Atem Nitzovim Hayoim Kulchem (you are all standing firmly today). These are the opening words of this week’s parsha of Netzovim, the last shabbis of the year. From comments received regarding the letter to the editor of the YATED NE’EMAN from a reader overly concerned with peek chapping, if you chap, and especially the Oisvorfer’s response, it appears that a few were taka left standing, if you chap.
Shoin, on the Hebrew calendar, it’s year end and azoy vi ba di goyim lihavidil (as is the custom for those following the Gregorian calendar), it’s efsher time for a year-end review for some, and for many others, efsher a complete audit of the past, along with resolutions for self improvement. Sadly, few if any last. Still, the RBSO appreciates your willingness to consider change. And with Rosh Hashono mamish but days away, the day(s) the RBSO judges us for the coming year, and though it’s taka a sign of anivus (humility) to walk with one’s head slightly tilted downwards, given what one might glance at while in that position, it’s efsher better to keep your heads up high and not be chapped peeking below as you may have been during the this past year, month or week. Perhaps if you daven with some kavono and tell the RBSO that you will be better behaved in the coming year, or, will at least make a sincere effort at self-improvement, He might consider forgiveness and inscribe you for a good or better year. Moreover, if you are diligent about asking for michila (forgiveness) between now and Yom Kippur, from any and all that you might have pissed off or aggrieved, intentionally or even inadvertently, He might also forgive you for having spent the past year(s) focusing on other michilas, if you chap or chapped.
Shoin, let’s begin with some givaldige news: Upon conclusion of this week’s parsha, and be mindful to avada arrive to shul somewhat earlier than usual lest you miss this very tiny 40 posik (verse) parsha and even worse, the kiddish club, Moishe will still be alive. Why is that newsworthy, what’s the big chiddush (breakthrough)? Nu, in years when parshas Netzovim is read with its sister parsha of Vayelech, at some point, Moishe will be told by the RBSO that ‘today’ is his last day of life. Come nighttime, it’s over and out. He is to finish up his excoriations of the Yiddin and then get ready to pass away. As mentioned just last week, we have a tradition that Moishe was both born and passed on the seventh of Adar. We avada don’t mess with traditions, factual or not. Ober this year, Netzovim is read as a singleton; Moishe is zicher alive and well. Rashi will tell us that when Moishe stated ‘hayoim’ (today) as quoted in the opening sentence, it’s meant to convey that today was his 120th birthday and it was taka to be his last day on this earth. Says the medrish: Moishe was able to stretch -with help from the RBSO of course- ‘this day’ to cover four entire parshas. He will somehow still be alive to complete the heylige Toirah though he seemingly passed away a few pisukim before its completion. Shoin, how a person can be dead and still be writing Toirah is of course above the Oisvorfer’s pay grade. Much has been written and argued over -and still is- as to how this occurred. That topic ober for another day and parsha. In any event, who are you or we to ask questions? With judgment day and Yom Kippur to follow, you zicher do not want the RBSO asking you many questions. None at all! Thank the RBSO that you are, despite your otherwise less than stellar -poor mamish- behavior, still alive. As to Moishe, this ‘day’ will somehow stretch out until Simchas Toirah when we finish up yet another cycle of the heylige Toirah by concluding the last parsha of V’zois Habrocho. Not to worry: Moishe will return next year.
And how is Moishe spending this day? With his eishes chayil (wife) Tzipoirah maybe? Not! With his two sons, Gershom and Eliezer about whom we have heard mamish nothing since they were reunited back in parshas Yisroy? Also not! What happened to his family? We don’t know; the heylige Toirah does not tell us. Seemingly, it’s none of our business. The medrish will avada pontificate on the whereabouts of the boys. The bottom line: seemingly they were not succession worthy. Unlike the sons of rebbes who pass away in our times, the very ones that make instant claim to the title and avada the assets left behind by the grand rebbe, it does not appear that either of his boys laid any. Shoin, Moishe was zicher not the first leader, nor the last to put the needs of the community and his people first, while family life nebech suffered. Next week, Moishe will hand over the reins to his assistant Yihoishua, he one of the two good-guy miraglim (spies) along with the Oisvorfer’s other favorite, Kolave Ben Yifuna (one more shout out for Kolave) who returned from their mission with positive things to report about the Promised Land. It took kimat 38 years for Yishoishua to be rewarded, ober still better than being honored posthumously as many are in today’s times. Veyter.
And what is Moishe doing on this last day? What he does best and has been doing throughout Sefer Devorim (Deuteronomy) and before. He is again warning the Yiddin, perhaps one last time, not to worship false idols and to be on their best behavior? Why was Moishe so overly concerned about the Yiddin turning away from the RBSO and choosing instead to worship false idols? Seemingly he knew his flock. He chapped that they were, despite many miracles they were eye witness to, still a rather weak and fickle bunch, one that could easily come under other influences. A few weeks back, we learned how easily they succumbed to avoido zoro when they encountered the hot Moabite shiksa zoinas (whores), whose job it was to ensnare the hapless Yiddin. Down they went and shoin; avoido zoro was suddenly on the menu. In fact, this week, Moishe will not only warn them, he will predict their future failures. He will correctly predict their inability to refrain from idol worship and also their punishments. The RBSO will surely smite and disperse them before giving those still alive the ability to do tshuva (penitence). Thereafter, He will accept them back into the fold. Sadly, he was mamish correct.
In Netzovim, Moishe plays both good and bad cop. He begins by telling the Yiddin to clam down: he took note of how shell- shocked they were after hearing the klolois (curses) coming their way. They will still digesting the litany of 98 curses he set forth in last week’s parsha. Rashi tells us the Yiddin were mamish frightened. How much so? Says Rashi: their faces turned green from shock. Adds the Oisvorfer: mistama their underwear turned different colors from the same shock. Nu, thankfully the women weren’t driving back then. When Moishe observed the scene, he donned his good-cop hat or yarmulke and said not to worry. It’s all good. The RBSO loves you all and will not, despite your past and future behavior, wipe out His people again. At least not all of them and not at one time.
Amazingly enough, though we read these admonitions and curses each year as we did just last shabbis, all over Devorim and let’s not forget the 49 we heard in parshas Bichukoisai, and though they are bone chilling mamish, causing some to suffer from heart palpitations, others to wet their beds, with a good number off to their therapists demanding increased dosages of their favorite drug of choice to calms their nerves, immediately after shabbis, we forget and revert back to our normal routines -back to our wayward ways- as if the RBSO was talking to someone else. Zicher, He was not addressing us personally. Me? Of course not! Why would He care about me? And why is it taka the case that Moishe’s words and so many others, always seem to fall on deaf ears? What is it about us Yiddin that compels us to continue on our sinful ways without paying much heed, if any at all, to the threat of severe punishment for constantly transgressing the RBSO’s heylige commandments, especially His loi sah-says (thou shall not dos), if you chap? Why do we continue to act so cavalierly as if all threats of retributions are meant for others?
Let’s chazir that question one more time. Why is it that the Yiddin couldn’t, despite learning all the klolois and other punishments the RBSO smote them with, curtail their bad behavior? Why taka do many peek, look and at times touch -say it’s not so- areas that are out of bounds? Why were the Yiddin of Moishe’s generation so attracted to false idols, and to forbidden fruits? Are we any better? Are we at fault? Or, are we helpless against the ever mighty yetzer horo (evil inclination)? Why did the RBSO create and empower the yetzer horo with such superhuman strength? Have we been set up to fail? Does He want us to succumb to our desires so that He can then inflict the promised punishments? Though we taka read the toichocho yearly and though we sadly know that the RBSO has kept His word and has punished each of us in our own way, mamish so severely, yet many continue to behave with such reckless abandon?! What’s taka pshat?
Guess what? The heylige Oisvorfer is zicher not the first to ask these very questions. Many have pontificated on this subject; mistama they too were tempted or efsher also gave in to their evil inclinations from time to time. Nu, let’s taka see what a few had to say. Says the Ramban azoy: though people should rationally be able to internalize all that comes with poor behavior, they don’t. Why not? Their desires are too damn strong! They are blinded and cannot chap the punishments that follow. And because their desires are so damn strong, they mamish push thoughts of punishment out of their minds. Says the Seforno so gishmak azoy: each person figures that his sins alone cannot sink the entire ship of the Yiddin. What he does in the privacy of his own home, other homes, hotel by the hour, or on the road, is his business exclusively. Surely the RBSO is busy on other more pressing matters and is not concerned with his few moments of pleasure. There must surely be boatloads of more righteous people, enough to keep the Yiddin afloat.
Ober says the Targum Yoinoson ben Uzeil azoy: once people sin, once they violate certain loi-sah-says, they feel there’s no coming back. Ober they do: they sin all over again! They feel like their sins were so big, so outlandish, so beyond the pale, so shreklich mamish, that the RBSO will never accept them back. And if He won’t have them back, they feel doomed. And if doomed, why put in the tshuva effort? Accordingly, they continue sinning. For them, repentance is a lost cause; the RBSO has no interest in them.
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 Yiddin 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 gittin 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 inscribed for a good year. We’ll need it, believe me!
The Oisvorfer Ruv