of the Weekly Reading
To be read on Shabbat Ha'azinu,
13 Tishrei 5779/Sept. 22, 2018
Torah: Deut. 32:1-52
Haftorah: II Samuel 22:1-51
Ha'azinu is the 10th Reading out of 11 in
Deuteronomy and it contains 2326 letters, in 614
words, in 52 verses
(Deuteronomy 32:1-52) is the song that Moshe, along with Yehoshua
Ben Nun, sang to the People of Israel before he passed on. He
warned the people to pay close attention to the words of this
song, so that they would be able to live long in the land. G-d
then told Moshe to climb the mountain and look at the land which
the Jewish people were about to enter but Moshe was not, as he
broke faith with G-d's word in the desert, with the Waters of
Dispute. It was on Mt. Nevo, that Moshe was to pass on.
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
One of the central parts of the Yom Kippur prayer
service is the alphabetical "al cheit" prayer where
we confess to the sins we likely committed during the past year.
The reason we need to confess verbally is explained by the kabbalists
(Derech Mitzvosecha, Mitzvas T'shuva and other places): There are
three necessary components to fulfilling the commandment of teshuva,
returning to G-d by turning away from our negative behavior. Every
negative action we do creates a prosecuting angel that testifies
against us in the heavenly court. Our sincere regret for the negative
action destroys the soul of the prosecuting angel. Our verbal confession
destroys the body (however ethereal) of the prosecuting angel. The
resolution not to commit the same sin again in the future erases
the residues left by the negative action on our soul. We repeat
the same confessions a few times over the course of Yom Kippur so
that we remain pure throughout the day as our appeal to be forgiven
is being reviewed.
The Sh'lah Hakadosh and other great scholars ask: Why, in all the
detailed sins we describe, do we mention, "the sin that we
committed before you with our evil inclination"? A Jewish person's
innermost core is a divine soul that is literally a part of G-d.
He or she is by nature pure. Every time we say "al cheit"
we should say that it is because of our evil inclination, because
it is the cause of the evil inclination, which is merely an external
part of us. What is the particular sin we are singling out in this
The Talmud (Brochos 54a) asks why the Hebrew word for "heart,",
in the verse from the Shema-"b'chol levavecha,"
"serve G-d with all your heart,"-has two letter "bais's"
when only one is needed? And it answers: Because each person actually
has two inclinations, a positive one that reaches for G-dliness
and a negative one that reaches for the world. The verse says, "serve
G-d with all of your heart" (with two bais's) to teach
us that we that we are commanded to serve G-d with both of our inclinations,
even with the evil inclination that reaches for the things of this
The Rebbe connects this idea to another Talmudic statement (Kidushin
30b), where G-d is quoted as saying, "I have created an evil
inclination and Torah as it seasoning." Just like seasoning
does not nullify the flavor of the food, but only improves and enhances
it, so too does Torah affect the evil inclination. Torah study and
its commandments do not come to destroy the evil inclination, but
rather to purify and elevate it. The ultimate goal is to use the
evil inclination to do good, so that it becomes like an ox that
is made to plow a field. Not only should the evil inclination not
be an obstacle to serving
G-d, it should itself serve G-d! For example, if you like to eat,
let your eating remind you of your dependence on food, and that
there others who need to eat but do not have the means, and help
them by giving charity. Or, if you have an over-abundance of confidence,
use that confidence to volunteer to take over a project that will
reveal more G-dliness in the world.
This is the meaning of the confession in the al cheit prayer,
"for the sin we committed before you with our evil inclination."
We are referring to the sins we committed because we did not successfully
elevate and purify our evil inclination itself. Yom Kippur is not
just a day of regrets, it is a day for transforming all our attributes
into better platforms for serving G-d. With this perspective, one
can view all of the al cheit confessions in terms of the positive
potential there, waiting to be enhanced by you. What seasoning will
May the Almighty guide us this coming year to understanding ourselves
well so that we can identify and even transform our negative traits
so that they too serve G-d.
Gmar chatima tova, may you be signed and sealed
for a good and sweet new year.
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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this
week's Reading, see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary
Kabbalists, and more,
click to Ha'azinu
Mighty Hand of Justice
by Nachmonides; adapted from Rabbi Dr. Charles Chavel's annotated
all the mighty hand
and in all the great terror."
verse of the Torah alludes to the wonders that Moses displayed during
the Redemption: the division of the Red Sea, the smiting of the
firstborn, the division of the Red Sea, and the giving of the Torah.
For the rest
of "The Masters of Kabbala and Chumash" on this
Weekly Reading; and on all
the other Readings.
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For another taste of recommended Kabbalah articles on a variety
click to the
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