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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Ki Savo, Teshuva, and Elul. Inherent and Adherent Kedusha.

Reb Yomtov Lippman Heller, the Tosfos Yomtov, had (through his daughter) a great great grandson who learned at the feet of Reb Meshulem Igra, and who was a great and creative Talmid Chacham. His name was Aryeh Leib Hacohen Heller. Reb Aryeh Leib wrote a sefer you might recognize, even though these days the sefer is out of style. It is called the Ketzos Hachoshen, and many say that it forever changed the model of how Gemara is learned. Because of the great respect and love the Torah world had for that sefer, its author is never called Reb Aryeh Leib, he is called the Ketzois. (Or the Xois.)  He also wrote a sefer called Shev Shmaitsa, which expanded the Divrei Torah he said at his Sheva Brachos. In both his introductions to the Ketzos and to the Shev Shmaitsa, he says many wonderful things. For Elul, I would like to be mefarseim and think about one particular thing that he says in his introduction to the Shev Shmaitsa. I don't know if it has any shaychus to Ki Savo.

Toward the beginning of the Hakdama, (if you've gotten to the part where he says that iluyim tend to say svaros that are not glatt, you've gone too far,) he says that many people have asked, "Why is it that Adam Harishon's teshuva was not fully accepted? He did teshuva, so why was he not reinstated to his status of before the Chet?" Why were the gzeiros of expulsion from Gan Eden and death not reversed? Why was he not restored to that divine splendor that misled some malachim into thinking he was God himself, but instead remained condemned to that woeful and harsh existence that is the human condition?

The Ketzos answers that the superhuman greatness of Adam's existence before the Chet was possible only for a Yetzir Kapav of the Ribono shel Olam, a creation formed directly by Hashem's hand. Adam's teshuva was a superlative achievement, and it saved Adam from untold suffering in Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba. We can even say that Adam, with his teshuva, had recreated himself, as the Rambam says about every ba'al teshuva. But this new creation was the doing of man, not Hashem. Adam had recreated himself, and that which Man creates cannot live forever, cannot exist in Gan Eden, and cannot shine with the splendor of Hashem. At first, Adam was Hashem's creation. With his teshuva, Adam created himself.

With this, he explains the words
הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ ה אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם
"Hashiveinu Hashem ei'lecha ve'nashuva, chadesh yameinu ke'kedem." If Hashem pushes us to teshuva, rather than our teshuva being the product of our own effort, then we will be, once again, like Adam before the Chet, because in that case, we will have been re-created by Hashem.


The Ketzos'es words are wonderful for many reasons. First, because what he says is exactly the kind of lomdus you would expect from the Ketzos. Second, because the idea that the renewal of teshuva is a true re-creation of the person to the extent that the original identity and characteristics no longer necessarily pertain, is very strong. Third, the idea that man is capable of creating himself is somehow very moving. In Adam's case, this came with a cost. In our cases, it is only beneficial.

But, it's a Ketzos, so it raises more questions than it answers.
1. Everyone, even a tzadik gamur, even if you haven't sinned and done teshuva, we are all constantly making choices about whether to sin or not to sin. Even if we choose the right thing, it is those choices, which we ourselves make, it is our Bechira, that maintains our spirituality, that keeps us spiritually alive. Why is this not also our own ma'aseh yadayim?
2. Isn't it true that "אלמלא הקב"ה עוזרו אין יכול לו?" If not for Hashem's help, we could not withstand the Yetzer Hara (B'B 75a). If so, it is not really "our" teshuva. It is Hashem's again.
3. Along the same lines: It seems to me that doing God-like work, the work of creating a man, is impossible if not by virtue of the God-given ability to rise above nature and to be God-like. If so, it doesn't seem right that the result would be a diminution of our similarity to Hashem. In other words: it's true that the object of the creation was created by a man, but the man who was doing the creating has become more, not less, God-like by doing so.
4. And most importantly: if the Ketzos is right, what's pshat in
מקום שבעלי תשובה עומדים צדיקים גמורים אינם עומדים
"makom she'ba'alei teshuva omdim sham, tzadikim einam omdim sham?" And don't tell me the glib answers, because in Sanhedrin 99 it's clear that this statement is an assessment of rank.

Before discussing these questions, I want to point out an interesting thing. In Ki Sisah, Shemos 34:29, the passuk says Karan ohr ponov, that when Moshe came down with the second luchos, his face shone with a powerful light of kedusha. Rabbeinu Bachya asks, why did this happen only after the Luchos Sheniyos? Why did this not happen when Moshe Rabbeinu came down with the first luchos?

The Beis Halevi in his drashos, and the Mabit in his introduction to his Kiryas Sefer, say the same answer (my taitch; best to see inside; also, please note that neither of them address Rabbeinu Bachya's question, but what they say answers the question anyway). The first Luchos were crafted by Hashem and included the entire Torah Sheba'al Peh, and once a person read them, he would never forget them. After those luchos were broken, Klal Yisrael did teshuva for the sin of the Egel, and their teshuva was accepted, and the Torah was given to them once again. Moshe Rabbeinu was told to craft new Luchos, but Hashem did not write the Torah Sheba'al Peh on them, and now it required hard work to learn and to remember the Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu, upon receiving the first luchos and knowing the Torah, was like Tashmishei Kedusha, an object that serves the Torah. But when Torah Sheba'al Peh existed nowhere but in his mind, and it came to reside there through his hard work, he became Kedusha Atzma, inherent kedusha in himself. Before, the kedusha was adherent. Afterwards, the kedusha was inherent.

The Torah itself didn't change. But where before it was Hashem's Torah, and we were the beneficiaries of that gift, afterward it became our Torah. Even after all the siyata dishmaya that is necessary to learn, understand, and retain the Torah, it is we, by our hard work and mesiras nefesh, who recreate ourselves, who do the ibbud and kesiva li'shma, to incorporate and reflect the Torah.

I think the same is true of Adam Harishon after his teshuva. Yes, by falling, he was irreparably diminished. Just as was the case with the Torah after the Luchos Sheniyos, whatever he would achieve from that point on was not a gift, it had to be worked for and guarded. But as a result of his work- his teshuva and his efforts to guard his teshuva- his accomplishments were his. My father zatzal used to say, how could it be that Adam, the yetzir kapav of the Ribono shel Olam, could have sinned? The answer is that he was lacking one thing: Chinuch. He was what he was as a gift from Hashem, and gifts are easily lost. Only that which you earn is truly yours. In a sense, he was diminished, but he was also far greater than before.

So, let's go back to the four questions we had on the Ketzos.
1. Everyone, even a tzadik gamur, even if you haven't sinned and done teshuva, we are constantly making choices about whether to sin or not to sin. Even if we choose the right thing, it is those choices, which we ourselves make, it is our Bechira, that maintains our spirituality, that keeps us spiritually alive. Why is this not also our own ma'aseh yadayim?
Answer: there's a difference between maintaining and recreating. Every day, with our bechira to do good and not do bad, we maintain Hashem's briyah, and it is still Hashem's briyah. With Teshuva, we are recreating something that was destroyed. There's a difference between a Shomeir and an Uman. There's no hava amina that a shomer that saves the pikadon from being destroyed is koneh the pikadon. But Uman koneh bishvach keli, because he is making something that was not there before.

2. Isn't it true that "ilmalei Hashem ozro. lo yachol lo?" If not for Hashem's help, we could not withstand the Yetzer Hara. If so, it is not really "our" teshuva. It is Hashem's again.
Answer: When it comes to Bechira, it is one of the fundamental rules of the briyah that Hashem does not mix into our decisions involving yiras shamayim. So our teshuva, even if it could not happen without Hashem's help, has a din of zeh eino yachol ve'zeh eino 'yachol' (kaviyachol). In such a case, both are considered to have done it.

3. Along the same lines: It seems to me that doing God-like work, the work of creating a man, is impossible if not by virtue of the innate ability to rise above nature and to be God-like. If so, it doesn't seem right that the result would be a diminution of our similarity to Hashem. In other words: it's true that the object of the creation was created by a man, but the man who was doing the creating has become more, not less, God-like by doing so.
Answer: There's a difference between the Gavra and the Cheftza. Of course, a baal teshuva, the gavra, has done something that elevates him to the kisei hakavod. But the cheftza, the body, will forever be different.

4. And most importantly: if the Ketzos is right, what's pshat in
מקום שבעלי תשובה עומדים צדיקים גמורים אינם עומדים
"makom she'ba'alei teshuva omdim sham, tzadikim einam omdim sham?" And don't tell me the glib answers, because in Sanhedrin 99 it's clear that this statement is an assessment of rank.
Answer: Again, that's the difference between the Gavra and the Cheftza. The Cheftza of our existence in Olam Hazeh is never the same, the same way the Torah of the Luchos Shniyos was not the same as it was in the Luchos Rishonos. By doing teshuva, the person gets a kinyan on his ruchnius and elevates himself to a madreiga that even a tzadik gamur never can reach.

Bekitzur: the luchos sheniyos were missing some of the unique Atzilus of the luchos rishonos, and after his teshuva, Adam Harishon was never the same as he had been before his chet. But only with the luchos sheniyos did Moshe have the Karnei Ohr, and the same was true for Adam Harishon and the same is true for every Baal Teshuva. In the final tally, the gifts you are given don't count for much at all. All that matters is what you make of yourself.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post.

I'm interested in your statement that the "Ketzos Hachoshen" is out of style. Where I come from, it and "Shev Shmaatsa" are considered absolutely fundamental. My own learning today is extremely polarized between shas b'kias and these sort of nuanced sefurim of the acharonim.

I'm not questioning your statement. I assume it is correct. But I've had limited exposure to trends in learning because my background is a little unusual. And I find these trends interesting. For example I recently learned that there are yingerleit learning "Reb Chaim"s in kollel for a salary but who never studied Mishnayos Kodshim and Taharos. It's not my place to object to these trends one way or another, but this revelationin particular came as a major blow to me.

Barzilai said...

Oh, good! Someone who is not just googling for Sheva Brachos drashos!

You're right, my statement was meant to lampoon the changing trends by exaggeration. That's why I began the piece as if I were introducing a forgotten historical figure who is of interest only because his grandfather was the Tosfos Yomtov.

Everyone still knows the Ketzos about hefker and chatzer le'hekdesh and hoda'as ba'al din and eid echad and maybe fifteen or twenty more, but there was a time that to be considered a lamden, you would have known every single Ketzos that says something worth having in your pocket. Now, what embarrasses people is if they don't know a Reb Chaim. Obviously, Reb Chaim is also a necessary part of becoming a true lamden, but I think that the primacy of the Ketzos has become attenuated recently, and that's a pity.

And please, please, don't assume that anything you see posted anonymously on the net is reliable. Why would a person post anonymously unless he wanted the option of saying things he wouldn't want attributed to him? In my case, I'm just trying to avoid damaging my youngest son's shidduch ranking simply by my being on the net. But you never know.

chaim b. said...

>>>In other words: it's true that the object of the creation was created by a man, but the man who was doing the creating has become more, not less, God-like by doing so.

Maybe that is exactly what led Adam haRishon to cheit -- recreating oneself to be G-dlike would seem to be a superior madreiga than being created that way without effort. The only catch is you need a nefila to have that opportunity for re-creation. The way to get there would be through an aveira lishma. (I may be misremembering, but I think R' Dessler has something along these lines).

>>>but I think that the primacy of the Ketzos has become attenuated recently, and that's a pity.

So here's an idea for you: a blog devoted to Ketzos. Multiple writers need to participate and on a rotating basis write up a synopsis of a piece from Ketzos or Shmaytza so that over a year we collectively build our yediyos in his seforim.

Barzilai said...

I have a chavrusa for the Shmaitsa, we've been doing a chapter a week, and are in middle of Shmaitsa III. The whole time I was learning I and II, I wished I knew the sugya in Kesuvos better, and for III, I wish I knew the sugya in the beginning of Niddah and kol hatumos ke'sha'as metiasan better. Baruch Hashem he is a better baal hasbara in the Ketzos.

Your idea is great, but I think it would work better in a shiur. What you really ought to do is get a group together in your shul and say a shiur every week on the Ketzos, picking them in order. Not every one, of course. But like the important ones in the order they appear. Beis Din, Eidus, and so on. You would be the perfect person to do it, and all you need is an announcement. Going through the Ketzos this was is a doable goal, and I'll bet there are plenty of baalei batim that would enjoy it. Skip the one where he says the minhag was to be mechabed orchim to do the metzitza be'peh.

Anonymous said...

It's a little too brisker for me...

Barzilai said...

Sorry. Would you prefer lethargicker (the antonym of brisker)?

I know it's a strange hybrid of lomdus and hashkafa, but that's part of what makes it interesting, at least to me. That's why they make chocolate and vanilla.

Chaim B. said...

I had a chavrusa from Shmaytza for awhile and we just switched to something else (Sha'agas Arye) after doing about 2/3 of the sefer. My chavrusa had a new edition that has a running peirush on the bottom that quotes all the sugoys and explains them so you don't need to run to the bookshelf every 2 minutes. The writing in Ketzos strikes me as easier to understand.

Unfortunately I think an oral shiur wgiven by me ould have few takers, which is why I do the blog. If you knew me in person you would know I am horrible at PR and have a talent for remaining invisible.

R' Shach in a letter recommends learning davka Ketzos every week because (he says) it is impossible to not find some point to answer or some kashe to ask and the net result is an increas in one's cheishek for learning. My son has a new edition of the Ketzos with footnotes that quote from all the seforim of the Roshei Yeshivos. You see that the Ketzos was like the bread and butter of their shiurim on nezikin. Today everyone knows the chakiros of the R"Y's but they forget about the Ketzos in the background.

Barzilai said...

Everyone I know has some kind of bottleneck; they have powerful skills that beg to express themselves, but there is one flaw, one narrowing of the conduit, that prevents those skills from coming out. Sounds like you should be taking this:
http://www.newyork.dalecarnegie.com/local_courses_desc.jsp?cCode=HIP