Last week’s we got a brief introduction to this week’s Parasha when mentioning that the upcoming Song will serve as a witness, never to be forgotten, during the times when many evils and troubles come upon Bnei Yisrael. However, when expecting the song to contain praises about Bnei Yisrael, it describes quite the opposite. The Parasha begins with a short description of a fundamental difference between Hashem and the nation of Israel. While Hashem is described as just and right, his children are described as crooked and perverse.
Further more, it seems that the description mentioned above disregards the merit of our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, as well as any other good deed in the nation’s history. The Parasha tell us that Hashem ‘found’ Bnei Yisrael only later, in the desert. Was that really the first time that Hashem ‘found’ us and took us under his custody?
Further more, the punishment in our Parasha due to Bnei Yisrael being crooked and perverse seems so harsh – Hashem wouldmake the memory of Bnei Yisrael cease from among men . The common solution of Bnei Yisrael’s repentance or the merit of our forefathers would not be enough this time. Only the fear of desecrating the name of Hashem, will cause Bnei Yisrael to eliminate their enemies and prevail.
Now, if this Song is to be our witness for times of need, would we not have expected it to be a little more favorable towards the favorable and chosen nation?!
It seems that the answer may be found exactly in the midst of these ten days of repentance ‘Aseret Yemei Teshuva’. During these days, the gates to heaven are open and are awaiting our repentance. The relationship with Hashem during these days is not built solely upon good deeds we perform or the merit of our forefathers. Rather, the connection is made on a much more basic level, as a father to his child, whether or not the child has performed in a good manner. That is the unique side of a father and child relationship, the unconditional desire for the child’s best.
This would explain why our Parasha views the first meeting of Hashem and Bnei Yisrael to be only upon reaching the desert. The desert was the first time that the Bnei Yisrael were not depending on the merit of the forefathers or the merit of the high moral values that accompanied the receiving of the Torah. Upon entering the desert, Hashem saw Bnei Yisrael standing before him for very first time with no shield of any kind.
Unfortunately, on several occasions during the period of the prophets, we learn of similar situations to the one described in our Parasha. Bnei Yisrael hit rock bottom, and they are saved only due to Hashem’s desire not to desecrate his name.
Rav Meidan, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Har Etzion, explained our Parasha in light of the Braytah in Tractate Taanit, bringing us the words of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel. He stated that there were no better days for Israel as the fifteenth day of Av and Yom Kippur, on which young women would go out and dance in the vineyards. The pretty women requested to be taken for their beauty, the distinguished women asked to be taken for their distinguished families, and the non-pretty women asked to be taken for the sake of the name of G-d.
In a similar manner, one may explain that for as long as we keep mitzvot and walk in the path of Hashem, we can pray during these days on behalf of our good deeds. When we cannot rely upon our good deeds, we would depend on the merit of our distinguished families, our forefathers. But when we reach a stage that we cannot even rely upon such a merit, we ask Hashem to atone our sins, simply, for the sake of the name of G-d.
However, the Haftorah we read this Shabbat teaches us of Hashem’s expectation that we do Teshuva, and how it may be used as a shield from divine punishment. The gates of Teshuva never lock anticipating that we all enter Yom Kippur not in need to be signed for life for the sake of the name of G-d, rather that we are able to ask to be signed for life on behalf of our good deeds.