SEPTEMBER 11-12, 2015 28 ELUL 5775
"You are standing this day, all of you, before G-d" (Debarim 29:9)
The Shabbat on which we read Parashat Nisabim is usually the last Shabbat of the year, and this perashah is read just before the Day of Judgment. The perashah begins by reminding us that in a few days we will all be standing before Hashem. All of us, no matter what stage of life we are in. All ages, no matter what your philosophy of life is. Every ethnic group. Any person who as of yet has not motivated himself should now awaken and return with repentance to Hashem. Teshubah is very powerful, and Hashem receives it with love and desire.
In the Sefer Mateh Ephraim, and quoted in the name of the Arizal, he says that it is customary to shed tears on Rosh Hashanah even if it falls on Shabbat. If a person doesn't cry on Rosh Hashanah, it's a sign that his soul is not good and perfect. This statement seems to be frightening. What can we do?
It is told that when the Kotel was captured during the Six Day War, there was a soldier who was brought up in an anti-religious kibbutz. At the moment when he and his comrades realized that they had captured the Kotel, they began to cry. They all started to cry, even the soldier from the kibbutz. When he was asked why he was crying, because after all, according to his opinion there was no importance to this holy place, he answered, "I am crying because I am not crying!"
Maybe this thought can help us cry this Rosh Hashanah.
May Hashem place into the hearts of all His people, love of Hashem, to prompt us to observe His will as if it is our own. May we merit a good writing for a year of light, hap[pines, and a year of redemption. May Hashem accept the shofar blowing and prayers of the entire nation, and may we witness the revelation of Hashem's Glory on this earth, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
When we think of teshubah, repentance, we usually think of sins that we did or misvot that we neglected. Indeed that is the basic level of repentance, to wipe out all sins from our records. However, there is another concept that we should focus on, especially during these days.
There was a great Rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, known as the Netziv, who once invited his family and friends to a festive meal. He explained that he had just finished composing a very complex book, and that called for a celebration. He then told his family that when he was a young boy he was a playful child, not interested in studying. One day, he heard his father tell his mother, "Maybe our little son would be more successful as a tradesman rather than a scholar." The young boy burst into his parents' room and cried out, "Give me one more chance and I'll apply myself to my studies," and the rest was history. The Rabbi then concluded by saying, "Imagine if I had become a tailor, a pious Jew who learns every day for a while, and after 120 years went to the Heavenly court. I would think that my judgment would be based on what I did as a tailor, but the Heavenly court would show me this book that I have just finished, and would ask me, 'Where is this work that you could have done?' That is why I am celebrating today - because I will be able to say that I did what was my potential."
We see from here that it's not enough to just consider what we do or don't do. We should ask ourselves, "Are we living up to our potential?" We have so much talent and capabilities. We have to exert ourselves a little more in the service of Hashem. In these days of teshubah let us re-examine our lives, our accomplishments and our goals, and let us see where we can make a difference. Tizku Leshanim Rabot.
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your G-d" (Debarim 29.9)
Rashi asks why this perashah was written immediately after the array of curses found in the previous perashah. He answers that the Jewish people approached Moshe after hearing all of the curses and said to him "Who can bear these?" so Moshe began to console them and said "You are standing today" as if to say that there was no need to fear, for even though you have angered Hashem on many occasions, He has still not destroyed you.
Rashi seems to leave out the reason why the Jewish people should not fear. After all, what was the merit that allowed them to remain standing before Hashem? The Darchei Mussar suggests that the verse's seemingly superfluous words "all of you" may provide an answer. He suggests that the merit of the entire Jewish people standing together as one unit is the merit that causes the Jewish people to find favor in Hashem's eyes. When we stand before Hashem as mere individuals, He scrutinizes our actions as individuals. But when we stand before Hashem as a People, He looks at our collective mass of good deeds and thus the individual finds favor as part of the nation.
For this reason, explains the Alter of Kelm, when one approaches Yom Kippur, when the entire world is judged for its deeds, the Jewish people as a whole are always guaranteed to survive even the strictest judgment. Therefore, every individual should attach himself to the wider needs of the Jewish people, whether it is by teaching Torah to others, helping those in need, or other acts of kindness. Through this, explains the Alter of Kelm, the individual makes himself and indispensable part of the "People" and as such, he connects himself to the favorable judgment that they are bound to receive. (Short Vort)
Salespeople have it tough. The marketplace is flooded with sellers and short on buyers. Intense competition forces suppliers to come up with novel ideas to entice consumers to buy their products. Even in the face of bored customers, vendors keep knocking on doors, sending samples, writing e-mails, and making those exhausting business trips to visit potential buyers. Keeping up their energy level is not easy for those who have chosen to earn a living in sales.
Like others engaging in competitive sports, salespeople are subject to streaks. Their performance runs hot, and then again, cold. Should a salesperson call on a customer and get a stiff rejection, the dejected individual will probably make a weak sales pitch to the next prospect and be turned away again. Nursing a bruised and beaten ego, the seller will possibly avoid even approaching a third potential buyer, assuming a turndown without even speaking to the customer. On the other hand, success breeds success. Even a generally weak approach that generates business will encourage the salesperson to call on another account with a positive, confident attitude that will probably help clinch the sale. And a third pitch will have super seller wooing willing buyer.
In life, we are all streak players. Our Sages say: "Misvah produces misvah and sin yields sin" (Abot 4:2). It's a matter of direction. If you are on a roll, traveling spiritually upwards, then each step towards achievement is easier than the one before. If, however, you start to fall, the snowball effect can propel you spiritually downhill to unimaginable depths.
Set the tone for your day every morning when you get up. Do something good to begin the streak. One thing certainly leads to another; the only question is: In which direction are you headed? If you are alert during the first few minutes of your day, you can start to point yourself upwards and keep growing in a positive direction all day long. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
From the beginning of the month of Elul until Hosha'ana Rabbah, some have the custom to recite twice daily the 27th Chapter of Psalms, in which King David says, "Ahat sha'alti me'et Hashem oto abakesh" - "One thing I ask of G-d, that is also what I desire."
While on the surface, it appears to be repetitious, the truth is that King David is teaching us a lesson of cardinal importance concerning our communication, via prayer, to Hashem.
Unfortunately, sometimes the things which "sha'alti" - "we ask for" - and "abakesh" - "what we desire and strive for" - are not really "ahat" - "one," i.e. identical. King David is proclaiming, "that which I ask for" and "that which I want and desire" are "ahat" - identical. You may wonder, is there anyone who is foolish enough to pray for one thing and work to defeat his own prayers? The answer is "yes." Permit me to cite some examples.
Throughout the year, we pray for good health and for a tranquil life. After our prayers, we plunge into work and worry, in which our physical health and nervous system get a nervous beating. Thus, the "sha'alti" - "what we asked for" - is not complemented by the "abakesh" - "our desires."
We pray, "Our G-d, Our Father, return us to You in full repentance." Can we honestly say that we want Hashem to grant this prayer? Do we seriously intend to alter our ways and really do teshubah? Is the "abakesh" compatible with "sha'alti"?
We pray for the speedy redemption of our people and that Mashiach should bring us to our Holy land. But are we really ready for Mashiah? Do we seriously want to give up our pseudo-security and our comforts to follow Mashiah to our Holy land?
In the olden days there were saddikim who took self-imposed exile upon themselves. They would travel from city to city and not reveal their identity. Once, such a saddik spent a night in an inn which belonged to a Jew who was alienated from yiddishkeit. At midnight, the saddik began to recite the prayers of hatzot. He sat on the floor with candles around him and wept over the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, praying for Mashiah and the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash. The innkeeper, hearing cries, traced them to the room of the saddik. With his master-key he opened the door and beholding a strange scene, asked, "What is wrong? Why are you crying? Are you not feeling well?" The saddik explained that he was crying over the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash and praying for the speedy revelation of Mashiah. With the assurance that his guest was not ill, the innkeeper went back to sleep.
In the morning, he related to his elderly mother the strange episode he witnessed the night before. His mother, who happened to know about Yiddishkeit but had become estranged, instructed him to go to the saddik and ask him to suspend his prayers for Mashiah for three weeks because there was a three week's supply of lard in the barrel which she did not want to have to throw out.
Unfortunately, there are many who verbally pray for Mashiah without really being ready to give up their attachments to behaviors and lifestyles which may not be entirely "kosher."
So you see, dear friends, sometimes we utter prayers without consciously putting an ear to what we are saying. Let us strive during these days of prayer and teshubah, to be earnest in the request which we place before Hashem and not only "sha'alti" - "ask of Hashem" - but also "abakesh" - "desire and strive" to change our daily life for the better. (Vedibarta Bam)
Many lessons have been derived from the shofar which we blast on Rosh Hashanah. Permit me to add one more. According to halachah there is no limit to how big the shofar may be. In fact, in the musaf prayers we will quote the prophet Isaiah who says, "And it shall be on that day yitaka beshofar gadol - a big shofar will be sounded." How big is big I do not know, but most probably it is bigger than the biggest shofar we have seen in the stores or in pictures.
There is, however, a minimum size for a shofar. The Gemara and the Shulhan Aruch say that it must be at least one tefach, which is equal to the width of four thumbs, so that when one grasps a tefach-long shofar with the four fingers in the palm of his hand, the shofar would be visible on either side of the hand.
The significance of this requirement may be the following. We use the shofar to make noise to alarm or to call to attention. The hand represents action. There are many people who are noisemakers or big talkers, but who are deficient when it comes to doing. The message of the shofar is that just to make noise alone is not sufficient, but people have to be able to see that what you speak of can also be seen through your hand. In other words, you must practice what you preach.
In a certain city, there once lived two brothers by the name Shapiro. One was the town's Rabbi, and the other the town's doctor. One day an elderly woman was not feeling well. She dialed the telephone and politely asked, "Is this my good friend, Dr. Shapiro?" The response came from the other side, "Sorry Ma'am, I am the one who preaches. My brother is the one who practices."
Hashem told the prophet Isaiah, "Kashofar harem kolecha - Raise your voice like a shofar" (58:2). In light of the above, it can be said that Hashem's message was that whenever one raises his voice, whenever one preaches, whenever one lectures and makes demands, let your voice be like a shofar. Just as a shofar has to be seen through your hand, likewise, practice what you preach and be a living example to those you want to inspire. (Vedibarta Bam)
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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