September 9, 2020 11:02 am at 11:02 am #1899753
Nitzavim — Not in Heaven
:כי המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוך היום לא נפלאת הוא ממך ולא רחקה הוא
לא בשמים הוא לאמר מי יעלה לנו השמימה ויקחה לנו וישמענו אתה ונעשנה
For this commandment that I command you today, it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in the heavens, for you to say, “Who can ascend to the heavens for us and take it for us, and let us hear it, so that we can perform it?” (Devarim 30:11-12).
The Daas Zekeinim points out that the roshei teivos of the words, “מי יעלה לנו השמימה — Who can ascend to the heavens for us?” spell out the word מילה, indicating that in the merit of the mitzvah of bris milah, Moshe went up to the heavens to receive the Torah.
What is the connection? How does the mitzvah of milah make us worthy of receiving the Torah? Furthermore, why is the emphasis on “going up to heaven,” something done only by Moshe Rabbeinu?
I found an answer in Torah Lodaas (compiled by Rav Matis Blum). The Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 2) relates a very fundamental principle. If the Ribbono Shel Olam wanted us mahul, circumcised, He could have created us in that manner. Why did He create us in an apparently incomplete way?
To teach us a lesson with our very bodies. Just as we were not created physically perfect, so we were not created spiritually or behaviorally perfect; we must perfect our middos, our acts of chesed, our personalities. The mitzvah of milah serves as a constant reminder of how we must work toward perfection.
The mitzvah of milah is hinted to in the pasuk that speaks about going up to the heavens to retrieve the Torah, because the need to perfect ourselves is an underpinning behind the receipt of Torah itself. The Gemara (Shabbos 88b-89a) tells us that when Moshe ascended to receive the Torah, the malachim complained, “Mah le’yelud ishah beineinu — What is this human being doing in our midst?” Hashem replied that Moshe had come to receive the Torah. The angels countered, “This coveted treasure, which was hidden away for 974 generations before Creation — you want to give it to human beings, of flesh and blood, who are fallible and imperfect?”
Hashem instructed Moshe to answer himself, and Moshe proceeded to give an answer to the angels, listing off the Aseres HaDibros and demonstrating how they were not meant for angels, but only for humans. And then for the clincher, Moshe asked: “Do you have a yetzer hara?” With that, the angels conceded defeat and praised Hashem for giving Bnei Yisrael the Torah. Angels have no need for the Torah. The Torah was given as a guide for mortals: how to vanquish the evil inclination, how to perfect ourselves and elevate the human condition.
Receiving the Torah is not an end in itself. Hashem does not make us perfect or mahul; He wants us to remove the orlah and perfect ourselves. For the malachim, who are already perfect, the Torah has no practical use. To them, it is like a marvelous keepsake.
However, to us, Torah is about the connection, the study, the ameilus, and the growth. It`s all about the process. And the more we connect and work on ourselves and our responsibilities, the closer to the Ribbono Shel Olam we become.
This helps us understand the connection between the pasuk about going up to the heavens and the mitzvah of milah. Moshe, who had gone up to the heavens to receive the Torah, explained to the malachim that the Torah must be given specifically to human beings — because we are not born perfect, as represented by the imperfection on every male’s body that is corrected through the mitzvah of milah. It is not about merely cherishing the Torah and holding onto it, as the angels wanted to do. It is about using it and living by its lessons and ideals, so that we can improve and perfect ourselves.
Perhaps this explains the connection between this pasuk and the preceding one: “Lo nifleis hi mimcha ve’lo rechokah hi — It is not hidden from you and it is not distant.” Klal Yisrael may have claimed that the Torah is beyond them and that they were unworthy of receiving it. To this, Moshe responds, “It is not for angels and perfect beings, who reside in heaven. It is for currently imperfect humans, who reside on earth. It is being given to people who perform milah, who understand that they come into the world to improve and perfect themselves.” (See MiShulchan R’ Eliyahu Baruch for Rav Finkel’s way of explaining these verses.)
Many times in the prayers of the Yamim Noraim, we plead, “Al tashlicheinu le’eis ziknah kichlos kocheinu al taazveinu — Do not cast us away at the time of old age; when our strength fails, do not forsake us” (based on Tehillim 71:9). Why are we only worried about being cast away when we are old? Shouldn’t a young person also ask not to be cast away from before Hashem?
Rav Itzele Peterburger explains this with a beautiful mashal (cited in KeMotzei Shallal Rav, Selichos). A soldier who went AWOL for many years was finally caught and court-martialed. In deciding the soldier’s sentence, the judge factors in the soldier’s current age and physical condition. If he is still in his prime and able to make up the years he lost in service, he will be returned to his post and receive a lighter sentence. Yet if he is only apprehended when he is no longer fit for service, his punishment will be more severe; he can no longer make up for lost time. The only option at this time is a punitive consequence, not a compensatory one.
If someone does teshuvah while he is still young, explains Rav Itzele, he still has many years and much strength to make up for lost time. But if he pushes off his repentance until he is old and weak, at first glance, what use is that?
In this sense, Rav Itzele writes, Hashem is unlike a human judge. A human judge will issue a punitive sentence when the deserter is no longer able to make full restitution for the absent years. However, HaKadosh Baruch Hu is always merciful and gracious, always looking out for our good. So we plead, “Al tashlicheinu le’eis ziknah — Even if we only repent after the onset of old age, please accept our teshuvah and don’t cast us away.”
And this is one of the kindnesses of Hashem, about Whom we say (also in the tefillos of the Yamim Noraim), “Ve’ad yom moso techakeh lo — And until the day of his death, You wait for him.” It is never too late to do teshuvah and to keep perfecting ourselves.
Yet this idea goes deeper. The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 16a) tells us that there are four yemei hadin, days of judgment, at four different times in the year. The yom hadin for people is on the first of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah. Why was this day chosen? Because, as the Ran (ad loc.) explains, on that day, Adam HaRishon sinned and stood in judgment and came out pardoned (“yatza be’dimos”). Hashem declared, “This will be a sign for your children. Just as you stood before Me in judgment on this day and were acquitted, so will your children stand before Me in judgment on this day and be pardoned.”
Rav Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Moadim) wonders: Was Adam really pardoned? He walked into that trial and was sentenced to death! And not only he, but all humanity. Even the earth itself was cursed and punished. All people and the entire world were ruined by that judgment on Rosh Hashanah. Where is the amnesty?
Human punishment is usually punitive, a form of revenge. You broke his car — we put you in jail. That is not restorative or compensatory; it does not fix the guy’s car. The offender is not given the opportunity to make good on his crime.
Din Shamayim is different. It is restorative; it brings about a tikkun. Adam was given the opportunity to correct his mistake. HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to him, “It
s going to take a while and its going to be hard, but I am giving you and humanity an opportunity to correct your mistakes, and that is an awesome blessing!” Such a judgment, where we are given the opportunity to rewrite our lives, is what we long for on Rosh Hashanah.
We all have our G-d-given missions and assignments. Our hope is to be reassigned to our mission, even if we erred and were absentee over the past year. We cannot merely say we are sorry and anticipate an unconditional pardon. When we ask for good health and strength, it is so we can further the process of tikkun and self-improvement, for another chance to get it right!
And that, explains Rav Friedlander, is how we synthesize our requests for gashmiyus with our requests for ruchniyus. It`s all one and the same thing. We long for arichus yamim and prosperity in life in order make up for wasted time, wasted resources, wasted life.
Rosh Hashanah is a day of recommitment to the mission; it`s not about punishment. And that is why we invite din on Rosh Hashanah, just like Adam. We are not inviting punishment, but a chance for making up for lost time so that we can continue to perfect ourselves, which is our ultimate purpose. The day of judgment is a day of rectification; that is the dimos, the acquittal we experience on Rosh Hashanah.September 9, 2020 2:55 pm at 2:55 pm #1899842
It says adam ki yakriv mikem karbon where it should have said, ki yakriv odom mikem karben this refers tbe adam harishan who sacrifice himself as a karbon on Rash Hashanah when he was created where bereshis makes aleph b’tishri being kaf heh elul the first day of creation.September 9, 2020 2:55 pm at 2:55 pm #1899851
The Alshich Hakadosh uses the a similar mashel to expain why the Jews violated the greatest aveiros but they did not get punished until they left the learning of the Torah behind.
There was a violinist who offended the king and others but the king protected him because of his music. Once someone got so upset that he cut his hand off. Since the violinist could not entertain the king anymore, the king threw the book at him for all his previous offenses. As long as tbey learned Torah, the Torah protected them, but once they stopped learning, they were punished on everything they did. This is like Rav Itzele’s mashel above.September 9, 2020 9:11 pm at 9:11 pm #1900017
Ksiva v`Chasima Tova
“this refers tbe adam harishan who sacrifice himself as a karbon on Rash Hashanah ”
Blame it on my ignorance, but this is kind of scary. Are we saying that he did an Aveira Lishma and sacrificed himself on our behalf by sinning? I have, to my displeasure, read of certain types of alleged “tzadikim” who were “so holy” they needed to sin to have the opportunity to be mekayeim the mitzvah of teshuva.
I would love to see a source for this. Thank youSeptember 9, 2020 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm #1900039
abukspan, I think you misunderstood the whole post because I misposted it. It says vahevel hevi gam ‘hu’ explains the Alshich Hakash that he sacrificed himself together with tbe korban similarly Adam Harishan sacrificed himself with the korban as the Ramban explains in Parashas Vayekro tbe purpose of a korban.September 10, 2020 11:10 am at 11:10 am #1900140
thank you -yetzt is klorSeptember 10, 2020 2:14 pm at 2:14 pm #1900285
If someone says echta veashuv, echta veashuv why twice? They say once it is ok to say it to be mekayem the mitzva of teshuva (according to the Ramban above) but why twice, so it is held back for him the opportunity to do teshuva. Could be that if Hashem does not help, one cannot do teshuva, so this help is held back from him.
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