Day 11-12: Never Regret Doing the Right Thing

Day 11-12: Never Regret Doing the Right Thing

Friday-Saturday September 1-2, 2017. English translation follows. 

3.3

2017כָּל מִי שֶׁנִּחַם עַל הַמִּצְווֹת שֶׁעָשָׂה, וְתָהָה עַל הַזָּכויּוֹת, וְאָמַר בְּלִבּוֹ וּמַה הוֹעַלְתִּי בַּעֲשִׂיָּתָן, אוּלַי לֹא עָשִׂיתִי אוֹתָן–הֲרֵי זֶה אִבַּד אֶת כֻּלָּן, וְאֵין מַזְכִּירִין לוֹ שֵׁם זְכוּת בָּעוֹלָם: שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “וְצִדְקַת הַצַּדִּיק לֹא תַצִּילֶנּוּ בְּיוֹם רִשְׁעוֹ” (ראה יחזקאל לג,יב), אֵין זֶה אֵלָא בְּתוֹהֶה עַל הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת.

כְּשֵׁם שֶׁשּׁוֹקְלִין עֲווֹנוֹת אָדָם וְזָכויּוֹתָיו, בְּשָׁעַת מִיתָתוֹ–כָּךְ בְּכָל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה, שׁוֹקְלִין עֲווֹנוֹת כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מִבָּאֵי הָעוֹלָם עִם זָכויּוֹתָיו בְּיוֹם טוֹב שֶׁלְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה: מִי שֶׁנִּמְצָא צַדִּיק, נֶחְתָּם לְחַיִּים; וּמִי שֶׁנִּמְצָא רָשָׁע, נֶחְתָּם לְמִיתָה. וְהַבֵּינוֹנִי, תּוֹלִין לוֹ עַד יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים: אִם עָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה, נֶחְתָּם לְחַיִּים; וְאִם לָאו, נֶחְתָּם לְמִיתָה.

Anyone who regretted performing a positive deed and doubted its value, saying “what good has it done me to do these things? If only I had not done them!” Behold, this person loses everything, and gains no merit at all. This is as it is written (Ezekiel 33:12) the righteousness of the righteous will not save him on the day of his wickedness. This refers only to one who regrets his earlier good deeds.

Just as the demerits of a person are measured against his merits on the day of his death, so too every year the demerits of every human being in the world are measured against his merits on the holy day of Rosh Hashanah. A person who is found righteous is sealed for life. A person who is found wicked is sealed for death. The “intermediate” is kept waiting until Yom Kippur. If he repents, he is sealed for life, and if not, he is sealed for death.

3.4

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁתְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה גְּזֵרַת הַכָּתוּב, רְמָז יֵשׁ בּוֹ: כְּלוֹמַר עוּרוּ עוּרוּ יְשֵׁנִים מִשִּׁינַתְכֶם, וְהָקִיצוּ נִרְדָּמִים מִתַּרְדֵּמַתְכֶם; וְחַפְּשׂוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂיכֶם וְחִזְרוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה, וְזִכְרוּ בּוֹרַאֲכֶם. אֵלּוּ הַשּׁוֹכְחִים אֶת הָאֱמֶת בְּהַבְלֵי הַזְּמָן, וְשׁוֹגִים כָּל שְׁנָתָם בְּהֶבֶל וְרִיק אֲשֶׁר לֹא יוֹעִיל וְלֹא יַצִּיל–הַבִּיטוּ לְנַפְשׁוֹתֵיכֶם, וְהֵטִיבוּ דַּרְכֵיכֶם וּמַעַלְלֵיכֶם; וְיַעֲזֹב כָּל אֶחָד מִכֶּם דַּרְכּוֹ הָרָעָה, וּמַחְשַׁבְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר לֹא טוֹבָה.

לְפִיכָּךְ צָרִיךְ כָּל אָדָם שֶׁיִּרְאֶה עַצְמוֹ כָּל הַשָּׁנָה כֻּלָּהּ, כְּאִלּוּ חֶצְיוֹ זַכָּאי וְחֶצְיוֹ חַיָּב; וְכֵן כָּל הָעוֹלָם, חֶצְיוֹ זַכָּאי וְחֶצְיוֹ חַיָּב: חָטָא חֵטְא אֶחָד–הֲרֵי הִכְרִיעַ עַצְמוֹ וְהִכְרִיעַ אֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ לְכַף חוֹבָה, וְגָרַם לָהֶם הַשְׁחָתָה; עָשָׂה מִצְוָה אַחַת–הֲרֵי הִכְרִיעַ אֶת עַצְמוֹ וְהִכְרִיעַ אֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת, וְגָרַם לָהֶן תְּשׁוּעָה וְהַצָּלָה. זֶה הוּא שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “וְצַדִּיק יְסוֹד עוֹלָם” (משלי י,כה), זֶה שֶׁצִּדַּק עַצְמוֹ הִכְרִיעַ אֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ וְהִצִּילוֹ.

וּמִפְּנֵי עִנְיָן זֶה, נָהֲגוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַרְבּוֹת בִּצְדָקָה וּבְמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים וְלַעְסֹק בַּמִּצְווֹת, מֵרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה עַד יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, יָתֵר מִכָּל יְמוֹת הַשָּׁנָה. וְנָהֲגוּ כֻּלָּם לָקוּם בַּלַּיְלָה בַּעֲשֶׂרֶת יָמִים אֵלּוּ, וּלְהִתְפַּלַּל בְּבָתֵּי כְּנָסִיּוֹת בְּדִבְרֵי תַּחֲנוּנִים וְדִבְרֵי כִּבּוּשִׁין עַד שֶׁיֵּאוֹר הַיּוֹם.

Even though the blowing of the shofar is a decree of the Torah, the reason for the commandment is an allusion: awaken, awaken, you who are deep in your sleep. Rise from your unconsciousness and examine your actions. Return in teshuvah and remember your Creator. You who forget the truth amidst wasted time, spending all your years in meaningless and empty pursuits that neither help nor rescue. Look into yourselves and improve your ways and deeds. Abandon, all of you, your wrong path and harmful plan. 

Therefore every year a person should regard himself as being half praiseworthy and half blameworthy, and so too the world as half praiseworthy and half blameworthy. If one were to commit a single sin, one would tip one’s self and the entire world to the side of guilt, and cause its destruction. If one were to commit one positive deed, one would tip the entire world to the side of merit, and bring about its salvation and rescue. This is the meaning of the verse (Proverbs 10:25): a righteous person is the foundation of the Universe, which refers to the one who rights himself and tips the balance of the entire world, thus rescuing it. 

Thus during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur all Jews engage in additional charitable activities, performing more good deeds and involving themselves in more commandments, than during the rest of the year. It is customary for Jews to rise at night during these ten days to recite prayers of penitence and petition in the synagogues until daybreak.

3.5

בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁשּׁוֹקְלִין עֲווֹנוֹת אָדָם עִם זָכויּוֹתָיו, אֵין מְחַשְּׁבִין עָלָיו תְּחִלַּת עָווֹן שֶׁחָטָא בּוֹ וְלֹא שֵׁנִי, אֵלָא מִשְּׁלִישִׁי וְאִלַּךְ. אִם נִמְצְאוּ עֲווֹנוֹתָיו מִשְּׁלִישִׁי וְאִלַּךְ מְרֻבִּין עַל זָכויּוֹתָיו, אוֹתָן שְׁנֵי הָעֲווֹנוֹת מִצְטָרְפִין וְדָנִין אוֹתוֹ עַל הַכֹּל.

וְאִם נִמְצְאוּ זָכויּוֹתָיו כְּנֶגֶד עֲווֹנוֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר מֵעָווֹן שְׁלִישִׁי וְאִלַּךְ, מַעְבִירִין כָּל עֲווֹנוֹתָיו רִאשׁוֹן רִאשׁוֹן: לְפִי שֶׁהַשְּׁלִישִׁי נֶחְשָׁב רִאשׁוֹן, שֶׁכְּבָר נִמְחֲלוּ הַשְּׁנַיִם; וְכֵן הָרְבִיעִי הֲרֵי הוּא רִאשׁוֹן, שֶׁכְּבָר נִמְחַל הַשְּׁלִישִׁי; וְכֵן עַד סוֹפָן.

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים, בַּיָּחִיד, שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “הֶן-כָּל-אֵלֶּה, יִפְעַל-אֵ-ל–פַּעֲמַיִם שָׁלוֹשׁ, עִם-גָּבֶר” (איוב לג,כט). אֲבָל הַצִּבּוּר–תּוֹלִין לָהֶן עָווֹן רִאשׁוֹן וְשֵׁנִי וּשְׁלִישִׁי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “עַל-שְׁלֹשָׁה פִּשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְעַל-אַרְבָּעָה לֹא אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ” (עמוס ב,ו). וּכְשֶׁמְּחַשְּׁבִין לָהֶן עַל דֶּרֶךְ זֶה, מְחַשְּׁבִין לָהֶן מֵרְבִיעִי וְאִלַּךְ.

הַבֵּינוֹנִיִּים–אִם הָיָה בִּכְלַל מֶחְצָה עֲווֹנוֹת שֶׁלָּהֶן שֶׁלֹּא הִנִּיחַ תְּפִלִּין מֵעוֹלָם–דָּנִין אוֹתוֹ כְּפִי חֲטָאָיו, וְיֵשׁ לוֹ חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא; וְכֵן כָּל הָרְשָׁעִים שֶׁעֲווֹנוֹתֵיהֶם מְרֻבִּין–דָּנִין אוֹתָן כְּפִי חַטֹּאותֵיהֶם, וְיֵשׁ לָהֶן חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא: שֶׁכָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶן חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁחָטְאוּ–שֶׁנֶּאֱמָר “וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים, לְעוֹלָם יִירְשׁוּ אָרֶץ” (ישעיהו ס,כא); אֶרֶץ זוֹ מָשָׁל–כְּלוֹמַר אֶרֶץ הַחַיִּים, וְהוּא הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. וְכֵן חֲסִידֵי אֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, יֵשׁ לָהֶן חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא.

When the demerits of a person are calculated against his merits, sins that a person commits once or even twice are not included. Only those which are committed three times or more are calculated. If it turns out that these thrice-repeated sins are greater than a person’s merits, those two earlier occasions are included and one is judged for them all.

If one’s merits are equal to the thrice-repeated sins and onward, then the sins are evaluated individually. The third transgression is considered the first, because the earlier two occasions have already been forgiven. So too, the fourth transgression is considered the first, because the third has already been forgiven, and so on. 

Under what circumstances does this apply? To an individual, as it is written (Job 33:29) for all these things God does, twice or thrice, with a man. Regarding a community, however, the first, second and third occasions are left hanging, as it is written (Amos 2:6) three sins of the Jewish people [I will discount], but from four I will not turn away. These sins are judged, the fourth and later occasions are also judged.

Regarding the intermediate, if there are included among the half of his demerits the omission of wearing tefilin, he is judged according to the nature of his sin, but he still has a place in the world to come. So too all wicked people, whose sins are excessive, are judged according to those sins, yet they retain a share in the World to Come, for all Israel has a share in the world to come, even though they sin, as it is written (Isaiah 60:21) and your people are all righteous, they will forever inherit the land. The land is an allegory for the Land of Life, which is the World to Come. The righteous people of the nations of the world have a place in the World to Come in a similar manner.

Translation from Maimonides on Teshuvah (5th Edition, 2017)

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