Home Seniors Programs Special Needs Mommy and Me Join a Study Group Bat Mitzvah Program for Women of All Ages One on One Learning Giving
Opportunities
Parsha Points About Us Contact Us

Nitzavim
Rosh HaShana & September 11 Print E-mail
Wednesday, 05 September 2018

Rosh HaShana and September 11 coincide this year.

Those of us who were living in New York City seventeen years ago can probably recount every moment of how the day unfolded.

I remember taking my son, Dov to two year nursery school. It was the first day that the parents did not have to stay with their kids. I dropped him off and went upstairs to my office at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale when my husband, Josh called and told us that a plane hit the Twin Towers. As most people began to evacuate the city, Rabbi Avi Weiss decided to go downtown and see if he could help. After the second plane hit, the nursery school told me to pick up Dov as they as the building was being evacuated. We went home and the TV kept showing the footage of the attacks over and over again. The next day, there was still no school. We went to the park and could smell the fire from the burning buildings.

A few days later, I received a call from the Amit offices. They asked me to give a lecture at the Amit National Convention entitled “Faith in Times of Crisis.” That was an extremely difficult speech to prepare.

I began the class with the story of the creation of humankind which takes place on Rosh HaShana (Breisheet 1:27) “And God created the person in God’s form (Tzelem Elokim), in the form of God, God created him, male and female, God created them.”

We see from here that all of humankind is created in God’s image and it is up to each person to live up to God’s expectations.

In this week’s Parsha, Nitzavim (Dvarim 30:19) we read: “I call to witness against you this day the heaven and the earth that the life and the death I have set before you, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, so that you may live, you and your descendents.”

God gives us free will, God gives us a choice, but God wants us to choose life.

The terrorists were insistent on death and destruction. They chose the curse.

The rescue workers and others who tried to help chose the blessing.

Where did those who tried to help get their boundless energy?

In Breisheet 29:10, when Yaakov first saw Rachel, something totally out of the ordinary happened. Usually, all of the shepherds were needed to roll an extremely large and heavy stone off of the well. Yet, “When Yaakov saw Rachel…he stepped near and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well.”

Ramban explains that the Torah brings this story to teach the idea from Yishayahu 40:31: “They who wait for the Eternal shall renew their strength.” Yaakov was coming from a journey, he was tired, yet he alone was able to roll away the stone, a task that required all of the shepherds.

When put in a difficult situation, when necessary, we find an inner strength that we did not know that we had.

The Talmud, Shabbat 104a explains a verse from Mishle (Proverbs 3:34) “If to cynics he will act cynically, but to the humble he will grant favor?” If one comes to defile himself, they provide an opening for him; but if one comes to purify himself, they actually help him- even opening a new door for him. In other words, if someone wants to transgress, God is not going to stop him, but if someone wants to do something good, God will help him.

We clearly see which path God wants us to choose from the end of the story of Kayin and Hevel. After Kayin killed Hevel, God said to Kayin (Breisheet 4:10) “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

Where was humankind on September 11?

There were those who used their Tzelem Elokim to try to save people. They chose the good path. And then there were the terrorists who chose death and destruction.

The fact that this year Rosh HaShana falls out on September 11 reminds us that we each have a choice for how we will conduct ourselves in the upcoming year. May we remember those who used their Godliness to choose the correct path and may we each do what we can in the fight against terrorism.

May the memories of the victims of September 11 be remembered for a blessing.

 
God carries each new immigrant to the Land of Israel Print E-mail
Friday, 15 September 2017

In Parshat Nitzavim (Devarim 30:2-3) we read: “You will return to HaShem, your God and obey Him exactly as I am commanding you today, you and your sons, wholeheartedly and with your whole being. HaShem, your God, will turn your captivity and will be merciful toward you; and He will return and gather you from all the peoples that HaShem, your God has dispersed you there.”

Rashi states:

It should have written ‘Bring back’ your returnees. The rabbis derive from here, that the Divine Presence, with all due reverence, resides with Yisrael in the suffering of their exile, so that, when they are redeemed, He ascribes redemption to Himself- He shall return with them.

Rashi continues:

One may explain additionally: The day of the ingathering of the exiles is momentous and difficult as if He, Himself, would need to carry, literally in His grasp, every individual from his place, as it is said (Yishayahi 27:12) “You shall be plucked, one at a time, B’nai Yisrael.”

Just as God went into exile with us, so too does he personally bring each and every one of us back to Israel one at a time.

We are fortunate to be living at a time where we have a Modern State of Israel, where each and every oleh (new immigrant) is a miracle in and of themselves no matter what country they came from. Each has a story of what drew them back to the Land of Israel.

Rashi’s statement about aliya being both momentous as well as difficult is very true. When we see groups arrive from all over the world we can’t help but feel that this is a momentous occasion and that God is behind it. However, moving to Israel is not easy and takes a lot of preparation and adjustment with a lot of bumps along the way. It is important for the immigrants to remember that God is holding their hands even in the tougher times.

We are living in miraculous times where the prophecies of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland are being fulfilled. May the Jewish people continue to return home one at a time.

 
The prophecies are being fulfilled Print E-mail
Friday, 30 September 2016

In Memory of Shimon Peres z”l

The Haftara for Parshat Nitzavim, the seventh of the prophecies of consolation seems to describe exactly what took place in Jerusalem today, on the morning of Shimon Peres’ funeral (Yishayahu 62:1-2):

For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still, until her righteousness shall go forth like a bright light and her salvation shall flame like a torch. And nations shall perceive your righteousness and kings your honor and you shall be called a new name which the mouth of God shall articulate.

Today, Israel stands as a bright light which is respected by many nations whose leaders gathered to pay their respects to Shimon Peres and to the State of Israel. Among those who were represented were presidents, ministers and royalty of some of the most powerful countries in the world.

According to Amos Chacham’s commentary in Da’at Mikra, the idea from Yishayahu of giving Jerusalem a new name refers to the idea that when someone rises to power they earn a new name for themselves. Israel will rise from weakness to strength and from lowliness to greatness.

The prophecy teaches that Jerusalem will no longer be disgraced or destroyed and that God will once again dwell there.

The fact that leaders who represent more than half of humanity changed their schedules at the last minute in order to show their respects in the State of Israel is a step in the direction of the fulfillment of the prophecy.

Rashi comments that there will only be true peace once the righteousness of Jerusalem shines.

Our next step in fulfilling the remainder of the prophecy of bringing peace to Jerusalem is to perform acts of tzedaka, justice and righteousness. 

 
What Do Wood Choppers and Water Carriers Have to do with the Sanctification of God’s Name? Print E-mail
Friday, 19 September 2014

In Parshat Nitzavim, Moshe gathers the entire community together on the last day of his life and initiates them into the covenant of God.

We read in Devarim 29:9-10: “You are standing today all of you before HaShem your God: the heads of your tribes, your elders and your officers- all the men of Israel; your small children, your women and your convert who is in the midst of your camp, from the chopper of your wood to the drawer of your water.”

Why are the choppers of wood and the drawers of water specifically pointed out here?

According to Rashi, the Cnaanim came to convert during the days of Moshe, the way that the Givonim came to convert during the days of Yehoshua. As it says concerning the Givonim (Yehoshua 9:3) “They too acted cunningly.” Moshe assigned these Cnaanim to serve as wood cutters and water drawers.

What was the problem with the Givonim?

According to the Rambam in Hilchot Melachim 6:1,6, In the days of Yehoshua, the Givonim thought that it was too late to make peace with B’nai Yisrael, agree to observe the Seven Noahide laws of universal morality, pay taxes and perform national service. The Givonim were under the impression that they would either have to evacuate the Land of Israel or face total war. They therefore devised a plan to deceive Yehoshua and the leaders of Israel.

The Givionim disguised themselves as travelers from a distant region and asked Yehoshua and the leaders to swear that they would not harm them. When the leaders found out the truth, that the Givonim were in fact not from a faraway land, they did not annul their oath.

According to Rabbi Yehuda in the Talmud, Gitin 46a, we learn from here that an oath made in public cannot be annulled as it says in Yehoshua 9:18: “B’nei Yisrael did not slay them (the Givonim), because the leaders of the assembly had sworn to them by Hashem…”

Rashi comments that if the leaders had they been able to, they surely would have had the vow annulled.

The Rabbis in the Talmud disagree with Rabbi Yehuda. They say that a vow that was made publicly can be annulled especially since it was made under false pretenses The Givonim said that they came from a distant land when they did not come from a distant land at all. They were living in the Land of Israel the whole time.

So why didn’t Yehoshua kill the Givonim if technically they could have annulled the vow that said that they wouldn’t harm them?

Yehoshua did not kill the Givonim in order to sanctify God’s name. This way, later on, no idol worshippers would be able to say that the Jews violated their oath.

However, B’nai Yisrael were very angry and wanted to kill the Givonim for deceiving them.

Yehoshua did not allow anyone to hurt the Givonim. Instead, he gave the Givonim the punishment of having to be woodchoppers and water drawers for the Mishkan and for the Beit HaMikdash. Their status was as non Jewish slaves that would not be allowed to marry into B’nai Yisrael.

Yehoshua could have been cruel but for the sake of the sanctification of God’s name, he did not hurt the Givonim even though they took advantage of him.

A lot of what happens in Yehoshua, Chapter 9 reminds me of what is happening in Israel today.

Israel is still making treaties with those who come under false pretenses. Israel holds up her end of the bargain even when our “peace partners” do not. For the sanctification of God’s name Israel continues to use more restraint than any other nation in the world ever would given the circumstances.

 
We Will Receive the Greatest Reward in the Land of Israel Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 August 2013

In Parshat Nitzavim (Devarim 30:15-16) we read: “See, I have placed before you today life and good, and death and bad. For which I command you this day, to love God, to go in His ways and to guard His commandments and His statutes and His laws; and you will live and you will flourish, and HaShem, your God will bless you in the Land that you will inherit.”

 

According to Yalkut MeAm Loez, we learn from these psukim that reward and punishment depend on our observance of the Torah and our performance of the Mitzvot. However, our service to God should not be carried out with the expectation of these rewards, but rather out of love.

 

Even when we serve God without the expectation of a reward, we are still eligible for a reward.

 

The reward mentioned here has a few different elements:

  1. “You will live” refers to life and health
  2. “You will flourish” refers to the blessing of children
  3.  “God will bless you” refers to material wealth

 

These blessings will be received “in the Land that you will inherit.” God’s influence is revealed to a greater extent in the Land of Israel than in other lands. Therefore, the greatest reward for Torah observance is in the Land of Israel.

 

Living in Israel we especially need these blessings as our enemies would like to put an end to our lives. Israelis are conscious about having a lot of children to ensure that the Jews remain a majority in the Land. In Israel, we especially need the blessing of parnasa as it is often more difficult to make a living in Israel and the jobs don’t pay as well as in other countries.

 

Despite these difficulties, many have followed the words of the pasuk to inherit the Land of Israel and are now enjoying all of the rewards that the Land of Israel has to offer.

 
Making the Prophecies Become Reality Print E-mail
Friday, 14 September 2012

In Parshat Nitzavim we read two psukim that should be familiar to us (Devarim 30:4-5) from the second paragraph of the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel:

 

“Im Yehieh Nidachacha Biktze HaShamayim, MiSham Yikabetzcha HaShem Elokecha, Umisham Yikachecha. Vehaviacha HaShem Elokecha el HaAretz Asher Yarshu Avotecha v’rishta, v’Hetivcha v’Hirbecha m’Avotecha.”

 

“Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the world, from there HaShem your God, will gather you, from there He will fetch you. And HaShem your God will bring you to the Land which you fathers occupied and you shall occupy it; and He will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your fathers.”

 

What is interesting about those psukim is that although they are part of the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel, they actually talk about the Jews who are still in exile. The paragraph begins with the words: “Remember our brothers, the whole house of Israel, in all the lands of their dispersion. Speedily bring them to Zion, Your city, to Jerusalem, Your dwelling place.

 

The ingathering of the exiles is something that we all have the power to help out with. Helping promote and facilitate Aliya for Jews throughout the world should be a goal that we should be working towards. We are fortunate to have the State of Israel which offers free flights for immigrants to come home as well as help from the government to resettle in the State of Israel. This paragraph above is not just a prayer- it is a prophecy that we can have control over.

 

Rivka Haut, a friend of mine once said: “Is it enough to pray for the Agunot (women whose husbands refuse to give them a Jewish divorce)? Why are we just praying that their husbands give them a divorce? Why not do something about it?”

 

When we stand in shul praying this Rosh Hashana, we must ask ourselves what we can do to help Israel in the upcoming year. For those already in Israel we can commit to helping our friends who are in the process of Aliya with any questions that they may have as well as help them feel comfortable when they arrive. Those inside as well as outside of Israel can help organizations that make a difference in the lives of underprivileged Israelis in soup kitchens, senior centers, group homes for people with special needs, battered women’s shelters, nursing homes or orphanages.

 

We do not have control over many of the ideas mentioned in the first paragraph of the prayer: “Send your light and truth to the leaders, officers and counselors and direct them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the defenders of our Holy Land; grant them salvation; crown them with victory. Establish peace in the land and everlasting joy for its inhabitants.”

 

Let’s pray for what is not in our hands- the safety of our soldiers, peace and happiness and let’s do what we can to work together to improve the quality of life in the Land of Israel.

 

 

 
The Torah is Not in the Heavens Print E-mail
Friday, 23 September 2011

Parsha Points- Nitzavim- Vayelech 5771

 

Sponsored by Midreshet Devora in Honor of Rut Abreu,  the First Student from the Dominican Republic to Spend a Year of Torah Study in Jerusalem

 

In Parshat Nitzavim, Devarim 30:11-14 B’nai Yisrael are told: “For this mitzvah that I am commanding you today; it is not too hard for you nor is it distant. It is not in heaven for you to say ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and acquire it for us, and acquire it for us, and inform us of it, and we will fulfill it’? Nor is it overseas, for you to say, ‘Who will travel overseas for us, and acquire it for us, and inform us of it, and we will fulfill it’? For the matter is extremely close to you; in your mouth and in your mind to fulfill it”.

 

According to Rashi “this mitzvah” refers to the Torah.

 

In Devarim Raba 8:6, we learn that the Torah is no longer in Heaven. Moshe already brought it down. Nobody should say that Moshe should go and bring us another Torah from Heaven.

 

Rambam, in Hilchot Yisodei HaTorah 9:1 states that the laws of the Torah are of eternal and lasting validity subject to no change, addition or subtraction… It is stated: “It is not in heaven”- this implies that a prophet is henceforth not entitled to introduce any innovation. Consequently should there arise anyone, gentile or Jew, to perform a miracle or sign and assert that the Lord had sent him to add or abrogate a precept recorded in the Torah or deviate from the accepted interpretation of an observance, as we have heard it from Moshe or state that the commandments given to Israel were not meant for eternity but were merely temporary- this man is a false prophet…

 

We must take the Torah that we have, observe it and treasure it. The mitzvot in the Torah are within our reach.

 

Unfortunately, there are many missionaries around the world who try to convince the Jewish people that the Torah no longer applies. We must provide a proper Jewish education for the next generation to make sure that they do not fall prey to these missionaries but rather find the beauty and spirituality in our Torah and the reason why we do not need to search elsewhere.

 

 

 
The Ingathering of the Students Print E-mail
Friday, 03 September 2010

In Parshat Nitzavim we read the words (Devarim 30:3): “God will bring back your returnees and will be merciful toward you; and He will return and gather you from all the peoples that God has dispersed you there.”

 

This pasuk describes the end of the exile and the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.

 

This week Midreshet Devora opened its doors to the 2010-2011 students who were literally gathered up from all over- Seattle, Baltimore, New York, Toronto, Cincinnati, Teaneck- students who did not know each other from before, but came with a common goal of learning Torah in Jerusalem.

 

As Religious Zionists, we are in the beginning days of the redemption. We now see several thousand young men and women coming to study in Israel for a year from all over the world.

 

When did the “ingathering of the students” begin?

 

In 1957, Rabbi Zevi Tabory, director of the Torah Education Department of the Jewish Agency sent a few young men to the Hesder Yeshiva, Kerem BeYavne. The following year, Machon Gold, a program for both men and women was established. By 1968 there were about 45 students studying in post high school programs in Israel. In 1969, other Hesder Yeshivot agreed to take students as well.

 

By the 1990’s about 90% of students graduating from Modern Orthodox day schools came to study in Israel for a year. The numbers are even higher today.

 

I met my husband, Josh while studying in Israel after high school. Josh is from Montreal and if not for the post high school “ingathering of the students” we may never have met.

 

The” ingathering of the students” is a step in the direction of the “ingathering of the exiles” as many students decide to stay on in Israel after their year of study or at least have an idea of what it is like to live in Israel in the event that they decide to make aliya one day.

 
Every Individual Has the Opportunity to do Tshuva (Repent) Print E-mail
Friday, 11 September 2009

Parshat Nitzavim states, Devarim 30:11-12: “For this mitzvah which I command you today, it is not too hard for you neither is it far off- Lo BaShamayim Hi- It is not in Heaven…”

 

According to Ramban and Joseph Albo in Sefer HaIkkarim, the Mitzvah referred to here is the mitzvah of Tshuva- a mitzvah which is within each and every individual’s grasp.

 

Nechama Leibowitz points out that the process of Tshuva is a matter of free choice: It depends on a person’s resolution to return to the Divine source, however far a person has become alienated from it and however numerous the barriers that have grown up between the person and God.

 

The Rambam in Chapter 2, Section 2 of Hilchot Tshuva asks and then answers the following question:

 

What is repentance? It consists of this: that the sinner abandon his sin, remove it from his thoughts and resolve in his heart never to repeat it again…that he call God to witness that he will never return to his sin again…And he must confess in words, with his lips, and give voice to these matters which he has resolved in his heart.

 

In our Parsha 30:2-3 we see that as long as we get started in the Tshuva process, God will help us along: “And you will return unto Hashem your God and listen to his voice, according to everything that I command you today, you and your children with all of your heart and with all of your soul. Then Hashem your God will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you…”

 

We are now in the month of Elul, the time to begin the Tshuva process. Now is the time to take the first step and examine our deeds. This Motzei Shabbat we begin to recite Slichot which is the next step in our preparation for Rosh HaShana. After Rosh HaShana is Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Return and the culmination of the Tshuva process is on Yom Kippur.

 

This is the time for us to examine our deeds, see what needs to be changed, admit what we did wrong and work on making those changes. All we need to do is to get started by taking the first step and God will help us along. The process of Tshuva is not in Heaven, it is within our grasp!

 
Why Don’t We Publicly Bless The New Month on the Shabbat Before Rosh HaShana? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Eleven months out of the year we recite “Birkat HaChodesh”, the blessing of the new month on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the new month). However, this Shabbat, the Shabbat before Rosh HaShana we omit this special blessing. Why?

Shem MiShmuel points out that when the world was created, there was no announcement beforehand. So too, on Rosh HaShana, the birthday the world, we should make a fresh start and not connect the new year with the previous one.

Another tradition is that we don’t publicly announce when Rosh HaShana will be in order to confuse Satan. A hint to this can be found in the words (Tehillim 81) “Tiku VaChodesh Shofar, BaKeseh L’Yom Chagenu”, “Blow the Shofar on the new moon at the covered time for our festive day”. The Talmud, Masechet Rosh HaShana 8a explains that the word “Keseh” is similar to the word “Koseh”, meaning covering. All of the other holidays occur in the middle of the month when the moon is visible. Rosh HaShana occurs at the beginning of the month when the moon is still covered. This implies that the day of the holiday is hidden and not publicly announced.

The Baal Shem Tov is known to have said that God personally blesses the seventh month (Tishrei), the first month of the new year on the Shabbat preceeding Rosh HaShana. This blessing gives the Jewish people the strength to bless the other eleven months of the year!

Shana Tova from Yerushalayim!

PSALMS AT THE WESTERN WALL FOR YOU OR A LOVED ONE CAN BE ARRANGED BY TORAT REVA YERUSHALAYIM

As the High Holidays approach, Torat Reva Yerushalayim is proud to introduce a new opportunity to have a learned person recite Psalms on your behalf on a weekly basis at the Kotel (Western Wall).

Jacob, our Forefather calls Jerusalem “The gate of heaven”. According to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan z”l, “Just as things can go in through a gate, so can they emerge. Thus, all spiritual sustenance and blessing come only through Jerusalem , as it is written, ‘God will bless you from Zion ’ (Psalms 128:5). It is taught in the Zohar that God first sends a blessing to Jerusalem , and from there it flows to the entire world. Today, when the Temple no longer stands, the source of this blessing is the Western Wall.”

Tehillim (Psalms) at the Western Wall can be recited on your behalf for the following:

  • Health/ Recovery from an illness
  • Healthy childbirth
  • Shidduch (finding a mate)
  • Thanksgiving
  • Livelihood & success
  • Divine guidance
  • Troublesome times
  • Repentance
  • Peace

With your monthly donation of $18 or more (or yearly donation of $180 or more) to Torat Reva Yerushalayim, you will be performing the important mitzvah of contributing toward the Torah education of the forgotten population of senior citizens in Jerusalem, while having your prayers recited by a learned person at the footsteps of Judaism’s holiest site.

Your contribution can be made by mailing a check to Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 75 Berkeley Avenue , Yonkers , NY 10705 or via Paypal, by clicking on the link below and scrolling down to the “Make A Donation” button.

http://toratreva.org/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7&Itemid=7

Please email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 718-593-4162 if you would like to take part in this exciting project!

 
Everyone Counts Print E-mail
Wednesday, 05 September 2007

Parshat Nitzavim (Devarim 29:9-10) begins with the words: “You stand, this day all of you (kulchem) before God; the heads of your tribes, your elders and your law officers, every person of Yisrael; Your small children, your wives and your convert who is within your camps; from your wood cutters to the water drawers.”

According to Rashi, Moshe recited these words on the day of his death, his last chance to initiate B’nai Yisrael into the covenant of God.

Shem M’Shmuel points out that the Land of Israel can only be conquered if the Jewish people work together. The Land of Israel is the uniting force of the Jewish people. The Jewish people only officially became responsible for one another at this point, right before they crossed the Jordan River into the Land of Israel. In the Land of Israel, the Jewish people are united as one person. Therefore, in order to fully conquer the Land the Jewish people must be united.

Shem M’Shmuel adds that Parshat Nitzavim is always read before Rosh HaShana because Rosh HaShana is a day of unification. On Rosh HaShana each and every Jew should have kavana, focus, on the fact that they are part of the larger Jewish community. Therefore, the Parsha opens with the words “kulchem”, “all of you”.

True unity will only come if all of the Jews work together and take responsibility for one another.