At the conclusion of Megillas Aicha we read the passuk נחפשה דרכינו ונחקורה ונשובה אל ה’. The process of Teshuva involves two steps, a chipuss which means to search and inspect our ways, and the second chikur which means to closely examine and delve into. The Brisker Rav ztl explains this two part process is based on the gemarah in Eruvin 13b which the Mesillas Yesharim in third perek elaborates on. Firstly, once must perform a general inspection and inventory on his conduct and see in which category his actions fall. If they are good deeds then their fulfillment must be reinforced. If they are inappropriate behaviors then steps must be taken to uproot and eradicate them. The second level of Teshuvah demands a closer scrutinization of one’s good deeds. True, the deeds that fall into the virtuous category are desirable by Hashem, however, perfect they are not. Teshuvah is the striving of man to return everything to Hashem and therefore even good deeds must be perfected. For instance, if one does a chesed but he has alterior motives driving his motivation, then one must toil to transform the deed of chesed into a more wholesome mitzvah by refining one’s motivation and ultimately removing his self interests from its fulfillment. In this manner the mitzvah becomes totally Hashem’s – lishma and moves closer to perfection. Likewise one’s fulfillment of mitzvos can be upgraded to be more quantitative as well as qualitative. One can give more tzedakah and find more time to learn. If one does not sing zemiros at the Shabbos Table with his family, commit yourself to sing one or two zemiros. If one doesn’t say a dvar Torah at the Shabbos table let him start by preparing during the week one Torah or a story that would appeal to all members of his family and give them a greater oneg Shabbos.

With this understanding the Brisker Rav explains the passuk in Aicha. “Chipuss” searching and examining one’s ways is more general. In this process one is expected to review his conduct and actions and decide into which category they fall, the desirable or undesirables. After achieving this, one must undertake the process of “Chikur” of making an even closer and finer examination of his good deeds in order to root out any imperfection that they possess and thereby transforming them into higher caliber deeds.

In the last few years, the excitement over the appearances of new segulahshave increased. Every month a new segulah arrives and somehow it becomes a lucrative parnassah for many. I want to present to you today a very old segulahbased on Chazal that guarantees a closer intimacy with Hashem, teshuvahmade easier, and even a cooler Gehenim. But I warn you now. To fulfill this segulah one needs a lot of patience but the rewards are phenomenal. Ok here we go…

Chazal say (Berachos 15) כל הקורא שמע ומדקדק באותיותיה מצננין לו גיהנם   Anyone who reads the Shema and is careful in the pronunciation of its words will receive the reward of a cooled down Gehenim. Firstly, what is the middah keneged middah in this reward? Secondly, how does reading the Shemahreplace Teshuvah? If one does Teshuvah to rectify his aveiros then there is no need for Gehenim. If he fails to do Teshuvah then he must be cleansed. How then does one get a temperature drop in Gehenim without the process of Teshuvah, just by being careful in his pronunciation of the Shemah?

The Eretz Tzvi by the Kozhiklover Rav ztl answers these questions as follows. Sometimes small iniquities can turn into big aveirahs. This we see from the passuk (Devarim 29,18) למען ספות הרוה את הצמאה.  Rashi explains that the term רוה refers to an aveirah done by mistake. It is compared to one who is intoxicated and saturated רוה with wine. The term צמאה which literally means thirsty, refers to an intentional aveirah. The passuk is saying that by not listening to Hashem, He will add the unintentional averiahs to the intentional ones warranting now a harsher punishment for the former unintentional  transgressor. The Eretz Zvi says that if this is true in the arena of punishment, it certainly holds true in the arena of merits. That is to say that Hashem can reverse the process by taking a very big aveirah and break it down into smaller pieces thereby rendering a lighter punishment to the transgressor.

What is needed to trigger such a reverse action?  The Eretz Zvi explains that this is addressed with our Chazal in Eruvin that if a person will read the Shemawith correct pronunciation he will thereby merit a more chilled Gehenim. The explanation is that if one reads the Shemah normally without really concentrating properly, he will read it as a one run on sentence and incorrectly. For instance many words end with the same letter with which the following word begins. Examples of this are בכל לבבך על לבבך בכל לבבכם ואבדתם מהרה  על לבבכם If one does not place a deliberate stop between the two words, without a doubt he will definitely read them as one a mumble jumble word. בכלבבך . Other words even though they don’t share the same letters, are also easily misread by not placing a comma between them. לאות על  becomes לאו-תל וכתבתם על  becomes וכתבת-מלאשר אנכי  becomes אש-רנכיוחרה אף  becomes וח-ראף. Some of these run on words are very disturbing to say the least such as  ושמתם את becomes ושמת-מת you should place death, וקשרתם אותם becomes וקשרת-מותם,ולמדתם אותם  becomes ולמדת-מותם,  ועשיתם אותם  becomes ועשית-מותם all ending with death. Although we don’t realize the misreading that we are saying, we surely do not want to open our mouths to the Satan ch”v.

Without a restraining order and just letting rote take its natural flow with our foot on the gas without the brake in sight, we will make each parsha of Shemaone big run on sentence consisting of many incomprehensible words. The Kozhiklover ztl suggests that if one wants a fantastic segulah all he has to do is to slow down pausing between the words and pronouncing them correctly. By doing so he is taking a potential one run on sentence and breaking it into smaller size parts. Midah Keneged Middah Hashem will take his big aveirosand break them also into smaller pieces. In this new transformed state, it is much easier for one to do Teshuvah on his aveiros. One can feel now a greater connection and insight to Hashem and His mitzvos. The quantity and volume of the aveiros remain the same but the thickness of one’s mechitzah that separated him from Hashem has become diminished and thinned out. Teshuvah is now facilitated. If one still chooses not to do teshuvah on his now smaller transgressions, he will nevertheless, because of his upscale Shemahreading, experience a cooler Gehenim since his aveiros warrant a less severe punishment. If hopefully he decides to do Teshuvah, then he won’t have to go to Gehenim at all for spiritual repair.

As I said, this segulah requires a higher degree of patience. However, with discipline there also comes a bonus. For by training oneself daily with this conduct of carefully pronouncing the words of Shema, one activates this same middah of savlanus in Shamayim as well, so that Hashem will also have patience with you and your shortcomings.

By adding another two minutes to our daily reading of Shemah we take our mitzvah from being in a state of bedievid and upgrading it to a lechatchilahthereby changing both the quality and the quantity of it, and receiving its rewarding effects in both worlds. So try this segulah that the Eretz Tzvi has revealed to us. There is no one to hire to say Tehillim nor an organization to donate tzedakah to. There are no colored strings to tie on to your body, there is no written on parchment to read after davening, and there is no lead to pour over your head. All you have to do is to open your heart and slow down, pronounce clearly the words that you are anyway saying, and then feel the weight being lifted off you.

P.S. When I said to my shiur this novel segulah I added a practical reason why they should fulfill it. They are waiting for me anyway to finish my Shema and they are sitting idle. This will give them something seguladik instead. Many of you have a Rav or Rebbe who also takes a longer time to finish Shema so you too can still strive for a lechatchilah Shemah in the first two parshiyos. In the worst scenario, after the davening you can repeat the Shema and recite it with all the Hiddurim. The Sefer Yesod Veshoresh Haavodah compiled a thorough list of all the possible mistakes one can make if one does not apply the brakes while reading. It’s worthwhile to get hold of the sefer and you will be so surprised that you will come to the immediate conclusion that the author must have been listening to our Keriyas Shemah before he compiled his list.

Gut Shabbos,
Rav Brazil