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Simcha Groffman

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Parashas Nitzavim - Vayelech

We Are Still Here

"Abba, where are the Babylonians today?"

"Gone, Chaim."

"How about the ancient Greeks?"


"The Persians?"

"You won't find one of them anywhere."

"What about the Romans, Abba. They were so powerful."

"True, Chaim. However their nation fell, never to rise again."

"Is there any ancient nation that still walks the face of this earth?"

"Yes, Chaim. One. Our nation! Hashem's chosen people, the Bnei Yisrael! We are the only ones who have survived! All of the others rose and created great empires. They looked invincible. Yet, they all fell. Just our little nation, few in numbers and physically weak, has managed to outlive them all."

"How did it happen, Abba?"

"The Medrash Tanchuma at the very beginning of this week's parasha answers your question, Chaim. It begins by quoting the verse. 'You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your G-d: the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers - all the men of Israel' (Devarim 29:9). You may ask, 'Why were the nations condemned to destruction? Why are we still alive?' The two questions have one answer - yissurin (suffering). The difference between Hashem's holy people and the other seventy nations is how they react to yissurin. During good times, when Hashem showers his blessings upon the world, it is easy to say that you believe in Him and love Him. The Creator's love and kindness are so open, that you naturally gravitate towards Him."

"His kindness is endless."

"Yes, Chaim. However, when times get rough, we see the difference. When the Gentiles are afflicted with difficulties in life they kick and rebel. They never even mention Hashem's name. Dovid HaMelech recognized this when he said, 'Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that do not recognize You, and upon the kingdoms that do not invoke Your name' (Tehillim 79:6). When the nations are afflicted with Hashem's wrath, they do not turn to Him. Klal Yisrael, on the other hand, has a completely different reaction. When yissurin come upon us, we humble ourselves and pray, as Dovid HaMelech says, 'I found trouble and sorrow. But I called upon the name of Hashem' (Tehillim 116:3,4). Therefore, the Almighty says to us, 'Although these curses come upon you, they elevate you to return to Me.' Similarly, in parashas Eikev, Moshe Rabbeinu recalls all of the yissurin of the midbar and explains that it was to test us, to see what was in our hearts (Devarim 8:2)."

"Did we pass the test, Abba?"

"We surely did, Chaim. Moshe tells Klal Yisrael that although the yissurin have come upon them, they have withstood them! They have grown from them! They are all standing upright before Hashem today!"

"What an inspiration, Abba! We are still standing this very day, over 3000 years later. We have met the challenges of life's difficult situations and have grown from them. We are members of the greatest nation that has ever walked the face of this earth. Your thoughts, Abba, give me the strength to meet life's tests."

"May you always succeed, Chaim."

Kinderlach . . .

Life has easier times and harder times. When everything is going well, it is easy to turn to Hashem and thank Him for His goodness. The real test comes when we run into rough waters. How do react to yissurin - life's difficulties? We turn straight to Hashem. The Chazon Ish zt"l (Emunah and Bitachon Chapter 2) says that difficulties do not come by accident. They were decreed from Heaven. One who has bitachon (trust in Hashem) realizes this and turns to Him. He pours out his heart in tefillah (prayer). This is the hallmark of a Jew. This is what keeps us alive. We are all standing here today.

A Personal Visit

"Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel" (Devarim 31:1). Where did Moshe go? This is a famous question asked by many of the meforshim. The Keli Yakar answers that Moshe Rabbeinu was going to encourage everyone to do tshuva (correct their sins). Everyone has some character traits that need work. It is so difficult to see ones own faults. Most people will not go to a Rav to ask him which sins they should correct. Even if a Rav speaks to the group, they will usually not take it to heart. Therefore, Moshe went to each tent individually. He spoke heart to heart to each family about doing tshuva.

Kinderlach . . .

Moshe Rabbeinu visited people personally to encourage them to do tshuva. Sometimes we must make a personal visit for a different reason. We are all involved in doing tshuva before Yom Kippur. The last Mishna in Yuma states that Yom Kippur forgives only sins between man and Hashem (such as eating unkosher food). For sins between people (stealing, speaking loshon hora) we must go to the person and ask him for mechila (forgiveness). On the other hand, we must forgive everyone even if they do not ask. Tefillas Zaako is the prayer that we say before Yom Kippur begins. This prayer includes a declaration of forgiveness to all those who have wronged us. Let us all forgive everyone so they will not have to come and ask forgiveness. That is a true chessed (act of kindness). May Hashem be kind to us and grant us all a gemar chatima tova.

Hide and Seek

In times of tsaros (suffering), people may ask, "Where is Hashem?" Sickness, poverty, terrorism, family strife; where is Hashem? They may wonder, "How can a merciful G-d allow so much suffering?"

"And I will surely hide My Face on that day, for all of the evil that it did, because it turned to other gods" Devarim (31:18). Hashem hides His Face (so to speak). He "turns away" and allows the troubles to descend upon Klal Yisrael. Is this fair? Does the punishment fit the crime? It seems that the suffering outweighs the sin. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that Hester Panim (Hashem's hiding His Face) is just and fair. Klal Yisrael turned away from Him. They followed foreign gods. They hid their faces from Him; therefore, He hides His Face from them. Serving foreign gods is like denying the whole Torah. Therefore, the tsaros come.

What is the remedy? To turn towards Him. To serve Him. To fulfill His mitzvos with joy. To speak to Him in prayer. To listen to His words of Torah. To help fellow Jews, His children. When the Jewish people turn towards Him, He turns to them. Seek Him and He will not hide.

Kinderlach . . .

Are you thinking about Hashem right now? What can you do this minute to please Him? Can you help Imma with the baby? Can you learn a Mishnah? Can you pray with kavannah (concentration)? Can you cheer someone up? Can you listen to someone who needs to talk? These are all ways to serve Hashem. Think about Him. Ignore those distractions that modern technology brings you on the little screen. They only serve to turn you away from Him. Turn towards Him. Stop playing the "hide" game. Instead, "seek" Him. Uncover the "hidden face".

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