Commentary to Vidui Part Six
We have caused suffering to God , other people , our families, ourselves . We have openly displayed our hatred of others, even of God . We have made it difficult for others to feel a sense of place and purpose . We are unwilling to give to others even if it won’t cost us a penny ; attention, time, a smile, a good word. We blame our suffering on the absence of God . We don’t accept our suffering with joy for its serving a higher purpose . We suffer over things that are not important. Abba Binyamin said, “Over two things have I suffered/הייתי מצטער, (I would push myself), that I should pray in the proper place, and that my bed should be placed in the proper way. ” There are numerous other such statements in the Gemara. They would pain themselves to do things that were important. We bother ourselves over matters much less significant. We do not cry out to God when we see others suffering . We aren’t willing to put in the hard work necessary to grow in Torah and learning
Elkanah had two wives; Chana and Penina . Penina had seven children. Chana had none. Penina would tease Chana incessantly , and the navi testifies that she did it only so that Chana would pray harder . Penina was still punished . Even when the pain we have caused was for a good purpose, we are still responsible for causing it.
We have played on the weaker side of people to cause them to fall or to cause them pain. We make them look at their weaker sides, and convince them that that is who they are. As the Midyanim did to Bnei Yisrael by causing them to sin and by planning to always attack them where they were weak . The Midyanim knew the weak side of the Jews. They represented the opposite if the heights to which Moshe had led them . They knew that they could turn the Jews away from their heights, and then cause them to fall.
When we treat people from the perspective of their ugliest sides. By treating them that way, we pull them away from their good side. We bring out the worst in them. This is also included in צררנו. We do the same thing to ourselves; we focus on our weaknesses and failures. It is almost as if we are ambushing our success. We do this especially when we are doing Teshuvah. We attack ourselves, and then inevitably fail. צררנו.
We have been obstinate. We have been too stubborn to accept Tochachah, rebuke, from others or from books that we study. When we suffer we refuse to look at ourselves and see what we need to change. By doing so we are saying that the world runs by chance and not by God’s will . We have been too stubborn to forgive others.
Yeravam ben Nevat was given powerful opportunities to do Teshuvah. The Gemara says that God grabbed Yeravam by his shirt and said, “Do Teshuvah, and I and you and David will stroll together in Gan Eden.” “Who will go first? David or me?” “David ” “If so, “ said Yeravam, “I don’t want to do Teshuvah.”
There is actually a story in Melachim itself with many parallels to this midrash; Iddo Hanavi came to Yeravam just as the king stood near an altar to burn incense. The navi cried out against the altar in the name of Hashem and said, “O altar, altar, thus said Hashem; Behold a child shall be born to the house of David, his name will be Yoshia; and on you he will kill the priests of the high places that burn incense upon you, and men’s bones shall be burned upon you.” And then Iddo gave a sign the same day saying, “This is the sign which Hashem has spoken; Behold the altar shall be torn, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.” When Yeravam heard the words of the navi he stretched out his hand saying, “Grab him!” And Yeravam’s hand, which he had stretched against the navi dried up, so that he could not even pull it back to himself. At that moment the altar split and the ashes poured out exactly as said by the navi.
Yeravam, desperate begged the navi to pray to Hashem to restore his hand. The navi prayed, and Yeravam’s hand was restored. Yeravam invited the navi to the palace to eat and receive a reward, but the navi refused. His instructions from God were to eat no bread, drink no water, nor to return on the same path he had taken to see Yeravam.
Even a casual reading of the story reveals how stubborn Yeravam was. How many signs did he need to see the hand of Hashem? The drying of his hand. The splitting of the altar. The restoration of his hand in answer to Iddo’s tefilot. Yeravam even knew to ask Iddo to pray for him. But he was too stubborn to take the next step. From the story in the gemara we mentioned earlier, we can see that his arrogance got in the way. His hand dries up and the altar split. That which is hard and rigid, breaks. When we are too stiff to change, to reflect and change we too are setting ourselves up for hurt. קִשִּֽׁינוּ עֹֽרֶף, we have been too stubborn, to the point of hurting ourselves and our development. We laugh at Yeravam’s seeming stupidity, yet we have to wonder how different we are in our own circumstances.
We have done things that the Torah calls wicked such as raising our hand to hit someone else . We plan to take revenge. We have thoughts and plans to sin . We are confused and disturbed . We draw our strength from evil we have created ; In the gift of free choice comes the reality that our choices make a difference. We create forces of good or evil with our choices. We can also feed these forces of evil by using good for bad purposes. Instead of jealousy to make us work harder, we turn to envy. Instead of anger to fight evil we turn to anger in general. Instead of stubborness in the face of bad influences, we become too stubborn to change. We turn good into its opposite. This is why evil is called the Sitra Achra, The Other Side. Eventually these forces of evil beging to be our source of energy. This is רָשַֽׁעְנוּ. When our use of the world is for immediate pleasure only and not focused on Olam Habah we are living a limited, or dead life. This why the wicked are called dead even when alive.
(See Shmuel II 22:22)
We have corrupted that which is good through prohibited sexual activity, arrogance, anger, and hiding our eyes from giving Tzedaka . We don’t rush to perform Mitzvot Each Mitzvah corresponds to one part of the body . When we sin we damage the spiritual well being of that part of our body . We are incomplete , and we allow ourselves to remain that way without working at ourselves. We have challenged the foundations of the structure of our faith and of others’ . We have wasted food and money . We have functioned without thinking about its implications. We take a positive feeling and crush it or put it aside .
If we have a great davening and we don’t want to acknowledge it because it would demand more of us in our furture tefillot, that is שִׁחַֽתְנוּ. If we get hurt after being nice to someone, and then say to ourselves that we won’t be nice anymore because it isn’t worth it; that is שִׁחַֽתְנוּ. When we don’t use positive attributes that we have is also שִׁחַֽתְנוּ.
(ע‘ שערי תשובה דף ל“א ע“ש ; החנף)
We have become an abomination to God . We have become distant from God . We have been arrogant . We waste opportunities to study Torah . We are not meticulous with our tzedaka money or obligations . We have davened when we needed to go to the bathroom . We are not ashamed of our sins in front of other people . We have davened inebriated or otherwise unable to concentrate . We have brought disgusting things into our homes , including inappropriate materials, movies, television shows. We make serious mistakes in judgments about spiritual and halachic issues .
In general we have turned away from You , and this to us is the most painful thing of all. We have turned so far that we no longer know if what we are doing is wrong, and if it is how to fix it .
The Vilna Gaon explains that it is possible that we have fallen so far into sin that our souls are dead. He bases this on the Gemara that says; When Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai fell ill, his disciples went in to visit him. When he saw them he began to weep, They said to him, “Mighty hammer! Why do you cry?” He replied, “If I were being taken today before a human king who is here today and gone tomorrow in the grave, whose anger doeas not last forever, who cannot imprison me forever, and cannot put me to everlasting death, and whom I can persuade with words and bribe with money, even so I would weep. Now that I am being taken before the Supreme King of Kings, who lives and endures forever and ever, whose anger, if He is angry with me, is an everlasting anger, Who can imprison me forever, Who can put me to eternal death, and Whom I cannot persuade or bribe, when there are two ways before me, Gan Eden and Gehinom, and I do not know to which I will be taken, shall I not weep?”
From the fact that Rabban Yochanan speaks of anger, prison, Gehinom and death, we can see that he is speaking of four different levels of punishment. Therefore, the Gra continues, when Shlomo says, “The man that wanders out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the shades,” he is saying that such a wanderer dies an eternal death.
At this point of the Vidui, we are devastated by our failings, mistakes, weaknesses, and the damage we have caused to God’s world and ourselves. We wonder aloud, “How far have we wandered from the way of understanding?”
You have allowed us to fall . Please help us come back.
We also acknowledge at this time that we have been deceptive . We wonder how honest this confession has been. We realize that we have been so dishonest with ourselves in the past, that it is difficult to know how honest we are being now.
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