Parashas Nitzavim 5780 -When Happiness meets Unity

After the curses of Ki Savo, Moshe our Holy shepherd, gathered all of us to conclude an alliance between Hashem and the Bnei Yisrael. The question is how the Bnei Yisrael agreed to the “deal”, as in the Parashas Ki Savo the Psukim say: “All these curses shall befall you; they shall pursue you and overtake you, until you are wiped out, because you did not heed Hashem your God and keep the commandments and laws that He enjoined upon you. They shall serve as signs and proofs against you and your offspring for all time. Because you would not serve Hashem your God in joy and gladness over the abundance of everything.” The meaning of these Verses could not be clearer. The curses will befall one that serves Hashem, meaning performs the Mitzvos but joylessly. Given the seriousness of the punishment it seems a serious sacrilege has been committed. On the other hand, on the second day of the Selichos it says: “We are united in distress to pour out supplication; before their Hashem they pour out a heart full of anguish.” It seems to contradict the previous Pasuk, as someone with “a heart full of anguish” is not prone to joy but to sadness. Does Teshuva mean that a person must be sad for causing pain to Hashem’s Spirit? The Pasuk in Eichah [2:19] seems to concur with that logic “Pour out your heart like water before Hashem.” Weeping is usually a sign of deep sadness. Then, if this is the correct way to worship Hashem why would the Torah state that in punishment for not serving Hashem joyfully the curses will befall the person. This is a blatant contradiction. So, what attitude should we have during the High Holidays? Are we supposed to be fearful and sad, or in contrary joyful and ecstatic about the opportunity to serve Hashem? The Verse says in Psalm (100:2): “worship Hashem in gladness; come into His presence with shouts of joy” and the Zohar explains on this Verse, that sadness is forbidden before Hashem. So, how can we conciliate the need to repent, which triggers sadness, with the need to worship Hashem, which requires joy? The answer is two folds: The Tana Deivei Eliyahu says; Hashem promised “When Bnei Yisrael gather together in front of Me, and they say the order of the Selichos, I will answer them.” Meaning when Bnei Yisrael are in unison even sadness will not affect them, and their prayer will be answered. But according to Chassidus, when the sadness emanates from the joy perceived when connecting to Hashem, it is acceptable. In other words, when the person realizes he enjoys so much being under Hashem wings, that if he had performed the Mitzvos a little bit better, said the blessings with a little bit more intent he would have been even closer to Hashem. It will trigger a certain level of sadness, but with a lot of positivity and with the intention to enhance the gladness to worship Hashem. This is beneficial, and this is the attitude to have on Rosha Hashana and Yom Kippur. The first Rebbe of Belz was Harav Shalom Rokeach, the Sar Shalom. Once a simple peasant came with his son, who was getting married, to get a Bracha. The Rebbe greeted them warmly and gave a Bracha to the Choson. As they were about to leave, the Rebbe told the peasant: “A Yid must always know, that when he is in dire situation, he must pray strongly to Hashem. When the situation is dangerous and life threatening, then prayer alone in not enough. The only solution is to scream to Hashem and repeat the Pasuk “Shemah Yisrael” with all your might, and then Hashem will help you.” The peasant looked at the Rebbe as to say I don’t understand what you mean, however the Choson was a learned boy, and told his father, not to question the Rebbe, and told the Rebbe, “he would follow the his advice.” They left the Sar Shalom when it was already dark, however the peasant did not worry as he knew the way by heart, and was adamant there was no risk going through the thick forest at night. Somehow, they veered off the right path and the horses went deeper and deeper into the forest. It was blustering cold night and snow began to fall. They were freezing cold as well as the horses were tired from pulling the cart in the muddy path. The wagon suddenly got stuck in a hole and the horses did not have the strength to pull the wagon out of the pothole. The Choson remembered the words of the Belzer Rebbe and understood that the Rebbe foresaw what was to come, and he told his father that the Rebbe had told them what to do when such a dangerous situation arises. They began to scream to Hashem and said Shema Yisrael repeatedly with the bit of strength they had, and they waited for the help of Hashem to come. Suddenly, they heard from afar a wagon coming in their direction, they were fearing that gangsters heard them and were making their way to rob them. They noticed the Gentile driver was holding a thick stick and were frightened, maybe this was a gang of murderers, so they started again to scream “Shema Yisrael”. The wagon came closer, and the driver shouted: “I came to help you, please do not be afraid!” The Gentile came out of the wagon and took the thick stick and managed to pull the wagon out of the snow. He attached his wagon to their wagon and told them to come with him to his house as they could warm up and eat something to revive them. They were reluctant to go along with the Gentile, but the Gentile spoke with them so caringly and convinced them they had no reason to worry, that they agreed to follow him. They were glad to be in a warm house and drink something warm after the brutal cold experience. gather their strength as well as the horses would be able to drive further. The Gentile began: “You probably are surprised why I came in middle of the cold night to save you” Let me tell you my story. I used to work for the Poritz of my town and was his trusted servant, and the Poritz always sent me on important missions. Once the Poritz wanted that I should go to a distant city and offered me to use his best horses and his luxury coach. I was glad to have such a good coach and horses and was looking forward to enjoying the trip. However, in middle of my trip thieves fell on us and stole the coach and the horses. I was devastated and feared for my life as the Poritz will certainly make me pay dearly for it. I ran away and became a beggar going from town to town. One freezing night I was about to collapse from hunger and knocked on the first door of a town I had just came to.  A Jewish man answered the door and told me to enter. I asked if I can just sit near the oven and warm myself up and the Jew agreed and prepared me hot food. The Jew noticed that I was deeply worried and in despair, and asked why bothered me? I told him my story. He replied, in the next town over, there is a big Rabbi who many Gentiles come to him for blessings. I will go with you, and I am sure the Rabbi will be able to help you. I was pleased to go if there was some hope for me. I went to the Rebbe and the Rebbe was nice to me and comforted me. Then the Rebbe told me, not to worry about the horses and the coach, they were returned to the Poritz, and reassured me I could return home peacefully! I thanked the Rebbe, and the Rebbe told me I will bless you with wealth if you promise to even risk my life to help any Jew who is in danger. I promised the Rebbe, and he blessed me. In a short while I was able to acquire some large properties and became very wealthy. Then tonight as I fell asleep, I saw the Belzer Rebbe prodding me to wake up, and go into the forest to save a few Jews who are in danger. I was too tired to listen and went back to sleep. The Rebbe again came to me and prodded me to wake up as time is of essence! I told the Rebbe, I have no idea where they are located, and he told me he would show me. Indeed, the Rebbe guided me, and when I heard you screaming, I knew where to find you and that’s how and I saved your lives.” The Yidden thanked him profusely and went to sleep in the room he prepared them. In the morning, refreshed and with new strength they left for their Journey. This level of Ruach Hakodesh can only be reached by joyfully perform the Mitzvos. It is said about the Arizal that he reached his level because every Mitzva he was doing was handle as if he was given a treasure and was performing the Mitzva with tremendous joy. What simcha can achieve in a short time, no other attribute can achieve it even over a long period of time.

By Rabbi Fridmann * * 305.985.3461

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