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12 Tishrei 5764 - October 8, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Sefer Zechuyos -- and Zeman Simchoseinu

by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon

Each and every year as the yemei rotzon between Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur come around, we invest great effort into our tefillos, praying that Hakodosh Boruch Hu inscribe us for a good year. Our requests of "Ovinu Malkeinu" are divided into several short tefillos, the shortest one being "Ovinu Malkeinu kosveinu BeSefer Zechuyos."

I once read that HaRav Daniel Movshovitz zt"l, rosh yeshivas Talmud Torah of Kelm, pondered the explanation of this bakoshoh. If we have performed ma'asim tovim, thus earning the zechuyos, we should theoretically already be inscribed in the sefer. Conversely, if chas vesholom we do not have the zechuyos, is it possible that by this request we can be granted merits which we have not actually earned?

Reb Daniel zt"l answers that this bakoshoh refers to the future. We are pleading with Hashem to give us the zechuyos in the future. This is in keeping with the Talmudic adage that the opportunity to earn a zchus is awarded to one who is worthy. We therefore say before Hashem Yisborach, "If You have any worthy missions available, we are hereby readily volunteering, awaiting the opportunity. We ask of You Hashem, to `trouble us' with those mitzvos, so that we will merit acquiring zechuyos reserved for those who are worthy."

The zechuyos we are referring to are any and all mitzvos which, through their fulfillment, earn merits for a person. Every opportunity to perform a mitzvah is a favor and a gift from Hashem Yisborach. It is therefore very appropriate that we request these opportunities as the New Year approaches.

If we think into this concept a bit more deeply, we will realize that our entire future, for all eternity, is included in this short tefilloh: We are pleading with Hashem to inscribe us in the Sefer Zechuyos so that we be continuously granted opportunities to earn merits. This is our entire life -- for without zechuyos, what is our life worth living?

Once we have gone through the Yomim Noraim, we immediately enter the Zeman Simchoseinu, the period in which we are commanded to be besimchoh with our arba minim and the other mitzvos of Succos. Let us study the nature of this simchoh to understand why Chazal determined our simchoh to take place specifically at this time, thus naming this yom tov, Zeman Simchoseinu.

If we take a look at the other regolim, Pesach is named Zeman Cheiruseinu, and Shavuos is named Zeman Matan Toraseinu owing to the events which transpired at those specific times of year. The days of Zeman Cheiruseinu were those during which Klal Yisroel was redeemed from Mitzrayim. Zeman Matan Toraseinu was the time that our people received the Torah. It is therefore fitting that these yomim tovim be called after those events.

However, as far as we know, nothing specifically occurred to Bnei Yisroel during Succos time which accounts for its name of Zeman Simchoseinu. Seemingly, the mitzvah of simchah is simply another mitzvah connected to the yom tov, just as are lulav, esrog, and succah.

This can be clarified with the Vilna Gaon's illuminating explanation on the posuk "O King, bring me to Your Chambers, (and) we will rejoice and delight in You"(Shir Hashirim 1:4). According to the Gaon, the Chambers here refer to the Annonei Hakovod, and the rejoicing and delight refer to the simchah of Succos. Succos is a commemoration of the Annonei Hakovod which surrounded Klal Yisroel in the midbar. When we sit in our succah surrounded by its sanctified walls and schach, we recall how our forefathers were surrounded by Hashem's Clouds of Glory, and this is the cause of our thanksgiving and celebration. However, would it not be more appropriate to commemorate the Annonei Hakovod at Pesach-time, when the Clouds appeared for the first time? Why wait until Succos?

The answer is as follows: After cheit ho'eigel, the Annonei Hakovod disappeared, not to return until the construction of the Mishkan was begun. On that first Yom Kippur in the midbar, Moshe Rabbenu descended from Har Sinai, conveying Hashem's forgiveness. The next day, Moshe gathered all of Klal Yisroel to deliver Hashem's command to build a Mishkan.

During the next two days -- the twelfth and the thirteenth days of Tishrei -- Bnei Yisroel came forth with their donations (terumos). On the fourteenth day of Tishrei, the wise among our Nation took the gold to be weighed and measured, and on the next day -- which was the fifteenth day of Tishrei -- the construction of the Mishkan began. Thereupon, the Clouds of Glory came back.

Hence, Succos is held on the fifteenth day of Tishrei -- the day which the Annonei Hakovod returned.

With this elucidation, the Gaon has been mechadesh a very innovative pshat. That is, we celebrate Succos in remembrance of the Annonei Hakovod not merely to commemorate Hashem's Kindness in that He surrounded us in the desert with His Glory, but rather, Succos is a commemoration of the tremendous joy we experienced on that day.

Following our first Yom Kippur of teshuvoh and tefilloh, Hashem forgave us for cheit ho'eigel, and demonstrated His forgiveness by allowing the Clouds of Glory to return as before. This demonstration of Hashem's pardon was cause for such tremendous joy, that each and every year since then the same simchah returns, again and again. And, it comes precisely during the days following Yom Kippur when we had received our first selichoh mechiloh. Forever after, Yom Kippur is designated a day of selichoh, mechiloh and kapporoh, and the time period afterwards is noted for the simchah that is achieved with mechilas avonos.

Reb Yeruchom Levovitz zt"l (Da'as Chochmoh Umussar, Discourse 94), also explains that the main reason for our elation during Zeman Simchoseinu is our ecstasy in the pardon we just received from Hashem. He brings proof from the gemora Succah that describes the tremendous outpouring of joyfulness at the simchas Beis Hasho'eivoh.

Chazal say that one who has never seen the simchas Beis Hasho'eivoh has never truly experienced joy in his life. The upright and virtuous among Klal Yisroel would dance with flaming torches in hand, singing songs of praise to the Ribono Shel Olom . . . The righteous and virtuous would call out, "Fortunate are our youthful days that have not shamed our senior years." The ba'alei teshuvoh would call out, "Fortunate are our later years that have atoned for our (sinful) youthful days." All would then join in unison, "Fortunate is the one who has not sinned! Whoever has transgressed, let him repent and he will then be pardoned." (Beraissa, Succah 53a)

It seems apparent from this teaching that even during the times of the Beis Hamikdash, Klal Yisroel's main source of simchah was their meriting to be cleansed and purified of their sins. This ecstasy was of the same nature as the simchah which Klal Yisroel experienced in the desert as the Annonei Hakovod returned: the joy of forgiveness during Zeman Simchoseinu.

Yet even in light of the above, further explanation is still required. Why should the Annonei Hakovod not have returned immediately after Yom Kippur, once Hashem had declared His forgiveness? Instead, it took the four days -- until Klal Yisroel began the construction of the Mishkan -- for these Clouds of Glory to reappear. Why should the symbol of our Nation's joy have been delayed, once the forgiveness was attained? Furthermore, if these Clouds did indeed reappear for a different reason, then at least Zeman Simchoseinu -- which surely is a commemoration of our joy in forgiveness -- should have been designated to take place immediately after Yom Kippur. In all probability, Klal Yisroel's simchah in the midbar was experienced instantaneously upon hearing of their atonement. Why should their yom tov celebration -- due to simchas mechilas avonos -- be delayed for four days until construction of the Mishkan began? We must delve more deeply into this subject to understand the true secret of the Annonei Hakovod and Zeman Simchoseinu.

By way of introduction, let us quote Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuvoh, Chapter 1, 42): "Furthermore, the ba'al teshuvoh should pray to Hashem that his transgressions be erased like a [disappearing] fog, and his wrongdoings like a [drifting] cloud; that Hashem should desire him, and be appeased and accept him as if he hadn't sinned at all . . . For, it is possible that one's sins can be erased, and the sinner will no longer be deserving of pain, suffering, or terrible decrees, yet Hashem will still not necessarily be interested in him or his offerings. On the other hand, a tzaddik's greatest passion, even once he has received his pardon, is that Hashem desires and is interested in him. That is the tzaddik's success . . ."

Rabbeinu Yonah's continuation is lengthy, yet the crux of his words is that even if the actual sin has been pardoned, the sinner (of the past) will not necessarily be granted siyata deShmaya in his spiritual growth and be given the opportunity to perform mitzvos in their truest and highest form, which is only possible with special Divine Assistance. For this reason, one needs much tefilloh.

So it seems that one's atonement is not complete until he demonstrates his yearning and love of Hashem's mitzvos. The person should not cease to be mispalel -- even after his repentance, and even after he is no longer deserving of punishment -- until Hashem shines His Countenance upon him, and assists him to fulfill that which he is waiting to accomplish: the mitzvos, serving Hashem with a whole heart, as is the wish of the righteous.

We deduce from Rabbeinu Yonah that even if a Heavenly Voice were to call out to the ba'al teshuvoh that his sin has been pardoned and no punishment will be necessary, the ba'al teshuvah's joy would still not be complete. Only once he is notified that Hashem is again sincerely interested in him and desires his avodas Hashem once more, would he truly exult in his atonement.

We can now understand in a new light the essence of Zeman Simchoseinu and the chain of events brought down in the Gaon's explanation. Certainly, when Klal Yisroel heard on that first Yom Kippur that their Cheit Ho'eigel was pardoned, they were overjoyed. However, they could not rejoice fully for they had still not received a sign from Hashem that He was truly interested in them and in their serving Him once more. How were they to know if they again find grace in Hashem's Eyes?

Accordingly, Hashem wanted to give His children a complete and total kaporoh. He therefore offered them the opportunity to construct the Mishkan. On the day following Yom Kippur, Moshe Rabbenu assembled Klal Yisroel and delivered the command to build a Sanctuary.

Thereafter our people went and, soon after, returned with tremendous alacrity and eagerness carrying their individual donations. The contributions came in such vast quantity, everyone demonstrating such a love of mitzvos and hoping to please Hashem, until a call was issued to stop the donations! The construction of the Mishkan could now begin, only three days after the command was issued! Immediately, the Annonei Hakovod returned.

Clearly then, the Annonei Hakovod were not a sign of Hashem's forgiveness to His People. Moshe Rabbenu had already given over His Word -- "Solachti" -- that we were forgiven. The return of the Annonei Hakovod though, was a sign to Klal Yisroel that they had reached the level of being desired by their Creator once more. He was interested in them; He was waiting for their service to Him, and He wanted them to build Him a Sanctuary.

Klal Yisroel's joy at that time was complete. All they were hoping for had come true. This was the Zeman Simchoseinu. For the first time after their great sin and the teshuvoh and kaporoh that followed, Klal Yisroel was again able to reach wholeness in their relationship with Hakodosh Boruch Hu. They had been presented with the greatest opportunity to serve Him.

Once we have understood that "Ovinu Malkeinu, kosveinu beSefer Zechuyos" means that we beg to be blessed with endless opportunities to acquire more mitzvos, we can comprehend what Klal Yisroel so strongly desired at that time. With the return of the Annonei Hakovod, it was as if Klal Yisroel had received a Heavenly announcement that they were indeed inscribed in the Sefer Zechuyos. What a cause for rejoicing!

How befitting then, is Succos' title of Zeman Simchoseinu. The identical joy which our forefathers experienced following that first Yom Kippur, returns to us year after year. During the Yomim Noraim, we fear losing our merits, chas vesholom. We therefore pray to Hashem "Inscribe us in Your Book of Merits!" Comes the day of Yom Kippur, the day of selichoh umechiloh, and immediately thereafter Hashem awards us the opportunity to draw nearer to Him through the mitzvos of Succos. By meriting to fulfill these precious mitzvos in their entirety, we are acknowledging the Heavenly sign that our avodas Hashem is desirable once again. Hashem has accepted our tefillos to be inscribed in the Sefer Zechuyos. Hence the Zeman Simchoseinu.

Together, let us be mispalel with renewed understanding and tremendous kavonoh: "Ovinu Malkeinu, kosveinu beSefer Zechuyos!" so that we can be zoche to truly rejoice during Zeman Simchoseinu which is upon us and all of Klal Yisroel letovoh . . .

The above article appeared in the Tishrei, 5747, edition of the bi-annually published Kol Hatorah journal. It has been adapted and translated with permission.

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