Megillas Eichah and Parashas Vaeschanan

In Eichah Rabbah Pesichasa 11, the Midrash remarks:
Had you merited, you would have encountered the verse (Vayikra 15:30): “For on this day He shall atone for you to purify you.” Now that you have not merited, you encounter the verse (Eichah 1:9): “Her filth was on her hems. She did not pay heed to what her end would be.”
The Maggid explains this verse in the context of a verse in parashas Vaeschanan (Devarim 4:9): “Just guard yourself and guard your soul well lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and they become removed from your heart all the days of your life. And make these things known to your children and your children’s children.” Note that the verse exhorts us about guarding twice: “Guard yourself and guard your soul well .…” We need to understand the message behind this double exhortation.
The Maggid explains that sin causes two types of loss. First, the sinner distorts the straight path that Hashem desired the world to follow, and damages the magnificent structure that He built. Regarding this it is written (Mishlei 1:25): “And you have set at naught all My counsel.” Second, he ravages his own soul. He extinguishes the love implanted in his heart for Torah and mitzvos. He dulls his intelligence: he puts out the lamp which was providing him light to distinguish between uprightness and crookedness. Regarding this, Shlomo HaMelech declares (Koheles 1:15): “The crooked cannot be made straight.” If the sinner’s soul were still intact as before the sin, it would urge him to make amends and straighten out the situation. He would be just as distraught over his misdeed as he would be over a great loss of money or property. The stirrings of his heart would spur him on to take action to rectify the loss. But the damaged soul does not feel the need to set things right.
Hence the Torah exhorts us: “Guard yourself and guard your soul well . …” We must guard ourselves against the damage itself: sin mutilates what Hashem has set in place. In addition we must guard our souls well, so that the light of intelligence and comprehension within us will not be extinguished, making the loss irretrievable. We must take care that they not “become removed from your heart all the days of your life.” For then we will no longer be aroused to rectify the misdeed.
The Midrash teaches us the consequences of failing to guard our souls. “Had you merited, you would have encountered the verse: ‘For on this day He shall atone for you to purify you.’” The atonement would be complete, with no remaining trace of the stains of sin. Moreover, our souls would return to their full strength, to be enlightened with the light of intelligence as before. But “now that you have not merited, you encounter the verse: ‘Her filth is on her hems.’” Yom Kippur still atones for us and absolves of the punishment that we deserve for our sins, but that is all. Our souls remain stained with the debility of sin, and we still walk in darkness. Thus, “Her filth is on her hems” – the mark of defilement remains in place. Let us strive to guard our souls, so that we may be cleansed completely of the effects of the sins we commit.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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