Volume 24 Number 90
                       Produced: Wed Sep 11  7:33:21 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The 1974 Teshuva Drasha of Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik - II
         [Arnold Lustiger]


From: <alustig@...> (Arnold Lustiger)
Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996 10:16:38 -0400
Subject: The 1974 Teshuva Drasha of Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik - II

The Various Roles of Man

Man as Subject - "Nosei"

The concept of man as both tokea and shomea vis a vis the mitzvah of shofar
can be greatly generalized. In everyday language, we regularly refer to
people or items as subjects or as objects. For example, if one writes a
letter, the writer is the subject. He is the one engaged in a creative
activity, while the letter is a passive object: the letter is the item being
acted upon. We can generalize this simple conception about virtually
anything in the world.

The typology of subject and object extends extensively to the world of
Halakha. The difference between a vow (neder) or swearing (shevua) rests on
this dichotomy. Shevua involves what is known as an"issur gavra": a
prohibition which is dependent on the subject. One can swear not to sit in a
specific Succa for example, the emphasis being on the individual to whom the
prohibition is directed. Neder on the other hand, is a formulation which
rests on the object being prohibited ("yeshivat succa alai)

Hashem is the "nosei"- a subject in the most absolute sense. His Omnipotence
is expressed in a number of ways: the creator of worlds (borei olamim), the
en sof . Hashem continually renews Creation ("mechadesh betuvo bekhol yom
tamid maaseh bereishit"). Our very world depends on his continual
involvement as Creator.

Man, created in His image, crowned with honor, was given the imperative to
walk in His ways (7).   In explaining this imperative, the Rambam uses the
expression "lehidamot lo" - to imitate him. The Rav says that imitation of
Hashem is not limited to performing acts of compassion as delineated by the
Gemara regarding welcoming guests, visiting the sick, doing acts of
kindness, but extends to imitation of the essential attribute of  becoming a
nosei.  Man must therefore strive to become subject and not object (gavra
and not cheftza), one that influences ones surroundings rather than becomes
influenced (mashpia and not mushpa), one that creates and is not created (a
mechadesh, not a mechudosh), one that acts and is not acted upon (a po'el
and not a niphal), one who controls his environment rather than is
controlled by it (a nosei and not a nisa).

A person as subject is blessed with free will. This gift was not given to
inanimate objects because their essential nature is that they are passive.
Free will allows one to fulfill his role as a subject. 

In light of this conception, we can define sin in these simple terms. Sin
occurs when man becomes an object: when he changes from gavra to cheftza. He
transforms from creator to a victim. 

The simplest verbs which denote the dichotomy between a subject and an
object are the actions of ascent and descent, respectively. Ascent involves
an act of overcoming the force of gravity, while descent involves succumbing
to this force. Gravity is a force that is not characteristic of personality,
it is characteristic of objects, things. If a person loses his dynamic
subjective existence and cannot counteract various forces which tend to pull
him downward, he is acting as a a simple object.

Not coincidentally, ascent and descent are Biblical metaphors for Mitzvah
and sin respectively. When Israel sinned during the Golden Calf incident,
Hashem's instructions were for Moshe to descend Mount Sinai, while prior to
his reacceptance of the Tablets, the command was for Moshe to ascend.  The
breaking of the tablets as an expression of Israel's sin reflects the
metaphor of descent, commemorated on the 17th day of Tamuz ("lekh rade"). In
contrast, the reestablishment of the Tablets involved an act of self
creation, reflects the metaphor of ascent ("alei elai hahara"), commemorated
on Yom Kippur (8). 

In the Yom Kippur Temple service (the avoda), the object most closely
identified with sin is the sa'ir hamishtalaiach- the scapegoat. The Mishnah
in Yoma describes the ultimate fate of the scapegoat in the ritual this way:
"and it went backward, and it  rolled and descended until it was half way
down the mountain, where it became decapitated into many parts" (Yoma 67a)
Can there be a more accurate description of what sin itself does to a
person? Even before his total descent he is no longer one entity, an abject
victim of gravity.

Sin transforms the person into someone who is acted upon or influenced. In
response to the very first sin, when Hashem confronted Adam upon eating from
the tree of knowledge, Adam's response was:" The woman who  you gave to be
with me, she gave it to me..." (Genesis 3:12). When Hashem confronted Eve in
turn, the response was similar: "The snake tricked me and I ate" (Genesis
3:13) In both responses, each emphasized their helplessness in overcoming an
external influence that "forced" their fall. Suddenly, man as the the crown
of creation, sent forth to conquer the earth, has succumbed to the very
environment he was created to control.

The insistent demand of the shofar according to the Rambam is the imperative
to awaken oneself, with a converse analogy of identifying sin with sleep.
Sleep is an absolute passive state, in which man is pure object. When he is
awake, he can protect himself and control his environment, but is helpless
when in the state of sleep.     

A Biblical account making the equation of sin with sleep is found in the
incident of Samson and Delilah. Samson had a unique personality,
fundamentally different than the  other  national leaders, or judges, of his
time. All the other judges: Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Yiftach, were great
leaders of people. They led armies to war and were great strategists. The
appelations that could be used to accurately describe these people were as
leaders, strategists, commanders. However, only Samson was called  "gibor"-
mighty.  He acted against his enemies as a solitary figure: he needed no one
to help him in battle. The account in the book of Shoftim emphasizes the
terror that he imparted in the hearts of the Phillistines. The attribute of
physical strength alone, would be inadequate to explain this reaction from
his enemies. With purely physical strength, one individal, no matter how
strong, could not himself overcome thousands of people. 

The power of Samson over his enemies emanated from a deeper, psychological
source.  His unique abilities stemmed from a dynamic and spiritual
personality, a personality which paralyzed others in confrontation. These
enemies themselves did not understand the nature of the power that he held
over them, and asked Delilah to ascertain the secret of this power. 

Yet, when Samson fell asleep on the lap of Delilah, he was suddenly
transformed: he lost his role as subject and became object. The jarring
tragedy of this transformation, as described in the book of Judges, was
Samson's total lack of awareness that this change had even taken place.
After his fateful sleep, he awoke and said: "' I will go out as usual', but
he did not know that Hashem was removed from him" (Judges 16:20).

The lack of awareness that one has lost his dynamic personality is the
ultimate tragedy of all sinners (9). Sometimes Delilah is a vulgar type of
beauty, sometimes she is a community, sometimes a political system, or the
search for hedone.  Every generation has its own temptation which pulls
individuals down to the level of object. 

What therefore is teshuva in contrast to sin? Ascent versus descent. Through
sin one is an object, while teshuva allows one to again become a subject.
Through sin man is acted upon, while through teshuva man can once again act.
Through sin he is a thing, while through teshuva he becomes a person.
Through sin gravity overcomes, while through teshuva gravity is overcome.
When Israel was in a state of sin, gravity overwhelmed Moshe, and  the
tablets could not be supported. When Israel was in a state of teshuva,
gravity was overcome and the second tablets could  be supported.

The shofar must serve as the alarm which warns man that because of  sin he
has lost his own dynamic personality, and that he must engage in teshuva so
as to regain this personality.

Man as Object - "Nisa"

Although Hashem as Creator is absolute nosei, there are occasions,
paradoxically, when G-d acts as one who can be  influenced, as "nisa".  This
attribute is specifically evident when we refer to Hashem as shomea tefila-
One who listens to prayer.  

The dichotomy between Hashem as nosei and misa is explicit in the
juxtaposition of two sentences in the Ashrei prayer. "Your kingdom is
everlasting, and your reign is in every generation".  His Will governs the
entire cosmos. The stone falls because of His dictate. Through His Will, he
controls events millions of light years away. Yet, at the same time, "He
performs the will of those who fear Him, and He listens to their cry and
saves them" 

His Will envelopes infinity, yet when it comes to those who follow Him, he
"steps aside" as it were. Every Jew can pray, can open his heart from the
depths of his being, can make requests of Hashem, which He then can act
upon. In this way, insignificant man influences the Omnipotent: "He does the
will of those who fear Him". 

Before he does teshuva, Hashem is distant from man. During the ten days of
repentance, Hashem brings man close to Him. In this role, the one who does
Teshuva becomes the nosei and Hashem, as it were, becomes the nisa: . 

The very concept of prayer is a mystery to Chazal. How is it possible that
lowly man can influence the Master of the Universe through prayer?  Yet
prayer is the most powerful weapon in the hands of Man, because through
prayer, Man - nosei can influence Hashem - nisa .

On Rosh Hashanah, Hashem moves from the throne of justice to the throne of
mercy. This movement takes place because Man is the "mashpia" and Hashem
becomes the "mushpa".

The Rav recounted how as a child, his teacher in Cheder would refer to the
first night of Rosh Hashanah as "coronation night", the time at which we
place the crown  on Hashem as we proclaim our acceptance of the the yoke of
heaven. The Rav remembers asking his teacher that if Hashem is truly King of
the world, what does he need man to place the crown on his head?

The Rav did not understand exactly what the teacher answered at the time,
but he did remember him quoting a phrase from Shir Hashirim (7:6): "The king
is held captive in the tresses [of His beloved]"

In the physical universe, Hashem is the nosei, but in Jewish History, Hashem
wants the Jew to play the active role.  Regarding Jewish History, Hashem is
passive, nisa, "held captive" as it were.

In a masterfully crafted piece of homiletics, the Rav reinterprets the
Shacharit phrase:"hamelekh hayoshev al kisei ram venisa". "Ram" refers to
Hashem's relationship with the cosmos, while, in light of the above, "nisa"
refers to Hashem's relationship to Jewish destiny. 

Therefore, in response to the imperative of  "vehalachta bidrachav", we must
also play this dual role. Not only must we play the role of nosei, but we
must play the role of nisa as well. In specific times, man must be a
"mashpia", at other times a "mushpa". The shofar, as explained earlier,
symbolizes this dual role, as the person blowing the shofar is at the same
time a "tokea" and a "shomea".  

The very creation of man suggests that he has this dual role.

And the L-rd created the man in his own image, in the image of the L-rd he
created them, male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27)

What is the meaning of the juxtaposition between the the image of G-d  and
the creation of man as two sexes? The answer is that the male an female in
this context does not refer here to a physiological but rather a spiritual
and metaphysical difference. The male aspect refers to man with the dynamic,
active personality of a "nosei", and the female aspect refers to man  with
the passive personality of a "nisa". The possession of both qualities, in
turn, reflects the image of G-d: "ram venisa".

The means to achieve the attribute  of  "ram" as far as man is concerned is
clear: the imperative to be powerful physically and spiritually, to be like
Samson- and  wake up at the sound of the shofar before Delilah wakes us...

But in what way does Hashem want man to be a 'nisa"? First, through
subjugating oneself to a higher will. 

The paradigm of man as both  "nosei" and "nisa" was Abraham. On the one
hand, Avraham was perhaps the best nosei in Jewish history. He alone
uncovered the secret of  the unity of Hashem as a child. The Rambam
emphasizes that no one taught him. In addition to his spiritual strength,
his physical abilities were evident in his battle with Chedarlaomer's army
(Genesis 14).

Yet, upon Hashem's command, this same person took his son to be sacrificed.
He did not challenge Hashem with the grotesque inconsistency that killing
his son would contradict G-d's promise to Avraham regarding the great nation
he was to father. By performing the Akeda Avraham acted against everything
he believed. Yet, Avraham bent his own will to Hashem's, thus acting as a
nisa par excellence. During the Akeda incident, Avraham told his servants:
"I and the the lad will go to until there and bow..".(Genesis 22:5). The act
of bowing symbolizes total subordination (10) to Hashem.

Besides subordination, another manifestation of man as nisa is the attribute
of  sensitivity. When a potential convert approached Hillel and asked him to
summarize the entire Torah in one sentence, he replied: "What is hateful to
you, do not do to your friend

Insensitivity and cruelty are diametrically opposed to Judaism.  A Jew is
merciful, charitable, and cannot bear to see someone else in pain. When
Eliezer searched for a wife for Yitzchak, his criterion was kindness.
Rebeccca response to Eliezer suggested that she had the requisite quality of
sensitivity, even in regard to Eliezer's animals. Only one who displays
these qualities can be a proper wife for Yitzchak.

A complement to sensitivity is the yearning for holiness. As a small
illustration, the Rav used the following anecdote from his past:

"Not far from where our family lived there was a Modzitzer Shtiebel where I
would occasionally go for shalosh seudos. The chasidim  would be singing
"Bnei heichala", "Hashem Ro'i lo echsor", again "Bnei heichala", again
"Hashem ro'i".It occurred to me that they weren't singing because they
wanted to sing, they were singing because they did not want to allow Shabbos
to leave...

"I  remember  an encounter in this shtiebel as a small child. One of the men
who had been singing most enthusiastically, wearing a "kapote" consisting of
more holes than material,  approached  me and asked if I recognized him. I
told him that I did not, and he introduced himself as Yankel the Porter.
Now during the week I knew Yankel the Porter  as someone very ordinary
wearing shabby clothes walking around with a rope. I could not imagine that
an individual of such regal bearing could be the same person. Yet on Shabbos
he  wore a kapote and shtreimel: that is because his soul wasn't Yankel the
Porter, but Yankel the Prince.

"Well after nightfall I naively asked him 'when do we daven Ma'ariv?'  He
replied: "Do you miss weekdays that much [that you cannot wait to daven

The mitzvah of adding from the weekday to Shabbos reflects the yearning of
the Jew towards holiness. 

There is a Mishneh in Sanhedrin that amplifies this theme. The Mishneh lists
a number of individuals who do not merit a share in the world to come,
including Balak, Bilam, Achitophel and Gehazi. The evil nature of the first
three are well known; Balak and Bilam threatened to destroy the nascent
Jewish nation even before reaching Israel reached their soil, while
Achitophel, through his alliance with Avshalom,  plotted against the kingdom
of David attempting to end the Messianic heritage. 

The inclusion of Gehazi in this company would seem somewhat strange. What
was the severity of Gehazi's sin that he deserved to be listed among such
wicked people? Gehazi, the servant of the prophet Elisha, coveted a gift
that was offered to Elisha that the prophet refused, and Gehazi was
therefore punished. Gehazi's sin lay in the fact that he served the prophet
for so long, was in the very presence of holiness, and yet his fundamental
personality was unaffected. His insensitivity to the personification of
sanctity in the person of  Elisha, a sanctity to which he had such close
proximity and access, put him on the same level as much more evil people who
did not  have the benefit of such association. The lack of Elisha's
influence on the fundamental personality of his servant stands in stark
contrast to Elisha's own reaction to being the protege to the prophet
Elijah, as well as Yehoshua's relationship to Moshe during Yehoshua's tenure
as his servant. 

The main theme of the malkhuyot portion of the Amida recited on Rosh
Hashanah, is that we ask Hashem to become nos'im in areas that we previously
were nisa'im , and vice versa.


 (1) At this point, the Rav brought another proof to the objective and
subjective components of the mitzvah of shofar. The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah
28a-b states that a  "tokea lashir", one who blows shofar because he enjoys
the sound (as opposed to having in mind fulfillment of the Mitzvah) in fact
can fulfill his obligation for hearing shofar in this way. The Gemara states
that this is so even though the verse states "zikhron terua", and under
these conditions  the person who is blowing is considered as if he is a
"misasek", as one who blew a shofar by accident, intending to do something
else. The Gemara is difficult to understand, since "misasek" constitutes a
fundamentally different status than a  "tokea lashir": a true "misasek"
would in fact not fulfill his obligation towards hearing the shofar, as
oppoed to a "tokea lashir". However, in light of the dual nature of the
mitzva these passages can be understood. The difference between a "misasek"
and "tokea lashir" is only of significance regarding the external act of the
mitzvah of blowing shofar. Regarding the subjective component of the mitzva,
the person's mind is not  concentrating on the meaning of the mitzva whether
he is a "tokea lashir" or "misasek". Because the inner fufillment (the
"zikhron terua") is lacking in either case, regarding the subjective
component of the mitzvas shofar  the two are equivalent, and neither has
fulfilled the mitzvah.

 (2) Although the Rav did not provide the precise source for this statement,
apparently he is referring to Leviticus 23:23, where the term "zikhron
terua"  is used. According to Rashi, the term  refers to the verses of
"zikhronot" and "shofarot" in  musaf.  This interpretation suggests that the
shofar blowing (terua) must be closely associated with the Biblical verses
associated with this activity (zikhronot and shofarot) in order for one to
fulfill the obligation of hearing shofar. 

(3) Tosfos , in response to this apparent conflict, suggests two approaches:
that the second mishnah is "lechatchila"  while the first is "bedieved", or
alternatively that these two mishnayot actually constitute a difference of
opinion, and we actually rule like the second Mishnah, in accordance with
the Rambam below.

(4) The question can now be asked, however, why if Tokea Lashir partially
fulfills his shofar obligation (that of Yom Terua), a similar concept could
not be operative for one who blows a straight shofar?  The answer is that if
the shofar itself is not an object from which one can fulfill the complete
shofar obligation of both zikhron terua as well as yom terua, then that
shofar cannot allow fulfillment of even the yom terua aspect of the mitzvah. 

	A similar concept applies for the Mitzvah of lulav: one actually fulfills
the Mitzvah of lulav by simply taking the four species, and the shaking
sequence normally associated with the Mitzvah is not actually required.
However, if the Lulav for some reason is incapable of being shaken, the
lulav itself is considered deficient and one does not fulfill the Mitzvah
through holding such a lulav

(5) Sanhedrin 102a, Chagiga 15a

(6) Some scholars  hold that this letter was inauthentic

(7)This thought is also expressed in the rabbinic interpretation of the
phrase "zeh Keli ve'anvehu" -The word "veanvehu" is a contraction of the
words "ani vehu": 

(8)It is also interesting to note that ascent is closely associated with
Jerusalem and the Temple: "and you shall ascend and arise to the place that
Hashem will choose"

(9)The Rav took the story of Samson's unawareness of his loss of strength as
an analogy to the state of Israel's response to the Yom Kippur war of 1973
(which occured less than one year before this lecture was delivered). In the
initial days of the war,  hubris resulted in the belief that the war would
be won in a few short days, similar to the Six Day War of 1967. Only after
the war became extended and the news of battlefield losses mounted was there
even an awareness of vulnerability. The Rav stated that the "Delilah" in the
case of the State of Israel was widespread belief in the land of Isrel but
without the G-d of Israel  

(10)The Rav stated that the widespread support of the state of Israel by the
general Jewish community is a manifestation of man as nisa.: an irrational
act that flies in the face of their own natural pragmatism.

Summarized by Arnold Lustiger.
Comments, suggestions, criticisms or corrections can be directed to:
Arnie Lustiger


End of Volume 24 Issue 90