Rav Avigdor Miller on Saving Yourself from Gehenom


by Toras Avigdor

Q:  Could the Rav discuss the types of sins for which Gehenom cleanses a person for Gan Eden and the other sins that will cause a person to have to stay there and not be able to come out? Who gets to Gan Eden and who doesn’t? 

A: כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא  – It says there that we are promised Olam Haba – The Am Yisroel, if they’re shomrei mitzvos, so even if they had certain faults, Gehenom purifies them of their faults. It’s a very painful process, but finally they’re cleansed of their faults and they go to Gan Eden.

Sometimes however, a person has committed a sin that’s so severe, that he loses his chelek l’olam haba.  המתכבד בקלון חבירו – If a person makes himself respected, he lifts himself up by contrasting himself to another Jew and showing, “Look what he did; I wouldn’t do such a thing like he did.” “Ooh,” Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, “you’re gaining honor by putting another Jew to shame.” That’s one way to lose your share in Olam Haba.

Another way is if you embarrass a fellow Jew in public, the gemara says that you go down to Gehenom and you won’t come up. That’s another example of a terrible sin that can keep you in Gehenom forever. Also, sometimes if you masser on a fellow Jew, if you tell the government facts about him and cause him trouble, so ולמלשינים על תהי תקוה – there’s no hope for a person who denounces a fellow Jew. 

And there are other ways of people losing their chelek l’Olam Haba.  Yes, there are ways, unfortunately.  Korach lost his Olam Haba. Others too. And we weep for them. We’re sorry; it’s a great loss for us. Nevertheless, nothing will help.  If you do certain serious things, no matter how great you are otherwise, you lose your portion in the World to Come. 

And therefore the only answer is teshuva! Teshuva will always help to save you from being in Gehenom forever and ever. No matter what you’ve done, teshuva can save you. It’s very important to keep in mind that as long as a man is alive he can still change himself.

And that’s why he should be always in contact with teshuva.  Always be in contact with doing teshuva! When you say every day סלח לנו, that’s an opportunity. Think about your sins.  Don’t be yotzei by just saying the words. Use the opportunity to think about your past sins. Were you ever insulting to your father or your mother? Think about that. “I forgot all about it,” is not an excuse. Try to remember the various things you’ve done wrong when you say סלח לנו אבינו – “My Father, Hashem, please forgive us.” 

Were you a bully to your younger brother? Sometimes you were a bully. Sometimes you were very mean to your relatives.  Think about that. Even now, are you honoring your father and mother sufficiently? It’s a very important subject! It’s such an important subject to always be doing teshuva for your sins.

You should always think about what possibilities there are that you’re sinning in. סלח לנו is a golden opportunity to purify yourself by doing teshuva. By being sorry and regretting, you’re cleansing your neshama.  So you can’t just gallop through this as if you’re saying a mizmor.

You have to utilize the rare opportunity of being alive. Only while you’re alive can you say סלח לנו אבינו כי חטאנו and think about a certain specific thing that you did. We’ve done very serious sins in our lives. Sometimes you are amazed about how serious the sin was that you did.  

And therefore, when a man thinks when he says סלח לנו, he’s accomplishing a tremendous achievement. Very often he’s saving himself from Gehenom.  Tape # E-146

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