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Nitzavim

September 4th, 2021

27th of Elul 5781

PARSHA IN PDF Archives ARCHIVES

The Lights of Creation Are Aroused

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Chazal say (Pesikta Rabati 46) that Adam HaRishon was created on the sixth day of the creation which is in fact the first day of Rosh Hashanah, since creation began on the twenty-fifth of Elul. This is mentioned in the Mussaf prayer of Rosh Hashanah, "This day is the anniversary of the start of Your handiwork, a remembrance of the first day." The start of Your handiwork refers to the day Adam HaRishon, the handiwork of Hashem, was created.

How was man created? Chazal tell us (Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer 11) that Hashem gathered dust from the four corners of the world and then created man. The reason being if man dies in some place in the world, that ground cannot say, you do not belong to my earth – go away. Rather, wherever he dies the land will absorb his dust and he can be buried anywhere in the world.

As we explained, the days preceding Rosh Hashanah are days of creation since Hashem began creating the world on the twenty-fifth of Elul. And then, on the sixth day of creation which was Rosh Hashanah, Adam HaRishon was created and on the very same day he sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Hashem judged him right away and in the merit of Shabbat who advocated for Adam, he was not sentenced to death (Pesikta Rabati 46).

This is what the holy Shabbat said to Hashem: If Hashem will kill Adam and Chava on that same day, before the arrival of Shabbat, who will observe the holy Shabbat and announce in the future that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh? And how will Hashem find rest on the holy Shabbat if the crown and goal of creation, the one into whom Hashem breathed a living soul and an element of His G-dly essence, is no longer alive?

It follows then that all this happened on Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah Adam was judged and Hashem allowed him to remain alive so he can guard the Shabbat day. With Hashem's kindness, He also created garments of skin for Adam and Chava so that they should not walk around naked (Bereishit 3:21), meaning they should not be naked of mitzvot (Bereishit Rabba Ch. 19:6). So in fact, in the merit of observing Shabbat, the Shabbat guarded Adam HaRishon for eternity.

Since during the creation, the days preceding Rosh Hashanah were unsoiled and pure, free of any trace of sin, particularly these days are called 'the days of repentance'. It is a time in which the untainted lights of creation are awakened and is therefore an auspicious time to repent. Repentance is carried out through accepting positive undertakings upon ourselves and pleading for forgiveness through the selichot prayers. It is a time in which it is easy for us to repent for our sins and stand before Hashem pure and clean, just as in the six days of creation when the entire atmosphere was free of any imperfections and filth.

Furthermore, staunch tzadikim are blessed with an inner inspiration of lofty lights and holiness during these days of forgiveness preceding Rosh Hashanah and similarly during the month of Tishrei. This stems from the power of the holy lights and sparks which illuminated the world during its very first days of creation, prior to Rosh Hashanah.

However, although there is a feeling of great awakening in the air, we must realize that it is not easy to attain this lofty feeling of holy sparks and repentance. Each person must ensure he fulfills the dictum "Create for Me an opening like the eye of a needle" and then he will see the fulfillment of "and then I will create for you an opening that wagons and carriages can enter" (Shir Hashirim Rabba Ch. 5:2). A person will feel the inspiration of Elul according to the degree of his desire and will.

The main thing is that each person must repent wholeheartedly, regret his bad ways and undertake positive commitments. Then Hashem will create a wide opening for him and he will be successful in his repentance. As the verse says (Malachi 3:7), "Return to Me and I will return to you." If you take the first step and return to Me, I will return to you. We can also be encouraged by the Chazal (Yoma 38b), "One who wishes to purify himself is assisted." Meaning, Hashem helps him achieve his goal when there is sincere desire; he must truly want.

We should keep in mind that this time of the year is a most auspicious time for repentance and drawing closer to Hashem, as the verse says (Yeshaya 55:6), "Seek Hashem when He can be found; call upon Him when He is near." Chazal explain (Rosh Hashanah18a), this refers to the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when "Hashem is close to all who call upon Him; to all who call upon Him sincerely" (Tehillim 145:18).

Walking in Their Ways

More Precious than Pearls

Someone once asked me for a blessing for success in his business. He added that if Hashem would help him in a specific transaction, he would give me a tithe of his profits as a donation toward our Torah institutions.

I blessed him in the merit of my ancestors zy”a and told him Hashem will shower him with blessing in the merit of his pledge to tzedakah. This is indeed what happened and he met with tremendous success.

He came to my home to fulfill the second half of the deal and contribute a very sizeable sum to our cause. All the way to my house, he kept picturing the look of joy on my face upon seeing such a vast amount of money donated on behalf of our institutions. One can imagine his disappointment when I did not show even a hint of a smile upon receiving the contribution.

“Honored Rav,” he expressed his surprise, “the entire way here, I imagined how happy you would be with my donation. But I see your face is as peaceful and serene as before. Is there perhaps something wrong with the money?”

“There is nothing wrong with your money. But you must realize the only thing worth getting excited over is Torah study and mitzvah observance. In This World, money comes and money goes. ‘Here today, gone tomorrow,’ as the saying goes.

“But Torah and mitzvot are eternal. They are the only things that stand by a person for eternity. This is why I don’t get carried away by monetary contributions, although they are the bread and butter of our institutions. If you want to see me getting excited, bring me a Jew who has strengthened himself in his avodat Hashem and mitzvah observance. His deeds will cause me tremendous pleasure, more than all the money in the world!”

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "I will rejoice intensely with Hashem" (Yeshaya 61)

The connection to Shabbat: This is the seventh and last of the 'Seven Haftarot of Consolation' that are read beginning with the Shabbat following Tisha b'Av.

Words of the Sages

Why Did HaRav Yehuda Tzedakah Never Require a Loan?

G-d's blessing is promised to all those who observe the Torah and mitzvot, as stated in this week's Parshah, "That which I commanded you today, to love Hashem, your G-d, to walk in His ways, to observe His commandments, His decrees, and His ordinances; then you will live and you will multiply, and Hashem, your G-d, will bless you in the Land to which you come, to possess it." (Devarim 30:16).

Do we really appreciate Hashem's blessing? Are we aware of the correct way to thank the Source of all blessing?

HaGaon Rabbi Yehuda Tzedaka zt"l, Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, would often discuss the special value of thanking Hashem properly. He was accustomed to saying that many countries in the world are blessed with material abundance – wealth and assets – but food is not in abundance. Why? Because they do not recite enough blessings! Blessings are the pipe through which all abundance flows!

He personally testified: "Despite the meager monthly salary that was my lot, I never found myself in the position of requiring a loan, while I was often approached by neighbors who wished to take a loan from the gemach to be able to finish the month. This phenomenon teaches us that everything is dependent on the blessing which rests in your money. In our case, our money was blessed." In his modesty, he attributed this merit to the Rabbanit a"h, who was always careful to recite birkat hamazon with concentration, word for word, as one counts precious stones.

He recited every blessing with due seriousness, aware of the One he was thanking, saying each word aloud so he could hear what his lips were saying. If someone from the Porat Yosef Yeshiva would bring him a cup of tea, he would first recite the blessing to Hashem and have a sip. Only after that would he thank the one who brought him the drink.

The story is told that one of his family members, a Kohen, once visited Rabbeinu and was offered a drink. He expressed his thanks and then recited the shehakol blessing and drank. Rabbeinu remarked, "Do you wish to lose the priesthood?"

Seeing that he did not understand, Rabbeinu explained his intention: Chazal tell us Hashem wished to give the priesthood to Shem son of Noach as it says (Bereishit 14:18), "But Malkitzedek… he was a priest of G-d." However, since he blessed Avraham before blessing Hashem, He gave the priesthood to Avraham. Because Malkitzedek said "Blessed is Avram…and blessed be G-d, the Most High" and not the other way round, priesthood was taken from him.

"You too," concluded Rabbeinu, "must remember that first of all one must bless G-d and only after that say thank you to man."

He often quoted the following idea in the name of Rabbi Sasson Mordechai Moshe zt"l (a distinguished Sage from Baghdad who lived two hundred and fifty years ago). In his sefer Tehilla L'David he brings the verse, "I will exalt You, My G-d the King, and I will bless Your Name forever and ever" and explains that first of all a person must think about Hashem's greatness and loftiness, remembering before Whom he stands, and only after that bless His Name. With this recognition, his blessings will have value and become an eternal asset for him.

Guard Your Tongue

Human Error?

If a store owner short-changes a customer or charges him for an item he did not buy, one is forbidden to derive from this incident that he is dishonest or negligent. Rather one must attribute it to human error.

However, if this kind of thing happens often, one must bring it to the storeowner's attention, with a warning that if it continues, this practice will have to be disclosed to his customers. If there is still no change, one is then obligated to warn customers to check their change and receipts.

One is forbidden to hint that the store owner is dishonest, even if there is room to suspect that this is the case. To take the necessary precautions, it is enough for the customers to think he is negligent (or has trouble calculating correctly).

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Ten Days of Repentance

"You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your G-d" (Devarim29:9)

The Holy Zohar writes: "'You are standing here today' – this refers to Rosh Hashanah." The word "today" alludes to the Day of Judgement when all mankind stands before Hashem, waiting to hear their verdict. Nevertheless, we trust in Hashem, certain we will emerge worthy.

During these special days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Hashem is particularly close to His children. This can be compared to the king's servant who is accustomed to communicating with the king through his viceroy. However, there is one day in the year when the king himself approaches the servant, allowing him to ask for whatever he wishes.

Throughout the year we pray and cry out to Hashem, but who knows if we deserve to be answered? And even if we are worthy, Hashem may still decide to say no. But this time of the year is a particularly auspicious time, for just as we are standing before Hashem, He too stands close to us, answering our supplications with mercy.

This is the meaning of "Atem – You are standing here today." Atem has the same letters as emet – truth. When a person calls out to Hashem in all sincerity, asking for forgiveness and accepting upon himself from now on to sincerely improve his ways, he is included among "Hashem is close to all who call upon Him; to all who call upon Him sincerely" (Tehillim 145:18) and Hashem will certainly answer his prayers and requests.

If a person repents sincerely at this time when Hashem is close to all those who call out to Him, and he feels he is standing in Hashem's presence, he has no reason to be afraid of the Satan. Even though the Satan has proof of our previous erroneous ways, committed even though we promised to improve, and even though he can prove that we do not always fulfil our promises or do not even intend to fulfil them, which puts all our future commitments in doubt, nevertheless at this time of the year Hashem is not deterred by the Satan and instead covers up his words and accusations.

On Rosh Hashanah man has the power to rectify all the prayers he did not pray properly throughout the entire year. This is why we anoint Hashem as King on Rosh Hashanah. Since during the year we did not always connect with Hashem through prayer, on Rosh Hashanah we rectify all the 'anointing' that was only lip service.

The Sabbatical Year

1. During Shemittah one may plant fruits or vegetables in water if it contains no mixture of earth at all (hydroponics, where seeds are placed on nets under which there is water mixed with nutrients necessary for the plant). The Torah only prohibits planting in earth which is considered as ground, but planting in water alone does not come under this category.

2. So for example, during Shemittah one may place an avocado pit in a pitcher of water. It is also permissible to place hummus seeds on wet cotton wool for this is not included in the prohibition of planting, even though it will sprout leaves.

3. One may place flowers in a vase with water, including closed flowers or roses, even though the water will cause the petals to open. Some say that if the flowers are in a flower pot, one must place a barrier between the flower pot and the ground. Floor tiles are considered a barrier.

For any questions in practical application of these halachot, please consult a rabbinical authority.

Pearls of the Parshah

Negative Amazement

"And you saw their abominations and their detestable idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold that were with them" (Devarim 29:16)

Since idols have no substance, there seems to be no difference whether they are made of wood or stone, silver or gold. So why does the Torah detail the materials they are made from?

Rabbi Shlomo Tzadok shlit"a explains that the Torah mentions the materials to hint that even just being impressed by the amount of silver and gold they are made from, or by the artistry with which they were designed, is also completely forbidden.

Why?

Just paying attention and dwelling on these matters can cause one to stray. Similarly, it is silver and gold and the inherent success that leads a person to follow the abominations and detestable idols of the nations.

The Closer One Draws, the More One Understands

"You shall return and listen to the voice of Hashem" (Devarim 30:8)

Since the Torah said previously "And you will return unto Hashem, your G-d" it seems that they have already repented. So why does the verse repeat "You shall return and listen to the voice of Hashem?"

Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk zt"l, in his sefer Tiferet Shlomo, explains that before repenting a person still does not realize the greatness of his sin because he is far from Hashem and immersed in his ways. Only after repenting and coming closer to Hashem, does he begin to understand the great blemish he caused with his sin. He now does not suffice with his original repentance, but feels the need to repent once more.

The cycle continues. The more he repents and draws closer to Hashem, the clearer is his understanding that he must now repent even more before Hashem.

A Novel Look at the Parshah

Rosh Hashanah is Not Just Melodies

Rosh Hashanah is a time for advancement. We must accept some commitment upon ourselves and not suffice with trivial matters.

In the sefer Doresh Tov, the Dubna Maggid brings a wonderful parable explaining this idea. A king had a pampered, only child. His grades were low and his behavior was also not up to par, nevertheless, his father loved him since he was his only child.

The king's advisors approached him and declared: "Our master, the king. If you want this son to eventually inherit the throne, we have one piece of advice for you: Send him away from home to learn a profession. Maybe this will help him take hold of himself. If you do not do this now, it will soon be too late."

The king realized his son was slowly deteriorating and if he wished to save him, he must indeed listen to their advice despite the difficulty. In the middle of the night he gave his son a strong alcoholic beverage and as soon as he was deeply asleep, he lay him down inside the chariot and dressed in his royal clothing, travelled with him to the far end of his country. At six in the morning he arrived at a distant town and noticed a sign proclaiming: "Tailor – New Clothes and Repairs."

The king waited a little longer until the hour was right to knock on the door. The tailor opened up and was shocked to see the king standing there. 'My master the king! To what do I owe this honor?"

"I have an only son and I want you to teach him the trade!"

"There's no way I can teach him just like that. It takes an entire year!"

"It takes a year to learn how to sew?" wondered the king.

"Yes."

"And how much do you charge?"

"My master the king will pay the same as everyone else. One thousand rubles for the year, including food and shelter."

The king agreed. He made sure the tailor would treat his son well and then left.

At eight o' clock the son finally woke up and found himself in the tailor's home. The tailor wasted no time in informing him: "You are going to work with all the lads here."

"I am a prince. I am not doing any such thing!" he protested.

"You are a prince? You were a prince! You are now staying in my house and you will work like everyone else. No work – no food."

He chose no food. He was not prepared to work. He went on a hunger strike but quickly realized he had no way out. The next morning, he approached the production line and began working.

Three months passed. The king received a letter from the tailor: "Your son completed the first three months with honors; scored one hundred percent. Send me three hundred and thirty-three rubles."

At the end of the second trimester the king once again received a certificate: His son excelled and completed the second trimester with distinction, way above the other students.

The king took a handkerchief and wiped away his tears. Finally, someone is managing to educate the boy, his only son…

He impatiently waited for the end of the year and his son's return. But the end of the year arrived and no letter was forthcoming. He waited another three months but still did not hear from the tailor.

In the absence of phone lines and overcome with worry, the king decided to find out for himself how his son was faring. He travelled through the night in his royal chariot and finally arrived at the tailor's home. "How is my son doing? Why did you not send me the certificate from the third trimester?" he demanded to know.

"Your son?" replied the tailor, "My master, the king. Can you see this piece of marble? I will succeed in teaching the marble to sew quicker than I will succeed with your son! For half a year I am trying to explain to him how to thread a needle. The needle breaks, the thread snaps, the finger is pricked, but it doesn’t go through. A blocked head! I never met someone with such comprehension difficulties as your son! He cannot even thread a simple needle with a simple thread. Twenty needles already broke; there is no more thread and he still cannot get it right!"

"Excuse me?" claimed the king in surprise, "When you wrote to me after the first trimester that he completed his studies with honors, I thought he was going to become a world famous tailor! In the second trimester you wrote he is doing better than any other student and I thought to myself, he will certainly become an expert tailor – maybe even the king's tailor! Now you are telling me he doesn't even know how to thread a needle?! So what does he know? What did you manage to teach him in the first two terms? In what area does he excel?"

The tailor replied: "My master, the king, I will immediately explain my teaching method that has proven itself. A tailor may be inclined to sit at home, bored. How can he motivate himself to sew? How can he help himself not cut in the wrong place due to lack of concentration? By singing melodies to himself.  So in the first trimester I teach my students all the melodies of the High Holy Days. And so while he sews, he sits and sings to himself "Master of forgiveness, Who examines hearts…" and this motivates him to work.

"In the second trimester I take suit material and mark cutting lines with chalk. The students are then required to cut with precision according to my markings. Your son excelled in the second trimester, my master the king! You have no idea how he tears. Right, left, in two minutes the whole thing is torn up! He tears even in places I did not mark. He is a champion at tearing…

"In the third trimester I take the needle and thread and explain to them how to sew. And here, I must say, he had no idea what I was talking about!"

The king listened in astonishment and then replied, "Dear tailor! Did I send you my son so you should teach him High Holy Days melodies? Did I need you to teach him how to tear material? At the palace he was already a master at this… He would tear carpets and curtains like a professional… I brought him to you so you would teach him to sew some small item, or repair some small item. If you did not teach him even this, what did you teach him?"

The king lowered his head and burst out crying: "What an unsuccessful child I have! Melodies he knows, to tear he knows, but if he does not even know how to sew, even something small, what is it all worth?"

The Dubno Maggid explains the moral: Rosh Hashanah arrives and we sing the appropriate melodies. But Rosh Hashanah is not just a day for melodies. Some observe Rosh Hashanah by dipping an apple into honey, but this Holy Day is not just for cutting apples…

Rosh Hashanah is a time when we must progress, when we must advance even in some small way. If we do not do even this, what have we accomplished?!

Hashem begs, "Return to Me!" Take a small step forward!

 

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