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Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech (5762)

This week's double section is always read just before Rosh HaShanna.

It contains the last commandment in the Torah; that every Jew must write, or at least participate in writing, a Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll).

The law is that if a Sefer Torah is missing even one letter it is disqualified even if it is a letter of no practical importance whatsoever.

This is a very strange law because a Sefer Torah can take over a year to write and costs tens of thousand's of dollars. Why would one letter render it unusable, and what connetion has this to Rosh HaShanna?

Perhaps these two stories will help us to understand.

When Rabbi Yosef Weinberg was younger he was a very active emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. An excellent speaker, he was often invited to speak in public and in fact has to this day a very popular radio program.

Once he was invited to speak at a large banquet made by a prestigious Jewish social group in honor of their purchase of a new Sefer Torah.

The last letters of the Sefer were written with great ceremony, it was then carried through the streets to the Synagogue amidst music and rejoicing and afterwards at the festive banquet Rabbi Weinberg spoke.

His words made a deep impression on the hundreds of people present and the next morning he flew back to his home in the Chabad community of Crown Hights in Brooklyn New York.

As soon as he arrived he entered the Lubavitcher Rebbe's headquarters on 770 Eastern Parkway, sought the Rebbe's secretary Rabbi Hodakov, and reported to him every detail of the previous night so that he could relate it all to the Rebbe.

Rabbi Weinberg reported that in his speech he likened the entire Jewish people to one Torah Scroll. Just as in a Sefer Torah if one letter is erased the entire Scroll is disqualified until fixed, so every Jew is essential to the Jewish people as a whole. If one Jew leaves Judaism or stops his observance of the Torah then it is as though a 'letter' has been erased and the entire Jewish people suffer.

The next day Rabbi Hodakov called Rabbi Weinberg and asked him if he could come to his office.

"I told the Rebbe about the success of your speech and he was very pleased. But he said you could have picked a better metaphor.

"A Jew can never be erased no matter what he has done. Rather you should have likened a wayward Jew to a letter that is covered with dust or dirt. In such a case the Torah is not disqualified, but you must stop reading, clean off the dirt and see that the letter is really whole before you can begin reading again."

The second story occurred some hundred and fifty years earlier in Russia.

The first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi author of 'Tanya' personally wrote his own Sefer Torah. The holiness of the Rebbe was literally incomparable and this Torah that he wrote was, needless to say, precious beyond value.

After he passed away in 1813 the Sefer Torah automatically passed into the hands of his son and successor Rabbi DovBer.

And when Rebbe DovBer passed away some fourteen years later and was buried in the city of Niajin the Scroll was kept in the Synagogue near his burial place to be read from regularly.

It so happened that one year a fire broke out in the town which spread quickly devouring home after home until it reached the synagogue.

Everyone else was so occupied helping others or trying to save his own property that no one thought of the Synagogue except for Rav Menachem.

Rabbi Menacham Nachum, one of the sons of the second Lubavitcher Rebbe lived there also, but as soon as he heard of the danger he ran with all his might to the Synagogue; he had to save the Sefer Torah at all cost!

When he reached the Synagogue flames were already licking the outside walls. He was alone; no one was there to help him, without hesitating he dashed in.

The room was filled with smoke and it wasn't easy to breath or to keep his eyes open but he ran toward the ark and then suddenly stopped in his tracks…. he had forgotten the key to the ark at home!

To run back home was out of the question. Flames were already shooting under the walls and in a few minutes the whole place would be an inferno. But there was no chance that the ark would be open, he had the only keys and the doors were always firmly locked.

The room was getting hot. He made a move toward the ark, hoping against all odds that.... when suddenly in the thickening smoke he saw a man standing before him, back to him opening the ark door!

Where did he come from? How did he get in?

The smoke and heat were getting unbearable. The man removed the Sefer Torah turned around and held it out to Rav Menachem.

It was none other than the holy Rabbi Shneur Zalman, his grandfather who had departed this world over twenty years earlier!!

Rav Menachem took the Scroll, took a few steps backward unable to remove his eyes from the Rebbe's radiant face, then turned and ran for his life, exiting the building miraculously instants before it burst into flames.

These two stories really have the same lesson: a Jew can never be 'erased'; neither spiritually (as the Rebbe insisted in the first story) or even physically (as Rebbe Shneur Zalman, who is an example of a perfect Jew, showed in the second).

These are two foundations of Judaism: 1) Moshiach and 2) Raising of the Dead. (The last two of Maimonides 13 principles)

1) Moshiach will bring all the Jews back to their Jewish awareness because spiritually they were always complete (only lacking a bit of cleaning).

2) The physical bodies will return to life because the Jewish bodies were always really complete (only appearing to be dead).

The power for this is the Torah,,,, the complete Torah (therefore every letter has to be present) which is called the Tree of Life (Prov. 3:18) and power (Psalms 29:11). Therefore when the Torah was given, death ceased and the Jews were to live eternally (had they not sinned with the golden calf).

This is also the connection to Rosh HaShanna. In the prayers of this day we do not request a place in heaven, rather we request and plead that G-d reveal Himself in the world "That every creation should know You" That You should be a King over the world etc.

In other words we are requesting Moshiach and the Raising of the dead…..for ONLY then will these prayers be answered.

As we say in the 'Alenu' prayer: On that day HaShem will be ONE and His name will be ONE.

Have a good sweet year with Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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