Monday, September 13, 2010

[KollelH blog] Aseres Yimei Teshuvah

Chazal, in mesechta megillah (6a) and in a number of other places, praise even the simple unaccomplished Jew by comparing him to ………. a pomegranate. "Even the empty amongst them are filled with mitzvos like a pomegranate."

We may ask why if they are so full of mitzvos do we call them empty? Secondly, aren't  there plenty of items in nature that are 'full' enough to represent someone who is full of mitzvos?

The mishnah in pirkei avos (3:17 in most prints) compares one who has many deeds but less wisdom to a tree of many roots and few branches. Come what may, the tree will stand strong. It always bothered me why ma'asim – deeds were looked upon as roots which are the beginning of the tree. Aren't ma'asim - the goal and end product - more similar to the fruit sprouting from the end of the branches?

Rabeinu Yonah asks another question. How is it possible to have more deeds than wisdom; it is only through the knowledge one has that he can perform the mitzvos at all ?!

Rabeinu Yonah presents a profound answer which he re-iterates in his sefer Sharei Teshuvah as well. The 'deeds' that were compared to roots in the mishnah above does not refer to the fulfillment of mitzvos or bringing one's learning to fruition in action. Rather it is referring to a person who is committed to act and do in accordance with his instructions regardless of what the forthcoming instructions may be. This commitment is reminiscent of Klal Yisrael's acceptance of the Torah with Na'aseh V'nishmah – 'we will do, let us just hear what'. This readiness itself grants one the merit of the performance even before the person has the knowledge of what to do! This potential energy waiting to explode in action can certainly be viewed as the root and base of the tree, which, together with the eventual knowledge, can finally  produce beautiful fruit – the performance of the deeds themselves.

Perhaps this is the empty yet full Jew we mentioned above. The pomegranate is quite empty of the true flesh of fruit that other fruits contain. Its sweet edible part is only on its seeds - the part of the fruit which represents its potential. Even those Jews who were empty on a practical level, were full of readiness and potential, to do whatever they were taught.

I believe this is the intent of the 'simna milsa' we perform with the pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah eve. "May we increase in merit like the Pomegranate!" we exclaim. But how can this be done in one night and why specifically like a pomegranate? In this proclamation, we apply the secret of Na'aseh V'nishmah. On Rosh Hashanah and on the following days, we strive to fully commit ourselves to do whatever G-D dictates, similar to a soldier just waiting for orders. This commitment instantly gives us the many merits of all the actions yet to follow.

[For a reference to a pomegranate being the symbol of 'na'aseh', see Baal HaTurim parshas Tetzaveh 28:35.]

Let us proclaim "NA'ASEH!" and may we have the many merits needed for a wonderful sweet year!

G'mar Chasimah Tovah!

Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 9/13/2010 08:18:00 PM

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