Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech          25 Elul 5764              September 11, 2004              Vol.14 No.1

In This Issue:

Dr. Joel M. Berman

Willie Roth

Avi Wollman

Halacha of the Week

Rabbi Chaim Jachter



Talent On Loan From God
by Dr. Joel M. Berman

"Shalom Yihiyeh Li Ki Bishirirut Libi Elech," "I will have peace if I follow my desires" (29:18).
Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt"l remarks how this Pasuk provides testimony to out stubborn and hedonistic nature. How could it be that after hearing the horrific nature of the Tochachot, a person could still think, "I will have peace if I follow my desires"?
I would like to offer another understanding of our Pasuk. The grammatical root of "Shirirut," "desires," which is "Sharar," is also the root for "muscle" or "strength." As such, the Pasuk might be describing one who mistakenly thinks that he will be fine because he can rely on his abilities alone.
One October afternoon many years ago I was having lunch in my lab at Rutgers University with a number of Israeli friends and we were discussing the causes of the Yom Kippur War. Yossi Ziv patiently listened to everyone else's opinions all the while shaking his head. Finally, he gave his opinion. "Already in 1970, three years before the war, I knew we were in trouble. I was in Officers Training School. We were standing in a small hill in the Golan, training with a 50-caliber machine gun. Our instructor asked us what we would do if we were right now attacked by a brigade of Syrian tanks. 'Flee quickly,' was the collective answer." Yossi then recounted how this officer chastised them. "'What's your problem?' he yelled. 'You've got a 50-caliber machine gun. It pierces armor. Start shooting!'" It must be explained here that facing a tank, let alone a brigade of tanks, with a 50-caliber machine gun is equivalent to running head-on into a speeding freight train with a dirt bike - it's sheer madness. Yet this officer was (blindly) fully confident in his abilities and available technologies. This notion catastrophically failed us 31 years ago during the Yom Kippur War. The Syrians nearly succeeded in cutting Israel in half! The Egyptians completely overran the southwestern Sinai! We were saved only by clear Divine intervention and Hashgacha Pratit.
There is a popular radio personality who brags about how he has been given "talent on loan from God." I'm not sure that he really believes or understands his words, but this is a very Frum statement. Our abilities are on loan from God. If we again succumb to our own PR and desires, disasters will again follow.

Complete Teshuvah
by Willie Roth

Parshat Nitzavim is filled with many ways which Bnei Yisrael can use to ensure that they are on the correct path. The primary way that the Torah mentions is the concept of Teshuvah, which appears a couple of times in the Parsha. First, Moshe describes how Bnei Yisrael will be presented in Eretz Yisrael with the blessings and curses that Hashem will give them on Har Grizim and Har Eival. When Bnei Yisrael will receive these blessings and curses, they must take these concepts to heart as Moshe says, "ViHaya Ki Yavou Alecha Kol HaDivarim HaEileh HaBiracha ViHaKilalah Asher Natati Lifanecha ViHashevota El Livavecha BiChol HaGoyim Asher Hadichacha Hashem Elokecha Shama," "And it will be when all of the these things, the blessings and curses, come to you, you will take it to you heart among all of the nations where Hashem has put you" (30:1). Then, afterwards Moshe says, "ViShavta Ad Hashem Elokecha ViShamata BiKolo KiChol Asher Anochi Mitzavicha HaYom." "Bnei Yisrael will return to Hashem and they will listen to Him, according to everything that I (Moshe) command you today" (30:2).
The Vilna Gaon zt"l points out based on these Pesukim that there are really two aspects of Teshuvah - Teshuvah through the heart and Teshuvah through actions. Here, the first Pasuk refers to Teshuvah that is done through the heart as Bnei Yisrael have to allow the blessings and curses to touch their hearts and must fully understand what they mean. Consequently, the second Pasuk refers to Teshuvah through actions as Bnei Yisrael must actively return to Hashem. However, the Pesukim are in this particular order because thought must come before actions. If Bnei Yisrael were to simply return to Hashem without understanding the meaning behind their Teshuvah, then the whole process would be worthless. Conversely, if Bnei Yisrael were to simply do Teshuvah in their hearts but not through actions, then their Teshuvah would not be enough. To perform a complete Teshuvah it requires both thoughts and actions as Moshe shows through these Pesukim.
However, a simple one-time Teshuvah that encompasses both thoughts and actions is not enough. Later on in the Parsha, Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael, "Re'eh Natati Lifanecha HaYom Et HaChayim ViEt HaTov Et HaMavet ViEt HaRa," "See now I have presented before you today life and good, death and evil" (30:15). Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l points out that the word HaYom seems to be superfluous. He then goes on to explain that HaYom teaches that the concept of choice between good and evil is a daily one and it is not enough to make the choice once. Just because a person chose good in the past does not mean that he will follow the good path in the future. Rather, a person must continually choose good to ensure that he will stay on course. The same is true with Teshuvah. It is not enough to simply do Teshuvah once and never look back. Rather, Teshuvah is a continual process that must be done at every moment of the day to ensure that a person will never sin again. During these days leading up to Yomim Noraim it is important to keep this concept of Teshuvah in mind.

Schlep the Kids
by Avi Wollman

When explaining the Mitzvah of Hakhel, Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael, "Assemble the people - the men the women and the small children" (31:12).  Rabi Elazar ben Azaria (Masechet Sofrim 18:6, quoted by Rashi) is puzzled by this statement.  He understands why the men and women must come to Hakhel; however, he is baffled as to why the Torah commands that the children should join their parent and come too.  He explains that the children are also commanded to come "to give reward to those who bring them," i.e. their parents.  However, Rabi Elazar ben Azariah's question is seemingly unnecessary and awkward.  It would seem to make more sense for Rabi Elazar to ask a different and more obvious question: why does the Torah feel it necessary to make it a commandment for the children to go?  Parents are obviously not going to leave their children home, and must bring them anyway.  Why, then, is there a specific mandate for the attendance of children?
The question is answered by the Gemara in Kiddushin (31a), which states that a Mitzvah that one is commanded to do is greater than one that is done voluntarily.  The Torah went out of its way to add bringing children, something that people would have done anyway, to the Mitzvah of Hakhel.  This shows us the kindness of Hashem and the opportunities He gives us to perform Mitzvot.  He gives us as many ways as possible, even easy ones, to earn merit.  Thus, Rabi Elazar stated that the children are commanded to come "to give reward to those who bring them."  It is important to seek out all sorts of opportunities for Mitzvot and Chesed in our communities.  We must make time for them on a regular basis, and do justice to the opportunities that we have been so abundantly given.


Halacha of the Week
The Mishna Berura (683:3) rules that one should recite Borei Peri Haetz before eating the apple dipped in honey on Rosh Hashana evening. It is reported by many (including Rav Yitzchak Cohen of YU citing Rav Mendel Zaks, the son-in-law of the Chofetz Chaim), though, that the Chofetz Chaim retracted this ruling after he had written the Mishna Berura. A similar report pertains to the Mishna Berura's ruling that a Beracha should be recited on fruit eaten for dessert, even if it is common in one's environment to eat fruit as a regular component of the meal. It seems, however, that normative practice is to follow the ruling recorded in the Mishna Berura to recite a Beracha both on the apple on the night of Rosh Hashana and on apples eaten for dessert (see the ruling of Rav Eliashiv cited in Rav Pinchos Bodner's Halachos of Brochos p.87). The apple is considered ancillary to the meal in both situations, and thus the Beracha of Hamotzi does not excuse one from reciting Borei Peri Haetz.



Staff at time of publication:

Editors-in-Chief:  Ely Winkler, Willie Roth
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editors: Jesse Dunietz, Ariel Caplan
Publishing Manager: Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
Publication Managers: Orin Ben-Jacob, Moshe Zharnest
Business Manager: Etan Bluman
Webmaster: Avi Wollman
Staff: Duvie Barth, Mitch Levine, Josh Markovic, Moshe Schaffer, Chaim Strauss
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Subscription information

Report an error

Back Home



This publication contains Torah matter and should be treated accordingly.