Tuesday, September 14, 2021

you have to ask for it

There is a din of piyus on erev Y"K, that someone who did wrong has to go and ask mechila from the person they harmed.  The gemara (Yoma 87a) has an additional chiddush.  The gemara relates that when R' Zeira knew someone had wronged him, he would make sure to present himself to that person to afford them the opportunity to ask mechila.  There was a butcher who insulted Rav and never came to ask mechila, so on erev Y"K Rav went to the butcher himself so that the butcher could ask mechila of him. Even though Rav and R' Zeira were  the aggrieved party, they were the ones who went to seek out the chotei rather than wait for the chotei to come to them.  

What's the source for this halacha?  Why should the aggrieved party have to do anything?

R' Yitzchak Blazer answers that the source is midosov shel haKB"H.  Dirshu Hashem b'himatz'o -- Hashem comes close to us during the 10 days of teshuvah to make it easier for us to repent.  The King is in the field, as the Baal haTanya teaches; he has made himself readily accessible.  Mah hu, af atah.  Instead of waiting for the party who has wronged you to step forward, you can take the first step and come to them to afford them the opportunity to ask for forgiveness.

It's a beautiful vort, but R' Wahrman asks a simple question:  Since Rav and R' Zeira were going to forgive the other party anyway, why play this game of trying to get them to ask for mechila?  Why not just forgive them!?   

We see from here, writes Rav Wahrman, that piyus is not just a means to get the other person to forgive.  Rav and R' Zeira would have forgiven anyway.  But that's not enough.  In order to achieve kaparah the chotei does not just needed forgiveness, but he/she needs to go through the process of asking for reconciliation and wanting that forgiveness.  It is the sometimes painful and embarrassing experience of making amends which is what leads to true reconciliation -- not just saying, "I'm mochel you." 

Let's say that Reuvain and Shimon have a longstanding feud going on, like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Let's be real -- an simple apology on erev Y"K is not going to wipe everything wrapped up in that feud away.  So what is this halacha of piyus?  What are we trying to accomplish?  The answer, I think, is like R' Wahrman suggests: piyus is an expression of the desire to be forgiven.  That's the first step, the hardest step.  From there, mitzvah gorreres mitzvah and the rest will follow in time.    

It's an avodah to forgive people, but it's also an avodah to recognize one's mistakes and to want to be forgiven, to ask to be forgiven. 

The goal of all this is to being people together, esp as we approach Y"K.  Radomsker in Tiferes Shlomo notes that when the Torah talks about the avodah of Y"K, even though it's a mitzvah l'doros, the parsha does not talk about the avodah being done by "a kohen," or "the kohen gadol", but rather it refers again and again to avodah being done by Aharon haKohen specifically.  (It could be that there is a difference between the avodah as done by Aharon and the avodah l'doros - see how GR"A and Netziv following in his footsteps learn the peshut shel mikra.)  Perhaps the idea here is that it's not a din in the position of K"G which qualifies one for the job on Y"K, but its embodying the traits of Aharon, of being "oheiv shalom v'rodef shalom..." which qualifies one for the job.

Gmar chasima tovah


  1. How interesting. So in תפילה זכה when you say לא יענש אדם בסיבתי it is a tefilla mitzad you, but maybe there's a tnai? Or it just mitigates?
    As for not mentioning Kohein, wouldn't you say it relates to that Gemara in Kiddushin about the עבודה of a חלל being kasher becasue, among other reasons, והיתה לו ולזרעו אחריו בין זרע כשר ובין זרע פסול, that it is a din in שרעו של אהרן.

    1. לא יענש אדם בסיבתי maybe takes off the onesh, but does not make for complete kaparah. Similar to shema hirheir teshuvah b'libo works to be mafki'a the shem rasha, but you still need viduy for teshuvah/kaparah.
      I was not thinking of zera aharon in a halachic sense, but maybe you are right and the distinction between kedushas kehunah vs zera aharon (like the kli chemdah in p emor) works here. Sadly, I dont know the halachos of avodas Y"K well enough to figure it out.
      Gmar chasima to you too!

    2. That's a great question! We know in Makkos 11b-12a, the issue of KHG that was found to be a challal legabei galus. Then the Gemara compares to regular avoda of a kohen. The Gemara DOES NOT address what would be by an avoda that needs davka a KHG. So: a KHG on YK that was suddenly found to be a challal. Would even R Yehoshua say the avoda is passul? If we're medayek in the parsha that it just says Aharon to mean that it's like regular avodah, then no problem according to RY. But if you say that where you davka need a KHG it is like galus, then everyone would passel.
      If I'm making a fool of myself, and the answer is befeirush somewhere, let it be a kaparah.

  2. I have to say I'm surprised you post chazanus. One might argue that any spiritual reaction to song is superficial and self indulgent.
    I only say this because I've wondered about the dinim in the poskim about choosing a baal tefilla- zkano, has kids that need him, doesn't have a lot of money, good reputation from childhood, etc. But bizman hazeh, the baal tefilla is totally irrelevant. He's not our shaliach for anything. Even if you want to be yotzei with him, you'd have to tell him beforehand, and also make sure there are ten people actually paying attention. So what's the point of Hineni haani mimaas? Who cares? Yes, there might be a din of "tefillas tzibur" in chazaras hashatz, but even then, he's not anyone's shaliach.
    Having said that, I feel a spiritual boost, that indescribable opening of the heart, when you have a good baal tefilla that is a talmid chacham and yirei shamayim. I just wonder if it means anything, or it's just what you feel when you listen to Telemann or Saint Seans, lehavdil. Wonderful, but it does not make you a better person.

    1. I guess you don't believe all the stories about the power of chassidic nigun. e.g. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/685103/jewish/The-Power-of-a-Niggun.htm (just to take one of the first google hits as an example)?
      I don't think it is "superficial and self indulgent," nor would I describe my reaction to great secular art in that way either.
      You are right in terms of the letter of the law that the shliach tzibur is not doing too much on my behalf, but I still feel my chances in shamayim are much better given a good shliach tzibur than on my own, but maybe that's just an emotional reaction.

    2. The story of the Modzitzer convinced me. I'm a changed man. Nothing is better than Chassidic niggunim. At least I mean that last sentence literally.
      I guess that like everything else, with the right hachana and the right kli kibbul, it can make a real difference.