Sunday, November 16, 2008

No I Didn't Yes You Did

I heard a drasha on Shabbos from a kiruv rabbi, who talked about the importance of changing yourself upon repentence and becoming a new person. He hooked it into last week's parsha by quoting our ancestor Sara's denial of God's accusation that she laughed upon hearing the unbelievable news that she would give birth at such an old age. The idea was that when she said lo’ tzahhaqti, "I did not laugh" she was telling the truth — she was ashamed at her previous action, and transcended it, becoming a new person. The new "I" was not the same Sara who had laughed.

What the speaker forgot, though, is the end of the verse. Read it. God responds to Sara's denial, her supposed new identity, with three words: lo’, ki tzahhaqt. No, you did laugh. You can't deny your past. You can change yourself, you can move on, and you can improve. But you can never deny who you are, who you were, or where you came from. That's not what teshuva is about.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Garnel Ironheart said...

Maybe the example was wrong but the idea is central to a good part of the Rav's "On Repentance", the idea that teshuva creates a new person free of the taint of the sin that caused his neshama to be blemished.

11/16/2008 3:19 AM  
Blogger Jacob Da Jew said...

I agree with da Steg.

Great post.

11/16/2008 8:54 AM  
Blogger Tzvee said...

born again jews?

11/16/2008 10:10 AM  
Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

A simpler defense of Sarah is that she meant that she did not laugh aloud, in which case she was not really lying (although she was covering up her mental reaction to the prophetic message).

Her laughter was an internal state of amusement (vatis-haq Sarah b'qirba, with b-qirba being the operative term here) so it would not technically qualify as "laughing", hence her legitimate denial from the standpoint of legal culpability.

Divine Judgment, however, holds us accountable for our thoughts as well...

11/16/2008 10:46 PM  
Blogger thanbo said...

R' Josh: nice Clintonesque answer.

I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky. And without bi'ah, there's no ni'uf. So there.

BTW, I like how the Captcha is now using pronounceable letter sequences. Makes them much easier to get right the first time. The one below sounds like a generic drug name, "nivistab".

11/18/2008 11:37 AM  
Blogger The Bray of Fundie said...

I don't know if the concept of Teshuva as a disconnect from the past is explicit in Khazal...but it is in the Rambam.

The Rabbis misapplication of it to Sarah Iameinu though is well taken.

Say better, say the phrase "כי יראה" proves tha tshe was engaging in denial, not in Teshuva. In fact, לכולי עלמא is the very antithesis of Teshuva

11/20/2008 1:56 PM  
Blogger Kylopod said...

nice Clintonesque answer

Isn't "Clintonesque" just another word for what we used to call "Talmudic"?

(Well, not exactly. I would hate to think we have bochrim engaging in Clintonesque studies. But you know what I mean.)

11/22/2008 9:36 PM  
Anonymous sister miryam said...

(Well, not exactly. I would hate to think we have bochrim engaging in Clintonesque studies. But you know what I mean.)

hahaah!!

11/26/2008 8:16 AM  

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