Rambam Likkutei Torah Sifrei Chumash Ha'azinu
(5748) In the Aseret Yemei Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance):
"Even though repentance and calling out [to G-d] are desirable at all times, during the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, they are even more desirable and will be accepted immediately as it states: 'Seek G-d when He is to be found.'" (Rambam Hil Teshuvah 2:6).
The hint in the beginning of Parshat Haazinu;
The merging between the explanation of the Sifrei that: "Moshe was close to heaven . . . far from earth" and the explanation of the Alter Rebbe in Likkutei Torah (Haazinu 74b) that Shamayim (heaven) and earth refer to Torah and Mitzvot
“A Close Call”
We must understand why the Rambam relates this “ready availability” specifically to teshuvah. Seemingly G‑d’s accessibility during these days should have a profound impact on all aspects of a Jew’s service. Why does the Rambam specifically connect it with teshuvah ?
This will be understood by first asking the following question: “Call on Him when He is close,” seems to belabor the point made at the beginning of the verse, “Seek G‑d when He is readily to be found.”
Why the repetition?
The word meaning “when He is readily to be found,” behimatzoi, is akin to metziah, which describes the unexpected finding of an object — something that requires no effort. By using this term, the verse indicates that G‑d is revealed even to one who has expended no spiritual effort and is unworthy of receiving Him — an individual in need of teshuvah.
This then is the special connection between our verse and the Ten Days of Repentance: When a person makes a true reckoning at the beginning of the year of his spiritual status during the previous year, he will realize that he is far from where he should be. This may cause a feeling of hopelessness, so that the person says to himself: “Knowing who I truly am and my true spiritual state, how can I presume to come close to G‑d?”
The verse therefore assures such people that during these days they are to “seek G‑d when He is readily to be found” — for G‑d reveals Himself to every Jew in a manner of a metziah , i.e., He reveals Himself irrespective of one’s past service or degree of preparation.
For at this time, G‑d’s love of the Jewish people is described by the phrase “For Israel is but a lad, and I love him.”4 It is similar to the love of a father for his small child, an essential love that is not dependent on the child’s conduct; even when the child misbehaves the father does not remove his love.5
However, the person may think that while G‑d assists him during this period in a manner of metziah , he himself is still incapable of feeling G‑d’s closeness. For in order to feel G‑d’s closeness a person must prepare himself through his own service.
For as in the analogy of a small child who misbehaves, it would still seem difficult to say that in such a situation the father would reveal his love so that the child actually feels his father drawing close to him.
The verse therefore concludes: “call on Him when He is close.” In addition to the fact that during these days G‑d is readily available and assists all Jews in returning to Him, He is also “close” to each and every Jew whatever his spiritual state; during these days, each one can feel G‑d’s love and closeness.
The Jew, in turn, is expected to respond in a like manner. Rather than serving G‑d as he did in the past, without toil or effort, he begins to actively seek Him; the Jew begins to call upon G‑d in a revealed manner; he is not satisfied that his desire to approach G‑d is merely internal.
Since the portion of Ha’azinu is so often read on Shabbos Shuvah ,6 we are to understand that it also relates to the Ten Days of Teshuvah.
This relationship is as follows:7 On the opening verse of Ha’azinu, the Sifri comments on how Moshe was closer to heaven than to earth. During the Days of Repentance, when G‑d is “readily to be found” and “close,” every Jew has the ability — like Moshe did — to become closer to heaven, and more distant from earthly matters.
Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXXIV, pp. 200-204.
2. Yeshayahu 55:6.
3. Rosh HaShanah 18a.
4. Hoshea 11:1.
5. See Aggados Bereishis 5:1. See also Bamidbar Rabbah 2:16; Shir HaShirim Rabbah 8:8; Ki Na’ar Yisrael 5666; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 20ff.
6. See Shaloh, Cheilek Torah Shebichsav , beginning of Vayeishev.
7. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 213; Vol. XIV, p. 147.
1. Rambam writes in the Laws of Teshuva (2:6): “Even though repentance and calling out [to G-d] are desirable at all times, during the Ten Days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they are even more desirable and will be accepted immediately as [Isaiah 55:6] states: "Seek G-d when He is to be found."
And the source for this is in the homilies of the Talmud on this verse: ("Seek G-d when He is to be found.") – that the time that G-d is “found by him” (by each one of Yisroel) – are the ten days between Hashanah and Yom Kippur,
However in the Talmud this is cited regarding the calling out and prayer in order to nullify a harsh decree – “for a harsh decree on the community. . even though it has been sealed is torn up” at all times (through calling out to Him) [as it states]:
“whenever we call Him”. However, regarding an individual, it is [nullified] only “when He is to be found.” – which are the “ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur”
However Rambam does not mention the aspect of a “harsh decree” here, yet cites it regarding the quality of Teshuvah – that these ten days are “even more desirable” and “will be accepted immediately”.
In other words, besides the fact that they are “accepted immediately (by G-d)”, the Teshuva [itself] is “even more desirable”. It thus appears from this, that the main advantage of the“closeness” of G-d during these ten days, is specifically in the aspect of Teshuva
One must understand:
That which G-d is “found” by each person of Yisroel, must bring out an increased awakening in all aspects of Avodat Hashem, and particularly in the Avodah of prayer to Him. For when G-d is “found” by him certainly his prayers – in whatever aspect – is accepted immediately etc.
Yet what is the special connection of this closeness to the aspect of Teshuva?
2. One could say that this can be understood by prefacing an explanation on the verse: “Seek G-d when He is to be found, call upon Him
while He is near” – For at first glance one must understand the repetitive words:
1) Seek G-d when He is to be found
2) Call upon Him while He is near
According to Pshat one could say that the repetition is (only) to “adorn the advocacy” (yofi Hamelitza). But according to Halacha and Derash (exposition) (and particularly according to Pnimiyut) it is logical to say that these are two separate aspects, - where each one contains a special concept and innovation.
And one could add:
In the two parts of the verse these are two differences:
1. In the manner of man’s actions [whether it be] seeking Him (dirshu) or
calling Him (karauhu)
2. In the manner of G-d’s revelation to the person [whether it be] “when He
is to be found” or “while He is near”
According to the aforementioned, that they are two separate concepts, it is logical to say that they are dependent upon one another.
From the standpoint that G-d “is to be found” – “found by him” - there must be by the person (Yisroel) the aspect of seeking (“seeking Him”).
And the outcome of “while He is near” (the closeness of G-d to the Jewish People) is – “Calling him”
[ And like the simple explanation of this verse, that the term “when He is to be found (Behimotzu)” (and “while He is near”) is not a result of “seeking Him” (or “Calling Him”)
(Contrary to the verse: “and you shall seek the L-rd your G-d; and you shall find Him, if you search after Him etc. Deut. 4:29)
But the opposite – that man’s seeking G-d is a result of G-d being “to be found”]
3 And one could say the explanation is:
“He is to be found (Behimotzu)” comes from the word “Metziah” – a “find/discovery”. The nature of a “Metziah” is that it comes without paying attention (b’HeSeach HaDaat), without any effort on one’s part
(For one would not say that a person exerts himself to search for a “find”, because the very nature of a “find” is that he finds it, without his knowledge”)
And from this, it is understood that the fact that the closeness and revelation of G-d to Yisroel in this verse is expressed using the term “He is to be found (Behimotzu)”, is because the revelation is (also) to one who is not worthy of this [closeness] of his own accord. Rather, it comes to him, without his awareness (b’HeSeach HaDaat) , namely to one who requires the Avodah of Teshuva.
And this is the special connection of this verse to the “ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur” and the aspect of Teshuva:
In the beginning of the year, when a person makes an “personal honest accounting” (Cheshbon Tzedek aleba dnafshei) of his deeds, speech and thought over the past year, and the person knows himself, that his spiritual level is far from ideal, or at least [far] from what he should have achieved, he could fall into depression, G-d forbid, thinking: “who am I and what am I, that I could possibly approach G-d”
And in response to this the Torah says that, during these Ten Days – “Seek G-d when He is to be found”. G-d is “found by him” like a “metziah” (a new “find”) which is not dependent at all upon one’s Avodah or preparation.
Therefore, it does not matter what one’s spiritual status is - whether his Avodah during the past year was fitting and merits [G-d’s] closeness, or not.
And moreover – even if the person did not exert himself to “seek” G-d,
(like the verse [in Deut. 4:29]: “and you shall seek the L-rd your G-d; and you shall find Him”)
[Nevertheless] since the closeness is coming in the manner of a “metziah”, it is available to all Yisroel equally.
And the reason is - “When Israel was a child, then I loved him etc. (Hoshea 11:1)”. As it says in the Midrash: “Just as if one’s small son transgresses, his father does not resent him (desert him(?) mesalek alav) because he is small . . so too even if Yisroel sins etc [He forgives them] since When Israel was a child, then I loved him”.
In other words the love of G-d to Yisroel is like the love of a father to a small child, which is a true love (ahava atzmit) and is not dependent on the conduct of the child, therefore, even when the child acts in contradiction to his father’s wishes – his father “does not resent him”
And this is the reason that, even when the conduct of a Jewish person is not as it should be, when the Ten Days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur arrive, G-d is “found by him” – in the manner of a “metziah” and does not “desert him”.
4 However, one could ask:
The help and aid from Above is able to come [to a person] in the manner of a “Metziah” which is not is accord with the level of his Avodah. But the help is in a manner that the person does not feel the closeness of G-d
[This is comparable to a person, lehavdil, giving Tzedaka – where there is the essential deed of giving the actual charity and an additional aspect to this where one must “appease the recipient”- by giving the Tzedaka with a pleasant countenance (b’sever panim yafot), in such a manner that the poor person feels the empathy and closeness of the donor, who “commiserates with him on his pain . . and speaks to him words of consolation etc”]
And therefore a person could say, that while it is true that because of the essential love of G-d to His close nation (am kerovo), He does not “resent them” even when they sin, and He is “found by them” in the manner of a “Metziah” – nevertheless, perhaps it is a not a closeness that is perceptible [that man perceives that G-d is actually close to him]. Because for this, one must have a proper preparation, to become a “fitting receptacle” (kli matim). (And it is unlikely (shayich) that he should be a proper receptacle to G-d’s “closeness” without proper Avodah)
And this is like the aforementioned parable of the father’s love for his small child. For although the father does not “resent it” even when the son transgresses against him, nevertheless, it is unlikely to say that, in this situation, the father’s love is revealed to the son in such a way that the son feels the closeness of the father to him.
And this is why the verse continues: ”(Seek G-d when He is to be found) and (adds) Call upon Him while He is near” – because on addition to G-d being “found by the person” and aiding him and helping him to come close to Him , He is “close” to each Jewish person, without regard for the person’s spiritual level and standing, in a manner that in these [Ten] days, one openly feels the love and compassion of G-d to Yisroel.
5. The purpose of these two aspects in the closeness of G-d to His People Yisroel (in these Ten Days) is to awaken Yisroel to come close to G-d, like reflected waters (k’mayim haPanim lPanim). And accordingly it is understood that the manner of a person’s approaching G-d is commensurate to the closeness of G-d to him:
That, which G-d is “found” by each one of Yisroel , in the manner of a “metziah” ( without any effort on man’s part) – awakens a person, that instead of his connection to Torah and Mitzvot being at the level of “metziah” –
( meaning that he was lacking effort or exertion in Avodat Hashem)
he must exert and strive to connect to G-d
And this is why the verse states :”(Seek G-d when He is to be found) and (adds) Call upon Him while He is near” . For the situation of “while He is near” awakens the person to seek G-d. And therefore, the verse specifically uses the word “Seek (dirshu)” and not “search (bakshu)” etc.. – because the word “dirshu” implies a exceedingly strong request and search – so much that [the word] derisha (seeking) connotes demanding (teviah)
[And like the saying of the sages: “We do things in remembrance of the Temple . .‘She is Zion, there is none that inquires after her’ (Tal Rosh Hashanah 30a) for the emphasis is specifically on inquiring (derisha) because simple asking (bakasha) for Geulah is not sufficient. There must be a (continual) seeking (derisha) and demanding.
And this is in accordance with the saying of the Sages (that is cited as law) that the reason we pray three times a day for the Geulah is because Yisroel needs to demand the Geulah from G-d. And in this itself – it is in a manner of: “speedily cause the offspring of David your servant to flourish” - a seeking (derisha) and demand that - a seeking (derisha) and demand that He bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu speedily and immediately mamosh)
And the second aspect of the verse – “while He is near”, which isthe aid from Heaven in a manner that the person is able to feel the closeness and revealed love of G-d to His People Yisroel – brings the person to a state and Avodah which is similar – measure for measure – that his Avodah is in a manner of “Call Him (karauhu)”. As is known, that “calling (keriah)” (with sound and speech) depicts the aspect of revelation. (This is like the speech of a person that “reveals . . that which buried and hidden in his thought”). In other words, he does not suffice with seeking (derisha) (from the Pnimiyut of his soul) but, rather, does everything in his power so that the Shechina should be enlightened within him in a revealed manner, with all the powers of his soul
6. On many years, we read on Shabbat Shuva – the Shabbat of the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah – Parshat Ha’azinu. And according to the well-known words of the Shaloh – that the essence of each Parsha is connected to the tine that we read it, it is understood that there is an allusion in Parshat Ha’azinu to the aforementioned aspects of the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah
And indeed, we find that the aforementioned aspects of the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah is hinted in the beginning of the Parsha:
On the verse: “Listen, O heavens etc.. And let the earth hear etc..”, the Sifri states: "Since Moshe was close to heaven he, therefore, said:” Listen, O heavens” and since he was far from earth he said: “And let the earth hear”
And the connection between this aspect to the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah is simple – For since G-d is “near (behimotzu) .. close” to each one of Yisroel, every Jewish person has the ability to be “close to Heaven”, to feel that he is close to G-d (“Heaven” shamayim), and consequently “far” from Earth (Earthly and physical aspects)
And according to the aforementioned detailed explanation of this verse –
("Seek G-d when He is to be found." –
where two ways of G-d’s coming close to man are alluded to – and in conjunction – two ways of man coming close to G-d. - one could say that these two ways are also alluded to in the words of the aforementioned Sifri.
7. And this can be understood by prefacing an additional explanation in the words of the Sifri: Since Moshe was close to heaven . . and far from earth”
The Alter Rebbe explains the verse: “Listen, O heavens etc. And let the earth hear etc.” – that the two objects: “Heaven” and “Earth” are part of Avodat Hashem:
“Heaven” refers to Torah, for “Torah is from Heaven” (From Heaven I spoke to you etc.”)
“Earth” refers to Mitzvot – actual, real deed (for the majority of Mitzvot are fulfilled with physical and earthly objects)
But, at first glance, this needs explanation:
How is it possible to explain in the aforementioned Sifri that Moshe was far from Earth, in light of the Alter Rebbe’s explanation that “Earth” refers to Mitzvot?
And one could say the explanation is:
According to the simple explanation that “Heaven” refers to spiritual aspects and that “Earth” refers to physical aspects – the distance from Earth is only a matter of negation (Shelilah) meaning that man distances and negates physicality.
Yet according to the explanation of the Alter Rebbe that “Earth” also refers to spiritual matters, one must say that even the “distance (richuk)” is not a matter of negation and separation, but is, in itself, a path in serving G-d
In other words, the Avodat Hashem in “Earthly” (physical) aspects (Mitzvot) is on the level of “distance (richuk)”
And the explanation is:
Avodah on the level of “Closeness (Kiruv)” means that a person feels his closeness to G-d. In other words, he understands and comprehends with his mind the greatness of Hashem, and he also feels in his soul love for Hashem etc.
The Avodah on the level of “distance (richuk)” is accepting the yoke of Heaven. That even when one is lacking in intellectuality and virtues (middot)
(Because his mind is limited in understanding the greatness of G-d and he has not yet attained that his heart should be awakened with love for G-d etc. and he, therefore, feels that he is “far” from G-d)
Nevertheless, he performs his Avodah with unequivocal acceptance of the yoke of G-d’s sovereignty (Kabbalat Ol)
And this is the (inner) meaning of “close to heaven (Torah). . and far from earth (Mitzvot)” – in Avodat Hashem itself:
Through Torah study, a wondrous union (Yichud Nifla) is made between man’s intellect and G-d’s wisdom. So much that they are “united and actually together from every side and aspect”
For when man understands and comprehends the words of Torah properly, they (the words of Torah) that he learns unite with his intellect and become one – and this is [being] “Close to Heaven”. For regarding “Heaven” - Torah, one must be “close” since the grasp of Torah is in a manner of Closeness (Kiruv)
However regarding Mitzvot, the main intent is accepting the yoke of Mitzvot (Kabbalat Ol) – “Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us”. Therefore the main aspect of Mitzvot is
(not the intent (kavana) of the Mitzvot – through which man feels his connection to the Mitzvot and the purpose etc. in fulfilling it but)
the performance of the Mitzvot. Because specifically in the actual performance [of the Mitzvah] can one come to express that he is doing it because “He commanded us” - total submission (Bittul) of man to G-d and acceptance of His yoke. And this is the explanationof “far from Earth” according to the explanation that it refers to Mitzvot – that the Avodah of “Earth” – fulfilling Mitzvot must be in a manner of “Far (Richuk”) – the Avodah of Kabbalat Ol.
8. According to this one could further say that the two paths correspond to the two aspects which are alluded to in the verse:”Seek G-d when He is to be found, call upon Him while He is near”
“Seek G-d when He is to be found” – which is man;s search when G-d is (only) “Found by him” but there is still not a feeling of closeness and revelation to the person – corresponds to the Avodah of Kabbalat Ol – where man feels himself “far” from Hashem but he nevertheless accepts His yoke.
However, “call upon Him while He is near” is the Avodah in a manner of closeness (Kiruv) and revelation where man struggles with his intellect to understand the wisdom of G-d until there is a wondrous union (Yichud Nifla) as aforementioned,
And as is explained also in Tanya in the reason that Torah study is called with the expression “calling” (keriah) . . that through Torah study one calls to G-d to come to him, as it were, like a person who calls to his friend to come to him, and like a son who calls to his father to come to him, to be with him in one embrace (Tzavta Chada) (as is explained there that the “calling” is specifically through Torah) – like what has been previously explained previously in the explanation “close to Heaven”
M’Sichas Vov Tishrei 5746
Shabbat Shuva (Ha’azinu) 5726
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