Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Owning It

On Rosh Hashanah of 5767 (2007), before the blowing of the shofar, the Rebbe, shlit"a, spoke about the following ideas:

The Rebbe’s brother, Rav Shloime of Denver, ztz”l said: After Adam ate from the forbidden fruit, Hashem came to him in the garden and asked if perhaps he had eaten from the tree. First Hashem asks, "Ayekah? (Where are you?). Rashi says that part of Hashem’s question included the statement that Adam had been given one mitzvah and he transgressed it. Hashem was essentially asking Adam what he intended to do to rectify his situation and restore his integrity. Even though Hashem was giving him the option to do teshuvah immediately, Adam didn’t get it. He turns on himself and focuses on his nakedness, saying that he is no longer worth the relationship with Hashem; the damage is irreparable. But that wasn't the point. So Hashem says, "Who told you that you are naked?" That was to mean, "Who asked you about your nakedness? What has happened is not a personal commentary on you, Adam, but a result of something you did which is fixable. Did you perhaps eat from the Tree?" Adam missed his mark, panicked and looked to shift blame to Chava. When confronted by Hashem, Chava does the same thing, blaming the Serpent. Neither one of them stood up and owned up to what they had done.

On Rosh Hashanah we read the portion of the Akeidah. Avraham Avinu says “hineni” – I am here. The Rebbe, shlit”a, explained “hineni” to imply more than “I am here”, but also “I’m owning it.” Avraham Avinu said to Hashem, “I can be trusted for I am present and I account for myself.” He answered the same thing to his son, Yitzchok, when questioned about what was about to take place. “I’m here. Hineni. I’m dependable; I’m taking responsibility for what is going on.” When Yitzchok heard that, he knew he could trust his father.

One exceptionally hot day, the Rebbe Rav Yaakov Yisroel, ztz”l, was officiating at a wedding, and he gave the kesuvah to the Rebbe, shlit”a, for safekeeping until the chupah. The Rebbe placed it conveniently in his shirt pocket. When his father asked him for the kesuvah under the chupah, he pulled it out of his pocket and saw that he had sweat into it and it had become stuck together and completely ruined. The Rebbe, shlit”a, related how horrified he was and how terrible he felt having failed at his job and ruining the wedding. But as soon as he handed it to his father, without missing a beat, Rav Yaakov Yisroel gasped and exclaimed, “Oi vey, what have I done?”, thereby saving the Rebbe from embarrassment. “And with that,” the Rebbe said, “My discomfort dissipated.”

When you own up to your responsibility and say “hineni”, then you can be trusted, as the verse continues, וילכו שניהם יחדיו – “and they walked together”. They were on the same page; Yitzchak could trust his father.
When we own up to Hashem in teshuvah and say “hineni”, we are saying, “I don’t have anyone to blame for my wrongdoings. I take responsibility. I am the culprit. I know that I can not take what I deserve but I am telling You that I know that I did it. And I could have done better.”

(Additionally, we must remember that the question of "where are you" must be answered with "hineni" - I am right here. We must recognize the damage we have caused, own it and take responsibility for have done the deed. But, we must also not make Adam's other mistake which was that he focused on his nakedness and his sorry state, as opposed to "where" he was and what needed to be done to restore himself and his world to its former beauty and G-dly splendor . We must rise to the opportunity of teshuvah knowing that we are indeed capable.)

If we approach Rosh Hashanah from that angle, Hashem knows we can be trusted to keep our word when we petition him for forgiveness and when we try to convince Him that we are worth having around for another year. We can walk together with Hashem, confidently, in a trusting, understanding relationship with the Master of the Universe.

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