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
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.
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.
- 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.