin; “Me-mi Irah” there is nothing to fear.

When we do fall and then desire teshuva, the yeitzer hara creates a sense of distance and impossibility. We can come to assess teshuva as too steep and distant of a path to embark upon. To combat this sense, we arouse Hashem’s mercy. This is alluded to in the second appearance of Hashem’s name “Hashem maoz chayai”.

When Hashem taught Moshe Rabbenu the 13 Attributes of Mercy he hid him behind a rock. Why did Hashem need to hide him behind a rock? Also, how is it possible to truly reconnect with Hashem once an aveira has already been committed? Answers to both of these questions can be understood by way of the analogy of fiery coals and a flint stone. Water can easily extinguish a fiery coal. On the other hand you can submerge a flint stone in water as long as you like and nevertheless extract a spark at any time. So too it is with teshuva after having fallen into an aveira. Externally the aveira is a reality, but deep within, the neshama has not been shaken even one iota. The neshama always remains connected with Hashem. This is what the process of teshuva reveals. Once the inner connection is revealed forgiveness is forthcoming; “Hashem maoz tzuri”, Hashem is the rock (flint stone) of my life.

The Medrash says that the question was asked to wisdom, prophecy, the Torah and Hashem what can be done if a person sins. Wisdom’s answer was punishment. Prophesy’s answer was suffering. The Torah’s answer was to bring a karbon. Hashem’s answer was to do teshuva. Hashem sees the part within us that never disconnects.

Another question in this chapter in Tehillim is the seeming contradiction in first asking for only one thing “achas shoalti”, and then immediately following with multiple requests “lachazos b’noam Hashem” and “levaker b’heichalo”. The Rebbe explains that this is because, even after one has done teshuva, the yeitzer hara does not relent! Indeed, he cedes to the neshama that it has really done teshuva, but he argues that this momentum of change is simply unsustainable in practical daily living. Living a post teshuva integrated lifestyle is just too far from reach. To this Dovid HaMelech says “achas shoalti”, “osa evakeish!” This is my essential focus and singular request; to break through and truly be one with Hashem. This sincere search and request enables the neshama to break its inner boundaries and reveal its inner desire and longing for Hashem and sever ties with worldly desires. Once arriving at this state of teshuva, the very next step is to follow with detailed additional requests to sustain the neshama in the details of daily life.

(Likutei Sichos volume 9)

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