Rabbi Benjamin Yudin
Learn From Adam - Take Plan A
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 90B) relates a dialogue between Roman philosophers and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya. The philosophers asked him for a biblical source that Hashem will resurrect the dead, and that He knows what will be in the future. He answered that both principles emerged from the following verse (Devarim 31:6), "Hashem said to Moshe, behold you will lie with your fathers and rise will this nation and stray after the G-ds of the peoples of the land." The Talmud (Yuma 52a-b) teaches that the word "v'kom - and rise" can be understood either referring to the preceding phrase, thus teaching that Moshe will rise again, hence a source for t'chias ha-maysim (the resurrection of the dead), or can be understood to introduce the second half of the verse foretelling what will be in the future. In any event, these two concepts are juxtaposed in the Torah.
Rav Yosef Salant zt"l, in his B'ear Yosef, asks a fascinating question based upon the above. The Rambam teaches (Hilchos T'shuva 5:8) that Hashem's knowledge of all that will transpire doesn't diminish man's free will. Based on the above, let us examine G-d's creating of man. It is clear from the Torah that man was created with the capacity to live forever. In (Berashis 2:17) we are taught "But of the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat thereof, for on the day you eat of it you shall surely die". G-d knew that Adam would violate this command; He knew that man would become mortal. What happened to His initial plan and desire that man be immortal? How could it be that His plan would be thwarted?
The B'ear Yosef answers that His desire that man be eternal combined with His knowledge that man will sin and bring death into the world caused Hashem to incorporate a Plan B (t'chias ha-maysim) into creation. It is interesting to note, that in chapter 2 of Berashis the word "v'yeetzer - and He formed" is used twice in the chapter. In verse 7, when speaking of the formation / creation of man, the word is spelled with two yuds; in verse 19 regarding the creation of the animals, the same word is spelled with but one yud. Rashi (v7) explains that the two yuds demonstrated that he was formed initially with the capacity of two formations, one at the present time and a second at the time of t'chias ha-maysim. At that time His initial desire and plan regarding man's immorality will be actualized. Every morning, we reiterate, (Proverbs 19:21) "Many designs are in man's heart, must the council of Hashem, only it will prevail".
I believe the above teaching is applicable regarding the mitzvah of teshuva. The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 7:5) teaches, that the Torah (Devarim 30:1-3) "hivticha-promises/assures" us that the Jewish nation will do teshuva and be redeemed.
Too often, going into Yom Kippur one could be frustrated by, "been there, done that!" Hopefully, each individual will sit down in solitude and absolute privacy, following the advice of the Chayey Adom, and compose a list of shortcomings, sins, and manners that we wish to confess, correct and more important abandon in the forthcoming year. However, upon reflection they come to realize that many items on the list are repeats. Can teshuva really happen? The answer is definitively yes! The Jewish nation can and will do teshuva. Using the above model of t'chias ha-maysim, Hashem both knows if our desires are sincere or not and assures us that if the present set of circumstances does not work for the particular individual and the particular challenge, "harbei sheluchim l'aMokom - many are avenues are available to Him", to enable man to actualize his teshuva. However, we don"t know what different circumstances will be orchestrated from On High to enable us to do teshuva, or if they will be as pleasant as the present environment. Therefore, be smart and seize the moment and do teshuva shelaimah now.
Yom Kippur is always referred to in the plural - as Yom HaKippurim - in the Torah, as both the living and the deceased are judged on this day, thus reminding us of that which we affirm in the second blessing of every Shemoneh Esrei "He maintains his faith to those who sleep in the dust". As He maintains His faith to them, we can rest assured that He will assist us in our teshuva, if only we take the first sincere step.