Parashat Nitzavim / Rosh Hashanah
Dedicated To My Wife Hailey Who Is My Foundation In Life by Kenny Tawil
Parashat Nitzavim / Rosh Hashanah 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 could 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 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 rabbis 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, 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 Selichot, “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 Selichot 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 Selichot, 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. It says, “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 had the option of praying in a shul on Rosh Hashanah where he would be able to take his child with him or to pray 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. The Chazon Ish told him that it is preferable to pray 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. A Golden Opportunity 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 Chai 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! On Rosh Hashanah, we are standing in front of Borei Olam. We stand before the King of Kings, and we have a golden opportunity to do teshuvah and to ask for whatever our heart desires. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are incredibly close to Hashem, and it is a sin to take this time for granted. The Rambam says that a person must look at himself as if his scale in heaven is at 50:50. He must take advantage of this amazing opportunity to be close to Hashem, and to do teshuvah, and pray that his mitzvot will outweigh the averot. We read on Rosh Hashanah the stories of Sarah and Chana. Both these women were physically incapable of having children. However, because of Hashem’s infinite kindness, both women’s’ prayers were answered on Rosh Hashanah to teach us that anything is possible on this day. As Rabbi Nachman said, “Prayers have the ability to alter nature.” 11 Reasons Why We Blow the Shofar
Just as trumpets are sounded at a coronation, the shofar crowns G‑d as King.
The shofar is like an alarm clock that wakes a sleeping soul on Rosh Hashanah.
Just as it was blown at Har Sinai, the shofar reminds us to rededicate ourselves to Torah.
The sound of the shofar is like the voice of the neviim—prophets, who told us to correct our ways.
The shofar’s cry reminds us of the cries and tears shed for the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash.
The shofar is a ram’s horn, reminding us of Akedat Yitzchak and of our own capacity for self-sacrifice.
It fills us with awe and humility as we contemplate how Hashem fills all space and time.
We blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us to examine our deeds and see how we can improve them.
Like the shofar when Mashiach comes, the sound of the blast will remind us of G-d’s salvation in our everyday lives.
The shofar during Mashiach will be at a time of universal understanding that Hashem is King, and the shofar on Rosh Hashanah reminds us of this unity.
The call of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah reminds us of the cries of the soul yearning to return to Hashem.
Look at Your Blessings Rabbi David Ashear told a story in his Daily Chizuk about a man who once had to spend a day on a Caribbean island for business. He called the local Chabad to make sure there would be a minyan available for him to pray. The Chabad rabbi said he wasn’t currently there, but there usually was a minyan every morning at 7:00. The man arrived at the small room that was used for shul at around 6:45. A few more men walked in, and by 7:00, they had nine men. 7:15 came and passed, and the men were about to pray on their own. The man asked them to wait a few more minutes to see if they can get a minyan together. A couple more minutes passed, and a man walked in that nobody from the shul recognized. They began the prayers, and when they were going to read from the Torah, the man asked for an aliyah. When prayers concluded, the man stood up to speak to the group. He said, “Before today, my level of mitzvah observance was no different than that of a goy. No kashrut, no Shabbat, no holidays… As I was driving to work, I thought about all my blessings in life. I have health, a family, and I am financially successful. I looked up at the sky and said, ‘Hashem, you do so much for me, and I do nothing in return. Starting from now I accept upon myself to come back to Judaism.’ This morning was the first time I put on tefillin in years.” The businessman was in awe. He said, “Look what Hashem did for me. I needed a minyan, and Hashem brought an unaffiliated Jew to come complete the minyan that very second.” Rabbi Ashear added another very important lesson. This man did not hear any speech from a rabbi to inspire him, he wasn’t threatened with an illness, or a difficult situation. He looked at his blessings and felt compelled to do something for Hashem. Let us all recognize our blessings and be as eager as he was to serve Hashem. May we recognize that Hashem is not only Our King, but Our Father who loves us. May we all remember to take advantage of the golden opportunity we have during Rosh Hashanah, to pray to Hashem, to do teshuvah, and to ask for anything, even if it seems impossible. May we witness the incredible miracles of Hashem answering our prayers for the good. May we help others and help ourselves by giving tzedakah, doing chessed, and righting our wrongs. May we listen to the sound of the shofar announcing Mashiach’s arrival soon! 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? · Do we take our golden opportunity for granted? Do we remember that we are standing directly before Hashem on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? 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 Selichot, 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.
On Rosh Hashanah, we are standing in front of Borei Olam. We stand before the King of Kings, and we have a golden opportunity to do teshuvah and to ask for whatever our heart desires. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are incredibly close to Hashem, and it is a sin to take this time for granted.
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