Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Elul, Rosh HaShanah and Teshuvah

On the eve of Rosh HaShanah...

1) My month of Elul began on a high note, with the arrival of R. Jonathan Sacks's newest book, Ceremony & Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays (buy yours here) . It is a collection of his previously published introductory essays to the Sacks Mahazorim. 

In R. Sacks's essay for Rosh HaShanah he mentions, and briefly analyzes, the famous passage in Rosh HaShanah 16b:

Said R. Kruspedai, in the name of R. Yohanan: Three books are opened on Rosh HaShanah, one for the wholly righteous, one for the wholly wicked and one for the intermediates. The wholly righteous are at once inscribed and sealed for life; the wholly wicked are at once inscribed and sealed for death; and the intermediates are held suspended from Rosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur. If they are found worthy, they are inscribed for life; if unworthy, they are inscribed for death.

Read R. Sacks's analysis here.

2) This passage has for generations troubled everyone - from the classical Talmudic commentators to the philosophers and theologians - and everyone in between. Marc Saperstein summarized many of the classical analyses and approaches (as well as that of the "less classic" R. Saul Levi Mortera), in his "Inscribed for Life or Death?", published in "Your Voice Like a Ram's Horn": Themes and Texts in Traditional Jewish Preaching, available here. Read it here.

3) We have in the past discussed the approach of Minhat Hinukh, which was tinkered with by R. Soloveitchik, regarding the distinction between kapparah and shem saddik. This approach aided our explanation of this Talmudic passage, discussed in the context of HaRambam's Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:4. 

Listen to the class on Hilkhot Teshuvah wherein we discussed this matter here. Follow along with the source sheet here, and read the related devar Torah that I recently wrote, "Teshuvah: 'Returning' or 'Turning'?" here.

We revisited this matter in an entirely different context, when discussing R. Soloveitchik's Halakhic Man - listen to that class here. Follow along with the source sheet here.

4) R. Soloveitchik later made a similar distinction, albeit in different terminology, as recorded in On Repentance. The book On Repentance has just been reprinted - with an enhanced translation (תודה לא-ל) and a new forward and afterward - in addition to a prettier cover and font. Buy it here.

On that note, several years ago I wrote a paper regarding R. Soloveitchik's conception of teshuvah. Read it here

And see here and here for 2 "yeshiva-style" essays that are similarly related.

Tizku le-shanim rabot and shanah tovah!