Elul 22, 5783
September 8, 2023
Candlelighting Time 7:02 PM

In Parshas Vayeilech the Torah foretells that after the passing of Moshe the people will rebel and not harken to the mitzvos as they had previously done. Tragedy will befall the nation and eventually they will realize that they are punished for their iniquity. Bemoaning their fate, they will declare that because Hashem does not reside with us, we are subject to these misfortunes. The next verse states that despite their apparent recognition of their disobedience and it seems as though they regret their sinful behavior Hashem still ‘hides’ His countenance from them and they do not find favor in His eyes. What is indeed lacking in their perception of their wrongdoing that is not defined as true repentance?  

Meshech Chochma poses the following intriguing question. Why is there a mitzvah of repentance? After all, the sins that we have unfortunately done really are transgressions of clearly stated mitzvos in the Torah. Have we become liberated from fulfilling them because we have contravened what is stated clearly in the Torah? Obviously not, and since it is incumbent upon us to fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah we need to continue observing them although we have temporarily negated their performance. Therefore, the mitzvah of teshuva, to repent seems somewhat redundant since anyway we must continue our observance of the Torah.

He answers that although we may have stated our remorse nonetheless, we need to actively reverse the pattern of life that we have erroneously chosen. And until such a time we can’t fully achieve repentance to the extent that our sins will be considered effaced. And that is truly what we struggle to accomplish with our protocol of repentance. Even seriously regretting our past misdeeds does not rectify our newfound path of thorns and thistles due to our entanglement in sin. He cites this from Maimonides in his preface to Pirkei Avos and this theme is vital in assessing how we can correct our lives in a productive and efficient manner when we enact a turnaround thereby alleviating unacceptable behavior. 

Based upon this, as we approach Rosh Hashanah a time when we stand in judgement in front of the Throne of Hashem and our deeds from an entire year are inspected and scrutinized, perhaps we need to also spend time soul-searching and realize that unless we take clearly evasive action, then what is our defense at this time of the year. Since the only way to thoroughly alter or at least decisively revise our lifestyle is with the above-mentioned approach, then in the time remaining until Rosh Hashanah it is incumbent upon us to discern that new course, introduce it into our lives, and become inspired and elevate our trajectory with our newly found aspiration.  

Perhaps this is the intent of Maimonides when he explains that although blowing Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a mitzvah of the Torah, nonetheless it spurs us on to awaken from our slumber. The deep sleep that Maimonides alludes to is our level of observance that we have become so accustomed to with all of its snags and hitches. The Shofar that we blow on Yom Tov and every day during the month of Elul is a wake-up call to reexamine, reassess and reestablish our priorities.  


Why did Moshe warn the nation that if they transgress the Torah the heavens and the earth will testify against them? Our conduct determines the functioning of the world. Our mitzvos set the world on a course of benefit and if we unfortunately faulter, then the world suffers. The inner workings of the world are in our control. That was the warning that Moshe threatened the people with. The entire creation  agonizes when we misfire and therefore, that is the most serious testament that will clearly state our ongoing conduct.