This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech (5770)
This week, the last week of the Jewish year 5770 (next week on Wednesday we celebrate New Year's Day marking exactly 5771 years from day man was created) we read the double Torah portions of "Standing (Nitzavim) and Walking (Vayelech)".
They begin as Moses almost 3,300 years ago told the 'People of Israel' entering the Land of Israel for the first time, that they were 'standing' before G-d and entering a second 'covenant' (Bris) in addition to the one they entered at Mt. Sinai.
But this is a very relevant to us now as well. The Torah is assuring us that although the judgment of New Year's day is approaching and G-d will decide the fate of the coming year, nevertheless He promises that we will remain 'standing' and will not be cast down.
But this leaves a lot of questions.
First; what is important about the day man was created? Second, why doesn't anyone else celebrate it? Third, what exactly is this covenant that Moses made and why did he need a second one? And finally, what has this got to do with us now?
The answer to this might be found in the following story that occurred to me a few years ago.
I teach young Jewish men Torah in a Yeshiva (Torah Academy) in the village of Kfar Chabad. I always try to start my classes on time because, besides the importance of order in our school, every moment of Torah learning is vital for the welfare of the entire world.
But occasionally there are 'challenges'.
For instance one hot summer day three years ago I was called to give testimony in a court case in the nearby city of Ramla.
The case was supposed to begin at 9am and take no more than fifteen minutes and seeing that Kfar Chabad is only a 15 ride from there, even if I had to wait a half hour for the shuttle service I would still have no problem being back in time for the 11:30 class.
But I was in for an aggravating disappointment. The defendant did not show up for the trial on time (in the end he didn't show up at all) and the Judge took the other cases that were after us and waited for him, leaving me with no alternative but to wait until they finished.
Some of the cases were actually very interesting but I couldn't take my mind off the fact that the minutes were ticking away!I wanted to just stand up, excuse myself and leave but the thought that maybe he would show up and we'd finish the trial 'Chick Chak' (Israeli for 'in no time') kept me there.
At 10:30 I called up and pushed off the class a half hour till 12. Then at 11:00 I delayed it another half hour until it began looking like I would have to cancel it totally.
Finally, at 12;30 the Judge hit the table with her gavel and announced that court is dismissed. I rushed out of the court building into the hot summer air, wiped my brow and looked around for a taxi but there were none in sight. So I called the pupils and told them I would try to be back in a half hour. I figured that it would take 15 minutes to get the entrance of Kfar Chabad then another five or ten to get to the Yeshiva. If I didn't get a ride in the next ten minutes I would have to cancel the class.
Just as I was entertaining these unhappy thoughts a large yellow shuttle bus that had been parked opposite the courtroom honked its horn, the driver rolled down his window and he yelled out "ONE MORE PLACE!"
This was it!! I thanked G-d, ran across the street and entered.
It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust but when they did I sort of wished they hadn't.
In the bus sat fourteen very scantily-dressed young women and with the fifteenth seat (my place) located in the back in the middle of four of them.
True, it was a hot day outside so their dress, or rather lack of it, did not necessarily indicate immorality…. but as a religious Jew I try to avoid any vague suggestion of such a thing… and, as my eyes adjusted to the absence of sunlight (without going into details) I realized the suggestion here was not at all vague. So I decided to leave. So the class would be cancelled. No big deal!
But as I took one step back to leave, one of the females got up from her single seat near the window, leaving it free for me, and sat among her friends on the back bench.
"Nu! Are you getting in or out!" said the driver anxious to go. So without thinking too much I went to the seat, sat down, looked out the window and tried to concentrate on the passing scenery and other positive things; after all it was only a 15 minute ride! No big deal!
But as we drove I heard the young women talking and got the impression they were very young. Now it just so happened that I was carrying with me some small brochures from Chabad about the approaching holidays, Rosh HaShanna, Yom Kippur and Succot. And suddenly the thought entered my mind, 'Just a minute, Bolton. Are you a Chabad Chassidor not!? Your job is to spread Judaism….. not to look out the window!"
So I turned to the girl sitting behind me and gave her one of my pamphlets. What could happen? Either she would say no or throw it on the floor or take it and keep quiet. So I figured I'd just do this thing and that's it. No big deal!
But as soon as I gave it to her and she saw the picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe she exclaimed "Oh! Thank you! This is very kind! Oh! It's about Rosh HaShanna! Thank you!"
Of course this got some of the other girls interested and I gave them pamphlets as well which made the girls sitting in the front also interested. I handed each one a card, and each read it briefly, carefully folded it and put it in their purse, back pack or wallet…whatever they were carrying.
One even said, "THIS is a real graduation present!"
I couldn't contain my curiosity and asked, "Tell me, when did you graduate?" They answered "Today! This morning!"
"What did you graduate from?" They all answered 'Seventh grade!'
I made a quick calculation that these girls were only 12-13 years old! They dressed this way because that's how they were taught! This was the norm for young Israeli girls. They simply didn't know any better!
Suddenly my entire attitude changed. I asked the girl sitting behind me, the one I gave the first brochure to, what she and her friends were planning to do on doing in their two month vacation. She answered, "Nothing. I mean, what is there to do? We'll go to the beach, and just do things, I donno."
So I suggested, "Why don't you do something in your neighborhoods like visit old people, read stories to children, even just to talk to lonely people, a little thing like that can change a person's life. I'm sure you know there are a lot of children in broken homes or that never get any attention and a lot of old people that have no one to talk to. You could make them feel happy."
But she shook her head no and said. "What… me? Us? What can we do? No! That is something for the department of education to do and they are on vacation. In fact… that's why we're on vacation!"
Suddenly I got inspired and answered. "Exactly the opposite! You girls are the ONLY one's that can do something. First of all you see that no one else is doing it. And second you are still young… the world hasn't disappointed you yet. When people see the simplicity in your eyes it will make them happy! The Rebbe of Lubavitch says that even one person, even a child, can change the entire world!"
Meanwhile the other girls noticed this conversation and one of them yelled out over the noise of the minibus. "Hey, what are you talking about? What is he saying?"
The girl I was talking to yelled back, "He's saying we should do something in our neighborhoods with children or old people who need some help."One of the others said. "Hey, that's a good idea! Better than doing nothing every day!"
The girl speaking to me asked me where I was from and I told her Kfar Chabad (in another minute we would be there). When she heard that she said. "Kfar Chabad! Wow, I was there five years ago! It was great! I remember everything; how we made Matzot and saw a play about Pesach. You should know that all of us are sort of observant! I mean, we all keep Shabbat and eat Kosher and some of us do a few other things! Right?" And all of them shook their heads yes.
"You see," I said, "You were in Kfar Chabad for an hour five years ago and you'll remember it as a happy experience for all your life. Think of how the people you help in the vacation will be happy if you help them every day!"
She replied. "Thank you! We're really glad we met you! You gave us a really good idea!"
We reached Kfar Chabad and after I got off and as we wished each other Shalom u'bracha (blessings) and a happy new year I realized that those girls were exactly the opposite of what I thought!
As the minibus pulled away leaving me at the bus stop I just stood there alone for a few seconds, then actually raised my hands to heaven and said, "G-d, look at your people! Is there any nation like Israel! Even those girls who appeared to be totally void of Judaism believe in You and your commandments!"
(Incidentally, I made it back in time for the class).
This answers our questions.
The day man was created is really now; every day and every instant G-d is creating the entire universe, and man in it, anew for the same REASON He did it the first time 5771 years ago. Namely that He wants man to be His partners in creation. Or more simply… He put the whole world in our hands.
But the day we really feel this is Rosh HaShanna.That's why it's a Jewish holiday… because the Jews have been 'chosen' by G-d for this job.
Adam was supposed to be the first Jew (that's why he's buried together with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Hevron). But after he sinned the world had to wait some 2,000 years until Abraham got the 'covenant' with G-d; namely G-d promised to never leave the Jews (Abraham's offspring through Issac and Jacob) NO MATTER WHAT.
Then, some 400 years later at Mt. Sinai G-d made another covenant; He promised He would never change the Torah and we Jews promised we would never abandon it.
But before the Jews entered Israel G-d made yet another covenant; not just on Judaism or on the Torah as in the first two but about changing the world; G-d promised to always give us POWER to correct the world and we promised we would never let the world overpower us, no matter what.
As we saw with those girls on the bus; despite their young age and all the negative education and influences there had been in their lives they still held by these three covenants: they felt Jewish, observed the Torah and agreed to try to change the world.
This Rosh HaShanna G-d will renew and remind us of these covenants anew; He will never leave us, we will never leave Him or His Torah and He will always give us the power and ability to improve the world around us.
It's in our power to do it. One more positive deed, word or even thought can bring total redemption and Moshiach NOW!
Wishing all our readers a happy, successful, blessed, sweet New year with....
Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.