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Parashat Nissavim


"You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your God"

"Today" refers to Rosh Hashanah, as mentioned in the Zohar. The Or Hahayim zs"l explains that not only does each individual stand judgment on this day, but "You are standing today, all of you," as every Jew bears responsibility for each other. The leaders of the community will be asked to account for their constituency, the tribal leaders for those in their respective tribes, the elder of each family for his family, and, as the pasuk continues, "...everyone in Israel," meaning, they will have to account for all those whom they had the ability to influence. Each spouse could have influenced the other, parents could have had a stronger impact on their children. Everyone who had the wherewithal to bring others closer - did he fulfill his responsibility adequately?

"You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your God"

The Hid"a zs"l notes that "atem" ("you") has the same letters as "emet" ("truth"), alluding to the merit of Yaakov, regarding whom it is written, "Give truth to Yaakov." The final letters of the names of all three patriarchs, Avraham, Yisshak, and Yaakov, have the combined numerical value of 142, which is the same numerical value as the word, "nissav," stand (singular form of "nissavim"). In the combined merit of our patriarchs, we receive the impact of the fifty "Gates of Wisdom," which has the same numerical value as the combined value of the letters, "yod" and "mem" (the final two letters of the word "nissavim"). Thus, the pasuk teaches us that the nation stands in the merit of the forefathers, and in the merit of the Torah which is referred to as, "emet" (Berachot 5). In the merit of Benei Yisrael's having accepted the Torah, the entire world exists, as Tosafot write (Avodah Zarah 3, d'h' "Nog'im"). In reward for keeping the world standing, "You are standing."

"You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your God"

"Today" refers to Rosh Hashanah. Hazal say that the shofar of Rosh Hashanah should be bent, symbolizing the fact that the more an individual humbles himself on this Day of Judgment, the easier a sentence he will achieve. Rabbi Yosef Nehemias zs"l notes that the letters of "atem" (you) stand for expressions of the humility used by our national leaders - "eifer" (ashes), "tola'at" (worms), "mah" (an expression of worthlessness). Avraham said about himself, "I am dust and ash." King David said, "I am a worm, and not a person, the shame of man and the contempt of the nation." Mosheh and Aharon said, "What are we?" When we gird ourselves with the attribute of humility, only then do we "stand" strong before Hashem our God, to merit good and fruitful years.

"You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your God"

Rabbi Shalom Hakohen of Garba zs"l cites the Gemara (Sotah 42) that a group of liars are unworthy to accept the presence of the Shechinah. Therefore, "atem" (you) have the letters of "emet" (truth), for this is the prerequisite for standing "before Hashem you God."


Rabbi Avraham Yechini zs"l

Once, an emotionally unstable individual who used to blow shofar on the Yamim Noraim joined a group of bandits and left his religion, Heaven forbid. Once, he stood with some government officials and was boasting about his ability to produce interesting sounds from the horn of a ram. "Let's hear," they said.

He brought the shofar and blew for them a teki'ah and a shevarim. He attempted to blow a teru'ah but could not produce the sound, evoking the scornful laughter of his audience. He tried again and again, but for naught. He wondered, why suddenly was his strength diminished? He picked himself up and went to the house of the local rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yechini zs"l, and asked his question.

The rabbi answered, "Of course, it is an explicit pasuk - 'Fortunate is the nation who knows teru'ah, Hashem, in the light of Your face they will walk.' If you do not walk in the light of the face of the Almighty, and you turn your back to His nation, you be unable to blow a teru'ah!"

The man continued, "So why was I able to blow a teki'ah and shevarim with no trouble at all?"

The rabbi responded, "The teki'ah corresponds to Avraham, from whom emerged Yishmael. The shevarim corresponds to Yisshak, from whom emerged Esav. But the teru'ah corresponds to Yaakov, all of whose children were ssadikim. Therefore, the teru'ah was given only to his offspring. Once you joined the other nations, your ability to produce the teru'ah was lost."

The man trembled and exclaimed, "What have I done? I have exchanged the true religion for temporary pleasure and enjoyment!" Since the law of his country prohibited apostates to return to their faith, he left all his money and possessions behind and moved to a far-away place where he could legally rejoin his people. He took with him only his shofar. Once he returned to his faith he tried blowing once again, and was able to produce the sound of the teru'ah.

(From the work, "Yosef Da'at" on Yamim Noraim)


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav Mosheh Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Me'or Yisrael

The Prayers for the Ten Days of Repentance

During the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance), we conclude the third berachah with the expression, "hamelech hakadosh," instead of the usual, "ha'e-l hakadosh." The reason for the change is that the Almighty demonstrates His kingship during this period as He sits, as it were, on His throne to judge the universe, and a king establishes his kingdom through judgment. Furthermore, we conclude the berachah of "hashivah shofteinu" with the phrase, "hamelech hamishpat" instead of the usual, "melech ohev ssedakah umishpat."

If one mistakenly recites, "ha'e-l hakadosh" instead of "hamelech..." during the Ten Days of Repentance, if he catches his error in the period of time needed to say the expression, "shalom alecha rebbe," he should immediately correct himself and recite, "hamelech hakadosh." If he catches his mistake only after this time frame, he must begin Shemoneh Esreih again, since the first three berachot of Shemoneh Esreih are considered a single berachah containing the praises of the Almighty. Therefore, any mistake in the first three berachot requires the individual to return to the beginning of the tefilah. And if the individual catches his mistake only after he began the following berachah, even if he recited only the first word ("atah"), he must start the Shemoneh Esreih again even if his mistake was caught within the aforementioned period of time from his mistaken recitation.

If one is in the middle of Shemoneh Esreih and cannot remember whether or not he made the appropriate change to "ha'e-l hakadosh," he should assume that he recited the berachah the way he does all year round, and must therefore return to the beginning of Shemoneh Esreih.

If, instead of reciting "hamelech hakadosh," a person says, "melech hakadosh" (without the letter "heih"), or, if he recites "melech hamishpat" instead of the correct expression, "HAmelech hamishpat," he does need to return to the beginning of the tefilah.

If the sheliah ssibur erroneously recites, "ha'e-l hakadosh" and catches his mistake only after the time period necessary to say "shalom alecha rebbe," he goes back to the beginning of that berachah, to "atah kadosh." Since the ssibur already recited kedushah, the berachah of "atah kadosh" constitutes an independent berachah.

One who mistakenly recites the usual "melech ohev ssedakah umishpat" instead of the correct phrase, "hamelech hamishpat," if he catches his mistake within the time necessary to say "shalom alecha rebbe" he simply recites "hamelech hamishpat" and continues as usual. If, however, he did not catch his mistake within that period, he returns to the beginning of the berachah of "hashivah shofteinu" and continues from there. Even if he catches his mistake during "elokai nessor" at the very end of Shemoneh Esreih, he may simply go back to "hashivah..." and continue. The custom of the Ashkenazim, however, is not to go back when one forgot to recite "hamelech hamishpat" and recited instead "melech ohev..."

One who finished his Shemoneh Esreih, and recited "yihyu lerasson," and only then realizes that he said "melech ohev..." instead the appropriate "hamelech hamishpat," should recite a new Shemoneh Esreih. He should, however, stipulate that the Shemoneh Esreih he is about to recite should be considered an obligatory prayer only if he is, indeed, required by halachah to recite a new Shemoneh Esreih for having not recited "hamelech hamishpat." But if the halachah does not require a new Shemoneh Esreih for such an error, then the tefilah should be considered an optional tefilah. He should then try his utmost to have maintain concentration throughout the prayer. It is proper that Ashkenazim, too, recite an extra Shemoneh Esreih with such a stipulation if they forget to recite "hamelech hamishpat."


Another three days is Rosh Hashanah, and this is no small matter.
In another three days it will be determined who will live and who, Heaven forbid, will not.
In another three days it will be determined who will be healthy and who, Heaven forbid, will not.
In another three days it will be determined who will receive a substantial livelihood and who, Heaven forbid will not.
Another three days is Rosh Hashanah, and this is no simple matter, by no means.
All living creatures will pass before Him like sheep.
Like a shepherd tending to his flock, passing his sheep under his rod.
A person's sustenance is allocated for him on Rosh Hashanah.
Two hundred and ten thousand unemployed citizens, over twenty-thousand tragedies -
This was determined last Rosh Hashanah, and it could all change in the coming week.
Terminal illness surfaced in thousands of people this year.
This was also determined last Rosh Hashanah.
Who knows what will be decreed for this coming year and on whom?
No, this is no small matter, by no means.
All the accidents which took place, they all resulted from last Rosh Hashanah.
What will happen this coming year? To whom?
All the heartaches, difficulties, pressures and distress.
The disappointments, crises, fights and quarrels.
The debts, complications and downfalls.
They all resulted from last Rosh Hashanah.
Just to think - if we would have strengthened ourselves just a little more...
If we would have prayed with more concentration,
If we would have intensified our fulfillment of missvot,
If we would have stood in prayer with more humility and submission,
If we would have regretted our misdeeds more sincerely,
The past year could have looked so much different.
It could have been brighter, healthier, smoother...
But what was has passed,
And may it all serve as an atonement for us.
The most critical point is to realize
That the future lies in our own hands.
We have three days for introspection,
To correct our ways, to increase our acts of kindness,
To find ways to improve our behavior,
To accept upon ourselves better conduct for the future,
To participate more diligently in Torah study groups,
To show more patience at home,
To avoid more carefully inappropriate talk about others,
To come prepared with our Heavenly Defense Attorneys,
Which take the form of missvot and good deeds.
Through them we can merit divine mercy and kindness,
Through them we can be inscribed and sealed
In the Book of the Righteous,
For a joyous, successful year,
A year of life, prosperity, and peace.

The Sun

Have you ever guessed the temperature of the sun? The sun is hotter than any burning flame. Its heat approaches 16,000,000 degrees centigrade, and the temperature at its center has been estimated in the tens of millions of degrees centigrade. The sun is composed of burning gases, and from within the sun long strips of gases burst and extend over large distances. Basically, the sun is a huge ball of gas. Not in our farthest imaginations can we describe its size. The diameter of the sun is 1,393,000 km. In other words, the sun can contain 13,000,000 balls, each of which the size of Earth. The reason it appears so small to us is because it lies so far away.

The light of the sun serves as the source of life not only for us but for the vegetation. Any plant not exposed to sunlight will soon wither and die. Green plants simply cannot develop without sunlight, even if it receives ample water, good soil, and quality air. Similarly, people who live in dark places and are not exposed to the rays of the sun become weak and could get sick. People who receive sunlight are healthier and stronger. For example, our bodies contain Vitamin D in an inactive form. Through the sunlight, it becomes active and strengthens our bones. Without this process, children can be stricken with osteomalacia, a condition where one's bones are not strong enough. Indeed, "The sun is righteous, health is in its wings," but we should remember that too much exposure to the sun could cause serious illness, and one must watch out for its rays.

The sun is 150,000,000 km from us. We cannot even imagine such a vast distance. And yet, the warmth and light of the sun reach us even from so far away. How great are the wonders of the Creator and His kindness on our behalf! He placed the sun at the precisely correct distance from the Earth. If it would be just a bit closer, the planet would be burnt. If it even the smallest bit further away, everything would freeze. The Almighty, in His infinite mercy, saw to it that the sun, His loyal servant, would perform, like all of creation, in the exactly perfect manner. It is therefore incumbent upon man, the crown jewel of creation, to properly fulfill all his tasks, to study Torah and perform missvot with joy.


Measure for Measure (8)

Flashback: A poor, gentle talmid hacham joined the Bet Midrash of a wealthy philanthropist, who, although loved the study of Torah, showed no concern for other people. He invited the poor scholar to his home to discuss with him issues in the Gemara as he, the host, ate to his heart's content, while his guest was too embarrassed to ask for food. He did so both in the afternoon and evening, and the poor scholar made his way to the city where he finally collapsed and died from hunger.

In the city, the townspeople found a poor man lying dead in the street. They took him and provided for him a traditional, Jewish burial, never knowing who he was. All they knew was that, based on his mode of dress and appearance, he was a poor Jew. Hashem had taken this poor scholar from the world, and the earth covered both his body and the sin which caused his death. The Almighty, however, Who knows all hidden things and wishes that all wicked people return to Him in teshuvah, did not want this matter to be concealed and hidden forever.

The wealthy man, meanwhile, back at home after the poor scholar had left him, thought about his involved answer to his question which his indigent guest had proven wrong based on an explicit Tosafot. "Such genius," muttered the wealthy man after his guest had left him. He had been so convinced by his answer, and he was confident that he would still find proofs to his approach in solving the problem. But his body weighed down on him from all his eating, and he fell asleep. Suddenly, he shook in terror, something had startled him. Little did he know that at that moment the poor scholar breathed his final breath of life.

The wealthy man was now awake and thought more about the kushya, shaking the slumber from his head. Suddenly he remembered that in a certain book which was located in the library in the Bet Midrash, the topic was discussed at length and a new, innovative approach to the sugya was developed. He seemed to recall that in that piece the answer would be found. He walked out his door, into his garden, making his way to the path which led to the Bet Midrash. A figure appeared in the dark shadows of night, the guard walking around in the courtyard. "It's me," said the wealthy man, pleased with the awareness of the guard. "I am going to the Bet Midrash now, please make sure that nobody comes in."

He walked in and closed the door behind him. He took the candle and started looking for the book which he needed. Suddenly, he heard footsteps.

to be continued...


A powerful king once expanded his kingdom to the distant islands, where he found an abundance of gold and precious jewels. The inhabitants of the islands would load his ships with their treasures, beautiful gems and diamonds, not to mention blocks of pure gold, and the king's wealth grew beyond his wildest dreams. He was able to lift the tax law from his kingdom, supporting his citizens comfortably from his own royal treasury.

The king said to himself, "This isn't right, that I distribute the wealth equally among all my citizens. After all, some deserve more and some deserve less. Furthermore, there are those intelligent people who will use the wealth wisely to enhance their lives. But the fools will not know what to do with it, and the wealth could, conceivably, destroy them."

And so, the king decreed that everyone who would appear before the king would be rewarded with great wealth.

The proclamation generated quite a stir. The loyal citizens of the kingdom were overjoyed at the very privilege to stand before the king and to receive his gift. Quickly and enthusiastically, they mounted their horses, arranged their carriages, and throngs of the most loyal citizens of the country crowded the roads, all headed in the same direction: the king's palace. The king, in turn, was pleased to greet his first guests. He ordered a bountiful feast in their honor, spoke with them kindly, and presented them with a very handsome gift, leaving them all immensely wealthy.

There were others, however, who thought to themselves, and with a certain degree of justification, "The king's treasures are overflowing, they are endless. Why do we have to be first?" And so, this group first managed their personal affairs and took their time. When they finally got together on the main road, they hired slow animals and carriages, so they could travel slowly and comfortably.

Among this group, there were those who thought further, since we are in no hurry, and once we are already traveling, why not make this into a relaxing trip, a full-fledged vacation? They filled their canteens with water and set out on nature hikes, enjoying the fresh air and beautiful view of the countryside.

There was also a certain individual, who saw everybody congregating, and he, too, left his home. He saw all the traffic, the congested roads, and was annoyed. Finally, he came across a luxurious, comfortable carriage and hopped on, pleased at having secured for himself a more comfortable ride, without the noise and commotion. Little did he know that the carriage was headed in the opposite direction.

Then, one day, on Rosh Hashanah, the king ordered everyone to stop. The wealth would be distributed to each according to his level. Those who hurried to the palace were written immediately into the book of the righteous.

And the rest, too, were inscribed according to their behavior. They were rewarded in proportion to their enthusiasm and zeal. They were given another ten days, through Yom Kippur, to improve themselves, to reach the palace.

But what about this one individual, who was headed in the wrong direction? Perhaps this is how we should read the pesukim in our parashah: "You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your God. Your leaders, your tribes, your elders, your law enforcers...from your woodcutters until your water-carriers." "Today," says the Zohar, refers to Rosh Hashanah. Everybody stands on that day before the Almighty, from the oldest to the youngest, from the most meticulous and zealous to the lazy and indolent. They all come through this covenant, they will all, God willing, emerge with a favorable judgment. But there is one exception:

"Lest there be among you a poisonous root...who feels blessed in his heart, saying, 'I will have peace, for I will walk where my heart pleases.'" I can set for myself a different direction, I can head towards a different destination. Little does he realize, "Hashem will not consent to forgive him, for then will Hashem's anger and jealousy be kindled against that person, and all the curses written in this Book will descend upon him, and Hashem will wipe out his name from under the Heavens."

One should never think that he can deviate, that he could turn in opposite directions, that he could steer away from the path which has been established in the Heavens. Those who walk along the road to the king's palace, the King of the Universe, will merit blessing, goodness, and the Divine light.

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