This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Nitzavim (5765)
This week's section is read as a preparation for Rosh Hashana.
That is why it begins with Jewish unity.
"You are standing ALL OF YOU today before G-d etc."
There are even Torah commentators that say that the word 'today' here means the day of Rosh HaShanna.
But at first glance this is not understood.
Rosh HaShanna is the day that each individual stands alone before G-d and is judged according to the deeds of the past year?
So it seems that this day is exactly the opposite of unity and togetherness: on Rosh HaShanna it's every man for himself!
But on the other hand, only a very few of the prayers of Rosh HaShanna actually deal with G-d judging us; most of them talk about G-d being or becoming a king over the universe. In fact according to Kabala Rosh HaShanna is the day we ‘coronate’ G-d!
What do these three; unity, judgment and coronation have to do with each other.
To understand this here is a story. (Sipuri Chassidim of Rav Zevin, Moadim, pg 30)
Some two hundred and fifty years ago G-d was a much more important factor in Jewish day to day life than now.
G-d was their only shield and weapon against enemies, disease, poverty and hardships.
At the whim of the gentiles that surrounded them Jews were murdered, robbed, tortured and driven from their homes - and no one but G-d could stop it.
And G-d was seemingly more accessible than today. Today we rely on doctors, the army, the police, the diplomats and, of course, modern-day technology. Back then all this was done by Tzadikim'.
Tzadkim are Jews that, like Abraham, Issac and Jacob live only to do the will of the Creator according to the Torah every instant and with every fiber of their being.
But, even more, they are G-d's helpers:
Just as G-d sent Moses, Elijah the prophet and others to help Jews… so in every generation there are Tzadikim.
A prime example was Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Braditchev who lived some two hundred years ago.
His fame spread throughout Poland and the neighboring areas as a wonder-worker whose love for G-d, the Torah and the Jewish people was unlimited.
But he really shined on Rosh HaShanna when he blew the Shofar.
Blowing the Shofar is the first commandment of the year and is, in many ways, the most powerful of all the commandments.
Every commandment is preceded by a blessing declaring G-d as King of the Universe - but with the blowing of the Shofar we really do it; we actually coronate G-d, ‘make’ Him the King of the Universe and influence Him to change the world!!
And at that moment Tzadikim like Rabbi Levi Yitzchak sound the Shofar they can actually 'cause' G-d to re-arrange the world, 'change' the heavens and draw blessings into even the lowest places.
It is the holiest and most pristine moment of the year.
So the congregation was aghast when one year on that holy moment of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak went up on the podium and, weeping profusely, before he blew the Shofar pulled a long blond of girl’s hair from his pocket, held it high in the air for several moments, and mumbled something. Only then, after he put the braid on the table before him, did he begin to blow the shofar.
When he finished he was beaming with joy and later at the holiday meal, when one of his pupils got up the courage to ask him what had happened, he explained.
"Weeks before Rosh HaShanna I and other Tzadikim sensed that this coming year would be filled with pogroms and unspeakable tragedies for the Jews. All of us, especially Rebbe Boruch of Mezibuz and I, were very worried and finally we agreed to devote all our energies, day and night, to fasting and prayer - but after weeks of this nothing helped.
“It was obvious that it was out of our hands. We needed a big miracle.
"So, yesterday, the day before Rosh HaShanna I suddenly felt an urge to search for something, some sort of merit that might change things.
"I left my house and my feet took me to the poorest part of town, I walked aimlessly until I noticed a house in the Jewish section that seemed to be calling to me.
"I knocked on the door and a middle aged woman answered, but when she saw me she almost fainted. She began moaning and weeping uncontrollably as though she had feared this moment.
"It took her several minutes till she stopped crying sufficiently to was able to speak, and finally she began talking.
"She told me a tragic story. Years ago, when she was a young girl she and her parents lived on land they rented from the local Baron. Things were not easy but they managed to pay the rent and eke out a meager living by milking cows and selling the milk and cheese to nearby farmers.
"Then, when she was sixteen years old, tragedy struck. Her parents fell ill and several months later they both passed away leaving her alone with no money. Since they had become sick none of them were able to work so there had been no income, the debts increased and if she didn't do something fast she would be without a home as well.
"She had no choice other than to go to the Baron and plead her case. Perhaps he would have mercy and allow her some time to get back on her feet.
“But when she finally got into the Baron's Castle and was ushered into his room she was in for a terrible surprise: he took one look at her and transformed into an animal before her very eyes. He began snorting and became flush with passion as he stood up and approached her.
"But when he saw that she became startled and turned to the door to run he got hold of himself and changed his tune.
"He stood at ease, sat back down and explained to her in as soothing a voice he could muster, how he was offering her luxury, comfort and royalty instead of being a lowly Jew with no future. He pointed out to her that all of the young ladies in the town would jump at such an offer, how fortunate she was to have found favor in his eyes etc.
"But when it was obvious to him that this also did not impress her he stood up and said, 'Well, then, let me just kiss the locks of your beautiful hair. Just one little kiss and I will waive your debts and give you the next three years rent at half price.' And saying this he suddenly stepped forward and, as she turned her head from him, grabbed her hair in his two hands and kissed it lustfully.
"She bolted out the door and ran for as long as she could until she could run no more. When she finally reached her home she felt so humiliated that she wasn't able to sleep all night. The next morning instead of cashing in on the Baron's promise, she took a scissors, cut off her hair, packed a bag and ran off never to return again.
"She found a job in the city as a housemaid where she worked for several years until she got married.
"This was many years ago. Last year her husband passed away and she felt that perhaps the foul kiss of the Baron had something to do with it.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak continued, "I assured her that this was certainly not true and asked her anxiously if perhaps she still had some of that hair… and she replied that she did. And this is what she gave me."
"This is what I did this morning before I blew the Shofar. I held it up and wept to G-d, 'Ruler of the Universe, if you have any doubt who Your people, the Jews, are then just look at this lock of hair. A poor, orphan girl gave up a life of fortune and comfort, just in order to be your servant! Now, G-d, you have mercy on us and be our King.'
"And it worked! The heavenly decree has been annulled!" On Rosh HaShanna G-d judges us as Jews. And if even one Jew, shows even one good character trait or does even one good deed it shows that there is something worthwhile hidden in all of us, even the biggest sinners. And this will bring blessing and joy to the entire creation for the coming year.”
(That is why the Lubavitcher Rebbe said so many times that lecturers, especially in the Month before Rosh HaShanna, should not say negative things - especially about the Jews).
This answers our questions: The name 'Rosh HaShanna' doesn't mean just the first day of the year but rather the HEAD (Rosh) of the year.
And just as the head is the most important and sensitive organ in the body distributing life to the organs and containing the seat of personality, understanding and the senses, as well as UNIFYING all the various functions ,,,, so also Rosh HaShanna is the 'head'; The most sensitive and important day of the year unifying the Jewish people and, in fact, the entire world.
It is the day that we 'coronate' G-d, Which is why many Jews spend every free moment of the two days of Rosh HaShanna reading the psalms of King David.
But there is something even deeper here. King David was the forerunner (and great great etc. grandfather) of Moshiach and by saying the psalms of King David we hasten his arrival.
Moshiach, like King David, will also be a King and will finally and totally reveal to ALL MANKIND that G-d is the true Creator and King of the universe.
That is why almost all the prayers of Rosh Hashanna don't contain a word about judgment but rather deal with the time when all mankind will be unified and G-d will be the King over all the universe in a revealed way.
But this all depends on EACH and every one of us. That is why we are judged individually: because the good deed of even ONE Jew (i.e. you and me!) can make it happen.
It is telling us that we must do ALL we can, especially on Rosh HaShanna. Even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring.
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