Parashat Nitzavim/Vayelech

Dedicated for a Refuah Shelema for Dan Chaim Ben Yehudit by Asher Antebi

Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech

Still Standing

The parasha begins with the passuk: "Atem nitzavim hayom kull'achem lifnei Hashem Elokechem. – You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your God." Moshe is telling B'nei Yisrael: “You made it! You came through the desert for 40 years and you reached your destination! Israel is just beyond the Jordan River.” Rashi presents a midrash that explains why Moshe spoke these words right after last week’s parasha, Ki Tavo, listed all the klalot (curses) which will befall B'nei Yisrael if they deviate from the words of the Torah. The reason is that when B'nei Yisrael heard the 98 curses, they turned pale, asking, "Who can possibly endure these curses?" This verse is the reply with which Moshe appeased them: he assured them that they are still standing and ready to accept their role as G-d's chosen people.

Rabbi Frand questions what Moshe Rabbenu is doing here. This appeasement appears to be contradictory. The whole purpose of the curses was to put the fear of G-d in the people. The curses were very effective; the people were scared stiff. He accomplished what every leader wants to accomplish — he shook them up, but now he seems to be undoing the whole thing. “Don’t worry, you’ve gotten away with a lot in the past, and you’re still standing…” Doesn’t this destroy the whole impact of the tocheha - rebuke?

Many commentaries direct us to a very simple truth. There is a vast difference between the ‘fear of G-d’ and hopelessness. It is one thing to be afraid and frightened and nervous about the future. It is a totally different thing to feel that the situation is hopeless. That is what Moshe was trying to prevent. The worst thing any Jew can do is to give up hope. This is a lesson we should all bear in mind as we approach the Day of Judgment. The Yom HaDin is nothing to take lightly. It is serious business. If we really understood, honestly understood what it was about, we would be scared and frightened. But this is not the same as looking at the situation as hopeless. Hopelessness is not a Jewish characteristic. Never give up hope. Our Rabbi’s tell us that after the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, “All the Gates (which prayers travel through) were closed, except for the Gates of Tears (Bava Metzia 59a).” Although it was much more difficult for our prayers to penetrate the Heavenly Court after the destruction of the Temple, one gate remained open because we still had hope.

The Kotzker Rebbe asked: if the Gates of Tears never close, then what is the purpose of the gates? A gate implies that some get in and some do not. He answered that tears of desperation don’t get through. When a person cries because he feels he needs the help of G-d, when the tears represent the innermost and purest of a person’s thoughts, those tears have terrific power. But if they are tears of helplessness and hopelessness, they don’t get in, and that is why the gates are necessary.

Rosh Hashanah is approaching next week, and we are still standing! Hashem will determine whether to grant us a healthy and prosperous year. There's a Gemara in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (18a), that discusses two people who are suffering with the same exact life-threatening illness and two others who are dealing with the same exact financial crisis. The two who have the disease pray to Hashem for a refuah. The two who have the financial problem pray for parnassah. One person in each situation is answered and the other one is not.

So the question is asked: "Why was one answered and the other one not answered?" Rashi answers this question, explaining that one prayed with kavanah (concentration) and the other one didn't. Rabbi Lopian comments that it’s impossible that a person who is sick with a life-threatening disease or someone with a financial crisis will not pray with great kavanah from his heart! Rabbi Lopian answers, that what Rashi is saying is that one person didn't really believe in the power of tefillah to help him and the other one did. If you believe that tefillah will help and you’re optimistic and not hopeless, those prayers are answered. Hashem will come to your rescue!

Empty-Handed

Rav Naftali Trop once said, we say in Selihot, “Like paupers and poor men, we bang on Your door.” There is a very big misconception that comes about on Rosh Hashanah that this line in Selihot clarifies. Many of us feel that when we stand in front of Hashem on Rosh Hashanah, we have a lot in our pocket. Baruch Hashem, we have health, a job, a family, a life. So, all Hashem would need to do this year is to stay uninvolved and let us keep what we already have. But this is not true. According to Selihot, we are poor men. When Rosh Hashanah comes, we are not renewing a lease, we are starting a new one. We should not be asking as successful people to continue our good lives, but rather as paupers, as empty-handed people, asking Hashem with humility to find us a job, to grant us a family, and to provide us with good life.

Our Father, Our King

As Jews we must believe that Hashem is there for us and will help us like a father, because He is our Father in Heaven with the power to help us. That's why when we pray on Rosh Hashanah, we recite the words: “Avinu Malkenu” which means, “Our Father, Our King.” We pray to Hashem as “Our Father” first, because our own father wants to give us everything, but he may not be able to. But then we pray to Hashem as "Our King" because as a King, He can give us anything we want, including refuah and parnassah or anything else that we may feel is beyond the reach of our father.

The Rambam says the shofar leads to great spiritual awakening. There is a story about a boy who went off the derech. He took money from his parents and moved out of their house. Two years later, on Rosh Hashanah, he was walking around the city, smoking and drinking with his friends. A man approached the group with a kippah and asked the boy if he would like to hear the shofar and the beracha. The boy agreed, so he could make fun with his friends. But when the boy heard the crying, inspiring sound of the shofar, he was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to go back home to his parents.

He walked all the way from Manhattan over the bridge back to Brooklyn to go tell them he wanted to come back home. As he walked into the house, he saw his entire family waiting to eat the Rosh Hashanah meal with a plate set for him at the table. The boy and his parents broke into tears. His parents were waiting for him to come home all this time with open arms.

That parable is about us; all our lives we may have committed certain sins and now years later, all we have to do is tell Hashem, our Father in Heaven one thing: “I want to come home,” and Hashem will take us back with open arms and forgive us. But we are responsible to take that first step! On Rosh Hashanah we must recognize Hashem as our Melech HaMelachim—King of Kings and even though we keep doing the same sins repeatedly, even if it’s been a thousand times, still Hashem as our Boss in Heaven doesn't fire us. He has unlimited patience and gives us a chance to make teshuvah every year, if we choose to take advantage of this gift of teshuvah that Hashem gives us!

Chinuch

Rabbi Frand teaches that Parashat Nitzavim provides an important lesson in chinuch—raising children with Torah. The parasha concludes with the passuk, “The hidden things are for Hashem, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah (Devarim 29:28).” A person must always realize that how he acts will have an influence on his children. Whether it is how a person acts in shul or how he interacts with his fellow man, his children are watching and learning from this behavior.

The job we do raising our children lasts with them and perpetuates throughout future generations, because how we raise them directly influences how they raise their children. Everyone wants to have “good children.” The surest way to accomplish that is to “talk the talk and walk the walk.”

Someone once posed the following question to the Chazon Ish: He has the option of praying in a shul on Rosh Hashanah where he would be able to take his child with him or to daven in a yeshivah, but since the yeshivah is so crowded, he would not be able to take his child with him. However, praying in the yeshivah is a superior religious experience for the father, because he would have greater kavanah—focus. The Chazon Ish told him that it is preferable to daven with his child next to him. It is important to show the child how his father prays on the High Holidays. This leaves an everlasting impression on the child.

The way one acts has an impact not only on the person but also on his children and on all future generations of descendants. This should give everyone pause as to how they behave.

Rabbi Yehoshua Zitron once said that if someone does a mitzvah with joy, the Orchot Tzaddikim says the reward is 1,000 times greater than if he did it feeling like it was a burden. And if one does a mitzvah with humility, it is 1,000 times greater than if he does a mitzvah with arrogance. The Ben Ish Hai says if one does a mitzvah on Shabbat, the reward is 1,000 times greater than that of a mitzvah done during the week. So imagine if a person does a mitzvah on Shabbat with joy and with humility. That’s 1,000 x 1,000 x 1,000. That’s the reward of 1 billion mitzvot!!! Before Rosh Hashanah comes, we must put our hearts into our mitzvot and serve Hashem with joy and humility, so we can be written into the book of life for many years be’ezrat Hashem!

We should all merit to be put into Hashem’s book for another year of life and we should all merit Hashem's mercy! We should also be able to recognize the sins that we have done, and cry out to Hashem our father that “We Want to Come Home” and make a commitment to learn more and accomplish more, so that we can go into this Rosh Hashanah with the confidence that our teshuvah will be accepted with open arms like a father to his long lost son!

May we all come to realize that Hashem is our King in heaven but he's also our Father who loves us and only wants to do good for us no matter how difficult our lives may be. Hashem is always with us and he's giving us exactly what we need to succeed. We have to do our part by following the Torah and doing the mitzvot wholeheartedly, which will bring us to a level where we will be able to recognize and believe that Hashem is here for us always, like a father who has unconditional love for us, His children!

Wishing Everyone a Happy, Healthy and Fulfilling Year of Accomplishments, Mitzvot and Maasim Tovim! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom and Tizku Leshanim Rabot!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Discussion Points:

  • Do we make sure to pray with kavanah and optimism, but not hopelessness?

Summary:

  • As Rosh Hashanah approaches, it is important to believe that tefillah is powerful, and to be optimistic and not hopeless, because those are the prayers that get answered.

  • According to Selihot, we are poor men. When Rosh Hashanah comes, we are not renewing a lease, we are starting a new one. We should not be asking as successful people to continue our good lives, but rather as paupers, as empty-handed people, asking Hashem with humility to find us a job, to grant us a family, and to provide us with good life.

  • We pray to Hashem as “Our Father” first, because our own father wants to give us everything, but he may not be able to. But then we pray to Hashem as "Our King" because as a King, He can give us anything we want, including refuah and parnassah or anything else that we may feel is beyond the reach of our father.

  • We may have committed certain sins many times, but all we have to do is tell Hashem, our Father in Heaven one thing: “I want to come home,” and Hashem will take us back with open arms and forgive us. But we are responsible to take that first step!

  • A person must always realize that how he acts will have an influence on his children and perpetuates throughout future generations, because how we raise them directly influences how they raise their children. Whether it is how a person acts in shul or how he interacts with his fellow man, his children are watching and learning from this behavior.

Le’ilui Nishmat…

Eliyahu Ben Rachel

Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Avraham Ben Garaz

Sarah Bat Chanah

Esther Bat Sarah

Avraham Ben Mazal

Shulamit Bat Helaina

Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Rahamim Ben Mazal

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther

Rafael Ben Miriam

Ovadia Ben Esther

Rav Haim Ben Rivka

Moshe Ben Mazal

Moshe Ben Yael

Yitzchak Ben Adele

Avraham Ben Mazal

Meir Ben Latifa

Chanah Bat Esther

Yaakov Ben Rachel

Malka Bat Garaz

Moshe Ben Garaz

Avraham Ben Kami

Yaakov Ben Leah

Mordechai Ben Rachel

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Saadia Ben Miriam

Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon

Margalit Bat Mazal

Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky

Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama

Anyone interested in Dedicating this Divre Torah L'ilui Nishmat or Refuah Shelemah or

In Honor of someone, can email me at jrahmey@rahmeyfinancial.com.

Checks can be made out to “Mikdash Melech” for $101 and mail to 1326 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11230 (please put in the memo “Divre Torah Food for Shabbat”)

Anyone interested in past parshiot please go to the website ParashaPerspective.org