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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Nitzavim-Vayelech

Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech                                               Print Version
23rd of Elul, 5780 | September 12, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Dovid Ozeri
The Right Perspective

As a man got underway putting together a wedding for his daughter, he decided to hire out an artist to craft a very expensive Ketuba, marriage document. It was to be a magnificent and beautiful ketuba with elegant writing and artistry.

As the witnesses were summoned to sign the ketuba, one of them signed his name, though made a mistake and crossed it out. As the rabbis examined the ketuba, it was declared to be invalid, for reasons relating to its halachic validity. What remained to be used instead as the ketuba was an inexpensive one, which had been purchased from the local Judaica store. It was evident to all nearby that this incident incensed the father of the bride, given the attention and investment he had put in for the expensive ketuba.

Rav Pam zt”l was in attendance at the wedding, and was a man known to carry himself with extreme calm. Rav Pam, after studying the situation, approached the father of the bride and whispered something into his ear. After a few moments, a huge smile enveloped the face of the father. For the rest of the night, he appeared content and happy, as if nothing had occurred whatsoever.

At the end of the night, a gentleman went up to the father and asked just exactly what Rav Pam had whispered to him. “I’ll tell you,” the father said. “He told me that it seems that in heaven there was a decree that my daughter should have two ketubot in her lifetime. Usually, this means that, G-d forbid, there will be a divorce or death. But Hashem, in His infinite kindness, decided to make it easy for your daughter and give her two ketubot tonight, and that finishes the decree.”

That is why the father was happy for the rest of the night.
Did Rav Pam have ruach ha’kodesh, Divine Inspiration? I don’t know. But he was a person who understood how to look at a situation and respond appropriately and accordingly, and he found just the words to reach this father’s heart.

Rabbi Daniel Glatstein
Clinging to Hashem

We have very little information in the corpus of Jewish literature written by gedolei yisroel regarding philosophical issues on the Holocaust. Not many gedolim ventured even to write about this subject, save Rav Avigdor Miller, though his work was only published posthumously.

However, within this rare genre of Jewish thought, we do have one work written by an interesting personality. Little information is given about this gadol, though he is the father of the current Munkatcher Rebbe. His name was Rav Baruch Yehoshua Rabinowitz, the son-in-law of the Minchas Elazar. If you have ever seen the video clip of the famous wedding in Munkatch, that was him, Rav Baruch Yehoshua Rabinowitz, marrying the daughter of the Minchas Elazar, the previous Munkatcher Rebbe.

Rav Rabinowitz was born in Poland in 1914, and passed away in Petach Tikvah in 1999. He was related to the Rebbe of Peshischa, as well as the Bnei Yissasschar. In 1937, he took over Munkatch, Hungary in the position of the Rebbe. At this point in history, many Jews from all over Europe fled to Hungary, including the Rebbes of Belz and Bobov. Rav Rabinowitz lived an interesting and mysterious life, as ultimately, he gave up his chassidus and prestigious position after moving to Israel. There are not many individuals in history who held the position of a Rebbe and gave up that role. He went on to assume the role as a rabbi in Brazil, afterwards coming to Israel and serving as the rabbi in Holon, Israel and then as a community rabbi in Petach Tikva. Munkatch transferred the position as Rebbe to his son, who is the current Munkatcher Rebbe.

We will leave his personal history at this.

Yet he wrote a sefer called Binas Nevochim, a deep, philosophical work about his thoughts concerning the Holocaust, which includes some astounding insights. Let us go through some of them, both to gain some perspective and secondly, to appreciate what it was like for someone to survive the Holocaust in the way he did.

I recall my grandmother mentioning that when she came to Pittsburgh in 1951, which was a large destination of many survivors, the Americans wished to help the newcomers financially. What was missing, however, was the understanding that what was needed to help rehabilitate the shattered lives of these Holocaust survivors was far, far beyond finances. You can imagine what these survivors needed for their entire lives.
In chapter one, Rabbi Rabinowitz begins by thanking Hashem that he was one of the few who survived.

“My first obligation to G-d is to thank Him that he gave me the opportunity to emerge without any questions in my faith to G-d. In all of those tortuous days, it never entered my mind to think that G-d removed His protection from me, despite the great concealment of His face. Despite that we cried out and every prayer was returned empty-handed, I was always surrounded by a feeling of closeness to Him.”

Analyzing this philosophically, Rabbi Rabinowitz explains that he felt connected to G-d not because he trusted that he would be saved. Absolutely not, he says further…

“My cleaving to G-d did not emanate from my trusting that G-d would save me, nor because I hoped that things would turn out well. Why would I hope that G-d would save me when much greater people than I did not survive? He didn’t save thousands of my brothers and sisters; so why should He save me? So many were killed in ways that even in a nightmare you could not conjure up. I would never be so foolish as if to believe that my merit would stand up for me. And if you will say that I should hope to be saved in the merit of my ancestors, what will that help? My brother and my sister had the same zechus avos, merit of my ancestors, as I did, and that didn’t help them, as they perished.”

Rabbi Rabinowitz did not trust that G-d would save him, nor did he have hope that He would. Rather, he held firm to the following, simple thought:

“The wellspring of my clinging to G-d came from one source: the fact that I accepted the decree of G-d and I was primed and ready to give up my life al kiddush Hashem. In my heart of hearts, I accepted that this was the will of G-d, and called upon, I would will my life to be given up for Him. That is what gave me six years of connection to G-d. It wasn’t trust or hope.

What is the basis for this feeling? The words of Iyov always stood before me. “Hein yik’t’leini, lo ayachel – Though He kills me, to Him, I hope” (Iyov 13:15).

We would typically translate this, as meaning, that even though G-d is about to kill a person, he still hopes to Him at that moment. Even when the sword is on his neck, he does not refrain from beseeching for G-d’s mercy. However, says Rabbi Rabinowitz, this is not the meaning of the Pasuk.

“Rather, according to Rashi, the meaning is that even when G-d is actually killing me, even then, I do not separate from Him. It does not mean even though it looks like he is going to kill me, I hope He will save me. Rather, even when G-d is actively killing me, I am still clinging to Him. Iyov did not hope he would not be killed. He did not have false hope. Just the opposite. Iyov asked G-d to take his soul. Iyov did not entertain the hope to live. The only way to translate the Pasuk is that even though He certainly is killing me, I cling and attach myself to G-d. Ayachel does not mean hope, from the word tichleh (hope), but comes from the word chal (meaning to devolve upon). It means that Iyov’s life devolved upon G-d, connecting, joining and combining with Him.

Where else to we find this expression? In the Pesikta Rabbasi (Parshas Acharei Mos).

This servant of mine, Iyov, has four great qualities – wholesome, straight, fears G-d, turns away from bad – and if he withstands the test and doesn’t complain, I will devolve my name upon Him.
This does not mean that I will hope My name upon him, but rather rest and place My name upon him.

This captures a revolutionary concept. Jews who were in the worst conditions did not trust that G-d would save them. (I do, however, remember my grandfather saying that every day he was in Dachau, he thought Moshiach would come). Rabbi Rabinowitz felt something different. He clung to G-d, despite the fact that He knew G-d was taking his life. He still hung tightly onto him.

Let us take this further.

R’ Akiva died on Yom Kippur, actually during the time of the evening Shema. Some suggest for this reason that we say the verse “Or Zarua L’tzaddik U’l’yishrei Leiv Simcha” on the night of Yom Kippur, as a hidden allusion of eulogy to R’ Akiva, whose name is spelled out by the last letters of this verse – R’ Akiva.
As the Romans tortured R’ Akiva, they asked him, “Old man, old man, do you not know what is happening?” R’ Akiva responded, “I am not rebelling in my affliction. My entire life I was pained over this verse from Shema, ‘You shall love Hashem will all your heart and soul.’ Now that the opportunity has come for me to fulfill it, should I not do so?”

Rav Tzvi Hirsch Meisels, in his Shailos U’Teshuvos Mekadshei Hashem, wonders what R’ Akiva meant when he said, “My entire life I was pained over this Pasuk”? Why would he be in pain. Is it right for someone to want to die?

Rav Meisels cites the Rashba (which is further cited in the Shulchan Aruch) that, as we know, we are meant to recite the Shema with “fear, trembling and sweat.” But how does this work? Unless you are sitting in hot weather, what does it mean to sweat as you recite the Shema? Why should you sweat when you say it?

The Rasha explains that one of the intentions one is required to have when saying Shema is that if we would be put to the ultimate challenge to give our life up al Kiddush Hashem, we would do so. When one says Shema, one should actually imagine themselves dying al kiddush Hashem. It is a high level to reach, most certainly, and yet it is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch.

Now we can understand why one would sweat. When one imagines and envisions this, he could reasonably begin to perspire.

R’ Akiva would imagine this so vividly every day that he felt as if he was giving up his life every time he said the Shema. R’ Akiva wished his whole life that if he would need to give up his life, it would happen during the time of Krias Shema, because he was already used to feeling as if he was giving up his life during Shema and it wouldn’t be as difficult for him.

Ultimately, however, he didn’t know what would happen if he would be put to this challenge at a different time, other than the time of Shema. R’ Akiva knew he would past the test, if it would occur as he recited Shema, because anyway he was already in that mindset. That is what he meant when he said, “My entire life I was pained over this Pasuk, vividly imagining I was giving up my life, so now that it is happening during the very time of Krias Shema, how can I not fulfill it?”

Loving G-d, therefore, does not mean that we love Him because He is going to save us. It rather means that we love G-d even when He is taking our life. It has nothing to do with G-d saving us. Just love of G-d, without the trust that you will be saved and without the hope you will be saved.

We don’t love G-d because He does anything for us. It is not transactional. It simply is.

Rav Rabinowitz thus had equanimity during the war, but not out of a false, delusional feeling that G-d would bail him out. It was the belief that wherever you go, G-d is with you.

“Heaven forbid, I did not think that He forsook us or was distant from us. We always remembered the words of King David, “If I go up to the Heavens, you are there with me; if I go to the netherworlds, you are with us.”

It was very helpful to contemplate the words of Chazal (Megillah 29a), “Look how beloved the Jewish people are, for whenever the Jewish people went into exile, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) was there with them. We went to Egypt, the Shechinah was with them; we went to Bavel, the Shechinah was with us.” He is just with us.

Rav Rabinowitz adds…

“Based upon all the words of Chazal, which we absorbed in our youth and in our father’s home, we had bitachon that wherever we were, however tortuous it was, we knew G-d was with us. This wasn’t just a perspective or thought, or wishful thinking, but a feeling of reality. When we were standing in line for selection to be deported, or on the cattle cars, without food and water, or in the death camps, crying out, surrounding by children who were tortured, we knew G-d was there. Despite seeing our family members murdered before our eyes, we said Shema with love of G-d. Love doesn’t not mean that we thought G-d would save us, but rather absolutely clinging to Hashem.

Even at that fateful moment when we gave up our lives al Kiddush hashem, in the crematorium, many of our brothers and sisters, did not stop clinging to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.”

As we allow these above words to sink into our hearts and resonate within us, may the strength and courage of our brothers and sisters stand for us and inspire us, and in turn herald the final arrival of Moshiach in our days.

A Short Message From
Mrs. Toba Schiffren

I once hosted a guest in my home who taught me such a beautiful practice that I have ever since been doing. Over the course of time, as many people do, she receives a number of letters from various organizations asking for tzedakah and financial support. Yet, despite not being able to help every cause, she still picks up each letter, and says a short tefillah to Hashem that He send that individual or family whatever they need.

This idea has been life-changing for my family and me. Situated next to my door is a stack of letters. Whenever anyone in my family has a few moments – even as they are walking out the door – they pick up a letter, give a beracha to the person in need and recite a few lines of Tehillim. The letter is then moved to an adjacent pile where all the letters which have already been looked at are placed.

This is something which takes just a few moments, yet lasts for eternity. With the smallest amount of care and concern, we can do no less than help our brothers and sisters around the world and bring comfort and relief to those in need.

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