Commentary to Vidui Part Five
We have turned our hearts from the service of Hashem . We allowed ourselves to become complacent and to turn our attention away from the source of our blessings . We easily forgo opportunities to perform Mitzvot. We have not been careful in the Mitzvah of Tzizit. We do not pay attention to the messages that God gives us.
The defining moment in Moshe’s life was when he turned to see the burning bush ; “And God saw that he turned to see, and the Lord called to him. .” It was Moshe’s turning that was the final step before Hashem spoke to him. The word used is סר.
The same word is used when Hashem told Moshe that the Jews had sinned with the Golden Calf. ”סרו מהר מן הדרך אשר צוימם“ , “They have turned quickly from the path that I have commended them.” These people who were at the highest level that human beings could reach, turned, as had Moshe. Instead of turning towards God, they turned away from Him. At the moment they were to receive the most wonderful gifts , they turned away and lost everything; The Luchot, their crowns, their glory, and their freedom.
Those who turn to look can receive the most wonderful gifts. Those who turn away can lose everything. We can work at something a long time and give up just before we succeed.
So much of what we lose is because we refuse to turn and look and study and daven and create a stronger relationship with God through a higher awareness. סָרַֽרְנוּ, we have turned away from the opportunities You have given us, and we have lost what could have been ours. We did not turn to You as Moshe did at the Burning Bush.
Reb Nachman of Breslov taught; “The eyes are constantly exposed to the most amazing sights. Were a person to purify his eyes sufficiently, he would be able to see many wondrous things based solely on what he views with his eyes. Things pass before one’s eyes so quickly, however, that there isn’t time to focus upon and grasp all that one sees…Yet someone who is worthy can attain a higher level of sight and find himself able to glimpse exceedingly great wonders all around him. Because most people’s eyes are not pure, they cannot focus properly, which precludes their seeing these wondrous, amazing sights.” סָרַֽרְנו, we have not purified our eyes.
The Gemara teaches that the size of the Torah is 3,200 times larger than the world . Yet can cover your eye with your pinky and effectively block out this great light. A pinky can block a man’s vision so completely that he cannot see something vastly greater . סָרַֽרְנו, we have allowed unimportant things to block our vision of the world and Torah.
(See Rashi Haazinu D”H Lo Aimun Bam)
We have sinned intentionally. We have sinned simply to satisfy base desires . We are guilty in front of you . We have made our souls sick . We have brought punishments upon ourselves , both in this world and in Olam Habah . I have twisted that which was good and turned it into bad ; The prime example of עון is the sin of Kayin. It was Kayin’s idea to bring a Korban. It was Kayin who had to work the land against the curse, and he still wanted to give of his work to God. He failed. Even when Hashem asked him to fix his korban, after Hashem told him that he could rule over Hevel, he continued to fall, until he killed Hevel. ”גדול עוני מנשא“, “My sin/עון is too great for me to bear. Kayin’s sin did not begin with the murder of Hevel. It didn’t even begin when he ignored God’s call to fix his Korban. Kayin fell as he was reaching high for a relationship with Hashem by bringing a gift, but doing it without his whole heart.
עָוִֽינוּ our sins have repricussions on others . We have sinned in secret fully aware that what I am doing is wrong. We were only concerned with other people knowing that we are sinning. We did not care that God knew. We have lived our lives confused, torn between different desires and goals , not fully present in our learning, davening or mitzvah observance.
When we speak about not being fully present in our lives, it is important to consider how Reb Shlomo Wolbe explains why the gemara compares going into a rage to idol worship. When someone is in a rage they act in a way that is strange even to themselves. They don’t recognize themselves in their behavior. They are strangers/זרה even to themselves. He continues and says that any time we function as strangers to ourselves there is this element of זרה. If we are acting in a manner that is not the way we believe we really are we are acting as strangers. If we learn or daven and we feel “strange” then this element of זרה exists as well.
We have acted carelessly with Halachah and with others. We have denied some or all of the Mitzvot. We have sinned in order to displease God . We have rebelled against you as our king . We have acted dishonestly . We did not always put on our Tefillin .
The Torah says , “In every question of dishonesty whether it involves an ox…one who sends his hand against the work of his friend…and the owner shall approach the Beit Din/האלקים.” The Daat Zekeinim M’Baalei Tosafot have a number of astounding readings of the word פשע in the verse; A) Moshe who broke the Luchot that were entrusted to his care had to approach God again to fix what he had broken, and to pray for the Jewish People. B) The פשע was that of Aharon for making the Golden Calf. C) The פשע of the Jewish People for delaying the coming of the Moshiach. D) The פשע of the other nations for saying that the Moshiach will never come. E) פשע refers to losing something.
Each one of these explanations of פשע has implications for us as we say פָּשַֽׁעְנוּ; If it refers to Moshe, פשע must mean any type of harm. Moshe “harmed” God’s Luchot, and by breaking them made the sin of the Jews greater, and so he harmed them as well. פשע would include harming that which is God’s in the world, which means everything. We have used His gifts to us in destructive ways; our mouths for Loshon Harah etc. Even though Moshe did what was necessary, it still caused harm. There are times when we must do something, for the right reasons and someone gets hurt. We must fix what we have done. As long as we haven’t we have פשע.
If פשע refers to Aharon, it includes even those things we did out of love for Bnei Yisrael, if it in any way damaged them.
If פשע refers to delaying redemption it would include anything our tradition tells us delays the coming of the Moshiach. For example, the Semag says that as long as we behave in such a way that the nations say that we are no more deserving of redemption than others, we are delaying redemption. If there is Sinat Chinam, unfounded hatred between us, we are delaying redemption .
If פשע refers to the nations of the world, it would mean that when ever we feel that the Moshiach is not going to come, we have פשע. When we fail to believe in the ultimate perfection of the world, or that God’s experiment with this world has failed, we are denying the Moshiach . If פשע means to lose something, פָשַענו would include opportunities lost, learning forgotten, and achievments lost.
We are one step away from doing Teshuvah, and we remain there without taking that step. Those with פשע are always the symbol os people just one step awau from positive change. We accept the sacrifices of פושעי ישראל . Moshe asked for compassion on the פושעי ישראל that they should be helped in doing Teshuvah. Every prayer on a fast day must include the פושעי ישראל . Those with פשע are only one step away from Teshuvah, and therefore must be included so that they will be pulled back to Hashem.
This is also what the Midrash means when it says that, “Fortunate is one who is larger than his פשע, and his פשעis not larger than he.” When the one step is too large for the person, it is “larger than he.” If he is willing to take the step, than he, is larger than it. When we say פָשַענו are saying that we have allowed the step towards God and Teshuvah to be larger than we are.
There is פשע in Mitzvot too. If a non-observant person is eating in my home and I see him about to eat without washing, and I yell, “No! No! You can’t do that.” embarassing him, I have set him up to sin. The next time he sits down to eat, the one thing he won’t do is wash. This is called “Putting a stumbling block in front of a blind person. ” The long term effect of my mitzvah of not letting him eat without washing, will be an avaeira; he will definitely eat without washing, if he ever visits an observant home again. This type of “mitzvah” is called פשע too.
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