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TOPIC TITLE: Elil/Rosh Hashana - Another Nice Piece from Rabbi Rhine
Created On 8/24/12 11:51 AM
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8/24/12 11:51 AM
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Parshas Shoftim
The Gift of Shema
by Rabbi Mordechai Rhine

When the Jewish people were ready to enter battle, a special kohein would speak to the people. He would say, “Shema Yisroel-Listen Jews: We are ready to go into battle, and you must not fear. If there is anyone who is unworthy because of his sins, let him leave now.”
The Talmud explains that it is possible for a person, in a moment of introspection, to feel unworthy of G-d's miracle. If a person has sinned, he may justifiably lack confidence in battle. For example, says the Talmud, “If a person sinned by talking during davening, he should remove himself from the ranks of the army”. He should not let his own spiritual inadequacy affect the rest of the army.
Interestingly, the Talmud offers a second, seemingly contradictory perspective, regarding the words “Shema Yisroel- Listen Jews”. The Talmud says, “Even if you only have the merit of reciting Shema, that is sufficient to cause the salvation.
One wonders therefore, which one is the correct attitude. Should one feel that any infringement of Torah law might be sufficient grounds to lose Heavenly assistance. Or, should one feel that all we need do is say Shema, and that alone will be our merit?
I would like to suggest that both perspectives are true. But the success of the Jewish people depends on our attitude. If we believe that we should succeed because of our merit, then even the smallest infringement of halacha could cause problems. When a person thinks he is meritorious, then a full judgement of his actions takes place. Quite possibly he will be found to have faults. When a person wishes to enter battle by virtue of merit, then even the smallest flaw may disqualify him from the blessing of success.
There is a different, much more effective attitude that we can employ. This is the attitude of “Shema Yisroel”, the pledge of allegiance of the Jewish people. Using this approach, a person doesn’t claim perfection. Instead one’s claim is simply that he is a loyal member of the Jewish people. Do we have flaws? Yes we do. Most humans do. But the claim isn’t based on merit. The claim is based on loyal affiliation.
The merit of “Shema Yisroel,” is so powerful because it simply declares that we are loyal members of the Jewish people. While the attitude which focuses on merit finds its weakest point in the mitzvos that we don’t observe perfectly, the “Shema Yisroel” approach finds its strongest point in those very things. It is in the areas that I am weakest in observance that I declare “Shema Yisroel”. I yearn to be a loyal servant of Hashem.
I recall a friend that I had in high school, who was often critiqued by our teachers for his mistakes. When other students were faced with similar situations they would argue and negotiate with the teachers. My friend’s approach was quite different. Invariably, he would respond to criticism by saying, “There is indeed room for improvement.” Today he is highly successful both spiritually and financially. I believe his success has a lot to do with his willingness to take responsibility for his actions. He was always ready to acknowledge the need for improvement.
In less than 30 days we will celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and also the day of judgement. Our attitude will not be, “We are so meritorious that we deserve a wonderful new year.” Instead our attitude will be to employ the gift of “Shema Yisroel”, to declare our loyal affiliation to G-d and His Torah. “We identify with loyal service of G-d. Our shortcomings leave us room for improvement which we hope to implement, in some small way, in the coming year.”
With best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos.

Copyright 2012, Rabbi Mordechai Rhine and TEACH613

"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." - Coach John Wooden

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8/26/12 8:45 PM
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Thanks for sharing, aba. Just what I needed to hear!

Dr. Lynn, Psy.D.

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8/29/12 7:22 PM
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a lynn

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