Parashas Nitsavim – Vayelech 5780 – To Deserve a Great Year

The Parasha of Nitsavim always precedes Rosh Hashana, as it contains three verses that describe the true Teshuva and its outcomes. “When all these things befall you—the blessing and the curse that I have set before you—and you take them to heart amidst the various nations to which Hashem your God has banished you: and you return to Hashem your God, and you and your children heed His command with all your heart and soul, just as I enjoin upon you this day: then Hashem your God will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. He will bring you together again from all the peoples where Hashem your God has scattered you.” (Devarim 30:1-3) Returning to Hashem seems to be the top priority on everyone’s list before Rosh Hashana, but each person is entangled in his life just as a fish trapped in the fisherman’s net. How to free ourselves from the burden of our daily responsibilities and where to start? Unless we are provided a clear roadmap, the task seems to be overwhelming and we are prone to fail. Thus, a few verses later it says: “Surely, this commandment [of repenting] which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond your reach: It is not in the heavens, that you should say, Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impar t it to us, that we may observe it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it? It is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.” (Devarim 30:11-14) In truth, we are so far from Hashem and there are so many things to correct, where do we start? The Torah seems to describe it as a very simple process, but each one of us can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that turning our lives around is a monumental task. So, how is it that the Torah that always speak truth states it is a very simple process? Rav Yisrael Salanter explains that people make a classic mistake around this time of year. One goes to Shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and gets inspired. Good inspiration is always beneficial. Thus, the problem starts when the inspiration becomes emotional and overtakes our cerebral capacities. Then, this inspiration is mostly detrimental as we become emotionally charged and the feeling of remorse and regret crush us. We may even weep when realizing how afar we strayed from Hashem and commit to a one hundred-eighty-degree turn. Thus, this is a show to impress Hashem to deserve a good year. We know we cannot keep that promise. Besides, the Torah teaches us in Parashas Shoftim, the “cowards” were not allowed in the army, they were sent back home as fear is contagious. is not normal to fear pain or even worst death? No, not for a Jewish soldier who Hashem always precedes to the battlefield to wage war. Before the soldiers even arrived at the battlefield Hashem has already crushed our enemies as the verse says there: “when you will come out to war Hashem will give your enemies in your hand”. Sometimes literally, as it happened with Sisra who came with an army a million men strong as meteorites started falling on them. Sometimes, with fear as it happened during King David’s wars, a handful of “Rabbis” were decimating complete armies. The victory belongs to Hashem only. So, when we wage war against our own nature and are inclined to take upon ourselves crushing burden, two mistakes are done. Firstly, big changes take an incredible amount of strength to stick to, and often, a few days after Yom Kippur, those resolutions vanish under the burden of our daily responsibilities. Secondly, these resolutions are always accompanied with a feeling of sadness, the task is beyond our capabilities, and so we lied to Hashem. Hence, Rav Yisrael Salanter instructs that the proper Teshuva is to focus on small goals that are achievable easily. Goals that are within our reach and that are sustainable easily. For example, prior to eating or drinking to say the Blessing slowly and with the intent to thank Hashem for the food he provided us. Even if in the morning because of our job we must daven with a fast Minyan, to take upon ourselves to arrive a few minutes earlier to shul and say the morning blessings with intent. All Hashem asks from us is a little bit of daily effort, as it will help keep constantly Hashem in our mind. The roadmap to succeed the Holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is in fact very simple. As the verse said, the task lies upon your mouth and your heart. If someone takes upon himself to refrain from foul language and lies, and to conduct himself honestly, Hashem will dwell inside him, as the Verse states in Parashas Teruma “I will dwell inside them.” Hence, our “inner dwelling” must be suitable for the King of Kings. Once we are inhabited by the Spirit of Hashem, His light will chase out all the darkness, and the person can be assured to leave this world as a righteous. Rav Moshe Rivkash (1596-1672) writes in Choshen Mishpat 348:2, “I write this for future generations: I saw many people succeeding and becoming wealthy from the mistakes of nonJews. Thus, In the end, they lost their money and had no blessing onwards … Many have sanctified Hashem’s name and returned even significant amounts when non-Jews erred. These prospered, became wealthy and successful in all their endeavors, and left substantial inheritance to their descendants.” The true Din is that someone can benefit from a non-Jew’s mistake. However, honesty is beyond the Din. Our main purpose on earth is to sanctify the name of Hashem. When a Jew shows honesty and hence sanctifies the name of Hashem, his mission is accomplished. Hashem will take over and will shower him with blessings. There are different ways to reach that goal. Sometimes by behaving like a God-fearing Jew it is enough as the next story proves it. In 2016, Mr. Shlomo (Sol) Werdiger, CEO of Outerstuff, a company that produces sports apparel, received a phone call from Mr. Oh Joon, the South Korean U.N. Ambassador, asking to meet him for lunch at a Kosher restaurant in Manhattan. Although Shlomo did not know the purpose of the meeting, he agreed to meet with Mr. Joon. When they met, Mr. Joon told him the following, “I have always heard negative stereotypes about Jews and Israel, and I took it at face value. Then, my daughter took an internship as an apparel designer in your company. Throughout the year, she has been telling me how wonderful it is to work in your business.” Mr. Joon continued, “There are four areas which stood out and impressed my daughter. 1). Every day, at 1:30 p.m., no matter what was going on at the office, all the men including some from neighboring offices, retreated into a room to pray with sincerity and calm. 2). Every Friday the office shut down early in the afternoon in preparation for your holy Sabbath and was closed on the Sabbath – this included all workers despite their faith and religion. 3). My daughter observed that each charity petitioner – and there were many – were treated with respect and left with a check in hand. 4). My daughter was treated with the utmost respect and dignity.” Because of the amazing experience and lessons the company taught his daughter, Mr. Joon took out his checkbook and was ready to write a check returning all his daughter’s earnings! Mr. Werdiger would not hear from it. “Your daughter worked and earned her salary and rightfully deserves her pay, and I will not accept any remuneration.” Then the ambassador relayed the following: “As you know, I have voting privileges at the U.N. Because of my renewed appreciation for the Jewish people, I abstained from voting on resolutions against Israel on three occasions. For one of the resolutions I was the ninth vote needed to pass the motion against Israel and because I abstained, it didn’t pass!” Mr. Werdiger said that no one at the office had any idea that this girl was the daughter of an ambassador and no one ever imagined what type of impact their typical conduct at work had on her, or how this impacted the votes against Israel. It is with tremendous joy we should enter the High Holidays and poor thanks to Hashem to have chosen us. Our resolution for this year will be improving our honesty in order to sanctify Hashem’s name in the worlds.

By Rabbi Fridmann * * 305.985.3461

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