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Parshas Nitzavim - Excuses Excuses, Excuses   26 Elul 5781Rosh Hashana - Prayer of Desperation or Enthusiasm     1 Tishrei 5782                            

09/02/2021 09:23:40 PM

Sep2

Parshas Nitzavim – Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

In this week’s parshas Nitzavim the Torah states in Devarim 29:17-18: "פן יש בכם......אשר לבבו פנה היום מעם ה' אלוקינו....פן יש בכם שרש פרה ראש ולענה: והיה בשמעו את דברי האלה הזאת והתברך בלבבו לאמר שלום יהיה לי....."   “Today, there must not be among you any man, woman, family or tribe whose heart strays from God and who goes to and worships the gods of those nations. There must be among you the root whose fruit is gall and wormwood. When [such a person] hears the words of this dread curse, he may rationalize and say, “I will have peace, even if I do as I see fit. Let me add some moisture to this dry [practice]!”

*Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l makes sense of the words והתברך בלבבו - why would one’s heart be blessed? He explains with a story of someone who desecrated the Holy Day of Shabbos and was rebuked by his contemporaries. He replied to them, “I will fix this and remedy what I did.” After Shabbos he donated a large sum of money to the poor and needy of Eretz Yisrael,  glorifying himself by saying, ”This will definitely be more accepted and will fix my error.” He then compounded this ‘fix’ by stating,   “If I had not desecrated the Shabbos, I never would have given the money to charity for the poor of Israel (who at the time were desperate for support). It is to this attitude Rav Frank explains the words the person is only flattering his own heart through his gift. In the very next passuk the Torah (Hashem) declares, ”You will not be forgiven by doing so.” A sin is not cancelled out by a Mitzva. This is the ultimate rationalization given after doing something wrong; by not being up front and honest the self-flatterer compliments himself for his donation. The proper response, as the Rambam clearly states, is to go through the three stages of Teshuva: 1) recognition of the sin, 2) regret for doing it, and 3) acceptance to never do it again. After doing so, if a person wants to throw a huge gift/donation to Tzedaka it cannot hurt. These three ingredients are what we will call out on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur ותשובה ותפילה וצדקה, מעבירין את רוע הגזירה

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

* Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (20 January 1873 – 10 December 1960) הרב צבי פסח פרנק was a renowned halachik scholar and served as Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem for several decades (1936-1960). Rav Frank was born in Kovno, the son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Frank and Malka Silman, who were active in the Chovevei Tzion organization in Kovno. He studied in Lithuanian Yeshivos, learning under Rabbi Eliezer Gordon, amongothers.                                                                                                                                                                   In 1892, he emigrated to Eretz Yisrael with his brother Tanchum, his sister Tzippora and his first cousin, Rabbi Shmuel Hillel Shenker. His parents arrived in 1893. Tzvi Pesach continued his studies in yeshivas in Jerusalem. His father was one of the founders of Chadera. In 1907, Rav Frank was appointed dayan in the Beis Din of the Eidah HaChareidus headed by Rabbi Shmuel Salant, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. Rav Frank served on this Beis Din for nearly 60 years, eventually becoming Av Beis Din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Yerushalayim.              

Rav Frank was active in establishing the office of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and was instrumental in appointing Rav Avraham Isaac Kook as the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Jacob Meir, the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi, had been in Palestine prior to the formal development of the office.

 

 

Rosh Hashana – Prayer of Desperation or Enthusiasm?

Next week Jews all over the world will gather, according to their practices, for the Yamim Noraim -the Days of Awe. These days are comprised primarily of the two days of Rosh Hashana and the one day of Yom Kippur. Whether it will be in person or via zoom, live, or recorded, indoors or outdoors there will be a sense of coming together for one purpose: to daven to God. How and when is not the issue, rather those who choose to participate in something of deep meaning and importance is because they  understand and feel the importance and significance of these days.

An almost universal component in every sanctuary includes the display of a verse bringing our attention to the place in which we stand and or reflecting on prayer itself. Classically, the verse instills fear and awe to the petitioner, creating  a serious mood encompassing a sense of awe. A few years back I davened in a shul that had a verse that I had never previously seen on top of the Aron HaKodesh -the verse from Tehilim 102:1 quoting these words of Dovid HaMelech: "תפילה לעני כי יעטף, ולפני ה' ישפך שיחו"  “A prayer of the afflicted man when he faints and pours forth his supplications before Hashem”. Rav Shimshon Pincus explains there is a certain uniqueness to the prayer of the afflicted one. The Zohar HaKadosh in Balak 195 says there are “three” who speak about prayer: Moshe Rabbeinu, Dovid HaMelech and the Ani -the poor or afflicted. “Tefillah L’Moshe Ish HaElokim” was not said by any other man. “Tefillah L’Dovid” was not said by any kind of king. But “Tefillah L’Ani” the prayer of the afflicted comes from the heart of those in deep distress. Of the three which is the greatest prayer of them all? The answer is the prayer of the poor, the afflicted man, is greater and will be heard before the prayers of Moshe and of Dovid and before any other prayers in the world. The reason the poor, downtrodden petitioner is answered before everyone else is because of a broken heart. Dovid HaMelech said קרוב ה' לנשברי לב Hashem is closest to the broken hearted, and God listens intently to his words since the Ani’s prayers open the windows of heaven.

It is truly a wonder how Moshe Rabbeinu, who was a man of God, whose prayer had the effect of the ineffable name of God that could cut through like a sword, still does not come close to the prayer of the poor, the downtrodden. In Jewish law a person can relinquish all his assets and make himself destitute. On Rosh Hashana we have another method of becoming ‘poor’- by davening with a broken heart. This person’s Tefillah will be heard sooner and faster;  it opens the heavenly gates for more Siyata Dishmaya/ Heavenly assistance. There is no question that as we approach Rosh Hashana, we might see ourselves as destitute and fragile after such a year like we have just been through. Nevertheless, I would suggest a different angle for our Tefillos this year and going forward. I will explain with a short parable.

When it comes to giving charity and supporting of institutions, people want to give to something that is growing, to build upon itself, to  not throw money into a black hole of desperation. Statistically speaking, people give more Tzedakah to someone who is collecting but is well-dressed, seen stepping out of a nice car and give less money to someone who is desperate. In truth, we should give more to those who look like they need more rather than those who present well.. So too, coming before the Ribono Shel Olam in a fit of despair will be answered without question, but perhaps we should come before God with a sense of honor and dignity. Should we only approach Hashem during times of distress or anguish? Should we pour out our hearts when we are afflicted and blacking out from grief or hunger? God should not only be accessed when WE need Him, but even when things are going well. We need to reach out to Hashem so that He can at least maintain the status quo of life for us, and not have less. On Rosh Hashana we should view ourselves with the opportunity to be in a better position to ask Hashem for the things we ask for throughout the entire year. Why wait to be in a situation that requires pleading out of dire need with nowhere else to turn? Wouldn’t Hashem prefer a relationship even when we are not desperate? Surely, Hashem would appreciate our sincerity that comes by davening with kavanah while never taking any of the gifts with which He has blessed us for granted.

Wishing You All a Kesiva VaChasima Tova & Ah Gutten Yom Tov

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, September 26 2021 20 Tishrei 5782