Friday, October 7, 2016

Parshas Vayelech – Shabbas Shuva 5777

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayelech – Shabbas Shuva
5 Tishrei 5777/ October 7, 2016

It wasn’t easy getting a meeting with the king. How many strings did he have to pull, how many connections did he have to utilize, to get those precious few moments with the king? Wouldn’t you think he would have made sure to look perfect when he presented himself before the king, with a haircut, a perfectly trimmed beard, and a new suit. How surprising it was that he walked in to the throne room, his face dirty, and his clothes sullied and wrinkled.
It’s a question that must be asked. Why is Rosh Hashanah before Yom Kippur? Why do we accept upon ourselves the monarchy of the king, and appear before the Supreme Power to be judged, before we engage in the spiritual purification and repentance of Yom Kippur?
One of our children, who shall remain nameless for the sake of her future shidduch, was playing on the playground at recess. She was in Pre-1A at the time and she wasn’t happy that the kindergarteners were also using the slide, causing her to have to wait a long time for her turn. So she took matters into her own hands and told all of the kindergarteners that the sliding pond was only open to Pre-1Aers. 
When the supervising teacher found out why the kindergarteners all left the slide she summoned our anonymous child to discuss the matter with her. After hearing our daughter’s emphatic explanation of why she had barred all of the kindergartners, the annoyed teacher looked at our daughter pointedly and said “Would you like to tell that to the principal?” Our daughter looked at her teacher and nonchalantly replied “yes”.
Rav Yisroel Salanter explains that Rosh Hashanah must precede Yom Kippur because we must have some understanding of who Hashem is, His awesome greatness, and how much He loves every one of us, before he can repent and “return” to that Supreme being. If one doesn’t understand G-d and how He relates to all of us, we will hardly be able to rectify our wrongs to Him. 
Every year before Yom Kippur, Rav Chaim Brisker would recount the following story:
The Netziv of Volozhin and Rav Yitzchok Peterburger would occasionally travel to Petersburg to deal with important legal matters. When doing so, they would have to remain in the city for a few days.
On one occasion they ended up having to remain there during Rosh Hashanah.
The Netziv and Rav Yitzchok went to daven at the great synagogue of Petersburg. The assembled were not very learned, and in fact almost all of them were Cantonists – Jewish soldiers who were dragged away from their homes at an early age, and forced into the Czar's army. There they were trained to forsake all remnants of religion.
Before Mussaf, an elderly Jewish general ascended the podium and spoke to the assemblage:
"Dear friends, for what shall we pray today on Rosh Hashanah? Can we pray for children? The Czar doesn't allow us to marry and have families. Shall we pray for life? Our very lives are constantly in jeopardy and we have to be willing to risk our lives for our country at any time. Shall we pray for livelihood? We eat what the army serves us and have nothing of our own anyway.
We have only one thing that we can pray for - yisgadal v'yiskadash shmay rabbah - May His great name be magnified and sanctified! We have nothing else in life worth praying for except for the strengthening of G-d's Holy Name!!”
Teshuva entails kabbolas ol shamayaim – complete acceptance of the yoke of heaven.
If one does not understand what it means to “speak to the principal”, she can hardly be intimidated by being sent there. And if one does not understand what it means to relate to the Supreme Melech, he will not be able to devote himself to doing proper teshuva to Him. But once one does have some semblance of understanding that he has the august privilege to serve the King of Kings, then he will want to do whatever he can to ensure that he can be connected on the highest level. Teshuva will not be an arduous task, but an anticipated privilege.
Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
G’mar Chasima Tova,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum