Illuminations #174, Tishrei, 5779, Parshat Vayeilech

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Illuminations #174, Tishrei, 5779, Parshat Vayeilech

Torah Gems

“And for the sin that we have sinned before You by showing contempt for parents and teachers.”

It is a common misconception that the mitzvah of kibud av v’em is limited to physical manifestations of respect and honor. This section of Al Cheit teaches otherwise. In viduy, we say al cheit for zilzul, which means to hold cheaply or to be disdainful. Included in this is not honoring parents in one’s mind. 

It is not enough for a son to fulfill every aspect of kibud av v’em in deed. He must also be careful to think highly of his parents in his heart and certainly not denigrate them or mock their spiritual shortcomings. If for anything else, the fact that his parents have merited a son of superior spiritual attainments like himself should be enough of a reason to think highly of them. 

This is not simply an ethical requirement, it is codified in halachah. Chayei Adam (67:3) writes that one must think of his parents as if they were great and noble people even if, in the eyes of others, they are considered insignificant. If a son criticizes his parents in his heart, he is put in the category of what the Navi describes as a person who ”scolds the Jewish nation, who with its mouth and with its lips honors Me, but its heart is far from Me” (29:13).

Parsha Pearls

“And now write yourselves this song.”

The Gemara learns from this pasuk that we have been instructed that every person in Klal Yisrael should have a Sefer Torah. It is even more praiseworthy if he wrote it himself, as it says, “kisvu,””write for yourselves,” meaning with his own hand. One who does so is considered by the pasuk as though he received it from Har Sinai. Anyone who is not able to write it for himself should hire someone to write it for him. It states, “And now write for yourselves this song and teach it to Bnei Yisrael.” In other words, write the Torah for yourselves which contains this song. 

The Chafetz Chaim’s son once asked him why he did not write a sefer Torah for himself since the Torah lists it as a mitzvah. The Chafetz Chaim replied, “Do I have the energy to do it? I rely on the poskim who said that now, since we do not learn out of the sefer Torah itself, we are able to carry out this mitzvah with the sefarim of the Talmud and the poskim that we study in order to know how we should act.” The Chafetz Chaim had a large number of these sefarim to learn from.

Glimpses of Greatness

The Chafetz Chaim once met a Jew with whom he was acquainted and asked how he was doing. “It could be better”, the man replied with a sigh. “You are mistaken!” the Chafetz Chaim responded. “It cannot be better! Hashem, whose ways are all extremely exact to the extent that we cannot fathom, knows exactly what is good for you and what is not good for you. Therefore, whatever He has given you is exactly what is good for you! There is nothing better!” 

Halacha Weekly

Q. Can one ask forgiveness without revealing one’s identity by letter or by phone? [II-19-407]

A. Yoma (85b) says that sins that occur between a man and his fellow Yom Kippur does not atone for until he appeases his fellow. During the Ten Days of Repentance (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) it is customary to seek forgiveness from others for anything improper we may have done to them. What happens if the person does not know he did it? Or perhaps he does not even know that anything was done to him at all because the action did not cause them any suffering?

Igros Moshe (Choshen Mishpat 1-88, R. Moshe Feinstein Z”L) writes that by all means one needs to request forgiveness from them for suffering [one caused to another by misappropriated property] if it is known to them the theft [occurred  and] they suffered because of it. For this, one needs to write a letter to request forgiveness. In the Rambam (Hil. Teshuva 2-9) and in Yoma (96) it taught that one who covers over his sins will not succeed [in gaining atonement]. With regard to sins between a person and his fellow, it is better to reveal his identity and that he has sinned to the person affected and return in repentance.

Likewise, Rambam (Hil. Teshuva 2-5) says his repentance will not be complete if the other does not know who he is. However,since there is permission for him to appease his fellow he can request him to forgive him without revealing his identity.  Also Kesef Mishneh (Ad. Loc.) says, therefore, it is possible one can rely on this statement of Rambam so that even if he does not reveal his identity, and writes a letter revealing to the person what he has stolen from him, and requests that he forgive him for it, even though he does not know who he is, this is sufficient to rely on for forgiveness. In the case that he does not know about the sin and does not feel any suffering, one does not even have to write anything. It is sufficient to send him the money he owes him through the mail.