Friday, September 30, 2016

Parshas Nitzavim

This Week’s Parsha – Nitzavim:

The first two Passukim/verses of this parsha are ‘Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lif’nei Hashem Elokeichem; rasheichem, shivteichem, zikneichem, vi’shotreichem, kol ish Yisroel.  Topchem, ni’sheichem, vi’geri’cha asher bi’kerev machanecha; mei’choteiv eitzecha ad shoeiv meimecha/You are standing today before Hashem your G-d; your heads of your tribes (following Rashi zt”l’s translation), your elders, every man of Israel.  Your young children, your wives, and your convert that is in the midst of your camp; from the hewer of your wood until the drawer of your water.’  There are a lot of beautiful Mefarshim/commentaries which I would like to share with you here: 

1) Rashi zt”l explains that these verses speak about Moshe entering the Jews into Hashem’s Covenant. 

2) But didn’t the Jews already enter Hashem’s Covenant?  Explains the Or HaChaim (HaRav Chaim ben Attar zt”l):  This was a new Covenant, which obligated every single Jew to help their fellow to serve Hashem, and to try to make sure that they all did.  Thus this one made all Jews “guarantors” for each other, so to speak.  And he even continues and explains that the listing of so many different people teaches us that everyone had to do what they could.  Meaning that this Covenant obligated every single Jew – no matter who he or she was – to influence for good those that they were able to.  And the Netziv (HaRav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin zt”l) says something very similar to this.  May Hashem help everyone to influence whoever they can to serve Him properly, Amein. 

3) The Alshich (HaRav Moshe Alshich zt”l) discusses the fact that the Torah lists Jews from the ‘heads of your Tribes’ until ‘the drawer of your water’, and he explains that in our eyes, maybe the very important people are most important.  But in Hashem’s eyes, he says, who knows who is best.  Maybe it is the simple water-drawer.  And he continues beautifully, and says that when we all ‘stand before Hashem’, there is no higher or lower.[1]  This is very important. 

4) The Alter Rebbe (the first Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi zt”l) kind of adds to this concept, and explains that just like a body, where even the smallest part is just as important to it as the biggest part, so too it is with the Jews:  Every single Jew – from the ‘heads of your Tribes’ to the ‘drawer of your water’ is very important, and the “body” of the Jewish People would not be the same without any of them.[2]  You might think that you are not important because you are not a great Rav.  But this is not at all so:  We are all important to Hashem, and the Jewish People would not be the same without us.  And this goes for every Jew.  You are important, and you can become very great.  We must remember this, and may Hashem help everyone to, Amein. 

5) The Kotzker Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk zt”l) explains that the word אתּם, has the same letters as the word אמת.  What does this teach us?  Explains the Kotzker zt”l:  This teaches us that one who is very careful with truth will, as the next word of the parsha says, be ‘standing’, i.e. they will stand.[3]  It is very important to always be truthful, and may Hashem help everyone to be, always, Amein. 

6) Why does the verse say ‘hayom/today’?  What does this teach us?  The Midrash tells us that the word ‘hayom/today’ can imply every day.  So let us now say this:  This verse is telling us that ‘You are standing before Hashem today’ – every single one of us is standing before Hashem every single day!  And we must behave like we are in the presence of a king, because we are always in the Presence of the Holy Great King!  Imagine if you were standing before a king, and he had given special orders of how to act.  You would be fearful to do anything not in accordance with his will.  But let us all realize:  We are always standing before Hashem – the Blessed King.  And He gave us special orders of how to act.  So how can we possibly not be fearful to act not in accordance with His Will, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid.  This is very important for always as this is essentially what the Torah commands us to do when Hashem tells us to fear Him. 

Okay, now back to the parsha:  The third and final verse of the first Aliyah talks about how we were standing before Hashem in order to enter into His Covenant and oath.  Shaini/the second Aliyah tells us that this was in order to establish us as a People to Him and to establish Him as G-d to us.  However, we are told, this Covenant was not just with us; it was also with everyone who wasn’t even there.  (According to Rashi quoting from Tanchuma this is referring to later generations, i.e. the people who were not born yet).  Some of those unborn generations must then be all of us who are alive today! 

Okay, so in Shlishi/the third Aliyah, the Torah tells us about how we dwelled in Mitzraim/Egypt and how we passed through nations and saw their disgusting idols.  And the Torah says ‘Perhaps there is among you a man, woman, family, or tribe, whose heart turns this day from Hashem our G-d, to go and worship the idols of those nations; perhaps there is among you a root that produces gall and wormwood.’  Now, the question is asked by many; perhaps there are people like that among the Jews?!  Aren’t we talking about the generation who saw firsthand Hashem’s great miracles (we would too, if we looked) and was extremely learned?  Could any of them possibly have thought of serving idols, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid?!  There are some answers to this question which I would like to share with you: 

1) The Maggid of Yerushalayim (HaRav Shalom Schwadron zt”l) explains a beautiful answer here:  He emphasizes the fact that the Torah tells us that we saw the nations’ disgusting idols.  You have to understand the power of sight; he explains, and when you see something bad, it could, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid go from just seeing it to actually wanting it.  And then wanting it could, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid lead to trying to serving those disgusting, terrible idols.[4]  We must guard our eyes!  You are only allowed to see some things, and you must adhere to these standards – no matter who you are.  We are all people, so we are all susceptible to taavos/desires.  May Hashem help every person to guard their eyes and only see what they are allowed to, always, Amein. 

2) The Mirrer Mashgiach, HaRav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l explains a different possible answer though, and he says that though this generation knew a lot, knowing a lot will not stop us from going astray.  You could know every single thing in the world and still be a terrible person (Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid).  You cannot just rely on your learning – you have to also fortify your traits and fix them.  You must also make sure that you act good and guard against bad deeds.[5]  This is very, very important. 

3) Okay, one last answer for right now on this:  HaRav Chaim Friedlander zt”l says that the answer to our above question could be that, yes the Jews knew all that, and they recognized Hashem, but they also had taavos/desires.  If a person gets a bad desire, and they let it go too far, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid, it can overpower their fear of Hashem, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid.  However, he adds beautifully, having a lot of fear of Hashem and being strong in it can overpower any desire.[6]  This is very important to remember. 

Okay, back to the parsha:  So the person who had a bad thought like we listed above, would just think that even though they went after their heart’s desires, they would have peace.  However, the Torah tells us that if they did stuff like that, Hashem would not forgive them, and that the entire curse would come upon that person.  And the Torah tells us about a lot of bad things that would come out of a thing like that.  However, at the beginning of Rivii/the fourth Aliyah, the Torah tells us that when all these things come upon us; the blessing and the curse, we will return to Hashem.  And then Hashem will redeem us and gather us in!  If we do Teshuva and all return to Hashem, then He will redeem us immediately. 

This parsha just really talks a lot about how we must follow Hashem and serve Him, and if we do He will give us good.  However, if, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid we don’t, He will punish us.  Also, it talks about us returning to Him and doing Teshuva.  We must do so now! 

And another thing that this parsha tells us is that the ‘matter’ is not across a sea or in the Heavens; it is very close to us.  Rashi interprets this ‘matter’ as the Torah, and others interpret it as Teshuva.  Either way, we get from this that serving Hashem is close to us; not far away.  And we can do it – everyone can.  Every person needs to remember this always, and may Hashem help every single person to do so, Amein vi’Amein.  This parsha has 40 Passukim/verses. 

This Rosh Hashanah should be for everyone full of Teshuva and everything like that.  Then, Hashem, He is Blessed, will send us Mashiach very, very speedily, as we are told in this parsha.  (May He do so, Amein).  Now, all anybody can do is encourage us, inspire us, etc.  But only we can decide to change, and return to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  And we can try to help others to, also, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem.  However, we must remember:  No one will make us do Teshuva except for us.  It is up to every single individual to return to Hashem wholeheartedly.  We are only a few days from the Day of Judgment.  But, as we said in the Rosh Hashanah post, (from the Chiddushei HaRim zt”l), that is still enough time to correct the entire year.  These last days can be like an entire year if we, B’Ezras Hashem/with the Help of Hashem use them right and return to Hashem.  May Hashem, the King of kings, write and inscribe us all in the Book of Good Life, Amein vi’Amein. 

Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone, and also a L’Shana Tovah U'mesukah, si’kaseivu vi’sichaseimu l’chaim!!!

Refoel Berel

[1]©.  Parshah In-Depth - Nitzavim.
[2]©.  Parshah In-Depth - Nitzavim.
[3]©.  Short Nitzavim Chassidic Vort:  Remember Us for A True Life.  Shiur given by Ari Mirzoeff shlita. 
[4]©.  Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5773.  Shiur given by HaRav Shalom Rosner shlita. 
[5]©.  Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5773.  Shiur given by HaRav Shalom Rosner shlita. 

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