SEPTEMBER 11-12, 2009 23 ELUL 5769
"You are standing here today." (Debarim 29:9)
Moshe Rabenu gathers the people of Israel before he passes on. The purpose of this gathering, which is the name of our perashah - Nisabim - is to transfer the leadership from himself to Yehoshua. Moshe gathered the entire Jewish people and made a "matzebah" - a standing ceremony, as Rashi calls it. Why was it necessary to make a standing ceremony? What was Moshe trying to accomplish by having the people stand and listen to his exhortation, that he could not have accomplished had they been sitting?
Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch (quoted by Rabbi Frand) explains that the role of leadership was about to change hands, and Yehoshua was not on the same level as Moshe. Had the transfer of leadership to somewhat less capable hands been viewed only as the end of the great era of Moshe Rabenu, it could have brought about a national spiritual decline. Moshe gathered the people to call their attention to an obvious fact, the end of an era is also the beginning of a new one. A new era gives us a chance to start over.
A new school year is beginning. This offers each student hope for newfound success. There is a spirit of a new beginning. A student could have had a difficult previous year, but a new school year is a new beginning. New beginnings offer people hope. Moshe Rabenu wanted to import to the people that they were about to begin a new era, with a chance to start over on a new page. The choice was theirs.
We read this perashah before Rosh Hashanah. The very same choice is ours. We can continue engaging in the same pattern we engaged in until now, but we can also change. We can - and should - use the freshness that the new year provides to start off with renewed vigor and hope for spiritual success. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
The Gemara tells a story. There was once a drought in Israel which was causing a tremendous famine. R' Eliezer, the great leader of that generation ordered fasting and special prayers with twenty-four blessings, but they weren't answered. R' Akiba then got up and said "Abinu Malkenu, Our Father our King, please have mercy on us," and rain came down. The students began to whisper, "How come the great R' Eliezer wasn't answered and R' Akiba, who was his student, was answered?" A voice came down from Heaven and said, "Do not think the student is greater than the Rabbi, rather the student overcomes his character traits which merited this miracle."
R' Salanter asks the obvious question: Doesn't this mean that R' Akiba is still greater, since he overcomes his character traits? He answers that R' Eliezer came from very noble stock and therefore his personality was very refined from birth. His character traits were all positive. R' Akiba, however, whose ancestry had converts in it, had to overcome personality traits which he inherited. He had to perfect himself by overcoming his nature. Therefore, he merited to have miracles that Hashem also "overcame his nature" (so to speak) and allowed rain to come, even if not deserved.
We see here the power of overcoming one personality trait. If we refrain from responding when insulted, or hold back our anger when provoked, we can bring about miracles since we controlled our nature. We have experienced a difficult year and we all want to see Divine mercy and compassion. If we exhibit these very same traits then Hashem changes His nature and will bring us a year of health, happiness and prosperity. Tizku Leshanim Rabot! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Assemble the people, the men, and the women, and the little ones." (Debarim 31:12)
Rashi explains that, although the little children were clearly not capable of comprehending the experience, they accompanied the adults. Thus, those who brought them would be rewarded. In truth, the children that came along probably disrupted the adults to the point that they could not listen as intently as they would have desired. We may, therefore, wonder at the Torah's insistence that the children be present. Would it not have been preferable for the children to remain at home, in order to enable the adults to properly concentrate on their service to Hashem?
Rav N. Adler z"l suggests that herein lies the actual reward. The adults were implored to "sacrifice" some of their personal spiritual experiences so that the children would be availed the opportunity to see, hear and experience the sublimity of the moment. As Rav Adler emphasizes, Torah education takes precedence over parents' personal needs. In regard to educating Jewish children with the true Torah spirit, our concern should focus on what is most beneficial for the children, not our personal preferences or affiliations. (Peninim on the Torah)
Sometimes people confuse the concepts of conceit (ga'avah) and self-worth. The words of our teachers put things in perspective. Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian z"tl said, "The essence of the concept of humility is not that one should be unaware of one's capacities. To the contrary; a person should recognize his strengths. However, he should know that his skills and talents are a gift from Hashem, and that they are not his doing. He should feel that had another person been equally endowed, he could have achieved more" (Lev Eliyahu, "Shevivay Lev," volume 1, paragraph 160).
The Hazon Ish z"tl said, "A person should know his value, and if he is learned in Torah, he must know this. However, one should not feel that this makes him superior to others" (Emunah u'Bitachon).
Rabbi Yerucham Levovits z"tl said, "The person who does not recognize his strengths and talents is much worse off [than the one who does not recognize his defects], because he is totally unaware of the tools with which he can achieve spiritual goals" (Da'at Torah).
The Yeser hara (Evil Inclination) will often make people believe that they are not so special. He likes to prevent people from doing "good" by making them think that the "good" that is done in the world should be left to those more talented, more religious, or more dedicated than themselves. People who don't recognize their talents can't put them to good use. Self-esteem is necessary, not forbidden.
If you paint a picture of yourself that portrays you as small and weak, put down your brush and think about the task you were about to take on. If it was something that would really help others or something that would help you take another positive step in spiritual growth - attribute your "weakness" to the stratagems of the Evil Inclination. Take another look in the mirror and you will see that Hashem put this task before you as a test of your spiritual resolve, and that he gave you all the tools you might need to complete the project successfully. If you train yourself to think this way, you will start to have a success rate that even you yourself thought you could never achieve! (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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