By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
This week’s Sedra is one of the most powerful and emotional in the Torah. It is a Sedra very fitting to be read annually during Elul in close proximity to the Days of Awe. The Torah expresses to us the idea of free will – the ability to choose between right and wrong, between good and evil. It explains the concepts of reward and punishment, and the possibility of Teshuva – repentance. The Torah’s idea of repentance has little to do with notions that equate it with suffering, with bribing the Divine, or with a formal expression of regret not connected to firm, true conviction and remorse. The Torah’s view of true repentance entails genuine regret of our wrongdoings and a commitment to desist from such actions in the future. It aims at renewing our relationship with Hashem on a firmer basis. The Torah also seems to emphasize Hashem’s relationship with us as a deep and compassionate one, and to stress the unequivocal importance of Torah study.
The final words of this moving Parsha are: “To love Hashem our God, and to cleave to Him – for this is your life and the longevity of your days – to dwell upon the land that Hashem promised your forefathers Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov – to give to them”. This Passuk is rather cryptic and begs interpretation.
Many of the traditional commentators offer various explanations. As important as it is to understand the above words in of themselves, there is yet another obvious question we must keep in mind: Why were these words chosen as the closing to this entire meaningful and powerful Sedra?
Targum Yonoson, as he often does, adds in a few important words in order to offer a lucid Aramaic translation of the Passuk: “to love Hashem your God, and to accept His Words… because the Torah that you are busying yourself (with its study) is your life in this world and your longevity in the world to come, and through it eventually you will merit your redemption and you will return to settle the land…”. While such an explanation sheds a lot of light as to the meaning of this Passuk, it also presents us with yet another question. All through the Parsha the Torah tells us of the all-encompassing Teshuva in which we will all take part at the end of time – the implication being that it is that final repentance that will secure for us ultimate salvation. However, if we adopt the view of the Targum Yonoson, it isn’t Teshuva but rather Torah study that brings about the Geula, the final redemption?
A more careful look at the psukim surrounding Teshuva shows that these verses infer that towards the end of time we will be chozer btshuva – we will achieve full repentance. Whereas according to the Targum Yonoson’s explanation of Torah study the Passuk is implying that we should busy ourselves with Torah study because that is what will cause us to merit the Geula. It would seem, therefore, that the Torah is telling us that Teshuva is a prerequisite for the Geula and that this ultimate Teshuva will come on its own. On the other hand, we are told that the Ultimate Redemption hinges upon Torah study – in other words, the only thing we can do to bring about Mashiach is to learn Torah.
The above would seem to suggest that Torah study is the critical component to bring about our Final Redemption and that Teshuva – while important – will in the end come in any case.
The above conclusions would further suggest that we must definitely busy ourselves with Torah learning before we busy ourselves with convincing others to do Teshuva.
The continued importance of Teshuva, and of Kiruv – of bringing others closer to the Torah, should not obscure Torah study as the main focus. While Teshuva and Kiruv are quite important Torah must be the focal point. Torah in of itself is a Mitzva and it as well encompasses all other Mitzvos. It also is what brings us to the fulfillment of Mitzvos, Teshuva, and is even what brings others close to Hashem. We must allow all our Mitzvos to flow from our Torah study.