Thursday, September 20, 2012

Finding Hashem in the Very Darkest Darkness

Hashem's Light over Bat Ayin
Dear Friends,
Yom Kippur is actually the happiest day of the year, because on this day Hashem forgives all of our sins, he wipes our slate clean and gives us new chance to start our life anew. We are so fortunate that Hashem loves us and forgives us. More than we want to be forgiven, Hashem desires to forgive us. Hashem is our loving Father and Mother. He wants to give us everything that our own parents may not have been able to. All we need is to allow Him to shower us with blessings, by believing in His love for us within even the very darkest moments. I have designed this meditation as a preparation for Yom Kippur, to help us go through all the partitions of the darkness, to confess our transgressions and move on to the greatest light!

May Hashem forgive you and give you complete atonement! 

May we all together be sealed in the Book of Life!
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Parasha Meditaion Parashat Vayelech
Devarim 31:1-31:30
Transitions and Confession
Parashat Vayelech which means “He went” is about transitions. At this time we are in transition praying to be sealed in the Book of Life. Moshe had finally accepted his fate. He was not to live to experience the fulfillment of his dreams – entering the Holy Land with his beloved people, to finally take roots in the land blessed by Hashem. Moshe was at the end of his journey, and now “he went.” Where exactly did Moshe go? The holy Ohr Hachayim explains that forty days prior to demise, the soul goes from the person. The tzaddikkim are aware of the matter. When it stated “Moshe went,” it implied that the live spirit which is called Moshe went.[1] Whenever one door closes another opens. Our fear of death can be lessened by the belief that death is just one more transition in a life marked by constant change. Yet, when accompanied by repentance and confession, each transition becomes smoother. Just as Vidui (confession) is on the lips of the dying, so at this Yom Kippur time when our lives are hanging in a thin string, we confess our misdoings.

Between Incomplete and Complete Confession
This week’s parasha read during the Ten Days of Repentance includes a short confession by the children of Israel: “…Because G-d is not among me, all these evils befell me, and I will surely hide My face in that day...”[2] Ramban explains that this is not a complete confession, but only a thought of regret that they recognized their guilt. Therefore, the verse continues “I will surely hide,” in order that they complete their regret with complete confession and repentance.[3] According to Rambam proper vidui includes taking upon ourselves not to repeat the transgression. This is because the depths of recognizing our wrongdoing, makes it crystal clear that we will never ever repeat it. “Whenever a person transgressed any of the mitzvoth in the Torah, whether on purpose or unintentionally, when he repents he is obligated to confess before the blessed G-d, as it states, ‘A man or a woman if they transgressed any sin…they must confess the sin they committed…’[4] The way to confess is to say – ‘Please Hashem, I sinned, transgressed and committed crime before You, I did such and such, I regretted and am embarrassed about my action, and I will never repeat them.’”[5]

Sins make us Feel as if Hashem has Forsaken Us
For a Jew the worst punishment is to feel that G-d is far from me. We are called to believe that even an iron curtain does not have the power to separate between Israel and their Father in Heaven. G-d dwells with us even in our impurity.[6] Nothing can disconnect us from Him. Whenever we feel distant from Hashem, it’s only Hashem hiding behind the curtains, testing us whether we have emunah to break through all the veils to face Him. “But your wrongs have separated between you and your G-d, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that he does not hear.[7] When the yetzer hara (negative inclination) entices a person to sin, the sin itself is not its main aim, but rather the despondency and despair that follows the sin and make the person feel distant from Hashem. Worse than the wrongdoing itself when we fees that the sin has caused us to be separated from Hashem and that there is no remedy for this. By means of feeling this way we cause ourselves to be distant and detached from Hashem. This is the most difficult mechitza (barrier) it is worse than all other partitions of lusts and lack of emunah. “My G-d, My G-d why have you left me.”[8] The worst punishment for a Jew is when it seems to us that G-d has forsaken us.

The Illusion of Despair
We have to understand that all the walls and partitions are only illusions. “From the depths I called you Hashem”[9] – from the depths of the klipa (husk).[10] Even when we are in the depths of the husk Hashem is with us in our constricted state. [11] “However much a Jew sinned, he still remains a Jew!”[12] “Even an iron curtain has no power to separate between Israel and our Father in Heaven.”[13] However, the yetzer hara still tries to entice us to depression and despair making us feel that Hashem has left us completely. This is the reason for the double language in our Torah verse: “פָּנַי הַסְתֵּר אַסְתִּיר” – “I will doubly hide my face”[14] The first hiding is by means of the actual sin committed, the second hiding is by means of the sin of despair.[15]

In the Very Darkest Darkness the Shechinah Resides
At the revelation at Sinai there were three partitions of darkness hiding Hashem: Darkness, cloud and fog (thick darkness).[16] The fog was the darkest separation, nevertheless “Moshe drew near unto the fog (thick darkness) where G-d was.”[17] The numerical value of the Hebrew word “הָעֲרָפֶל – the arafel (fog)” equals “השכינה – the Shechinah.”[18] Moshe revealed that inside of the very darkest darkness there G-d resides! In order to come close to Hashem we need to go through all of these partitions of darkness, while believing with steadfast emunah that inside of the darkest darkness there we can find Hashem.

Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out from your nose.
Allow all the sounds around you to pass through you, as clouds on a sunny day.

1. Visualize a great brilliant light before you, feel its dazzling strength and intensity.

2. Feel the strength of the power of Hashem’s light burning painfully in the darkest places of your being.

3. Become aware of your personal misdoings where the light burns most painfully.

4. Confess before Hashem: “Please Hashem, I sinned, transgressed and committed crime before You, I did such _________and such _________ (insert your personal transgressions in the spaces, and add as many as you can think of). I regret and am embarrassed about my actions, and I will never repeat them again.”

5. Visualize a deep darkness – חשֶׁךְ before you. Imagine the darkness turning thicker and thicker. Take a deep breath. Walk through this darkness. Now you arrive at an even darker place filled with the darkest clouds – עָנָן. Take a deeper breath. Pass through the thicket, and walk through the darkness of the clouds. Then arrive at the very thickest darkness possible עֲרָפֶל – darkness so deep and frightening it makes you want turn around instantly. Take your deepest breath and summon all of your courage. Now walk through this very thickest darkness, which is so thick it sticks to you.

6. Mazal tov! You have surmounted. The Shechina is before you with her brilliant shining light. Feel the warmth of love in your heart, the strong loving feeling of knowing that all of your sins have been forgiven.

7. Feel relief, and security that your Father in Heaven has sealed you in the Book of Life!

At the dedication of the Temple, Shlomo Hamelech proclaimed: “Hashem has said that He would dwell in the thick darkness עֲרָפֶל.” At the two highest time of Israel’s history: The giving of the Torah and the dedication of the first Temple, we learn that in spite of these times of the highest revelations, our main spiritual work is to pass through the darkness, the cloud and the fog. This is the main preparation for the High Holidays, although we need to recognize the greatness of our sins, and how much damage they have caused, still we have to believe that even the thickest iron curtain has no power to separate between us and our Father in heaven. A Jew is never ever lost. We are forever children of Hashem our G-d for all eternity!

[1] Ohr HaChayim, Devarim 31:1, quoted by the Netivat Shalom, this entire piece is inspired by Netivat Shalom, Parashat Vayeleh, p. 110-112.
Devarim 31:17-18.
Ramban, Devarim 31:17.
Bamidbar 5:6-7.
Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva, chapter 1: halacha1.
Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 56b.
Yesha’yahu 59:2.
Tehillim 22:2
Ibid. 130:1.
The Rebbe of Kovrin.
“עמו אנכי בצרה” (Tehillim 91:15).
Ibid. Sanhedrin 44a.
Babylonian Talmud, Pessachim 85b.
Devarim 31:18.
Netivat Shalom, Parashat Vayelech, p. 111.
Devarim 4:11.
Shemot 20:18.
I Melachim 8:12.


  1. This is a very beautiful dvar Torah. I particularly liked the gematria.

  2. thank you so much that is very sweet of you to share your feedback.