There is a halacha that if someone confesses to a transgression on his own, he does not receive the punishment for his actions. He must just make restitutions for the damages caused. However, if someone confesses under pressure (for example he sees witnesses are going to testify against him,) there is a debate between Rav & Shmuel whether the confession is considered voluntary or not. Rav rules the confession voluntary and the person is not punished, but Shmuel rules that the confession was not voluntary and the person receives the full punishment for his actions.

On Motzei Shabbos, when we begin Selichos, we say, "B’motzei menucha (As the day of rest [Shabbos] departs) ki damnucha t’chila (we begin to approach you)." An alternate meaning of the verse is: "We approached you first." We are coming forward on our own, so we should not receive the punishment for our transgressions.

But, is our confession really voluntary? Don’t we feel the pressure of Rosh Hashanah looming around the corner? Are we not a little too late in our confession? So we say, "V’salachta l’avoneinu ki rav hu. You forgive our many sins." An alternative meaning of the verse is, "You forgive our sins because the halacha is like Rav, who says you are forgiven even if you confess under pressure."

So how are we forgiven according to Shmuel?

There is a different halacha that a person cannot withhold testimony. The Gemara explains that this law only holds true if the witnesses are subpoenaed by the plaintiff. The pasuk says, "Im lo yagid v’nasa avono. If he doesn’t testify he carries his sin." Normally, the word "lo" is spelled אל. Here it is spelled אול – implying both meanings ("to him" and "not), which is interpreted as: "only if the plaintiff calls you".

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, the Satan comes to tell Hashem that the Jews sinned and should be punished. Hashem says, "Do you have any witnesses?" And the Satan replies that the sky and the earth are his witnesses, but the sky and the earth tell the Satan that unless Hashem calls upon them, they will not testify. In this way, even according to Shmuel, we are forgiven for our sins.

The Mitteler Rebbe (the second Chabad Rebbe) says that this is the explanation for the posuk, "Ani Hashem lo shonisi v’atam b’nei Yaakov lo chilisem. I, G-d, have not changed and the Jewish people will never be extinguished." The Mitteler Rebbe says the posuk can alternatively mean, "Ani Hashem (I, Hashem) lo shonisi (have changed the spelling of "lo" to אול)" and, therefore, the Jewish people will never be extinguished.

As told by Rabbi Sholom Dovid Geisinsky in the name of his father HaRav Moshe Aharon Geisinsky OB"M

Singing is good for body & soul

Evenings in the sukkah, and especially Simchas Torah, are often accompanied by the sweet sound of singing floating through the night air. We know that singing uplifts the soul, but now scientists are finding that singing has significant health benefits for the body! Researchers at the University of California at Irvine tested choral singers before and after performances and found that the act of singing raised levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that boosts immunity. Singing can also strengthen the lungs and circulatory system.