Friday, September 30, 2016

Nitzavim/Rosh Hashana - Never Despair!!

Shaaaloooooommm sweeeetest friends!!!!

This looks like it will be the last dvar torah that I will send out this year so you can be relaxed....

The foundation of our service of Hashem is gratitude [as the Chovos Helevavos writes about at length] and therefore I feel compelled to express my gratitude. 

I want to thank EVERYONE for their friendship. Solitary confinement is the most brutal and cruel punishment that is employed by various regimes. There is also a form of emotional solitary confinement where a person feels all alone in the world and that nobody cares. Therefore I have tremendous gratitude that I have so many people whom I know and with whom I am close. 

I especially want to thank those special people who enable me to devote my life to spiritual pursuits and free me from the burden of the daily pursuit of the Almighty dollar and instead allow me to focus on the Almighty. This is the 30th year that I merit to sit and learn [while occasionally standing but only to prepare myself a cup of tea] and I can't believe that I have made it to this point with a roof over my head [roofs can be quite expensive because you need walls to hold them up and there have to be lots of things inside those walls], a wife and six well fed children [with one presently in Uman ostensibly eating a seudas mitzva by the kever of Rabbeinu who called בקול גדול that אין שום יאוש בעולם כלל - there is NO ROOM for despair - see further]. The thousands that I have merited to share Torah with and the many sefarim [some published, others waiting to be redeemed] are all credited to the Zevuluns who graciously invest in this project. I bless myself that I can continue for many years to come in good health and that all those who helped me should be rewarded by Hashem a MILLION FOLD in all areas of life - health, prosperity, happiness, emotional and spiritual health and all of their hearts desires li-tova. 

I also thank the sponsors of the my seventy thousand sefer [digital] library who enable the broad research that my heart desires. This labor of love cannot have been accomplished without them and I return my love to them. Thousands and thousands of hours of intense pleasure is due to their largesse and I can't thank them enough. They are R' Chaim Yehoshua Hakohen Austein Shlita, R' Ephraim Abba Gervis Shlita, R' Doniel Yaakov Zweigbaum Shlita, R' Anonymous Shlita from Beit Shemesh and a group of students from Mevaseret [where I spent one year before my employer told me that for shana bet I should find somewhere else to go. Hashem should bless him. He taught me that one need not rely on a monthly paycheck but on Hashem and He will take care of you JUST FINE!! I am not convinced that this was his intention but it achieved the desired results nevertheless....].

I also want to thank the many people who hosted me in my sojourns to the US of A. מי כעמך ישראל!!! Jews are the BEST. I love you all!!  [The kiss is for the guys. The ladies get a smile and a bow].

I also want to thank my parents for EVERYTHING!!! Where would I be without them? For one - not in this world... So I owe them so much it is frightening to think about it. 

And of course to Hashem!!!
עַד הֵנָּה לא עֲזָרוּנוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ וְלֹא עֲזָבוּנוּ חסדיך ואל תטשנו ה' אלקנו לנצח!!

I want to dedicate this dvar torah to my beloved friends:
R' Shmuel Binyamin Stein Shlita
R' Eytan Feldman Shlita
R' Aharon Yisrael Feit Shlita
R' Yehuda Yaacov Splindler Shlita
R' Moshe Yehuda Hanus Shlita
R' Elitzur Agus Shlita
[All close friends from the Yeshiva that is named in honor of the Kotel and its offshoot]. 
May they and their families be blessed with infinite shefa in all areas of life. 

Also לעילוי נשמת my father-in-law R' Chaim Tzvi ben Eliyahu whose yahrtzeit is Erev Rosh Hashana.

This weeks parsha talks about teshuva. לא נפלאת היא ממך ולא רחוקה היא - It is doable, the Torah tells us. 

The gemara in Brachos [10a - those are my upstairs neighbors. I grew up on 9b] relates a story about a dialogue [what is a monologue? One person talking and other people listening. What is a dialogue? Two people talking and nobody listening...] between Chizkiyahu [not the rabbi from the Rova, the son of... but the King from the Rova of 2,500 or so years ago] and Yeshaiyahu Hanavi. Chizkiyahu didn't want to have children because he saw that the children who would come from him would not be ehrliche yidden but sinful people. Who wants sinful children?? 

Yeshaiyahu told him that how his children are going to turn out is Hashem's secret business and not ours. We must do as commanded without reservations [unless we are commanded to go to a hotel in which case we should do as commanded with reservations]. So Chizkiyahu asks Yeshaiyahu for his daughter [from ""]. Yeshaiyahu answered that it is too late. Buzzer sounded and Chizkiyahu can no longer have children. The decree has been sealed. It is over. The fat lady is belting out her nigunim. Finito!!

Chizkiyahu told Yeshaiyahu that he should stop prophesying and leave. There is a family tradition that he has that even when a sharp sword is on a person's neck he should NEVER DESPAIR from Divine mercy. There is ALWAYS hope. As we said before - אין שום יאוש בעולם כלל!!! There is never room for despair. [Daf Yomi learners will soon get to Eilu Metzios where the sugya of יאוש שלא מדעת appears. This can mean that all יאוש - despair, is without true knowledge for if a person really knew the truth he would NEVER give up hope].

The Bach [the rabbi on the margin of the gemara and not the composer] fills in the end of the story. He ended up taking Yeshaiyahu's daughter and had 2 children - Menashe and Ravsheyka. They were both evil.

Ohhhhh. BUMM-MMER! - I was SOOOO hoping that there would be a happy ending. Or as the say in Modern Hebrew "Heppe End". 

But wait!! The pasuk in Divrei Hayomim [2, 33,12] tells us that Menashe was exceedingly submissive before Hashem. The Zohar Hakadosh tells us that Menashe was the quintessential [that is a very rabbinic word] Baal Teshuva. He turned out GREAT. True Yiddishe nachas. [What does a Breslover wish his friend who had a baby? N-Na-Nach-Nacha-Nachas-From-Your-Child].

Wow! "Heppe End" after all! 

What is the lesson? This teaches us, explains Rav Dov Hakohen Kook Shlita in his sefer Ohel Simcha, that teshuva comes from a place of complete despair. When it looks like it is ALL OVER, no chance, THAT is when true deep teshuva kicks in. From Chizkiyahu to whom it seemed that there was no hope [and he was told so by a prophet of Hashem] came the paradigm of teshuva.

This brings to mind a famous story from the gemara:

And does not one die on renouncing sins other [than idolatry]? Surely it has been taught: It was said of R. Eleazar b. Dordaya that he did not leave out any harlot in the world without coming to her. Once, he heard that there was a certain prostitute in one of the towns by the sea who accepted a purse of coins for her hire. He took a purse of coins and crossed seven rivers for her sake. As he was with her, she passed gas and said: 'As this gas will not return to its place, so will Eleazar b. Dordaya never be received in repentance.' He thereupon went, sat between two hills and mountains and exclaimed: 'O, you hills and mountains, plead for mercy for me!' They replied: 'How shall we pray for you? We stand in need of it ourselves, for it is said, "For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed!" So he exclaimed: 'Heaven and earth, plead for mercy for me!' They, too, replied: How shall we pray for you? We stand in need of it ourselves, for it is said, "For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment." He then exclaimed: 'Sun and moon, plead for mercy for me!' But they also replied: 'How shall we pray for you? We stand in need of it ourselves, for it is said, "Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed." He exclaimed: Stars and constellations plead for mercy for me!' Said they: 'How shall we pray for you? We stand in need of it ourselves, for it is said, "And all the hosts of heaven shall moulder away." 

Said he: The matter then depends upon me alone! He placed his head between his knees, he wept aloud until his soul departed. Then a bat-kol was heard proclaiming: 'Rabbi Eleazar b. Dordaya is destined for the life of the world to come!' Now, here was a case of a sin [other than idolatry] and yet he did die! - In that case, too, since he was so much addicted to immorality it is as [if he had been guilty of] idolatry. Rabbi [on hearing of it] wept and said: One may acquire eternal life after many years, another in one hour! Rabbi also said: Not only are penitents accepted, they are even called 'Rabbi'! [Avoda Zara 17a].

He was an ADDICT. An addict to immoral behavior for which he was willing to spend a fortune of money and trouble himself to travel overseas! This woman was a messenger from Above to tell him that there is no hope for him. He is a goner. So he might as well just enjoy himself and not have any guilt feelings [see the Sefer Mei Marom Ori Vi-yishi and the Sefer Sifsei Chaim who explain this story very beautifully]. He grabbed himself and refused to accept her "psak". He turned to various forces of nature to help him but was rebuffed. He then realized that it is up to him and if he really wants it then NOTHING can stop him. 

True teshuva comes from a place of hopelessness. A person just hits bottom, maybe he finds himself in a church basement at an AA meeting and realizes how low he stooped [so low that he can play handball on the curb]. At that point he can elevate himself to a place where he instantaneously becomes a Tzadik and goes STRAIGHT to the good place. 

Maybe that is the meaning of the heavenly voice that emanated and told Acher [Elisha Ben Avuyah] that שובו בנים שובבים - return my naughty children EXCEPT for Acher. This Bas Kol was intended to give him a schuckle, shake him up, and thereby return to the path of goodness. 

In this weeeks parsha the pasuk tells us that we are sent to galus. ויתשם מעל אדמתם - there will be exiled from their Land. Rashi says that ויתשם means וטלטלינון - They were SHAKEN UP. That is why we are sent to galus. To wake us up. That is why we are not supposed to sleep on Rosh Hashana day. Rosh Hashana is a time to WAKE UP. We blow the shofar which is a WAKEUP CALL according to the Rambam.

[Guy asks his friend why he has no clocks in his house - how does he know what time it is? He says he figures it out. His friend asks - what if you wake up in the middle of the night, how can you figure out the time? He replies - I just use a shofar. How can you use a shofar to tell time? The fellow explains - I lean out the window and blow the shofar and someone inevitably screams - what are you nuts!?! - It's 2:45 in the morning!]

That is why we are all suffering from what we are suffering. It could be problems with children, shalom bayis [although we don't like to admit it - so we keep our voices down when arguing], financial problems [I can't find a bank to hold all of my trillions], health issues, being a Cubs fan [it has been a LOOOONG TIME since the last world series victory], a job we don't like, spiritual doubts and instability, emotional distress, stress [you don't get ulcers from what you eat but from what eats you..] etc. etc. We are ALL suffering from something.  

It is all to shake us up, often to the point where we just want to give up. It is from THIS POINT that true teshuva kicks in. 


May we all merit to never lose hope and to know that NO MATTER WHAT we can transform any situation into something positive - if only by changing our perspective and often even making concrete changes. It takes a lot of hope, intestinal fortitude and belief. If we remain strong then it can happen. With the help of KB"H!!!

May we all see a personal redemption from our individual difficulties and ultimately a cosmic redemption where the Glory of Hashem is revealed in the world and we see with our very own eyes that all of our struggles were intended to bring us to a better place.

Bi-ahava rabba,