Until the moment of death, the Almighty awaits the return of the sinner. No matter how great his sins, no matter how long he had drifted from the Torah, if at the final moment there is a real, sincere desire to do teshuva, to repent of his transgressions, the Almighty awaits him with mercy and forgiveness.
One of the greatest sinners in all Israel was a king by the name of Menashe, who was the son of the king Chizkiyahu. Indeed, because of this son, Chizkiyahu almost died before his time.
Chizkiyahu was not only a great king but a great scholar, who was possessed of Divine vision to see into the future. To his horror, he beheld that the son who was to come from his loins would be a wicked and evil man, who would defy G-d and destroy man. Because of this, he decided that though man is com-manded to marry, he would nevertheless abstain and not bring into the world such a wicked son.
Became Gravely Sick
Because of this, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, struck Chizkiyahu down, and he fell gravely ill, until the palace despaired of his life. The prophet Isaiah, who lived at the time, sealed the doom of the king when he came to his bedside and commanded:
“Speak to your household and settle your affairs, for you will die – both in this world and in the World to Come.”
When Chizkiyahu heard this he began to weep and asked why G-d was striking him down.
When he heard the reason, he implored Isaiah:
“Perhaps if I repent the Almighty will forgive me. Let me marry your daughter and I will have children.”
Isaiah however said:
“I fear that this will not help you, for it is decreed that you will die.”
Chizkiyahu, however, replied:
“Why do you say such a thing? My father taught me that though a sword rests upon a man’s neck, he should not lose faith in the Almighty but should implore his mercies.”
And it was as Chizkiyahu said. He turned his face to the wall and implored the Almighty for forgiveness. The Almighty heard his prayer and granted him recovery, and Chizkiyahu married the daughter of Isaiah and had a son – Menashe.
Menashe The Wicked One
Menashe reigned in place of his father and did all that was evil in the eyes of the L-rd. He worshiped the idols and all the other abominations, and innocent blood was shed in the streets. Even the prophet Isaiah was killed at the orders of the wicked Menashe.
Because of this, the Almighty decided to punish Menashe. The mighty army of Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem, conquered it and took Menashe in chains with them. There he was condemned to death by torture.
Lighting a great fire, the Assyrians placed Menashe in chains in a great pot and lifted it over the flames, when he cried out in agony to the idols that he worshiped.
“Save me O idols of stone and wood! Save me O idols whom I have worshiped for so long!”
The king’s cries were in vain, however. The senseless idols, of course, could do nothing to help him. Now Menashe understood how foolish he had been:
“What a blind fool I have been! I remember now the words of my father, King Chizkiyahu, who said: ‘When you are in distress return to the L-rd, your G-d.’
“I shall listen to my father and repent; I shall call in the name of G-d.”
And so speaking, Menashe cried out:
“O G-d of Israel, even if you don’t hear me and hearken my plea, I know that there is none like You.
“I implore you though to save me and to show the strength of Your Arm to the nations of the world.”
The Angels Upset
As Menashe prayed, great tears ran down his face, and his entire body sobbed with grief and repentance for his sins. The prayer that left his lips rose higher and higher to Heaven.
When the angels saw this they hurried to close the path to the Throne of Mercy and cried out to G-d:
“L-rd of the universe! Will you allow the prayer of a man who sinned his entire life, who placed an idol in the Sanctuary and who caused others to sin, to come before you?”
The Gates Of Tears
But the Almighty answered:
“Even though you may close the gates of prayer, the gates of tears are always open (see Berachos 32b). I will accept his tears because of his repentance, and the world shall know that there is none like G-d so merciful to the repentant.”
And the Almighty declared: “From this day onward the gates of repentance will never be closed.” And he dug a tunnel under the Throne of Mercy which the angels were forbidden to enter, and through this, all the prayers of the repenters are channeled. And as the prayers of Menashe were answered, so are all the prayers of all men who sincerely repent of their sins before their Creator.
The wicked are transgressors of the Word of G-d, and we are forbidden to follow or emulate them. The To-rah commands us to chastise the wicked and show them the error of their ways. We are forbidden how-ever to insult or despise the Jew even though he has sinned. It is a great sin to do this and one for which the prophet, Isaiah, was rebuked by the Almighty.
The Vision Of Isaiah
The Spirit of the Almighty descended upon Isaiah, the son of Amoz, and he beheld a miraculous vision!
In his vision he beheld the angels of G-d surrounding the Throne of the Almighty and crying out: “Holy, Holy, Holy…”
When Isaiah fell on his face in trembling and fear, he heard the Voice of the Almighty proclaim him a prophet to go out to Israel and preach the message of the L-rd to his people.
Isaiah however, protested:
“But I am a man of impure lips, and I dwell in the midst of an impure-lipped people.”
When the Almighty heard this He cried out:
“Who placed you as a prince and leader over the Jewish people that you cast down insults upon them?”
“But I also called myself a man if impure lips,” objected Isaiah.
“That does not matter. You have the right to do insult to yourself if you wish, but you have no right to castigate the people of Israel.”
Let us learn from this lesson, that though we are commanded to proclaim the path of truth and Torah to the wicked, we are forbidden to ever insult a son of Israel. “Children are you unto the L-rd,” and we are thus brothers in royalty to the King of Kings.
How does G-d choose a Jewish leader? What qualities does He look for? Does He look for courage, for beauty, for wealth? Not at all. Let us see how the greatest leader of the Jewish people ever had – Moses, our teacher – was chosen by G-d to be the shepherd of the Jewish flock.
When Moses was in the desert of Midian, he suddenly saw on of his sheep run away. Thinking that the little lamb wanted to escape, Moses hastened to chase it. The little lamb began to run until it reached a brook where it began to drink.
When Moses saw that the lamb had run to the brook, he said:
“My little lamb, I only chased you because I thought you wanted to run away. Had I known you were only thirsty, I would never have chased you.”
And so speaking, he picked up the little lamb tenderly and carried it all the way back to the rest of the flock.
When the Almighty saw how tenderly Moses had dealt with the lamb, He said:
“Because you had pity on the lamb and showed how kind you were, you shall merit leading my people Israel.
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Page last updated - 07/06/2006