Dotted letters and words and a Ksiava Vachsima Tova
Just yesterday, while shpatzering before Mincha, someone asked if we would be reading Parshas Netzovim as a singleton, or, together with its sometime sister parsha of Vayelech. Off the cuff, I answered that it was a double-header this year. Ober given the extreme heat, the Oisvorfer must have been suffering from heat stroke because when he looked at his Jewish calendar, one of many he has received this and every year, he realized that he was wrong. Parshas Netzovim and its 40 pisukim will taka be read alone this year. And this avada begs the questions as to why? Why is it taka that this short parsha is left alone when much larger parshas are sometimes combined? In fact, in the same year that we will read these two parshas separately, we will have read Matos and Massei, two huge parshas, together. And while we are asking questions, efsher you want to know why we don’t finish the entire cycle of Toirah reading from Rosh Hashona which brings about new beginnings to the next Rosh Hashona? Vus epes do we need to wait until Simchas Toirah to complete the cycle? And nuch a shaylo (another question), how did it come about that punkt these two parshas of Netzovim this week and Vayelech which we will read next week on shabbis shuva (shabbis of repentance), are the smallest of all the parshas? Between the two of them, they are but 70 pisukim. Finally, though the word Netzovim means standing, it’s also sadly emes that some are sitting, if you chap. Shoin, so many questions and few answers, ober the emes is that all this has to do with this fellow named Ezra Hasoifer (Ezra the Scribe) whom we mentioned just last week when discussing the reading of the Toichocho (admonitions) in parshas Ki Sovoy.
It was Ezra who decreed (made a takonah) that the Yiddin must read the Toichocho (curses) found in sefer Vayikra before the Yom Tov of Shovuis and those found in Ki Sovoy before Rosh Hashona. Ober why? Seemingly, Ezra wanted a buffer between the curses and Shovuis and another buffer between the curses of last week (Ki Sovoy) and Rosh Hashono. Whoever Ezra was, and he must have been somebody, and whatever his reasoning, this takona and others he enacted, stand ad-hayoim-hazeh (until today), and that’s how it is like it or not. Ober the heylige Gemora taka was wondering why, and avada when the Gemora asks a question, it will typically also put forth an answer and usually more than one. And taka answers the heylige gemora azoy: we do this so that we end the outgoing year with its curses and allow the new year to begin with blessings. Omen and veyter!
And says toisfis azoy: The Toichocho should be read and completed two weeks before Rosh Hashono to allow a week as a buffer between the Toichocho and Rosh Hashono and this year, that buffer is Netzovim. The net effect of all this is azoy: As a result of Ezra’s meddling, a small portion of the heylige Toirah, parshas Vayelich, Ha’azenu and Vzois Habrocho are left unread before Yom Tov and will be read after Rosh Hashono and Simchas Toirah when we complete the cycle and begin all over again. The bottom line is azoy: Parhsas Vayelech which we will read next week, appears as a singleton only if there is more than one shabbis between Rosh Hashono and Sukkis. If there isn’t, the parshas are combined as they are in most years. Shoin now that you know all that, what impact might this have on your life?
Mistama very little except for one critical timing issue. If you are the person and mistama you are, that is habitually late to shul, primarily because you davka like being late, you intentionally wake up timely or even early but davka linger around while you chap a cup of coffee, some mizoinis (Danish) and or read the newspapers -itself a questionable act on the heylige shabbis- then mistama you enjoy shul arrival to coincide with the beginning of the laining. Though you should zicher be in shul timely – you do avada show up to work timely- a person like yourself should be aware that this coming shabbis, the laining will start on time but will be over in under ten minutes. Moreover, this shabbis is the one where many rabbis, despite their great desire to pontificate on the parsha, are not totally focused on their sermons. They are already thinking ahead and preparing words that will have you vayelech-ing all the way to your bank so that you can pledge and then write hefty checks to the shul for the coming annual Yom Kipper Kol Nedri appeal. How Kol Nedri which is a prayer where we seek to annul vows became entangled with yet new vows and pledges to the shul, ver veyst? During this time of year, the rabbis are busy thinking about how to get you to part with a few more dollars and will soon be convincing you that tzedoka might help you buy out of the pickle you’re in for the many avayros you did during the past year. Shoin. if only it were that easy!
The bottom line: Ershtens (firstly), shul will be over early! You might get to shul just on time for the musif davening and you will have missed a good 15-20 minutes of catching up with your chaverim about the latest gossip. You might miss hearing who from the community was outed on the Ashley Madison website and by the time you hear the gossip third hand, you may hear that it was you; oy vey.
Shoin, let’s continue with a few words on the mysterious dots that appear in our parsha. Look at these 2 words:
לנו ולבנינו …Lonu, Ulivonyanu…
which have some unusual acne looking dots all over them. In addition to the typical cantillations, the signs that make the sounds, these two words are riddled with dots and avada since this is not a usual occurrence- mistama as you get to them- you might be thinking what went wrong here? Is this a printers error, or, were these dots placed here to tell us something special about them? Says the heylige Toirah (Devorim 29:28) azoy: “Hanistoris Lashem Eloukenu…..” In English: the hidden sins are for Hashem our G-d, but the revealed sins are for us, and our children forever to carry out all the words of this Toirah…..” As stated above, dots rarely appear anywhere in the heylige Toirah ober when they do, they must be sending some message, some deeper meaning ober what is it? And as you can only imagine, when dots appear, many medroishim and others will also appear with their own rationale for their appearance. Ober said the Choftetz Chaim, he most known for lashing out against loshoin horo azoy: When writing a book, if the author wants to emphasize certain words due to their importance, he/she will have those words appear in bold or underlined. Similarly, the heylige Toirah must be signaling a message, albeit efsher subliminally about the importance of chapping which sins are for Hashem to worry about and which are for us and avada our children. Seemingly it’s our job to teach our kids about these sins and how to avoid them. Gishmak.
Ober how can we admonish the kinderlach when we ourselves might be transgressing those very sins?
It’s the last shabbis of the year and as we approach Rosh Hashono, we must begin thinking about how we’ve behaved this past year; efsher misbehaved would be a more accurate descriptor. And we must, of course, start thinking about tshuva (repentance); is it time, too early, too late? Will the RBSO understand that you couldn’t control yourself, that you’re a good Jew at heart, and that you meant well, that your sinful inclinations are not at all your fault? Avada you can blame the yetzer horo (evil inclination) who kimat (nearly) always is just too damn strong and overcame you; definitely worth a shot. Is it real tshuva if the plan includes going out immediately after Yoim Kippur and committing the same sins all over again? Are we doomed? Ver Veyst? Oy vey!
Quoting the Medrish, Rashi (29:11) asks; Why was Parshas Nitzovim juxtaposed to the curses of Parshas Ki-Sovoy? And since he’s Rashi, of course he knew the answer: When the Yiddin heard the ninety-eight curses, beyond the forty-nine listed in Parsha Bechukoisi (Vayikra 26) a few months back, their faces turned green (their pants brown) and they said, ‘Who can withstand all these?!’ Moishe therefore proceeded to comfort them: ‘You stand here today – despite your having angered the RBSO, He has not destroyed you and you still stand before Him today. Just as the day itself exists, becoming darker and then brighter, so has God served as a source of light for you in the past, and so will He in the future.’ In other words: just kidding!! Carry on as usual, all is good. And that’s what I like to hear: who needs to be punished, a good threat once in a while seems more than logical to me. The emes is Raboyseyee that punishment is definitely coming your way ober (however) the message appears to be that we will somehow survive it, that the RBSO’s covenant with us is everlasting.
Though it’s also Shabbis Mevarchim, we don’t bentch the new choidesh (month) as we do on every other Shabbis Mevarchim. Why? One of the few Rebbes that didn’t beat the crap out of me told me that he once heard that the Baal Shem Tov- the father of Chasiddus- said azoy: The RBSO Himself blesses the month of Tishrei, the blessing that we will always stand firmly (perhaps with some assistance, if you chap), perhaps telling us that we will prevail on Rosh Hashono and Yoim Kippur, assuming we do t’shuva of course. Seemingly, it’s not too late raboyseyee, pay heed. Then again you still have a few days to chap-arine (take in) a few avayrois (sins), you minuvil, and likely you will.
This past Motzei shabbis as I was lying in bed twisting and turning but unable to sleep, my mind racing through all the avairos I myself (may) have to atone for during these high holy days, I began to ponder a she-a-loh (question) that’s mistama been plaguing you for some time: why is it that we daven and do tshuva on Rosh Hashono and Yoim Kippur if in fact all is preordained and all is written and sealed by the RBSO as to what will transpire during the coming year? Why are we to be held responsible if He’s mapped out our lives and all the avayros we’ll be committing this coming year? Are we being set up?
Avada it’s convenient to rationalize and blame the Yetzer Horo and why not? Didn’t the RBSO create him to entice us to sin? Yes He did and he’s done a helluva job. Ober before the minuvil in you tries this tactic, you should know that it’s not so poshit (simple) and doesn’t always work. At the very end of the Parsha Moishe tells us that we mamish have free will. That the BNY can select between good and evil, life and death. How we reconcile this with destiny, nu..this I don’t know ober it’s a topic much discussed by people smarter than the Oisvorfer. Says Moishe: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day. I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life.” This possik (verse) appears to indicate that we are granted freedom of choice between good and evil. It’s that choice that makes us human and is supposed to set us apart from the behaymois and vilde chayois (other creatures).The sun and the moon fulfill the RBSO’s commands without conscious decisions. A bee doesn’t think before pollinating a flower ober you need to. No pollinating at the neighbors, you chazerim. It’s that freedom to choose that makes it possible for us to fall to the lowest depths. And that’s why we taka have to daven on Rosh Hashono while animals don’t. Or, efsher we can argue that since we’ve behaved like animals that don’t think, we should be forgiven without davening? Ver veyst?
Raboyseyee: the time for tshuva (repentance) is quickly approaching and I leave you with a thought from my favorite doctor, the Rambam as more fully illuminated in his Hilchois Tshuvah. A person has the power to virtually erase his past at any time and start fresh as if it were the first day of his/her life (this doesn’t really work but is sounds good, believe me.) And no matter the distance we may travel to avoid the covenant, no matter the efforts to become lost and forgotten, it remains impossible to escape the tether that RBSO mercifully implanted within us. We are His.
A gitten shabbis to the hundreds of thousands in the Oisvorf community who enjoy the humor and learning and my best wishes for a k’siva v’chasima toiva. May we all be subscribed for a good year. We’ll need it, believe me!
The Oisvorfer Ruv