Parshat Nitzavim & Rosh Hashana Vol.11 No.2 

Date of issue: 27 Elul 5761-2 Tishrei 5762 -- Sept. 15-19, 2001

This week's issue has been sponsored by 
Dr. and Mrs. Dubin, 
Zvi, Josh, Yehuda, Mordy, and Chani, 
in honor of the birth and homecoming of their 
new son and brother, Itamar Chaim.

How to sponsor
This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Zvi Grumet
David Gertler
Rabbi Yosef Adler
Joshua Gross
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-Is There a Mitzva to Rejoice on Rosh Hashana?
Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought by Ilan Tokayer


From Consolation to Covenant
by Rabbi Zvi Grumet

As the summer months come to a close we once again turn our focus back to school and work, and the overall tenor of our daily lives begins to echo the somber overtones of Selichot in anticipation of the Yamim Noraim. Even the Torah readings suggest momentous events, as this week's Parsha describes a recommitment to a covenant with Hashem. Often overlooked, however, is the Haftorah, which is the last of the Shiva Denechemta, the seven Haftorot of consolation read for seven weeks in the wake of the catastrophe of Tisha Baav. Yet even as we prepare to solemnly welcome another year we are still invited to embrace the comfort offered by Hashem as heard through the voice of the Navi Yishaya.

Yishaya's love for his people and their land reverberates throughout with words and phrases that have been on the lips of the Jewish people for as long as our collective memory can recall, like "For the sake of Zion I will not hold my peace and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be silent"(62:1), "Over the walls of Jerusalem I have appointed watchmen to guard over her, day and night" (62:6), and "Announce to the daughter of Zion that her salvation has come" (62:11). A closer reading, however, reveals that his vision is neither narrow nor parochial, even though his heart overflows with love for the Jewish people and their land.

For Yishaya, the return of the people to their land, while worthy of celebration in and of itself, is significant in at least two other ways that dwarf the return itself. First, the return of the people is seen as a sign of the restoration of the intimacy between Hashem and His people. Exile, aside from being an unnatural state, is a reflection of Divine distance from the Jewish people. The return from exile is the equivalent of a warm embrace of a loved one from whom we have felt distanced for too long. The expressions of that embrace are many; a bride donning her jewels, a groom in his regal splendor, the flowering earth, and the passion of young lovers. 

There is yet another, perhaps even more important, effect of the return. The Jewish people have a mission, one that can be fulfilled uniquely in their land. While in exile their mission is thwarted, and the promise of the return from exile is the promise that they will finally have the opportunity to act upon that which they dreamt about during their extended wanderings. And what, you may ask, is that mission? It is to establish a society which will embody the highest standards of justice, so that all of mankind may recognize the truth and beauty in Hashem's teachings. It is so easy to get caught up in our pain, both personal and national, that in our eager anticipation of the end of the difficulties we forget that we have a greater goal to accomplish. It is this greater goal which stands at the core of our prayers during the Yamim Noraim - Yakiru Veyaidu Kol Yoshvei Tevel, Vayomar Kol Asher Neshama Beapo Hashem Elokei Yisrael Melech. 

This year, more than most, Yishaya's words touch nerves deep inside. We hold onto his words of consolation even as we see a long tunnel ahead of us shrouded in much darkness. We cannot wait for the end of the painful times although we cannot see for ourselves realistic options for our future. Yet even as we cling to the Nechama of Yeshaya let us always remember that the redemption from our tribulations needs to serve as a springboard for the restoration of the intimate bonds between Hashem and His people and the recommitment to their covenantal mission of being a light unto the nations.

The End of Forever
by David Gertler

"And the generation to come, your children that shall rise up after you…"(Devarim 29:21, translation by the Jewish Publication Society).

If you ask any child learning Hebrew what the word Acharon means, he will tell you that it means last. For example, last in line, Laacharona Yisau (Bemidbar 2:31), last in space and time, Ani Rishon Vaani Acharon (Yeshaya 44:6), and last chronologically, Vayikra... Yom Beyom Min Hayom Harishon ad hayom Haacharon (Nechemia 8:18). Seemingly the word Acharon is either ambiguous in all instances or it can take on a number of meanings.

All three of the examples that I presented mention, either in that Pasuk or in a Pasuk nearby, the word Rishon. Therefore you might think that when the Pasuk gives a beginning the word Acharon must be an ending, and only in other situations is the word Acharon ambiguous. However this clearly can not be true, for the Pasuk in Chagai (2:9) states: Gadol Yihyeh Habayit Hazeh Haacharon Min Harishon, "The glory of this later house shall be greater than that of the this place I will give peace" (JPS translation)." There are, however, those who interpret this Pasuk to be a reference to the final house, Bait Hamikdash Hashlishi, they therefore interpret the words Habayit Hazeh as a reference to the end of the Pasuk, the house that will stand in this place.

It may seem from this explanation and the examples I have presented that for Acharon to mean anything other than last is very rare. However this is not the case. In all cases where the word Dor is used preceding Acharon, the phrase is interpreted as "a later generation." Other cases vary, for example when Hashem gave Moshe three signs to show the people (Shemot 4:8), Hashem refers to the second sign as Haot Haacharon, seemingly meaning the second (and therefore last) of the two already given. One of the borders of Eretz Yisrael given in Devarim 11:24 is Hayam Haacharon "the hinder sea." 
When the Chumash presents the process of stoning (Devarim 17:7) it says Yad Kol Haam Baacharnona, while literally it does mean that the nation was last, logically it means that they stoned afterward.

One final example of the ambiguity of Acharon is found in the Pasuk in Yeshaya (30:8) Bo Katva Al Haluach... Vatehi Leyom Haacharon Lead Ad Olam, "Now go, write it before them on a tablet…that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever." The question here is of whether it should be read "until the last day," or "for a later day."

Rosh Hashana

The Challenge of the Akeida
by Rabbi Yosef Adler

On the second day of Rosh Hashana we read the episode of Akeidat Yitzchak and conclude the Beracha of Zechronot with the request "Veakeidat Yitzchak Lezro Hayom Berachamim Tizkor." Generally we perceive the Akeida as the episode that will serve as a Zechut on our behalf. The fact that Yitzchak was prepared to ascend the Mizbeach will hopefully be reckoned by Hashem as a merit for us when He makes His final decision about each and every one of us.

It is conceivable, however, that the Akeida presents us with an enormous challenge. We recite during Selichot the Pasuk found in Sefer Devarim, Yimol Hashem Elokecha et Levavecha Veet Levav Zarecha. Apparently we are to make an attempt at Teshuva ourselves and on behalf of our children. We are all familiar with the episode recorded in Parshat Vayigash highlighting how Yehudah does Teshuva, recognizing his responsibility for his brother Binyamin whereas years earlier he failed to adequately defend his brother Yosef. As he speaks to Yosef Yehuda states: Ki Aich Eeleh El Avi Vehanaar Enneni, how will I face my father and the child is not with me. The simple Pshat is that Avi refers to Yaakov and that Yehudah says that he will not be responsible of facing Yaakov if Binyamin is missing. The Kotzke Rebbe, however, interprets Avi as a reference to Hashem. How will I, Yehudah face Hashem if I am derelict in my responsibility to guard and care for my youngest brother.

Avraham had a responsibility to raise his son Yitzchak so that he would be willing to go to the Akeidah. Had Yitzchak balked, do you believe that Avraham would have forced him? The Midrash seems to say that he would have not. 

As they approached the mountain Avraham turns to Yitzchak and asks him, "Do you see what I see?" (Avraham had seen the mountain roar with a loud roar, the Anan representing the presence of Hashem). Yitzchak responded yes. I can relate to the same level of Kedusha and sanctity that you see. "If that is the case," said Avraham, "let us travel together to the mountain." Had Yitzchak not been capable of perceiving the presence of Hashem on the mountain, he would have left Yitzchak with his two lads.

Our challenge in to try to teach our children so that they will be prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to lead an enriching and observant life. One cannot force them. Parents must lead by example, provide the options, and hope that our children respond as Yitzchak did so that we, too, can experience the feeling of Vaani Vehanaar Nelech Ad Ko.

Listen to the Voices
by Joshua Gross

We know that on Rosh Hashana, one is obligated to do the Mitzva of Shofar. But what is the Mitzvah of Shofar? Is it to blow the Shofar? Is it to hear the sounds of the Shofar? Or maybe, is it both?

According to the Rabbeinu Tam, the Mitzva of Shofar is the blowing of the Shofar, since he holds "The doing of the Mitzva is the end of the Mitzva." In other words by blowing Shofar, you have completed your obligation of doing the mitzvah of Shofar. Now this sounds like a good answer. However, if the Mitzva is to blow the Shofar then everybody should have to blow Shofar for themselves?! 

The Rambam on the other hand, offers a completely different opinion. He holds that the mitzvah is to hear the sound of the Shofar. He therefore holds that even if the Shofar being used is stolen there is no problem of "a Mitzva that comes through a sin," since the Mitzva is to hear the Shofar and not to blow it. 

In order to understand the opinion of both the Rambam and the Rabbeinu Tam we need to understand two concepts. One is called Kiyum Mitzva, fulfilling the Mitzva, and the other is Maaseh Mitzva, the performance of the Mitzva. These two concepts apply to Shofar and it is only with these two concepts that we can perform the Mitzva of Shofar. It might be that both the Rabbeinu Tam and the Rambam are correct. The performance of the Mitzva is the blowing, and the fulfillment of the Mitzva is the hearing. And it is with another concept known as "a messenger of a person is like the person doing it," that we can be Yotzeh the blowing part of the Mitzva through the Baal Tokea while we fulfill the hearing part of the Mitzva by listening with our own ears.


Halacha of the Week

One should make every effort to use his time wisely on Rosh Hashana (Mishna Berura 583:9). The Mishna Berura suggests learning after you eat, and only if you need to should you sleep a little bit. Also suggested is a Minhag to read all of Tehillim.

Food for Thought
by Ilan Tokayer

1) Why does the Nechama for last week's Tochacha (Parashat Veshav) come a Perek after the Tochacha has been completed? This being opposed to the Tochacha in Vayikra where the Nechama comes immediately following the Tochacha.

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Staff at time of publication:
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Publication Editor: Ilan Tokayer
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