The Jewish Eye

Kotzker Lies

Home | What's Nu? | Bookstore | Reviews | Resources | About

Postcards from Kotzk
2: Kotzker Lies

Provided by Revach L'Neshama (

Revach L'Neshama

Today in Kotzk I found an answer to a question that has been bothering me for years. On Erev Rosh Hashana the day before Hashem will decide our fate for the upcoming year we wake up before dawn and we say selichos for hours to prepare ourselves and beg for mercy despite the terrible sins we have committed the past year. After davening we say Hatoras Nedarim. I understand that promises not kept are a terrible thing but what is the great significance on Erev Rosh Hashana. I don't know about you but I have long list of things I've done that trouble me more.

One of our esteemed hosts in Kotzk Reb Chaim Feinberg zt'l (Leaping Souls - Ktav 1993) retells this vort from The Kotzker Rebbe that can make your hair stand. The Midrash says when Hashem wanted to create man he asked the middos what it thought. Chesed said create man because he will perform acts of kindness. Emes said do not create man for man fills the world with lies and deceit. Tzedek said create man because he will give charity. Lastly Peace said absolutely not. People quarrel all day and there is no peace. To break the deadlock Hashem threw Emes to the ground and ruled two against one in favor of creation.

The Kotzker Rebbe asks why did he throw down Emes and not Shalom? In typical Kotzk fashion the Rebbe answers that if there is real Emes then one will see that our Chesed is not really Chesed and the Tzedek is not really Tzedek. Therefore the only solution is to get rid of Emes and only then will creation have a leg to stand on.

In Kotzk when they spoke about truth and lies they did not mean telling something not true. That was a foregone conclusion. Truth meant that their mitzvos should be mitzvos and not aveiros. A lie in Kotzk was someone who swayed during Shmoneh Esrei while his mind is elsewhere. A lie is someone who comes to daven in Shul in the morning because it is part of his morning routine. In Kotzk every act to be considered a mitzva needed to be analyzed to its core to know if you did it with a full heart to serve your creator or if there were possibly some other motive or worse yet no thought at all. In Kotzk they searched to make sure their so called "mitzvos" were not aveiros. They wanted to make sure there Chesed was Chesed and there Tzedek was indeed Tzedek.

When we arrive at Rosh Hashana we ask Hashem to look at our mitzvos and throw away our aveiros. In Hatoras Nedarim we ask three people to absolve us of any promises not kept and "forgive us for any mitzva that we have performed three times... and did not say "Bli Neder" that we have discontinued performing. This is a very powerful wake up call to examine not only our aveiros but our so called mitzvos as well. Do not take it for granted that your mitzvos will save you. They may harm you as well. We must ask forgiveness for performing a mitzva three times! and not continuing. In Kotzk there is no peace of mind. Not even for those who only do mitzvos.

Revach L'Neshama
A Different Kind of News
Back to top

Questions or Comments? Send an email to:

Copyright The Jewish Eye 2008 All Rights Reserved