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Parshios Haazinu & Elul / Rosh Hashanah

To Crown a King

Volume 21, No. 47
3 Tishrei 5768
September 15, 2007

Sponsored by
Aaron and Rona Lerner
in memory of mother
Faiga Reva bat Yoel Aharon and Bat Sheva a"h (Fay Lerner)

The Rutstein family
on the 85th birthday (on 6 Tishrei) of
Menachem Mendel Shmuel ben Nachman Halevi A.M.V.S.

Today's Learning (Shabbat Shuvah):
Bava Batra 6:5-6
O.C. (Mishnah Berurah) 10:10-12
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Ketubot 14
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Sukkah 2

Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year, is, this year, the first day of the Shemittah / sabbatical year, when agricultural activities in Eretz Yisrael is prohibited or strictly limited. R' Chaim Yeshayahu Hadari shlita (rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hakotel in Yerushalayim) observes that the Rosh Hashanah prayers take on a special meaning during the Shemittah. He explains:

R' Yosef Albo z"l (Spain; died 1444) explains that the three themes of the Rosh Hashanah mussaf prayer - Malchuyot / Kingship, Zichronot / Remembrances and Shofarot - parallel the three fundamental beliefs of Judaism. These are according to R' Albo): The existence of G-d, His interest in man's affairs (which includes the existence of reward and punishment), and the Divine nature of Torah [which was giving amidst the sounds of shofarot]. By acknowledging these fundamental tenets, we crown G-d as our King on Rosh Hashanah. (Sefer Ha'ikarim I: 4)

R' Hadari continues: The Zohar teaches that man can have only one master. For this reason, slaves are exempt from the mitzvah of Kriat Shema. They cannot acknowledge G-d as their true Master since they are subjugated to another master. R' Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter (the Gerrer Rebbe known as the "Sfas Emes"; 1847-1905) writes that this is the idea behind the Shemittah as well. Originally, the Jewish People were slaves in Egypt. At the same time, Eretz Yisrael was occupied by the Canaanite nations. Hashem arranged for the Jewish People to be liberated from Egypt and to then liberate the Land. Then, when shemittah comes, we are liberated from the Land, and the Land is liberated from us. And then, when the Jewish People and Eretz Yisrael are both free of any other master, we are both able to more fully crown G-d as our sole Master, our King. (Shabbat U'mo'ed Ba'shevi'it pp.358-363)


From the Haftarah (for the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah) . . .

"So said Hashem: `A voice was heard on high -- wailing, bitter weeping - - Rachel weeps for her children, she refuses to be consoled for her children, for they are gone.'

"So said Hashem: `Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your accomplishment -- the words of Hashem -- and they shall return from the enemy's land. There is hope for you ultimately' -- the words of Hashem -- `and your children shall return to their border'." (Yirmiyah 31:14-16)

R' Moshe Sofer z"l (the Chatam Sofer - leading Hungarian rabbi and rosh yeshiva of the early 19th century; died 1840) asks: Our verses imply that G-d has promised our Matriarch Rachel that, in the merit of her tears, her children will return to Eretz Yisrael. If so, what has He promised her that virtually every single prophet has not already prophesied? Also, our verses seem to describe a two-step process - first, "they shall return from the enemy's land," and second, "your children shall return to their border." What are these two stages?

R' Sofer explains: All of the prophets, including Moshe Rabbeinu in the Torah, speak of a process in which our eventual return to Eretz Yisrael is preceded by a national teshuvah / repentance. The implication of those prophecies is that if we never repent, we will never return to the Land.

Rachel - a reference to the Matriarch, but also to the Shechinah - "refuses to be consoled for her children, for they are gone." She looks at the Jewish People of the future [- perhaps of modern times -] and does not recognize them as her children. Perhaps, then, her children will never repent and will never return to their Land.

"So said Hashem: `Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears'." I, Hashem, promise you that your children will repent and will return. In the initial stages, they will repent and return not through voluntary teshuvah, but "from the enemy's land." [R' Yisroel Reisman shlita observed that that was perhaps fulfilled in the 20th century when Jews returned to Eretz Yisrael from the lands of the Holocaust, from Arab lands, and from the Soviet Union.]

But still, says Rachel, they are not recognizable as my children. Have no fear, says Hashem. "There is hope for you ultimately." After they have returned to Eretz Yisrael initially, even before mashiach has come and before the Bet Hamikdash is built, "your children shall return to their border," meaning to their rightful heritage - the Torah. The reunification of the Jewish People in Eretz Yisrael will itself inspire a return to brotherhood and to Torah study and observance. And, then, the Bet Hamikdash will be rebuilt as well. (Derashot Chatam Sofer Vol.III: Derashah for 27 Elul 5580 /1820)


From the Parashah (Ha'azinu) . . .

"Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth." (Devarim 32:1)

One year on Shabbat Shuvah, R' Elchonon Wasserman z"l (rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohel Torah in Baranovitch, Poland; killed in the Holocaust) went to shul to hear the derashah that was scheduled to be delivered by the town's rabbi. However, a messenger arrived saying that the rabbi was ill and would not be speaking.

Immediately, the assembled congregates turned to R' Wasserman and asked him to speak. He refused repeatedly, but the congregation would not take "no" for an answer.

So R' Wasserman ascended the pulpit and began his remarks as follows: The Torah reports that Moshe Rabbeinu was the humblest of all men. How then did he call upon the awesome heavens and earth (in the above verse) to bear witness to his words?

R' Wasserman answered his own question: The key is found two verses later, where we read, "When I call out the Name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our G-d." I am not speaking for my own honor, nor are these my own thoughts, Moshe Rabbeinu was proclaiming. The words of rebuke that I (Moshe) will speak are the words of the Torah, and they are spoken for G- d's honor.

You, too, may wonder - R' Wasserman concluded his introduction - who I am to rebuke you. Know, therefore, that everything that I will say will be the words of the Torah and will be spoken for G-d's honor alone. (Otzrotaihem Shel Tzaddikim p.621)

"For they are a generation of reversals . . ." (Devarim 32:20)

R' Yisrael Alter z"l (the Gerrer Rebbe; died 1977) would not permit the shteibels / small prayer and study houses of his followers to expel any member, even if he seemed to behave in a manner unbecoming of a chassid and member of the community. The rebbe explained that so long as the individual continued coming to the shteibel, that alone was reason to hope that he would someday mend his ways.

As support for his position, R' Alter quoted the interpretation of our verse offered by R' Zusia z"l of Annipol (late 18th century chassidic rebbe): "They are a generation of reversals" - the Jewish People of our time are wont to change their nature suddenly and unpredictably. Thus, someone who was, one day, headed in the wrong spiritual direction may unpredictably change course at any time. (Otzrotaihem Shel Tzaddikim p.622)


Letters from Our Sages

The following letter was written by R' Yisrael Salanter z"l (died 1883) and is printed in Ohr Yisrael, No. 15. The letter was written in 5637/1876.

The foundation of the days of repentance is to accept upon oneself to abandon sin. This is the most difficult of all the tasks that we have on Yom Kippur. And, the weightiest sin of all [which is most difficult to abandon] is theft, as Chazal said, "Of a box full of sins, which one accuses first? Theft."

Man must seek [ways] to repent on Yom Kippur, especially from the most serious sins. What is "serious" depends upon the circumstances; the easier a particular sin is to avoid, the more serious the sin is considered to be and the greater is the punishment. This is what Chazal meant when they said, "The punishment for not wearing the white strings of the tzitzit is greater than the punishment for not wearing the techelet / blue string." The severity of a sin also depends on the identity of the victim; for example, stealing from a poor person is worse than stealing from a wealthy person . . .

The same is true with regard to other sins, including bittul Torah /neglecting Torah study. The easier it is for a person to study, for example, on Shabbat, when one is free, the greater is the sin of not doing so. Likewise, the sin of not studying that which one needs to know in practice is greater than the sin of not studying other parts of the Torah . . .

One needs to search his ways and make a strong commitment - in almost every area of his life - to guard at least from those things that are easy to avoid. In this way, one's teshuvah will cover the majority of his deeds. Rambam teaches that sins are not weighed by their quantity, but rather by their quality; one sin that was easy to avoid counts more than several sins that were difficult to avoid. Also, within each sin, there are aspects that are easier to avoid than others are . . .

One should study mussar works that speak of the severity of bittul Torah .


Copyright 2007 by Shlomo Katz and Torah.org.

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