How can teshuva accomplish forgiveness, if a picture of a man sins will always be portrayed to him?
If a man in the world to come will see a picture of his former sins, but the picture has also a legend underneath it that says, this man overcame his propensities, and he did full teshuva, then that picture becomes a commendation for him, that's a praise for him, that's zedonos naso lo k'zechuyois, his sins become like merits. Because the fact that he was misgabeir al yitzro, overcame his inclination and he changed himself, that's full credit for him.
Now if a person's zdonos, his sins become zechuyois, he shows that he doesn't want to have that forgotten. But suppose a person didn't do full teshuva, only a miktsas teshuva, then the fact that the sins remain forever and and ever is part of the deduction from his reward in the afterlife. Certainly not all people have the same happiness, and some will continually be reminded of their mistakes that they never remedied while they were still in this world, and they will always regret it.
There is so much happiness however in the next world, there will still be a happy existence, but they will be less happy than those who are able to wipe out the impression of their sins by doing a full teshuva.
Good Shabbos and a kesiva v'chasima tova To All
Question # 151
What are some good topics for sermons to give to people at a nursing home on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?
ANSWER:If they would allow me to come into a nursing home and talk, I would wait until they come to the lunch hour when they give watermelon to everybody. And I would say, “Old people wake up: before you sink your teeth, or your false teeth, in that luscious watermelon, stop and enjoy the color! Isn't that a beautiful color! Why should it be red? It could have been a pale white color.
“The beautiful color symbolizes the chesed Hashem, the kindness of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Before He served it to you, He squirted some color into the watermelon to make you more happy. While you're eating the watermelon, study the seeds. Why are the seeds so slippery? Because if you'll eat the watermelon in the garden outside of the nursing home, the seeds will fall on the ground and next year watermelon plants will be growing. Wake up old people before your time is up! (Of course I wouldn't say it, but I should say it) and shout, Baruch ato Hashem elokienu melech haolam borei pri ha'adomo, You Creator of this luscious fruit of the earth. And demonstrate your gratitude to Him for the gift that He is bestowing on you.”
When your mother makes red ice cream and she slices it and serves it on paper plates, Hakadosh Baruch Hu also makes a red watermelon and slices it and puts it on plates for you and it's even more healthful and it's more luscious than the ice cream. You have to know that's it's nothing but a big drink, a flavored drink, but it doesn't spill out when you cut it open because all the liquid is imprisoned in thousands of tiny cells. It's a marvel of the watermelon. Suppose it was a bottle full of watermelon juice and you cut it open, it would all spill out, but now it's imprisoned in little cells and as you chew and rupture the cells the appetizing juice squirts into your mouth and you're able to have a feel of crunching down into something solid.
That's how I would make the old people happy with eating watermelon, and at the same time they would see the yad Hashem and the wonders of the borei. That's a wonderful sermon to give on Rosh Hashana to old people in a nursing home.
Question # 152
How should a mother and housewife get the feeling of the approaching yomin noraim, if she's so busy with the preparations for gashmius? That's a good question. A women in the kitchen, she is busy preparing, cooking and baking; so how can she prepare?
If she would think at the time that she is doing these things, “what's the purpose of all her work”? She is doing this as a kindliness to the people of her family. Why is she practicing kindliness to her family? Just because mothers do it everywhere.In Bensonhurst an Italian mother is also cooking and baking for her family! And in Bedford Stuyvesant a black mother is also doing the same, so what difference is there?
No: a frum, a Torah mother is doing it only because she is emulating Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That's how we have to learn that great function of chesed that a Jewish mother and a wife performs. She is the symbol of kindliness to her husband and to her children, that's her chief function in life. But she does it not like others do; she does it in emulation of the Creator. Just as the Creator makes winds blow and causes rain to fall and he spreads a table before all mankind and He feeds them, po’seiach es yo’decho, so when she brings the food to the table finally, she should feel that she is the hand of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Nosain lechem lechol bosor, He gives bread to all flesh, ki l'olam chasdo! And she feels that her life is a dedication to Hashem, she is following in His footsteps.
That's the gemora, the gemora says, ma hu chanun af ato chanun. Just like Hakadosh Baruch Hu is merciful, so you, and v'halacto b'drachuv. And therefore it's a great pity if you don't know this, so it means that you're just imitating the nations of the world. The same is for a doctor. If a doctor realizes that Hakadosh Baruch Hu isrofei cholei amo yisroel, and the doctor as he dispenses advice and medicines thinks, “I am doing the agency, I am a shaliach for Hakadosh Baruch Hu”, that's one of the noblest missions in life. Isn't it a tragedy that people live their lives and do great things and forget that their chief function in life is to emulate Hakadosh Baruch Hu?
And even a teacher of children, he teaches because of his check. If he would think, ha’melameid Torah l'amo yisroel, just like Hakadosh Baruch Hu teaches Torah to His people, I am his agent in teaching Torah to His children. Of course he has to get a check, and unfortunately he doesn't get it frequently enough and it's not big enough when he does get it, and yet it's a pity if he lives without this intent.
Everybody: if you're a butcher and you hand the meat across the counter, think that thought. You're a grocer, think that thought. Whatever you do in services to people, think that you're standing in the place of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and you're doing His agency. And that's how a Jewish mother can become great, she can even become greater than her husband if she'll live this way, because she's practicing these things that are kulo chesed, and she'll come to learn to be aware and realize, that's what Hakadosh Baruch Hu does in this world.
Question # 153
If a person is still continuing to do aveiros, is there any sense in doing teshuva?
Absolutely! And he should ask Hakadosh Baruch Hu for help that he should stop. I'll explain that. When a person does an aveiro and he's happy with it, then it's a much greater sin. If a person does an aveiro, but he is ashamed and he's sorry that he's doing it, it's subtracted from his punishment. Yes, even though he still does it.
The Chofetz Chaim, zichrono l'ivrocha, wrote a sefer for Jewish soldiers. In those days when they were drafted into the Russian army they had to eat treifa foods. So he said, “If you must eat treifa food then don't suck the juice out of the bones.” Which means, don't show that you enjoy it. You're only eating it to save your life from starving. And so when a person does a chet, a sin, even a big chet, a mechalel shabbos, but he's sorry he was mechalel shabbos, it's already a madreiga. To be sorry is a madreiga, you have achieved something. Of course it's not teshuva sheleima, very far from it, but it's a very big thing. Haoseh aveiro umisbayeish bo, he's ashamed, it's a very big thing.
And therefore it pays even for sinners to ask Hashem to forgive them. Only they should add, “…and please Hashem help me that I should make a real perfect teshuva.”
This is transcribed from questions that were posed to Harav Miller by the audience at the Thursday night lectures. To listen to the audio of this Q & A please dial: 201-676-3210