Illuminations #173, Elul, 5778, Parshat Nitzavim

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Illuminations #173, Elul, 5778, Parshat Nitzavim

Torah Gems

Last week’s parasha ended off with all the curses that will befall our nation if we do not follow the commandments.  Since the following parasha will usually have a connection to the previous one, Rashi wonders what similarities there are from last week’s to this week’s.  Rashi answers that many among the nation were frightened when they saw all the punishments that could befall them if they sinned. They came to Moshe Rabbeinu and said, ‘’Who could bear these?” Moshe answered with the opening words of this week’s parasha, “You are standing today, all of you.”  Moshe was saying that, even though you may have angered Hashem, He shows that  he still loves you by the fact that you are all still around.

​​​The Darchei Mussar offers an interesting insight into the seemingly superfluous words of the verse, “all of you.” He says that this parasha is always read before Rosh Hashana to teach a person that the merit of being together as a people in unity is the greatest merit we can have on the Day of Judgement. When Hashem looks at each of us as part of a whole, rather than as an individual, our good deeds will look much more impressive.  With this, the Alter of Kelm comments that the Jewish people will always be able to survive even the strictest judgements.  However, for the individual, the key to a good judgement is to make himself into someone needed by the community.  He can do that either by teaching Torah, doing acts of kindness, or helping the poor.  Let each one of us do acts that will help our community so we can merit a good year.

Parsha Pearls

In this week’s parasha the Torah tells us that when you see blessing or curse you will take it to heart and return to Hashem.  To repent when one experiences a curse is fully understandable.  When a person has financial difficulties, sickness, or a family issue it is easy for a person to realize that he has to make a change in his service of Hashem.  However, how does it come about that a person will repent from blessings? The Shemen HaTov offers a novel explanation.  When a person sees that Hashem is showering him with an abundance of goodness he should take an honest look at himself to see if he is really deserving of it.  A person should notice that it’s only with Hashem’s kindness that things are going smoothly and, with that in mind, repent.  If, when things are going well you still see Hashem in your everyday life, then Hashem has no reason to wake you up with the punishments that the Torah says can befall a person.  As we stand a few days before Rosh Hashana, let us all repent, acknowledging the blessings which He has given to all of us, and give Hashem no need to reprimand us.

Glimpses of Greatness

One time the Chofetz Chaim was heard saying, “Ribono Shel Olam, you have done so much for me already. You have enabled me to write Shemiras Halashon and Mishnah Bereurah. You have done so much for me already.  Now what can I do for you?” Rather than looking at what he accomplished for the world, the Chofetz Chaim looked at the gift that Hashem enabled him to accomplish. He realized the gratitude he owed his creator. ​​​

Halacha Weekly

Q. If one is away during the Ten Days of Repentance, how does one obtain mechilah and atonement?

A. Yoma (85b) says that sins that occur between a man and his fellow, Yom Kippur does not atone for them until he appeases his fellow. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we seek forgiveness from others for anything improper we may have done to them.   What happens if we cannot request forgiveness from them because they are not available, they are not around during the Ten Days of Teshuva for us to ask forgiveness from them? Yafeh Lelev (7-606-2, R. Rachamim Nisim Yitzchak benChaim Pelagi Z”L) writes that even if he robbed his fellow and his fellow is not found in the city at all, he should take upon himself to return the stolen item and afterwards it is sufficient for him that Yom Kippur will atone [for his sin]. On the other hand, if it is possible for him to return the item that he has stolen from him he should do so, returning it immediately.

Sheilat Yavetz (1-79, R. Yaakov Emden Z”L) and Yalkut Yosef(Yamim Noraim 606-15, R. Ovadia Yosef Z”L) hold that if a person that sinned against another person who is not in the city [at the time] for him to appease him, he should [instead] take upon himself to appease him when he does arrive.  Beit Yosef(Even Haezer 38) brings in the name of Rabeinu Yerucham that there is a difference of opinion in the matter as regards returning the property misappropriated: whether or not this by itself is also sufficient for him to accept upon himself responsibility  to return the stolen property [when he arrives back in town and whether this is also sufficient for Yom Kippur to atone for his sin.]