Shofar – The Blast that Lasts
(והיה בשמעו את דברי האלה הזאת והתברך בלבבו לאמר שלום יהיה לי כי בשרירות לבי אלך וגו’ לא יאבה ה׳ סלח לו (כ״ט י״ח-י״ט
And it will be, when he hears the words of the oath, that he will bless himself in his heart, saying “I will have peace, even if I follow my heart desires”, then Hashem will not be willing to forgive him.
This Parsha can be explained about doing teshuvah before Rosh Hashanah. Hashem, who is the epitome of chesed – kindness, wishes the Jewish people to repent so that He may bestow blessings unto His children. Therefore, He instills into us an aura of teshuva at the very time of judgement so that we might merit a bountiful New Year.
The question then is, why does the pasuk teach us that Hashem would not be willing to forgive someone who sinned because he wished to follow the desires of his heart.? Also, given that we, with the motivation instilled into us by Hashem, enter Rosh Hashanah with commitments to be better; we take upon ourselves to study more Torah and to act more charitably to others, yet after Yom Kippur all our New Year resolutions seem to be forgotten? If Hashem brought us to repentance, how can our convictions melt away so swiftly?
It is conventional for Rabbis to explain spiritual dilemmas by the use of parables and I shall avail myself of this tradition. A traveler on a journey encountered a river with a very high and shaky rope bridge as the only means of getting to the other side. In order to continue on his trip, he would have to cross the river by way of this terrifying method. The traveler made many commitments to Hashem – to study more Torah, to daven better, and hoped that in this merit he would cross over safely. He started crossing the river on the rope bridge, but after a few steps, he began to realize that the path was not as perilous as he originally thought, and he regretted having made some of his commitments. When he got closer to the end of the bridge, he felt that that he had been overly anxious; the crossing wasn’t difficult after all. The traveler then recanted.
The Parsha tells us that Hashem will not forgive one who does not sincerely repent. To extend forgiveness to the insincere would not be consistent with Hashem’s Attribute of Truth.
Notwithstanding the preceding, Hashem in his mercy alluded to us earlier in the Parsha (in the previous pasuk) that He provided a means to arouse a person to true teshuva – through the sound of the shofar.
פן יש בכם שורש פורה ראש ולענה וכו׳
Perhaps there is amongst you a שרש (root) that פורה (produces) ראש (hemlock) and wormwood.
The word formed by the first letters of the words “פורה” ,”שרש” and “ראש” is “שפר” – shofar. This teaches us that through the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. a person’s soul can be awakened to do a complete teshuvah; that he can even overcome his misdeeds that stemmed from his complacency. The sounding of the shofar can arouse a person from his spiritual stupor and shatter one’s sense of smug complacency. It is hoped that this year, the sound on the shofar will enter our hearts as well as our ears and that it may bring us to sincere and long-lasting repentance.
May we all merit a teshuvah shleima and to be blessed with a כתיבה וחתימה טובה.
Good Shabbos, and may we merit to see the nechama of Tzion with the building of Yerushalayim.
Rabbi Dovid Sochet