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As another Yom Kippur approaches, this author thought to reflect on our tefillot and our process of teshuvah. There is a d’var Torah by the Shem Mishmuel (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, pages 440-441). The thoughts expressed by the Shem Mishmuel seem particularly pertinent this Yom Kippur, locally, as well as throughout the Jewish world.
In this d’var, Shem Mishmuel cites Moshe Rabbeinu’s final address to the B’nei Yisrael (Devarim, Perek 29, posukim 9-10):
You are all standing here today, before the Lord, your G’d — your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, every Jewish man. Your children, your women, the outsider who is in your camp, from your woodcutter to your water-drawer.
Shem Mishmuel then explains that:
These divisions of people represent the whole gamut of the nation, from young to old, the powerful and the ordinary — in short, everyone of every type.
He explains that the ketores (incense) was a component of the daily korbonot (offerings), but that on Yom Kippur it would play a primary role.
The Kohen Gadol took a shovel-full of incense into the Holy of Holies and waited there until the cloud of spices filled the room. This incense contained eleven spices, ten of which were pleasant-smelling, but one of which had a foul odor. We may suggest that the ten sweet-smelling spices corresponded to the ten groups within the Jewish people noted above.
…Ketores… is etymologically linked to kesher, which means “connection.” The spices were pounded together to make a single compound. This illustrates that each group within Israel must recognize that it has value only as part of a larger entity. When this occurs [the pounding and grinding together of all ten spices into a single compound – MB] , it is possible to add the eleventh, malodorous spice, which represents the bad elements within YIsrael. Only when these eleven spices are pounded into indistinguishable dust, that is completely mingled, can they be brought to the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. In the same way, only when everyone, good or bad, acts for a single purpose, nullifying his individuality to the benefit of the community, can the “compound” of the Jewish people be presented to G’d for His scrutiny… However, if dissonance exists within the various elements of the klal, then the weaker, eleventh group cannot join.
Since there is already disharmony among the people, adding the sinful element will not produce a completely unified Yisrael and…. will cause additional strife, as the weaker group will join one side or the other of the rift, strengthening the divide.
…To achieve real unity in the community, a sort of “grinding” of the personality is needed. It is arrogance which leads to disunity, the feeling that one is special and in some way above everyone else. One must pound this arrogance out of one’s character to effect the realization that one’s whole existence depends on the community.
There is another citing which amplifies the above. Gemara Mesechta Megillah, page 25a1 (Shottenstein edition) cites Mishnah Perek 4, posuk 9:
One who says [about Hashem – MB]: “Good men shall bless You” — this is the way of heresy.
The footnote in gemara on this Mishnah reads:
For he does not include the wicked among those who praise G’d, and the Sages teach us (Kereisos 6b) that any public fast that does not include the transgressors of Israel is not accepted, They derive this from the inclusion of galbunim, which emits a foul odor, among the ingredients of the incense offered in the Beit HaMikdash. Similarly, the wicked must be considered as part of the congregation of Israel. (Attributions to Rashi; cf. Ran, Meiri)
And consider this profound citing written by Yehoshua Starrett, the translator and editor of the Sefer “To Heal the Soul” authored by the Aish Kodesh, the Rebbe Piazecna, R’ Kalonymus Kalman Shapira as a journal (pages xvii-xviii):
In Warsaw he was confronted with the Sabbath desecration epidemic of the 1920s by the irreligious Jewish socialists. In this too, Rebbe Kalonymous accomplished with his love and understanding what others were unable to do with their campaigning.
He used to say that in every single Jew, even the most belligerently antireligious, is a spark of Jewish soul that needs only to be reached, opened and ignited in the right way. Rebbe Kalonymous knew how to do this. After several meetings with him, these hard socialist leaders admitted their difficulty arguing with him…
Rebbe Kalonymous was indeed a most devoted leader, both in the spiritual and material sense. “A rebbe who is not willing to enter Gehinnom to save a follower is not a rebbe,” he used to say….
In other words, the Aish Kodesh too held that every Jew has that “spark of Jewish Soul,” The pintele Yid, that every Jew was integral in making up the total Ketores, the scent that rises to Shemayim.
For those of you who are new to this author’s weekly vort on the Parsha, or who may not be a micro-follower of the news beyond the main headlines; i.e. Israel, the “P.A,” and the UN, the Islamic Spring or attacks by Islamics on US Embassies in Libya and Egypt, Iran and the true purpose of its nuclear reactor, etc., there is at least one sector of Am Yisrael afflicted with a disharmony, i.e. inflicted by a relative few — a criminal element of several hundred “Chareidi” imposters — kannoi’yim (criminals) who have tried to hijack, besmirch and distort Chareidi religious tenants in the eyes of both fellow observant Jews, as well as the non-observant.
Whether it is verbal or physical defamation, or verbally abuse of young girls on the way to and from their B’not Orot school, stoning Egged buses which pass through their neighborhood Motsei Shabbos before Rabbeinu Tam time (one-half hour later than Shabbos ends for most) or burning trash etc. in the middle of the main thoroughfare because of something that they disagree with, do even one of them have the intellectual capability, the capacity to equate the components of the ketores, and what it expresses, with the matzav at hand? To accept that even though other sectors may not meet certain standards in their minds, and may represent to these — the galbanum, that WE ARE, STILL AND ALL JEWS?
Meanwhile, the actions of these criminals seems silently acquiesced to by leadership who could, bravely and with moral backbone, push the right buttons via their kehillot, as well as with other measures within the community, the military, etc. to squelch the violence and act against the perpetrators.
There is a lot of atonement to do — toward these young anguished girls who have a sacred and unalienable right to attend their school, built on a shetach (piece of land) which is not even Chareidi in constituency, and toward a long-overdue covenant of mechila for the business-as-usual silent acquiescence toward the expulsion 8 years ago of the former Gush Katif residents.
May we pour our hearts out to Hashem this Yom Kippur with purity, complete unity and deep sincerity leaving “nothing in the lockerroom” on a national level as well as locally and as individuals. May Hashem grant us a happy, healthy and sweet new year, a new year where a Jewish governance of national pride and self-image replaces the current shameful state of Israeli governance. As Rabbi Moshe Ungar would always say before a fast, back in Philly — back in the “old country”, “Daven hard, fast easy” — Tefillah Kasher V’Tzom Kal!
But as we daven, we need all keep in mind the the words of this golden oldie:
Private Eyes are watchin’ you… watchin’ you, watchin’ you, watchin’ you! Private Eyes!
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!
L’Shana Tova! May YOU, All of My Brothers, Sisters, be Sealed, for a Year of Life, Health, Simcha, Success and only good things… Now and Always!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.