OU Torah Insights Project
legislated that the curses enumerated in Parshat
Ki Tavo be read prior to Rosh
Hashanah so that the year may end along with its curses, the
Talmud teaches. Nonetheless, Tosafot adds, we read Parshat
Nitzavim on the Shabbat
immediately preceding Rosh Hashanah to serve as a buffer, so that we do not
go from curses directly to Rosh Hashanah.
like to suggest an additional reason for reading Nitzavim
before Rosh Hashanah. The Tur,
in his commentary on Rosh Hashanah, writes, Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi
Yehoshua taught: Who is like the Jewish nation? Normally, one who is on
trial for his life dons black, somber clothes, and does not shave or groom
himself, because of the uncertainty of the verdict. In sharp contrast,
however, Israel acts differently. They dress in white garments, and shave
and groom themselves prior to their day of judgment. Moreover, they eat and
drink and exhibit happiness and confidence on Rosh Hashanah, knowing full
well that Hashem
will provide a miracle on their behalf.
does this optimism come from? The Alter
of Kelm explains that there are two levels of judgment on Rosh Hashanah. The
Jewish nation is judged collectively as a people, and each person is judged
our national verdict, we are assured that Hashem will always judge us
favorably, for we read in Parshat Vayelech that the Torah will not be forgotten from the
mouth of their offspring. The survival and continuity of our people is a
continuing theme in the messages of our prophets. Torah and the Jewish
people will survive, hence the optimism on Rosh Hashanah.
At the same time, each
individual should experience fear and trepidation of the forthcoming day of
judgment. His personal fate is less assured. How will he fare as an
Alter of Kelm points out that the
first verse in Parshat Nitzavim addresses
all of Israel: Atem nitzavim hayom kulchemYou are standing here this day, all of
you, Moshe declares to the Jewish nation. He then identifies the various
groupings within the nation; everyone from your elders to your
water-drawers is represented. All of these groups together make up kulchemall of you.
Therefore, suggests the
wise teacher, in order to insure personal survival, one should attach
himself to the community by contributing to it. Just as in politics we are
familiar with the coattails effect whereby lesser known candidates
ride the crest of others success, similarly as the community is granted
success and pardon for the forthcoming year, one who is needed by the
community will also be included in its success.
the first paragraph of Shema we are commanded to love Hashem with all your heart, with
all your soul, and with all your resources. The latter is understood to
include the talents and capabilities one has, which can be channeled to
enhance the Jewish community. Share your knowledge with those who never got
a Jewish education. Invite to your Shabbat and Yom Tov table those in need
of companionship and religious direction. Contribute to the financial needs
of Torah and chessed
institutions in your community. Visit sick people in the hospital.
These contributions will not only provide meaning to others in your community, they may turn out to be your greatest merit on the judgment day of Rosh Hashanah.
Can something be said on your behalf to the King? the prophet Elisha asked the woman of Shunam, referring to his willingness to pray for her on Rosh Hashanah. She responded, I dwell among my people.
woman understood that being one of the people, sharing in communal growth
and development, was her greatest achievement, and more valuable than the
prayers of a prophet. May we learn from her example and embrace the power of
kulchem. By becoming an integral
part of the community we insure not only its survival but our own as well.
Rabbi Yudin is rabbi of Shomrei Torah Orthodox Congregation in Fair Lawn, New Jersey