Rosh Hashana 5770: Halacha, Teshuva and Communal “Norms”

by Moshe Burt

There seems to be a mistaken perception that an action or derech commonly done and accepted in society therefore is proper. The fact that actions or derech commonly accepted in society don’t necessarily make them automatically permitted by Halacha.

Toward the end of Parsha Nitzavim, Moshe Rabbeinu informs the B’nai Yisrael about Teshuva:

For this commandment that I command you today — it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in heaven, [for you] to say, “Who can ascend to the heaven for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?” Nor is it across the sea, [for you] to say, “Who can cross to the other side of the sea for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?” Rather, the matter is very near to you — in your mouth nad in your heart — to perform it. (Parsha Nitzavim, Sefer Devarim, Perek 30, posukim 11-14)

The point of these posukim are that the ONLY obstacle to Teshuva and to changing one’s ways — either individually or collectively, the only obstacle standing in the way of areivut — collective responsibility — is psychological and the collective mindset.

Do we collectively work to change our ways as a nation or do we tolerate evil in our midst, as with the “novel ideology” and proposition posed by Zimri regarding the Ba’al Peor?

Do we accept and tolerate protexia and getting ahead at the expense of our fellow or of masses of our fellow Jews while compromising away every moral principle upon which Torah and Judaism is based? This relates as much to Chillul Hashem issues such as expulsion and eviction of our fellows, a leadership which declares submission to a “de-miltarized” enemy state on Jewish land and to construction freezes on that land as it does to bribery for one’s own protexia self-advantage or to tolerating self-endangerment due to immoral “rules of engagement” of the enemy which literally prevent one from defending one’s self.

For we learn from the nuture of Rifka Immeinu (here and here ) how she rose above the common derech of Lavanite society and thus merited to be zivug to Yitzchak.

The point is that, just because something is commonly done and accepted in society, doesn’t make it automatically permitted by Halacha, either for the individual or for the collective B’nai Yisrael. And so, it seems that one and the collective must be as willing to stand and buck internal peer-group pressure where the so-called “accepted norms” of internal Jewish society conflict with Halacha as we would be in withstanding external pressure, i.e. the dire life and death threat faced by the Chief Rabbi of Mainz who was confronted the Gezeira Rah (evil decree) of forced conversion.

As the Yom HaDin approaches, 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, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem and that 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 the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

L’Shana Tova — a sweet year to Kol Yehudim!

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.