Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 5 No. 48

Parshas Nitzovim

The Haftorah

(Yirmiyoh 61:10-63:9)

In the Haftorah of Parshas Shoftim, the Lubliner Rov explains the early Haftorahs of the seven Haftorahs of consolation (of which this week's is the last), in the light of Yisroel's request of G-d that He comfort them personally. He points out how G-d acceded to that request.

The previous two Haftoros too, fit well into this pattern, as do the opening words of this Haftorah "Sos osis ba'Hashem" - I will rejoice in Hashem, who has gone out of His way to comfort me personally, etc.

Notice also, the double expression used by Yeshayoh "Sos osis", and which, explains the Redak, refers to G-d's Divine qualities of mercy and justice, both of which are mentioned independently in this posuk.

It could however, refer to the double expression of comfort (which we discussed last year in the Haftorah of Parshas Vo'eschonan), and it is in that regard that we can understand the Novi's comparison of Yisroel returning from Golus to Eretz Yisroel, to the clothes of glory worn by a Choson, and to the ornaments worn by a Kallah. Clothes are basic necessities - like we find by Ya'akov Ovinu, who asked Hashem for "bread to eat and clothes to wear" (Bereishis 28:20). Consequently, if Hashem remarries us, as it were, then we need to wear the clothes of a Choson and of a Kallah.

But ornaments are extra accessories, dispensible luxuries - even those Hashem gave us as an additional bonus, as a consolation for the double makos that we received at His hand.


The Novi goes on to compare the redemption to seeds, and to a garden which, when spring arrives, sprouts its produce. The Redak explains that a seed is buried in the earth and all but dies, before suddenly it grows afresh, beautiful in its newness. In addition, from one seed sprout many seeds - more and more beautiful than ever before. And this fittingly describes Yisroel at the time of the Ge'ulah. They will all but disappear in the long and bitter golus, but when the spring of the Ge'ulah arrives (in Nissan [the season of Spring] they were redeemed, and in Nissan they will be redeemed), they will suddenly appear from the earth, more numerous and more beautiful than ever before.


No longer will Eretz Yisroel be like a widow (as Yirmiyoh described her in her days of Golus), but like the ecstacy of a Choson over his Kallah, so will Hashem proceed to rejoice over you always - Redak. He will want you and never again forsake you.

Even during the long centuries of Golus, Hashem placed guardians over Yerusholayim. Who are those guardians? Angels, who constantly reminded Hashem to rebuild its desolate walls. And what do they say? They say ‘You (Hashem) arise, have mercy on Tziton, because it is time to be gracious to it, for the appointed time has arrived!’ (Tehilim 102). And they say ‘Because Hashem has chosen Tziyon, He desires to dwell there’ (Ibid 132). Day and night they remind Him of its merits and of the merits of the Ovos.

The Redak gives other suggestions as to who the guardians are, among them the mourners of Tziyon and Yisroel who, even when they are in Golus, wait and long for Yerusholayim to be rebuilt, recite every day in their Tefillos 'u'Veneh Yerusholayim'. They are never silent! They continually remind Hashem of Yerusholayim's plight. And it is their tenacity which will bear fruit. Eventually, G-d will listen to them and rebuild Yerusholayim.


At the end of Chapter 62, the Novi speaks about the reward and the good deeds that Yisroel will have amassed and which will be paid in full when they return from Golus. The Redak explains that this refers to their loyalty to Torah and mitzvos during the period of Golus. For their loyalty and faith they stand to be rewarded.


The Gemoro in Makos (12a) explains how, in time to come, Hashem will go to punish Edom (Eisov) for their persistent persecution of Yisroel. His first port of call will be Samoel, the Angel of Edom, who will run away to Botzroh, mistaking it for a city of refuge and thinking that he can escape there. However, he will make three mistakes: 1. It is Betzer that is a city of refuge, not Botzroh; 2. It is only in the case of an inadvertent murder that the cities of refuge are effective, but not for the murder by design of which Edom was guilty; 3. In any case, it is only human beings who are safe in a city of refuge, not angels.

So the carnage will begin, and Edom will be destoyed. And it is that carnage to which the Novi is referring when it describes the blood-stained clothes of Hashem (kevayochol) returning from Botzroh. It will be a day of vengeance.


"Be'chol tzorosom, lo tzor" - in spite of all Yisroel's sufferings, the Novi ends the Haftorah, "Hashem did not give them their full dessert", because the Angel Michoel (at the behest of Hashem, who loved and pitied them) would always intercede on their behalf. In fact, the word 'lo tzor' is a 'k'ri k'siv', and is read 'lo tzor' (with a 'vav'), meaning 'He (Hashem) has trouble', meaning that, whenever Yisroel suffer pain, Hashem suffers with them.

The Ma'ayanah shel Torah explains the corrolary between the k'ri and the k'siv like this: When Hashem suffers with Yisroel, and, as other sources explain, He goes into Golus with them, Yisroel's suffering is alleviated for, when the father goes into exile with the children, they have no need to fear, because they know that, however painful the exile becomes, ultimately he will soften the pain and ensure that they go free. Consequently 'when Hashem suffers, they (Yisroel) do not suffer.'




S'lichos Thoughts

(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhogim)



The Four Days


When Rosh Hashonoh falls on Monday or Tuesday, we begin S'lichos on the Sunday of the previous week. There are two reasons for this: the one, because some people have the custom to fast during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah (including Yom Kippur). However, one is always four days short, due to the four days on which fasting is prohibited - two days Rosh Hashonoh, Shabbos Shuvoh and Erev Yom Kippur, when it is a mitzvah to eat. So they complement the missing days during the S'lichos days that precede Rosh Hashooh. When Rosh Hashonoh falls on Monday or Tuesday, it becomes necessary to add a few days from the previous week. Two or three days would really have sufficed, but Chazal preferred to standardise the day on which S'lichos begins, so it always commences on Sunday.

The second reason is because by all of the Yom-tov Musaf-offerings, the Torah writes "ve'Hikravtem oloh", the sole exception being Rosh Hashonoh, where the wording is "va'Asisem oloh". This is to hint that, whereas on every other Yom-tov one brings a Korbon, on Rosh Hashonoh one makes oneself a Korban (i.e. in the sense that Korbon stems from the word 'le'karev' - to come close. So we are talking here about self-sacrifice - bringing oneself close). And in the same way as other sacrifices required a four-day period, to inspect the animal for blemishes, so too, do we require a four-day inspection period; the fasting is a means of encouragement to inspect one's deeds and to rectify those deeds and misdeeds that need rectification (Ateres Zekeinim).



Only With a Minyan


It is only with a Minyan that one may recite the thirteen Qualities of Hashem, but not on one's own. Why is that?

Because Chazal said that Hashem wrapped Himself in a Tallis like a Shatz (a Chazen) before calling out the thirteen Qualities to Moshe, and when there is a Shatz, there must be a minyan!

Incidentally, this Chazal is also the source of the minhag for the Shatz to wear a tallis for S'lichos. Others say that the Shatz wears a tallis out of respect for the Shechinah - since one is about to describe Hashem's characteristics (Taz).



We're All in the Same Boat


The reason that we say 'Viduy' (confession) in the plural - 'chotonu' (we have sinned) and not 'chotosi' (I have sinned) is because of the principle of 'arvus' (responsibility for one another). Every Jew must take partial responsibility for the sins of his fellow-Jews. Consequently, even when he says the text of 'Viduy' on his own, he says 'chotonu' and not 'chotosi' (Yesod ha'Teshuvah). Note: this is not a gimmick, but for real; we really are responsible for the sins of our fellow Jews! We really do require an atonement for not having done sufficient to prevent them from sinning (refer also to Parshah Pearls ‘Mind Your Own Business).



It's the Heart that Counts


We bang our heart (softly) during 'Viduy', as a gentle reminder that it is the heart that causes us to sin (Matteh Ephrayim).

What does this mean? It means that most of our sins are due to the fact that we allow our hearts (the seat of desire) to govern us, rather than that we govern it. We want things that we should not, with the result that we contravene G-d's commands. That is why Chazal have said 'G-d wants the heart!' If we would only steer our hearts in the right direction, most of our sins would cease to exist.

'Give Me your heart (and your eyes),' G-d says 'and you are Mine!'



Meaningless Confession


The Shloh writes that someone who confesses with his mouth, but does not feel broken-hearted at having sinned, will be taken to task for this, for it appears that he is boasting about his sins, as if he was issuing a declaration 'who is Master over me?'

And that is what is meant by 'Al chet she'chotonu lefonecho be'viduy peh' - '... for the sin which we sinned before You with the confession of the mouth' - we confessed only with our mouths, but not with our hearts.


Why do we say Kadish Tiskabel after S'lichos, even though normally it is only said after the Amidah? (Indeed, the word 'tzelos'hon' refers directly to the Amidah.)

The Levush explains that it is because the S'lichos were composed in the same format as the Amidah, that Kadish Tiskabel belongs there: the pesukim at the beginning resemble Pesukei de'Zimra, the S'lichos together with Hashem's thirteen Qualities of Mercy, the actual Amidah (is it by coincidence that nowadays, we recite thirteen b'rochos of request in the Amidah instead of the original twelve?) and then, like we do after the Amidah, we fall on our face for Tachanun.

Is it not befitting then, that we conclude S'lichos like we conclude the Amidah, with Kadish Tiskabel?




Parshah Pearls


Parshas Nitzovim

(Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim)



Mind Your Own Business


"The hidden things belong to Hashem (He will take the sinner to task and absolve all others from blame); but for those things that are revealed, it is up to us to do all the words of this Torah" (29:28). Rashi explains that this is because each Jew is responsible for the actions of his fellow-Jew.

That is why the Gemoro in Shabbos (54b) says "Anybody who is able to prevent members of his family from sinning, but fails to do so, is taken to task for the sins of his family, and the same applies if he has the power to stop the people of his town from sinning...

Imagine, writes the Chofetz Chayim, if you were a guarantor for a large sum of money which your friend had borrowed, and you then discovered that he was about to enter into a business deal, which you were convinced was a bad egg and was bound to fail! What would you do? Would you shrug your shoulders and say 'That's his business'? Or would you phone him up and apply all your persuasive powers to talk him out of the deal?

And how would you react if he turned round to you and said 'Mind your own business'? You would laugh - a bitter laugh - and reply 'What do you mean, mind my own business? It is my business! Because if you lose out on this deal, I'm going to have to pay!'

Well, says the Chofetz Chayim, by the same token, when one's fellow-Jew sins, we are all going to have to pay! If we would only realise the full implication of that statement, we wouldn't remain so calm and unperturbed when we see our fellow-Jews sinning.


Longing for Moshiach


"And Hashem will return your captivity and have mercy on you, and He will return and gather you from all the nations." (30:3)

This is G-d's promise concerning the ultimate redemption from the current exile which is still our bitter lot - the coming of the Moshiach. We are obliged to anticipate his arrival at any time (as the Rambam writes in his 13 Principles of Faith), and, as the Gemoro explains in Shabbos (31a), it is one of the six questions that every Jew will be asked when he eventually appears before the Heavenly Tribunal: 'Did you long for the salvation?'



The reason why many of us do not fulfill this mitzvah, explains the Chofetz Chayim, is because of the difficult times in which we live. How is it possible, we ask ourselves, that Moshiach will come when we are so looked down upon by the nations of the world - a laughing stock in their eyes? It is inconceivable that we should leap from a deep bottomless pit up to the loftiest Heavens in one moment!



The truth of the matter, he explains, is that that is the way that Hashem has always dealt with us: "From the trash-heaps He raises the needy". And He does this deliberately, in order to highlight the miracle of our survival, and in order to stress that 'nothing is too difficult for Him to perform'.

Avrohom Ovinu bore Yitzchok at the age of a hundred, and Soroh was ninety, both well past the normal child-bearing age. Ya'akov married and gave birth to the twelve tribes, to fight with an Angel and to overcome him, after Elifaz had taken from him all his wordly possessions, and he had arrived in Choron a pauper. Yosef rose to the throne of Egypt straight from prison. Moshe was thrown into the river, to become leader of Klal Yisroel, and to lead them out of Egypt and give them the Torah.

And who could have conceived, seeing the Jewish slaves in Egypt, in their misery, that one day they would march out to freedom 'with a high hand'? Who would have dreamt that Par'oh himself would go down on his knees and plead with them to leave?

And who would have dreamt, in the days of Homon, with the decree of annihilation sealed, and the Persians poised to destroy every Jewish man, woman and child, that on the very same day that they were marked for death, it would be the Jews who, against all the odds, would emerge victorious, and that the Persians, for fear of the Jews' revenge, would come flocking to convert to Judaism, or that our arch-enemy Homon, ready to hang Mordechai on the special tree that he had prepared for him, would suddenly be hanged on that very tree?

And that is precisely what will happen to us, when G-d decides to send the Moshiach, the Chofetz Chayim concludes.




We must not be perturbed by the hatred of the nations, by their threats or by their oppressions. All of these are but a sign that the redemption is imminent. On the contrary, that should strengthen our confidence in the fact that Hashem is about to lift us out of the trash-heaps. We can rest assured that the time will soon come when we will be able to sing "I thank You because You answered me, and You were for me a salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner-stone... This is the day that G-d made, let us rejoice and be happy on it!"


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