Dora Haar created the topic: Rabbi Muskat's thoughts on Perakim 3-4
Thoughts on Chapters 3-5
1. How do you understand 3:2 – if you have one more sin than mitzvah then you immediately die? Notice that in 3:1, the Rambam discusses someone whose sins are yeteirot, not merubin that we find in 3:2. It seems to me that you are defined as a righteous person or a wicked person if you have more sins than mitzvoth & vice-verse – that’s 3:1, but in 3:2, the punishment is only if it’s merubin – a lot more. Think about the examples that the Rambam brings in 3:2 – Sodom was destroyed and the generation of the flood was destroyed because their sins were merubin – a lot more. In most situations there is hope for us to return. Maybe, according to the Rambam, God loves us so expanded the beinoni concept – theoretically, if we have more sins than mitzvoth, we should die, but because He loves us, He gives us a chance & He will always give us the opportunity to redeem ourselves unless our sins are merubin like Sodom & the generation of the flood. In 3:3, when we discuss the concept of nechtam l’chayim & nechtam l’mitah – sealed for life & sealed for death around the time of Rosh Hashana, that may be differnet than the punishment in 3:2, of immediately dying. Maybe in 3:3, to be sealed for death, it may mean that we may die earlier than we otherwise would have but it doesn’t mean that we will die immediately. Again, the idea that on Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur, we should believe in ourselves that we’re still around, that God believes in us, we don’t have merubin sins & therefore, we should strive to improve ourselves & not give up hope on ourselves.
2. Note that the Rambam doesn’t mention the concept of teshuva during Elul or the week before Rosh Hashana. For the Rambam in 3:4, Rosh Hashana is an opportunity for hirhurei teshuva, thoughts of teshuva, when we listen to the shofar. This is the halakha of the Rambam which is the source for the idea that the shofar is like an alarm clock to awaken us to teshuvah. We should always do teshuvah and that is what we read in 3:1-3, but during the aseret ymei teshuvah, since we hear the shofar as a way to awaken us – we do things that force us to think about teshuva, it’s a good time to focus on the idea of teshuva. As I mentioned in the shiur last week, there are many different values that we should be doing all the time but it’s hard to focus on them all the time; therefore, we have set times during the year when we focus on these values. The focus on teshuvah occurs during the aseret ymei teshuvah. This halakha speaks about the idea that we should think as if the whole world depends on us – that might not be reality, but the goal is that ideally we should realize how relevant every action we take is – it could tip the scales – this is how we should approach life – every moment needs to be maximized by us for good.
3. Who are all these people who don’t have a portion in the world to come mentioned in 3:6 and how does it relate to the previous chapters in the Rambam. I think that there is a distinction between people and actions. Until this halakha, we read about how to achieve atonement for specific sins, but there is certain individuals because of their behavior or belief system that lose the gift of teshuva because they don’t believe in basic tenets of our faith or do not act like they are part of Klal Yisrael. Minim and apikorsim essentially are individuals who deny the principles of faith of the Rambam. The Rambam elsewhere writes about 13 principles of faith. The first few discuss the essence of God, that He is unique, that He created the world, that He is beyond time or space and if you don’t believe in this then you are a min. The next few discuss His relationship with us, the power of prophecy, the prophecy of Moshe and if you don’t believe in this then you are an apikores. The third category discuss reward and punishment and, for example, if you don’t believe that God knows what we do, then you are an apikores. Some of the Rambam’s principles of faith also deal with the belief in Torah and denial of that also results in one not having a portion in the World to Come. A Jew, therefore, must believe in certain things according to the Rambam. Additionally, according to the Rambam, a Jew must see himself as part of Klal Yisrael – that is why 3:11 is such a significant halakha. If a person doesn’t feel connected with the suffering of his fellow Jews, he may lose his portion in the World to Come. It should be noted that one can still repent for these sins, even though they are serious sins, as it is recorded in 3:14.
4. I view Chapter 4 in its entirety as a warning when it comes to doing teshuva. First, in 4:1, don’t think you can sin as much as you want with the intention of doing teshuva later – it doesn’t work then. Additionally, don’t think that it is so easy to do teshuva with respect to any sin. Sometimes, we make mistakes and it’s easy to rectify them, but the Rambam lists in Chapter 4 a whole host of sins that are very difficult to rectify for a variety of reasons. Very important to read 4:6 – these sins are m’akev teshuvah but if someone did teshuva, then he is a baal teshuvah. In halakhot 4:1-5, we are cautioned that certain sins are more challenging to undo than others, but in 4:6 we are given hope that teshuva is still possible – it’s almost as if 4:1-5 is before the sin & 4:6 is after the sin.