“‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.’” — Ezekiel 37:24
This Torah portion for this week is Vayigash, which means “and he approached,” from Genesis 44:18–47:27, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 37:15–28.
There’s nothing worse than feeling that something bad is irreversible. For a child, that may mean breaking a favorite toy beyond repair. For an adult, it may mean saying hurtful words that can never be taken back. Some things can’t be changed. Some things can never be fixed. However, thank God, some things can.
Jewish tradition teaches that before God created the world, He created repentance. God understood that without a way to mend our mistakes, the world could not exist. God gave us the gift of repentance so that we can turn back the hands of time and start fresh again.
The most famous story about repentance in the Jewish Bible involves King Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33. Scripture tells us that Manasseh was captured by the Assyrians and that he called out to God, Who saved him and brought him back to Jerusalem.
Judaism’s oral tradition fills in more information. To make a long story short, Manasseh was utterly wicked; he committed every sin under the sun. When he was captured by the Assyrians, they put him in a giant pot and began to cook him. Manasseh called out to all his pagan gods but none saved him. In desperation, he called out to the God of his fathers and said, “If you don’t save me Lord, you’re no better than the pagan gods.”
When the angels heard that, they were incensed. They closed every gate to heaven to block out this evil man’s prayers. What did God do? He dug a tunnel under his throne so that Manasseh’s prayers might reach Him. God said to the angels, “If I block his prayers, I’ll also block the prayers of sinners for generations. This tunnel is open for Manasseh and anyone else who comes in sincere repentance, forever.” With that, Manasseh was saved.
The Jewish sages explain that at the End Times, almost everyone will repent and return to God. But there will be some people who won’t. They will feel too soiled, too enmeshed in sin in order to be accepted by God once again. David, who was able to repent after his sin with Bathsheba, will teach these lost souls the path of repentance, and they, too, will return to God. In fact, the sages teach that it was David who served as Manasseh’s inspiration and motivation to repent.
Friends, the path of repentance is open to us all. God dug that tunnel for Manasseh and it remains open today. God is sitting on His throne and looking down that tunnel, waiting for every single one of His precious children to return home.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President