What’s In A Thought?

September 17, 2021
Tishrei 11, 5782
Candlelighting Time 6:46 PM

            We are presently preparing for Yom Kippur and we need to consider what we can do to merit forgiveness at this auspicious time? Ramchal in his renowned work the “Path of the Just” discusses the concept of repentance. He explains that when we dissociate from our previous desire that insnared us to sin, that detachment is deemed as though we have uprooted that very action and it is no longer regarded as having occurred. In more depth, when the sinner recognizes his depravity and acknowledges the necessity of removal of such an evil act from his behavioral mode, and he deeply regrets his original mentality, his sincere alteration of attitude expunges that action, and it is though it was never done! However, this kindness that Hashem has extended to us is not based upon the true expression of exacting judgment, rather it is a consideration expanded beyond the restrictions of literal judgment.   

            Rav Elchonon Wasserman, famed Rosh Yeshiva of the Baranovitch Yeshiva in Europe who was murdered together with his Yeshiva by the bestial monsters, the Nazis, asks a very penetrating question. The Talmud states that even one who is a completely righteous individual, a Tzadik, if he renounces the mitzvos that he has performed in his lifetime, then he discards all those merits that he accrued during his lifetime. And a verse from Yechezkel is cited to corroborate this remarkable viewpoint. This notion that a Tzadik can actually dispose of his ‘credits’ with one simple renouncing of a lifetime of achievement seemingly is a rational and reasonable conclusion that the Talmud assumes. After all, why would we condemn someone unless he had indeed done something which was undeniably and indisputably incorrect?  

            Therefore, he questions, why does Ramchal consider the sinner’s transformation of his mindset, which is the fundamental theme of repentance to be something beyond the parameters of true judgment? It is no different than the Tzadik recanting his mitzvos, here the sinner recants his sins.

            His response gives us an incredible insight into the gift that Yom Kippur truly is! Of course, when the Tzadik repudiates his mitzvos he relinquishes the merits that he so struggled to achieve in his lifetime. However, even after his repudiation, what he accomplished during his life remains a fact that we cannot ignore and even more so we can postulate that the effects on his soul endure despite his loss of merit. However, when we elevate ourselves to a spiritual plateau based upon a profound and piercing remorse for our sins, the actual impact of our decadence is eradicated and the perversion that has assailed our soul is nullified. Such graciousness from Hashem is extends well beyond the constraints of what bona fide judgment would dictate.

            Of course, the ball is in our court and we must exert ourselves to weed out those corruptive thoughts and ideas that so assault us on a daily basis. However, our Sages have taught us that the Evil Inclination is absent on Yom Kippur and therefore, we have an incredible opportunity to raise the bar and change our lives!


When Moshe was commanded to climb the mountain upon which he would die, he did not hesitate because he served Hashem until his very last moment.                                                CHOFETZ CHAIM