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The Crown of Halacha

Netzavim 5776 – Got Guilt?

Got Guilt?


For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?” Rather, [this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can fulfill it. (Devarim 30:11-14)


Jewish Guilt


Here we are, a few days to go before Rosh Hashanah. In preparation to stand before the King of Kings, we look back over our year, and better yet even our life, in order to make a spiritual accounting. We’re looking to correct our moral lapses, those which were intentional and even those that were unintentional.


And then it hits; Jewish Guilt. I can’t go back in time to change what I said or what I did. I can’t find the people I’ve harmed or let down or should’ve helped. How can I stand in judgment before Hashem without fixing the mess I left behind?


Guilt is Part of                                                                           Our Jewish DNA

The Kli Yakar explains that these pasukim, 30:11-14, are referring to teshuva. A person can never claim he was not aware of the existence of teshuva. This is because Yisrael and teshuva were created before the world. (Pesachim 54a).


“For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away.” a Jew needs no prompting to do teshuva. A Jew is automatically sorry when he does something wrong. We do not need prophets to tell us where we went wrong; it’s something each of us intrinsically knows.

Hashem Made the                                                                         Moral Fall Easy to Correct

The Kli Yakar delves deeper.  He points out that if a person “does an avaira in a certain place across the ocean with a certain woman” that this person may imagine that the only way to do teshuva is “to travel a great distance back to the place where the original avaira was done, find the original woman and resist doing the avaira”. In that case, most people will very likely be held back from doing teshuva because it is close to impossible to make such a journey and recreate such a situation.


Thus, the Kli Yakar explains that when the Torah says, “It is close to our mouth…” it is referring to vidui (heartfelt confession). And when the Torah says, “It is close to our hearts…” it is referring to charata (profound regret). If we decide to do teshuva we do not need to travel far. We need to look inside ourselves and overhaul our hearts.


We Know What to Do

I contend that we Jews particularly feel guilt. This is because we intrinsically know what is right and wrong in the eyes of our Creator. When we behave in a way that is not befitting a human being, we feel guilt. The good news is that just as our soul is given the sensitivity to feel remorse it is also given the knowledge to figure out a way to remedy the spiritual malady that first caused him to sin.


The desire to sin resides inside every person’s heart and that is the location for teshuva as well. This is what is meant by, “It is not overseas or in some far off place” Returning to the actual city is only a figure of speech. It doesn’t mean we have to return to the scene of the crime. But what is essential for teshuva is a sincere motivation to live as a tzelem elokim. It is in this broken hearted and rejuvenated state that we stand before Hashem with complete faith that He is our King and will judge us favorably. 



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