Parshas Netzavim - Teshuva

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 09/06/18

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
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With Rosh Hashana right around the corner, many of us are feeling anxious as to whether or not Hashem will really accept our teshuva and our promises to change. After all, will a teshuva that only began in earnest once we realized that our entire year is in the balance, and is motivated by a desire for a sweet new year, really find favor in His eyes? Maybe Hashem is only interested in the most altruistic of repentance?

It is not a coincidence that the Sages ordained that this week's parshah must always be read before Rosh Hashana. In it, the Torah addresses the concept of teshuva and Hashem assures us that if we are willing to return to Him, He will personally go to the four corners of the earth to accept us back with outstretched arms and shower us with every blessing imaginable! 1. The Torah states that even if we only do teshuva for selfish reasons, like due to fear of punishment and not out of sincere feelings of remorse, Hashem will always be excited to accept us back when we return to Him 2.

This concept is beautifully illustrated through the following episode in Tanach:
Menashe was one of the most wicked kings in our nation's history. He outlawed Torah study, influenced a majority of the Jewish people of the time to worship idols and even went so far as to place an idol in the Bais Hamikdash! Despite having been brought up by the righteous Chizkiyahu, He openly chose to rebel against Hashem in every way that he could possibly think of. The Midrash tells us that when Menashe was captured in war, his enemies placed him into a copper box with a large fire raging beneath it. He was being cooked alive. Even in this desperate situation, Menashe refused to call out to Hashem. Instead, he first cried out for help from every single one of his idols, with obviously no effect. Finally, without anyone else to turn to, he gave a brazen ultimatum to Hashem: "Hashem, my father told me that when one is in pain he should call out to You, for You have infinite mercy. Hashem, I am calling out to You now. If you save me then I believe you are G-d, but if not then You are no more real to me than my other idols". The Gemara states that Hashem's Angels (of judgement) desperately attempted to stop his prayer from reaching Hashem, and sealed the gates of heaven closed. "What a chutzpah!" They cried to Hashem. "Don't accept this rasha's clearly selfish and self-centered prayer!". Hashem answered them with the words that have been a source of inspiration for all those who have desired to do teshuva throughout our national history: "If I don't accept his repentance now, then from this moment forward people will wrongfully believe that they can sink too low for me to accept them back. However, this is NOT the case; I will save him and give him an opportunity to change his ways". Hashem then accepted Menashe's teshuva and saved him - ultimately providing him with the opportunity to turn his life around 3.

Living Inspired

After all is said and done, one may question why indeed Hashem accepted Menashe's teshuva? The answer is that the gift of teshuva is yet another proof to the special relationship that we have with Hashem. When one understands that Hashem is our Father, and loves each of His creations even more than the most loving parent, teshuva isn't so strange after all. Think about it: when a child does something wrong to his parent, realizes the gravity of his sins and returns to his parent with tears in his eyes and genuine regret and resolve to do better, is there a parent in the world who would not accept him back? The fact that their child will probably mess up again doesn't impede their forgiveness in the here and now, so long as his apology is a sincere one. Hashem is our Father and wants us to return to Him more than anything in the world! All we have to do is sincerely do so.

Menashe only repented because he was tortured and Hashem still accepted it. How much more so will Hashem accept our own teshuva when it is motivated by the realization that He is our one true King?! When we daven to Hashem this Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, may we realize that we really are Hashem's children. May we succeed in utilizing the natural intuition that Hashem grants all children in knowing exactly how to earn favor in their parent's eyes.

1. As the pasuk states even "if your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there Hashem your G-d will gather you in".

2. As the pasuk says "when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse..." Hashem still promises to gather us back to him.

3. Based on R' Shimshon Pincus' commentary on Devarim Rabbah 2:20, which can be found at https://ohrshimshon.wordpress.com/tag/teshuva/. Also see Sanhedrin 103 and Divrei HaYamim II, 33,13.