Ha'Azinu - Making Tshuvah

The Kli Yakar explains that the Jewish people are referred to by a number of different names.

  • Yisrael ישראל
  • Yaacov יעקב
  • Yeshurun ישורון

Explains the Kli Yakar, when you take the last letters of each of these names and put them together, then you get the word - LAVAN (לבן) - white.

Lavan, white, as it says in the verse:
If your sins prove to be like crimson, they will become white as snow; if they prove to be as red as crimson dye, they shall become as wool
אִם יִהְיוּ חֲטָאֵיכֶם כַּשָּׁנִים כַּשֶּׁלֶג יַלְבִּינוּ אִם יַאְדִּימוּ כַתּוֹלָע כַּצֶּמֶר יִהְיוּ
Yeshayahu 1:18
This refers to whitening or bleaching of sins.


However these letters can also be turned around, just as we learn about how the generation of the Moshiach will be full of opposites and turned on its head.
It has been taught: R. Nehorai said: in the generation when Messiah comes, young men will insult the old, and old men will stand before the young [to give them honour]; daughters will rise up against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. The people shall be dog-faced, and a son will not be abashed in his father's presence.
Sanhedrin 97A
The letters L V N (ל-ב-ן) can be turned around to be NAVAL (נבל), or disgusting, as it says in Parshat Ha'zinu "you disgraceful, unwise people" ("עַם נָבָל וְלֹא חָכָם") - Devarim 32:6.

We saw in the book of Vayikra how white (לבן) was changed to it's opposite, in the verse:
then the kohen shall look [at it]. And, behold! the tzara'ath has covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce [the person with] the lesion clean. He has turned completely white; he is clean
 וְרָאָה הַכֹּהֵן וְהִנֵּה כִסְּתָה הַצָּרַעַת אֶת כָּל בְּשָׂרוֹ וְטִהַר אֶת הַנָּגַע כֻּלּוֹ הָפַךְ לָבָן טָהוֹר הוּא
Vayikra 13:13

Changing Around

The source for this reasoning comes from Parshat Ha'azinu.
And He said, "I will hide My face from them. I will see what their end will be, for they are a generation of changes; they are not [recognizable] as My children whom I have reared.
וַיֹּאמֶר אַסְתִּירָה פָנַי מֵהֶם אֶרְאֶה מָה אַחֲרִיתָם כִּי דוֹר תַּהְפֻּכֹת הֵמָּה בָּנִים לֹא אֵמֻן בָּם
Devarim 32:20
The phrase "what their end will be" the Kli Yakar says can be applied to the last letters of the 3 names of the Jewish People.  And we can learn out the idea of turning around the order of the letters from the phrase "for they are a generation of changes".

The Kli Yakar explains that on the phrase "you disgraceful, unwise people" ("עַם נָבָל וְלֹא חָכָם"), he interpreted that phrase as being about someone that loves money and he is miserly and stingy. This comes together in the verse:
The cuckoo calls but has not laid, so it is he who gathers riches but not by right; he shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end he stands dishonored.
קֹרֵא דָגָר וְלֹא יָלָד עֹשֶׂה עֹשֶׁר וְלֹא בְמִשְׁפָּט בַּחֲצִי יָמָיו יַעַזְבֶנּוּ וּבְאַחֲרִיתוֹ יִהְיֶה נָבָל
Yirmeyahu 17:11
Where we see that the one that is overly concerned with his wealth, will in the end be NAVAL - disgraced. The elements running throughout this verse appear here - wealth, an end, disgrace.

Path to Tshuvah

How does the tzara'ath (leprosy) come clean and turn white? Through tshuvah (repentance). As it says in the verse:
I was looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days sat; His raiment was as white as snow, and the hair of His head was like clean wool; His throne was sparks of fire, its wheels were a burning fire.
חָזֵה הֲוֵית עַד דִּי כָרְסָוָן רְמִיו וְעַתִּיק יוֹמִין יְתִב לְבוּשֵׁהּ| כִּתְלָג חִוָּר וּשְׂעַר רֵאשֵׁהּ כַּעֲמַר נְקֵא כָּרְסְיֵהּ שְׁבִיבִין דִּי נוּר גַּלְגִּלּוֹהִי נוּר דָּלִק
Daniel 7:9
In describing purity, especially spiritual purity, white is the central motif. This is how it appears in this verse "His raiment was as white as snow." Which takes us back to the verse in Yeshayahu "If your sins prove to be like crimson, they will become white as snow."

The 10 Days of Repentance

We are moving through the days of critical review, the 10 days of repentance. This is a time when one's fate can go in either direction. On the one side, the pure and upright will be seen as clean and white - LAVAN (לבן). While the dishonest and unclean will be seen as disgraced  - NAVAL (נבל).

The operative action can make the difference and bring one to be white and pure, rather than the disgrace is Tshuvah, pure and sincere repentance. Let us hope that the tshuvah that we do during this period reaches the gates of heaven and truly makes an impact on the way the judgement goes.

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