Yacov Nordlict – Viduy First

There’s a very potent and important message that can be derived from this week’s parsha which should additionally serve as a proper introduction to Rosh Hashana and the Aseres Yemei Teshuva. The pasuk in this week’s parsha states, “Rather the matter is very near to you, in you mouth and in your heart to perform it.” Although Rashi explains this pasuk to be referring to Torah, the Ramban among other Rishonim disagree and explain that it’s referring to Teshuva. When the pasuk says “in your mouth” it refers to Viduy, and when the pasuk says “in your heart” its referring to the actually repentance and returning from sin.
However, the Mefroshim are bothered. Why does the Torah choose to say “in your mouth” first before “in your heart”? If anything it should be the other way around! Viduy is the end of the Teshuva process, only utilized after abandoning the sin and accepting an undying reluctance to return to it. Only after the avodah she’blev can we properly say Viduy and acquire repentance for our sins. In fact, the Gemara in Ta’anis notes that one who says Viduy without properly abandoning the sin is akin to one who attempts to purify himself in a mikveh while still clutching onto an impure object, the source of his impurity. Obviously, the Mikveh wouldn’t help at all! So too, the obvious inference from the Gemara is that merely saying Viduy without properly having done Teshuva can’t accomplish anything! Why then did the Torah express the notion of Viduy before Teshuva? In the overall process, Teshuva must come before Viduy, for without it the Viduy itself can’t yield the desired results.
Early in the Parsha, the Sforno comments on a different peculiarity in a Pasuk. Prior to the pasuk saying that we will return to HaShem (with Teshuva), the pasuk tells us “take it to your heart”, “v’hasheivosa el l’vavecha”. The Sforno explains that the Pesukim are in fact revealing a deep necessity and precursor to returning to HaShem and the Teshuva process.
Most people have a tendency to consistently self-justify. Whether it be in matters of business, inter-personal relationships, or in our Avodas HaShem, human beings have a unique quality of viewing the ourselves in a subjective, self-righteous light. If one where to ask each individual, “Do you consider yourself a good person or a bad person?”. the amount of people who would consider themselves “bad people” would be few and far between. I remember reading once reading about a young man in the 1930’s who’s name was Francis Crowley. After a series of events, he was chased by police into an apartment building. They proceeded to have a shootout, with Crowley being wounded four times. During the shootout, Crowley was able to pen a letter, in which he wrote, “To whom it may concern, under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one. One that would do nobody harm.” Just to give a basic context of who he was as a person, prior to this shootout he had been casually approached by two officers who thought he looked like a wanted gangster (which he was). He proceeded to take out a gun and murder one of the officers before the other had time to react. To our view, this man was quite obviously a Rasha. But we see that according to him, he was just misunderstood, and in fact he was just the opposite, a righteous person with a good heart who found himself in the wrong situations.
This is the power and the danger of the human intellect. Sometimes its very painful to face reality. Its difficult to sincerely asses our lives and conclude that we could have been better, that we should have acted differently the past year. And even when we do admit our wrongdoings, we still tend to justify them, ignoring the gravity of our sins by explaining why we acted as we did. This is what the Pasuk is referring to. The Sforno explains that beforeone can really do Teshuva, he needs to be able to separate the Emes from the Sheker. He needs to become cognizant of his actions and their ramifications. Without being truly aware of what we’ve done, without a sincere assessment of our actions from the past year and what type of individual we’ve shaped ourselves into, its impossible to do true Teshuva. In order to ask forgiveness for something, we need to be aware of what we did. We need to realize how wrong we were.
This is the reason why the Pasuk puts Viduy before proper Teshuva. Even though Viduy without Teshuva doesn’t seem to work properly, this Viduy serves a different purpose. It serves to wake us up. To make us conscious of our actions. Even though the entire year we may choose to fool ourselves into believing in our own self-righteousness, the Viduy says differently. It’s supposed to enlighten us, when we say “Ashamnu, Bagadnu…” the realization hits home. Perhaps I wasn’t as good this year as I had thought? Perhaps all those times I believed I was correct, I was just gauging my actions on a subjective scale. Maybe I was wrong.
We need Viduy before Teshuva. We need realization and a consciousness before repentance. This idea is a crucial one before the Aseres Yemei Teshuva. The entire Elul we prepare for Yom HaDin. The entire Elul the excitement and anxiety of the upcoming days takes hold of us. The crucial introduction to these days is realizing that there’s something which needs fixing. Rav Chatzkel Levenstein writes in the very first Ma’amer of Ohr Yechezkel on Elul that a sickness of the souls is likened to a illness in the body. And just like the most dangerous illnesses are the ones which go undetected, so too the most destructive spiritual dangers are the ones we fool ourselves into thinking that they aren’t there. Our Viduy comes before Teshuva. Our selichos comes before the Aseres Yemei Teshuva. To awaken us, and enlighten us to our own realities.

Rabbi Binyomin Adler – Humility For A Good Judgement

Humility for a Good Judgement


This week is Parashas Nitzavim, which will be followed this coming week by Rosh HaShanah. The general approach to Rosh HaShanah is that it is a day of judgment, when HaShem judges the whole world and decides what will be the outcome for the coming year. It is difficult, however, for a person to feel like he is being judged when he cannot see the Judge and is uncertain of what actions he performed in the past that require judgment. When one commits a felony, he is aware of his crime and he usually has an idea of what is in store for him regarding his punishment. Regarding the Heavenly judgment, however, one has performed so many actions in the past that it is virtually impossible to recall what he did right and what he did wrong. Furthermore, it is impossible for a human to grasp the depth of the Heavenly judgment, as it is said (Tehillim 36:7) mishpatecha tihom rabbah, Your judgments are like the vast deep waters. Additionally, the main theme of the day on Rosh HaShanah is prayer, as we declare HaShem’s kingship and pray for our materialistic needs. How do we reconcile the idea that on the one hand, we are standing in judgment, and on the other hand, we are given the opportunity to pray for our lives and our sustenance?

Rosh HaShanah is Truly the “Head” of the Year

In order to gain insight into the essence of Rosh HaShanah, it is worth examining a Gemara that sheds light on this matter. The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 16b) states: Rabbi Yitzchak said: a year that is impoverished in the beginning will be wealthy at the end, as it is said (Devarim 11:12) mereishis hashanah, from the beginning of the year. The word mereishis is written without an aleph, thus the root word is from the word rash, meaning poor. It is said further in that verse viad acaharis, and until the end, and this denotes that there is an end. Rashi and Tosfos explain that the Gemara means to say that when the Jewish People make themselves like poor people on Rosh HaShanah, supplicating before HaShem, HaShem has compassion on them and favors them. One must wonder, however, why the Gemara deemed it necessary to quote a verse that appears to be unrelated to Rosh HaShanah, and derive this idea from the fact that the word for beginning is spelled without the letter aleph. I would like to suggest a novel approach to explain this Gemara. We refer to the upcoming holiday as Rosh HaShanah, which is literally translated as the head of the year. I once heard someone explain that the reason why this day is referred to as the “head” of the year is because the head is the most important organ of the body. Similarly, our future is dependent on Rosh HaShanah. What are we supposed to be thinking about on this most significant day? We are required to declare HaShem as king, and we accomplish this by blowing the shofar. The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4) writes that although the mitzvah of shofar is mandated by the Torah, there is also a rationale to blowing the shofar. The sound of the shofar is meant to arouse us from our slumber and to exhort us to repent from our evil ways. Thus, on Rosh HaShanah, we are required to take a second look at ourselves and see how we fit into HaShem’s Master Plan.

Kingship is Aligned with Humility

In order for one to offer himself an objective perspective of his alignment with HaShem’s will, it would be prudent for one to become as close as possible to HaShem. How does one become close to HaShem? Scripture offers us the answer to this dilemma. It is said (Yeshaya 57:15) ki choh amar ram vinisa shimo marom vikadosh eshkon vies daka ushfal ruach lihachayos ruach shefalim ulihachayos leiv nidkaim, for thus said the exalted and uplifted One, Who abides forever and Whose Name is holy: I abide in exaltedness and holiness, but I am with the despondent and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the despondent. The Gemara (Sota 5a) offers a homiletic interpretation to the words es daka. One opinion maintains that the words can be read iti daka, with Me is the humble one, which Rashi explains to mean that HaShem is declaring, “I elevate the humble one until he resides with Me.” The second opinion maintains that the words can be interpreted to mean ani es daka, that HaShem, so to speak, lowers His Presence to the one who is humble. According to both opinions, however, one who is humble is deemed to be with HaShem. Armed with this perspective, we can gain a better understanding into this Day of Judgment. On Rosh HaShanah one must demonstrate true humility. A true king is not one who lords it over his subjects. Rather, the real king is one who acts with humility. HaShem Himself is humble, as depicted in the verse in Yeshaya and in numerous statements in the Gemara and Medrash. HaShem desires that we emulate His ways, and when we act in a humble fashion, then we can be close to HaShem. With this premise we can better understand the verse that states (Tehillim 36:7) tzidkasecho kiharirei kel mishpatecha tihom rabbah adam uviheimah toshia HaShem, Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains; Your judgments are like the deep vast waters; You save both man and beast, O HaShem. The Gemara (Chulin 5b; see Rashi Ibid Tehillim) explains that the verse refers to those who are cunning in knowledge, and yet they still humble themselves like an animal. Perhaps it is for this reason that Scripture juxtaposes the idea of judgment to the idea of humility. If one wishes to gain a glimpse into the ways of HaShem’s judgment, one must humble himself, and then he will be with HaShem. This, then, is the meaning of the Gemara that states that a year that is impoverished in the beginning will be wealthy at the end. When one humbles himself on Rosh HaShanah, he will be with HaShem and one who is with HaShem is guaranteed wealth, as it is said (Mishlei 10:22) bircas HaShem hi taashir, it is the blessing of HaShem that enriches. We can now also understand why the Gemara in Rosh HaShanah cited the verse that states ((Devarim 11:12) eretz asher HaShem Elokecha doreish osah tamid einei HaShem Elokecha bah mereishis hashanah viad acaharis hashanah, a Land that HaShem, your G-d, seeks out; the eyes of HaShem, your G-d, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end. The Sefarim write that the word eretz, translated as land, can also be interpreted as ratzon, which means will. Thus, we can suggest that the verse is alluding to the idea that we mentioned that HaShem seeks out the one who is humble, i.e., the one who is performing His will. Thus, on Rosh HaShanah, HaShem seeks out those who humble themselves before Him with prayer and repentance, and those people will be guaranteed a wealthy year.

The Shabbos Connection

It is noteworthy that the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 11:1) interprets the verse of bircas HaShem hi taashir to be referring to Shabbos. On Shabbos we rejoice in HaShem’s kingship, and the method of recognizing HaShem as our king is by humbling ourselves before Him. HaShem should allow us to merit this great sense of humility, and then He will shine His glory upon us, and the whole world will know of HaShem’s existence. The entire Jewish People should merit a Ksiva Vachasima Tova and the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.

 Shabbos in the Zemiros

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

הֲדוֹךְ קָמַי אֵל חַי קַנָּא. בְּמוֹג לֵבָב וּבִמְגִנָּה, crush my foes, O jealous G-d, with melting heart and grief. It is noteworthy that the word קָמַי, my foes, equals in gematria the word קַנָּא, jealous, as this alludes to the idea that HaShem is “jealous” because our enemies spurn His will. Furthermore, the words בְּמוֹג לֵבָב וּבִמְגִנָּה, with melting heart and grief, equal in gematria themiluy (letters spelled out) of the name המן (ה”א מ”ם נו”ן), archenemy of the Jewish People, alluding to the idea that all our enemies should suffer a downfall similar to Haman.

 Shabbos Stories

We’ve Been Through It All

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: After World War II, the Klausenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yukisiel Halberstam, of blessed memory, a survivor of the concentration camps held a minyan in the Beth Moses Hospital in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Parshas Ki Savo arrived and with it, the section known as the tochacha (admonishment), which is filled with foreboding warnings of doom and destruction, lest the Jewish nation stray from the will of G-d. The verses warn of unimaginable horrors: exile, starvation, rape, robbery, and torture – to name just a few. The custom of Jews world-over is to read the verses of tochacha quietly, so as not to rile up enemies, celestial and otherwise, who may think those calamities a good idea to cast upon the Jewish Nation. It was the portion of Ki Savo, and the Klausenberger Rebbe and his minyan of ravaged survivors were about to read the tochacha and re-live horrors of their recent history through the words of the ancient prophecies. The Torah-reader started the verses of doom in a hushed tone. He began reading them quietly and quickly. Suddenly the Rebbe banged on his lectern. “Hecher!” he shouted. (Yiddish for louder.) The reader looked up from the Torah with a puzzled look on his face. Perhaps he was reading the Torah a bit too low. He raised his voice a notch, and continued in a louder undertone. But the Rebbe was not satisfied. “Louder!” he exclaimed. By now the reader was reading as loudly as his normal recitation, and yet the Rebbe continued to bang on the lectern and exclaim, “HECHER!” The reader could not contain his puzzlement and instead of shouting the portion he stopped and looked to the Rebbe for an explanation. “We no longer have to read these miserable curses quietly,” the Rebbe exclaimed. “There is no curse we have not experienced. There is no affliction we have not suffered! We saw it all. We lived it all. Let us shout with pride to our Father in Heaven that we have already received all the curses! We have survived these curses, and now it is His turn to bring us the blessings and the redemption!” And with that the reader continued reading the tochacha loud and clear as if singing an anthem to his nation’s tenacity. (www.Torah.org)

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

 Two melachos that pertain to washing dishes and cleaning spills on Shabbos are סחיטה; wringing, and כיבוס: laundering. Previously we discussed sechita as it applies to extracting juice from fruits. Here we will discuss the halachos of wringing liquid from an absorbent fabric. We will also briefly discuss the laws of laundering as applied to common situations.

  1. Wringing Liquid from a Fabric

 Materials to Which Sechita Applies

 The Torah Prohibition of sechita applies only to truly absorbent fibers, such as wool, cotton, linen, sponge and paper towels, and to fabric made of these absorbent fibers. Non-absorbent materials, such as leather and plastic, are not subject to the melacha de’oraysa (Torah Prohibition).

Nevertheless, miderabbanan (by Rabbinic Decree) one is prohibited from wringing out a fabric woven of non-absorbent fibers, i.e. steel wool, for although the fibers themselves do not absorb liquid, the fabric traps liquid between its fibers.

Only articles which neither absorb nor trap liquid are exempt from sechita. This applies to items like a nylon bottle brush, whose bristles are widely spaced and do not trap water. There are also synthetic scouring pads whose fibers are widely spaced and do not trap water.

Our Attentive Father

אלול is a contraction for אני לדודי ודודי לי – “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman Shlita points out that there is no separation between the words אני and לדודי . The connotation is that our whole existence, אני לדודי (“I am to my Beloved”), is provided by Hashem. Similarly, there are no words separating ודודי and לי (“my Beloved is mine”), connoting that our Father is wholly consumed with us, his “children,” taking pleasure in our individual growth and basking in supreme delight over our movement towards His Divine presence.