Kechu (Rav Shmuel Brazil)

September 10, 2021

Shopping, driving, working, cleaning, carpool, cooking… the list of mundane activities carried out during the six days of the week is virtually endless. Finally, after six days of continuous, seemingly relentless toil, Shabbos arrives in all her glory and splendor. Now we are given the opportunity to reconnect with Hashem and remind ourselves of the purity of our relationship with Him. The pinnacle of the week, Shabbos gives each neshoma the extra capacity to connect to Hashem and His Torah.

The Midrash (Beraishis Rabbah 22) teaches us that when Kayin emerged from his judgement before Hashem, he met Adam HaRishon, who inquired as to Hashem’s verdict.

“I repented,” explained Kayin, “and a compromise was reached.”

At this, Adam HaRishon struck his head with his hand and exclaimed, “This is the power of teshuva? I had no idea!” On the spot, he arose and composed “Mizmor shir l’Yom haShabbos.” Overwhelmed by the power of teshuva, Adam felt it fitting to compose a song about Shabbos. Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to compose a song about teshuva??

The compromise referred to in the Midrash above was not a compromise in the usual sense of the word. Such haggling and negotiating would not be befitting to the honor of Hashem; as such, it must refer to something else.

The Chumash goes on to tell us that “Va’yasam Hashem l’Kayin os – And Hashem gave Kayin a sign” (Beraishis 4:15). According to the Midrash Tanchuma, this “sign” was Shabbos. Although Kayin had indeed plummeted from his elevated madreigah, Hashem gave him a day on which he could reclaim his former status.

By stating that he reached a compromise with Hashem, Kayin was referring to the opportunity Hashem had granted him – namely, the day of Shabbos. Through the teshuva afforded by Shabbos, he could climb the spiritual ladder to regain his previous level. His weekday would remain a constant struggle with sheer physicality, but every seventh day he would have the opportunity to transform his travails into spiritual triumphs through the holy power of Shabbos.

The reaction of Adam HaRishon, then, can now be better understood as well. Upon hearing that an aveirah as heinous as homicide could be rectified through Shabbos, Adam was astounded. He slapped his forehead in utter amazement at the power of teshuva exuded by Shabbos. He observed that on the wings of Shabbos, even a murderer could obtain rectification and reclaim his former spiritual state. Immediately, Adam composed Mizmor Shir L’Yom HaShabbos, and now we understand why.

Famously, Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz (1690-1764) introduces us to a revolutionary concept in his Ya’aros Dvash (Drush Aleph). He teaches us that the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur represent the corresponding days of the week over that entire year. As such, a person is able to do teshuva on each day of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva for the transgressions committed on that day of the week throughout the year.

Knowing that Shabbos contains the capacity to return the neshoma to its pristine state, we can understand now that the power of Shabbos Shuva is magnified many times over. Shabbos Shuva, more than any other Shabbos, has the power to retroactively rectify every single Shabbos of the previous year. In this way, Shabbos Shuva represents the greatest means of teshuva that exists – infinitely more so than any weekday and more so than any of the other Shabbosos combined.

Shabbos Shuva, as its name suggests, signifies the utmost opportunity to repair our relationship with Hashem, and return to the state of closeness to Hashem that we experienced before committing any aveiros. And while ordinarily this goal is effectively unattainable, it is only through the potent strength and purity that we gain from this particular Shabbos that we can achieve the complete teshuva for which we all yearn.

The words in our selichos and our prayers for forgiveness this time of year are certainly very powerful. We may even recite them with profound feelings of remorse. However, and it might be just me, but when we return to the world outside of shul, we may forget the anguish we just felt for having behaved improperly. Therefore, the navi Hoshea (14:3) gives us the remedy, and cautions us in this week’s haftorah – קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל ה׳ – That we must take these words with us – even after we have left shul – and work to transform our sincere tefillos into genuine actions of repentance.

Following the monumental, inaugural release of Ohr Chodosh in 1971, eminent composer and now venerable Rosh Yeshiva Rav Shmuel Brazil would share a couple hundred more of his compositions over the next 50 years. Bilvavi, Ve’yaazor, Uva L’tzion & Yevanim are only a few of his most well-known tunes – not to mention a host of Shabbos songs that are sung in every home and shul all over the world each and every week.

His 2000 release entitled Shuvu El Hashem contained yet another instant classic – one that contains a special message for us during these distinct days. Kechu is sung by the gifted Moishe Mendlowitz, a relatively unknown talent (at the time) named Yaakov Shwekey, and also featured then popular child soloist Yosef Wartelsky.

{As a child, Mendlowitz was featured as a star soloist on the first two Tzlil Vzemer albums (1983-1985). He would continue to appear on various children’s cassettes over the next several years – including Dov Dov and Purim USA, just to name a few. Child soloist Yosef Wartelsky was also a member of Tzlil V’Zemer and appeared on their final two albums in back in 1998. But Wartelsky might still be best known for his spectacular solo work on the Shalsheles hit song Esa Einai in 1999 – still a year before today’s album would be recorded. And for one more bit of historical context, future superstar Yaakov (Choueka) Shwekey would go on to put out his first solo album (Shomati) a full year later(!).}

This song’s special melody and repetitive refrain acts as a call to our souls to return to our rightful place beside The King. It reminds us that if we would follow the integral instruction of קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים, then וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל ה׳ – we can be certain that we will make our successful return to Hashem. During these Aseres Yemei Teshuva, we can not only tap into the extreme power of teshuva that Shabbos affords us in general, but we are assured to attain the highest levels of repentance contained within Shabbos Shuva itself!

May we all so merit.

Wishing you a truly glorious Shabbos Shuva and a gmar chasimah tova!

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