by Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
In Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 583 we learn that one should eat various simanim on the night of Rosh Hashana. Upon eating black-eyed peas we say, “Yehi ratzon sheyirbu zechuyoseinu.” How is this tefillah going to help us get zechuyos? If the person earned the zechuyos, he should not have to daven for them; and if he did not do these mitzvos, then how is davening going to help?
There are a couple of tirutzim to explain this. The first tirutz is based on the Gemara in Yuma 86b that says that if a person does teshuva out of love of Hashem then his sins turn to zechuyos. We daven to Hashem to help us reach the level of teshuva me’ahava so that we should be zocheh to get more zechuyos. The Chida explains the Gemara in Brachos 34b that says the place where baalei teshuva stand even the greatest and most complete tzaddikim are unable to stand. The reason for this is because a tzaddik can only do 248 positive commandments. Of these commandments there are many mitzvos he is unable to do since it is talui in others or in a time that is not applicable to him. On the other hand, a baal teshuva not only has the same mitzvos that a tzaddik has, he also has the 365 negative commandments that he could do teshuva for and they result in becoming zechuyos, so he has a much greater ceiling of greatness. The Makna explains that this is the reason the Gemara in Yevamos 121b says that Hashem is medakdek with tzaddikim on every hair. It would seem very unfair that Hashem should not reward the tzaddik by looking away when he makes a mistake. But with the sevara we said before, that when a person does teshuva me’ahava his sins turn to zechuyos, it is to the tzaddik’s benefit that Hashem gets angry for every little thing he does wrong so he is able to do teshuva me’ahava and thereby result in gaining more zechuyos. As a result of this, tzaddikim used to translate the Gemara regarding doing a mitzvah –taaseh velo min ha’asui. Pashut pshat means that a person must do the mitzvah from scratch and not use something that was previously made. The tzaddikim would say taaseh, I should do the Mitzvah myself and not min ha’asui that I will do teshuva and then it will automatically become a mitzvah. That is the reason we are able to daven for more zechuyos
The second tirutz is based on the Chovos Halevavos that speaks about one of the Chassidim who was told that someone spoke badly of him. The Chassid sent a beautiful gift to the person who spoke badly of him. He explained that since you spoke badly of me I got all your zechuyos so I am showing you appreciation by giving you a gift. The Chofetz Chaim says that when many people come up to shomayim they won’t recognize the activities attributed to them since they may have spoke badly of someone else and therefore received that person’s aveiros and someone may have spoken badly of them thereby resulting in their receiving zechuyos they never earned. The Chasam Sofer, in his Drashos for zayin Adar, says that if a person does teshuva for the sin of loshon hora, he gets back all his mitzvos without the other person losing out. Therefore, during the times of the Yamim Noraim, when we all ask for forgiveness from our friends, and people forgive each other, we get back many zechuyos we may have lost. That is why we ask Hashem to write us in the sefer of zechuyos. We may not have these zechuyos a whole year, having lost them as a result of speaking loshon hora, so we daven that we get them back and that our friends are mochel us. We daven, “Sheyirbu zechuyoseinu,” so that Hashem should help all these people naturally forgive us so that we may receive more zechuyos.
Acknowledging that everything is from Hashem and davening to Hashem to help people be mochel us will bring us closer to the proper ahava necessary for analyzing our sins in the process of doing teshuva. May we all be zocheh to do proper teshuva.
P.S There is available a great resource for reviewing or learning the daf and yerushalmi amud yomi you can ask to join by either texting 7185772401 or clicking this link https://chat.whatsapp.com/ICOJi1X9liuDZ9FR8wuxNo or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for archives of the shiur or to download it visit this link https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-1WKLHscMKmlXIumNqU8Aa0FePKfQlqY?usp=sharing_eip&ts=5e135c10 or by going to https://jewishpodcasts.fm/rabbisteinfeld or by going to Alldaf.org and clicking https://alldaf.org/search?q=steinfeld or searching in the Alldaf App for Steinfeld.