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Nitzavim-Vayeilech

This Issue's Halacha Article

Nitzavim-Vayeilech

23 Elul 5766

September 16, 2006

Vol.16 No.2

In This Issue:

Down the Line

by Rabbi Josh Kahn

When Joseph was seventeen years old, he joined his father Stevens sewing accessory business. Blessed with a bright mind, Joseph had great success expanding the business. Josephs responsibilities grew each year, and he began traveling to more and more shows to sell the companys merchandise. These trips would always be one-day excursions, with Joseph always returning home at night.

One day, Steven approached Joseph in the office and told him of a very important business deal for which he would like Joseph to represent the company. The meeting was to take place in a far-off city, and Joseph would have to remain there for several days. Joseph was very excited about the opportunity and did not seem bothered by the thought of being away for a few days. The next morning, Joseph packed all of the business accessories he would need for the meeting, as well as clothing for the trip. After the five hour train ride, Joseph went straight to the hotel to relax and unpack. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. To Josephs total surprise, when he opened the door, he was greeted by his father.

Joseph immediately asked his father, "Is everything okay at home?" "Thank G-d, everything is fine," Steven replied. "Well then, did I forget some of the important papers I needed for the deal?" Joseph inquired. Once again, Steven reassured him, "No, son you packed it all." Curious, Joseph asked, "Then why did you travel five hours to come all the way here?" "I believe in your haste to pack, you forgot your Tallit," Steven explained. Joseph was embarrassed and amazed that his father would travel five hours to bring his son the Tallit he had forgotten.

This meaningful story, retold by Rabbi Paysach Krohn (In the Footsteps of the Maggid, p. 148-150), has an even more unbelievable follow-up that demonstrates the impression Steven made on his son. Joseph's grandson is a respected Mashgiach in a major Yeshivah, and he told Rabbi Krohn that his grandfather recently went to Israel and brought special gifts for each of his grandsons. They each received a beautiful Tallit.

In Parshat Vayeilech, the Torah tells us (Devarim 31:19), "And now, write this song for yourselves." "This song" is a reference to the Torah (see the Rambam, who quotes this Pasuk as the obligation for each individual to write a Sefer Torah). Why is the Torah referred to as a song?

A song may conjure up images of beauty, serenity, and joy. If the Torah is viewed as a song, and even more, a song we each write for ourselves, then the second half of the Pasuk will flow naturally: "And teach the Jewish people to place it in their mouth in order that this song will be a witness for Bnei Yisrael."

How can we ensure a proper transmission of the Torah? If it is like a song to us, sung with joy and enthusiasm, then it will certainly be passed along to our children.

As Rav Paysach Krohn illustrated, modeling a joyful performance of Mitzvot and demonstrating a love for the opportunity we have to observe these Mitzvot and learn Torah will leave an indelible imprint on our children.

May we all merit to approach Torah and Mitzvot in this joyous way and transmit this tradition in its fullest to our children.

More than Me

by Daniel Atwood

At the beginning of Parshat Nitzavim, the Torah states, "Atem Nitzavim HaYom Kulechem Lifnei Hashem Elokeichem Rasheichem Shivteichem, Zikneichem VeShotereichem Kol Ish Yisrael," "You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your G-d, the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, every man of Israel." Rashi asks a somewhat obvious question. Why does the Torah deem it necessary to enumerate all these categories of people?

Rashi answers that Bnei Yisrael were standing according to their rank. Leaders stood in the front while children were farther back. The Or HaChaim explains that the people were standing this way so that Moshe could teach them a very important lesson, that of Arvut, a sense of community. Everyone is responsible for one another. Moshe wanted to teach the leaders that they should try to positively influence anyone that they could. The Gemara (Shabbat 54b) teaches that if leaders have the ability to affect a whole nation, they have the obligation to do so. If a man can only affect his household, he is responsible for doing so. A person is expected to do only what he can, but failure in this regard is unacceptable.

As the time of Selichot and Rosh HaShanah approaches, we must start taking responsibility, not only for ourselves, but for our fellow Jew. If we see someone about to sin, we must try to stop him. Even someone with little influence can make a huge impact on a small group of people around him. The only way we will merit acceptance of our prayers is by sticking together, for the good and bad. Davening with a Minyan is a merit for the entire group. But the opposite is also true; we must realize that there is something bigger than us and our decisions could end up impacting a whole community.

The Magnitude of Teshuvah

by Joseph Jarashow

Parshat Nitzavim, the first of this week's two Parshiot, presents two paths for Bnei Yisrael to choose. We can be virtuous and be rewarded with life or we can live a life which lacks Torah and Middot and be punished with death. The Torah makes a similar proposition in Parshat Re'eh. The difference, however, is that in Parshat Re'eh, the result of living a moral life is a Berachah, and living an evil life leads simply to a Kelalah. Why is it that this week's Parshah presents the far more serious ramifications of life and death?

Perhaps the question can be explained through the juxtaposition of these two paths to the Mitzvah of Teshuvah. Although Teshuvah is both a gift and a tremendous opportunity for us, it is also an act which is incumbent upon us to perform. Before the Torah presented the notion of Teshuvah, good and evil simply resulted in Brachah and Kelalah. However, explains Rabbi Sobolofsky, after the institution of Teshuvah, one who fails to repent receives death for his transgressions.

This explanation of Teshuvah sheds light on a passage in the Rambam's Hilchot Teshuvah. On Rosh HaShanah, a person is deemed either righteous, wicked, or in the middle. A person whose Mitzvot outnumber his Aveirot is considered righteous, and if one's Aveirot are more abundant than his Mitzvot, he is considered wicked. If, however, one's Aveirot and Mitzvot balance each other, that individual is considered to be Beinoni, "in the middle." The Rambam writes that a person who is in the middle has the opportunity to tip the scale in his favor by performing Teshuvah during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah. However, even if the individual performs only Mitzvot from then on, if he did not repent for his earlier sins, he is still rendered a Rasha. Why is this so? Just because he didn't do Teshuvah, he should be wicked? He has more Mitzvot than Aveirot! It seems as if the Rambam believes that Teshuvah is such a tremendous gift that even performing extra Mitzvot can not remove the consequences of not repenting.

With Rosh HaShanah rapidly approaching, may we all be Zocheh to perform Teshuvah and to be the recipients of a Shanah Tovah UMetukah.

Consider Yourself

by Dani Yaros

In Parshat Nitzavim, the Torah presents a mini Tochacha (admonition), listing all the punishments that will befall Bnei Yisrael if they do not keep the Torah. At the conclusion of this Tochacha (Devarim 30:1), Hashem says "When all of these things (the aforementioned curses) come upon you…and you will return to your heart…" Why does the Torah tell us that our goal will be to return to our hearts? Shouldn't our goal to be to return to Hashem, rather than our hearts, which so often lead us astray? The Seforno answers that if a person honestly thinks about the Torah, he will undoubtedly come to the understanding that the Torah was in fact given by Hashem at Har Sinai, causing him to feel the need to repent.

A question arises from this. If it is so easy and simple to understand the Torah's importance and truthfulness, why are there many Jews who do not keep the Torah and do not believe that the Torah was written by Hashem? The Gemara answers that the Satan puts an immense amount of pressure on each of us at all times and never gives us a real opportunity to sit down and consider what our goals are in the world. We can learn from this that one must always be very careful to keep the Mitzvot and, as the Messilat Yesharim says, "every single day one must sit down even for just a few minutes and consider if he is following the Torah to its fullest and if there is any element to his personality that he could change for the better."

Rosh HaShanah is fast approaching with our recitation of Selichot beginning this Motzai Shabbat. Let us learn from the Seforno and the Messilat Yesharim; let each of us, for just a few minutes when we are alone at night, consider our deeds and not let the Satan get ahead of us. May it be Hashem's will that, through this new outlook on our daily lives, we be granted a sweet new year in addition to the betterment of the situation in Israel.

Staff at time of publication:

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