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Parshas Nitzavim - Say it & You Can Make it Happen               26 Elul 5782

09/30/2022 08:48:00 AM


This Dvar Torah is in honor of Fred & Elaine Lepow upon making Aliyah, Mazal Tov!

There is a custom to perform “Hatoras Nedarim” - releasing of vows on Erev Rosh Hashana. A very famous, core question is ‘Why, if we do Hatoras Nedarim on Erev Rosh Hashana, must we say Kol Nidrei?’ Conversely, if we say Kol Nidrei, why must we say Hatoras Nedarim? The most common answer for the first question is that Kol Nidrei refers to the vows of the community, while Hatoras Nedarim takes care of personal vows. On another level, according to one Nusach, Kol Nidrei frees us from future vows only if the condition is forgotten later, while Hatoras Nedarim is said for all personal vows.

Nedarim/vows, which can occur for reasons as common as making a statement to do or not do something, are very powerful. Chaza”l say ”"It’s better not to vow than to take a vow and not fulfill it.” True, taking a vow and motivating ourselves to do or not do something could be a positive technique to get closer to Hashem, but it runs a risk. Beyond the technical issue of getting ourselves in trouble by not fulfilling a vow, there is always a way around it. 1) We can become accustomed to adding the words ‘bli neder’/without a vow either at the beginning or the end of our statements. 2) We can always have the vows annulled or released. Perhaps there are other lessons to glean from the halachik discussion of vows. One such incidence was recently addressed in daf yomi where the Gemara discusses vows which are taken by a husband that would affect his wife, and a wife making a vow that would affect her husband.

The Gemara Kesuvos 71b and the top of 72a discusses whether a husband can take a vow that would restrict his wife from participating in certain activities. If he is forbidden to make these declarations, then should she be entitled to leave her husband and receive her guaranteed Ketubah money. הַמַּדִּיר אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ וְכוּ׳. בִּשְׁלָמָא לְבֵית הַמִּשְׁתֶּה § The mishna states: One who vows and obligates his wife not to go to a house of mourning or to a house of feasting for a wedding, must divorce her and give her the payment of her marriage contract because it is as if he were locking a door in front of her. The Gemara asks: Granted, when he forbids her from going to a house of feasting, 72a אִיכָּא נוֹעֵל בְּפָנֶיהָ, אֶלָּא לְבֵית הָאֵבֶל מַאי נוֹעֵל בְּפָנֶיהָ אִיכָּא? תָּנָא: לְמָחָר הִיא מֵתָה וְאֵין כׇּל בְּרִיָּה סוֹפְדָהּ. וְאִיכָּא דְּאָמְרִי: אֵין כׇּל בְּרִיָּה סוֹפְנָהּ. there is effectively an act of locking a door in front of her by withholding from her any possibility of rejoicing, but when he forbids her from going to a house of mourning, what locking of a door in front of her is there? He taught: In the future she too will die, and no person will eulogize her or take care of her, just as she did not care for others. And some say: No person will value her or pay attention to her, since a person who does not visit the sick or console mourners cuts himself off from others. תַּנְיָא, הָיָה רַבִּי מֵאִיר אוֹמֵר: מַאי דִּכְתִיב ״טוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל בֵּית אֵבֶל מִלֶּכֶת אֶל בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא סוֹף כׇּל הָאָדָם וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל לִבּוֹ״, מַאי ״וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל לִבּוֹ״? דְּבָרִים שֶׁל מִיתָה: דְּ[יִ]סְפֹּד — יִסְפְּדוּנֵיהּ, דְּ[יִ]קְבַּר — יִקְבְּרוּנֵיהּ, דִּידַל — יְדַלּוּנֵיהּ, דִּ[י]לַוֵּאי — יְלַוּוֹנֵיהּ, דְּ[יִ]טְעֹן — יִטְעֲנוּנֵיהּ. Similarly, it is taught in a baraitaRabbi Meir used to say: What is the meaning of that which is written: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all men, and the living will take it to heart” (Koheles 7:2). What does “and the living will take it to heart” mean? It means that they will take matters relating to death to heart, realizing that they, too, will eventually die. He who eulogizes others, people will eulogize him; he who buries someone, people will bury him; he who lifts others to bring them to burial, people will similarly lift him to bring him to burial; he who escorts others out for burial, people will similarly escort him; he who carries others, others will carry him. Therefore, one who does not come to a house of mourning to comfort the bereaved will himself not be treated with proper dignity when he dies.

The Talmud is contextually dealing with the relationship and status of vows between husband and wife. Often, the Torah whether it is the written law, the oral law, rishonim, acharonim or poskim, have a way of sending a message which causes us to read between the lines. The gemara is sending a clear lesson of communal involvement. The examples listed earlier are not limited to end of life, although I have seen this to be the case. Rather, the lesson should be for every aspect of shared Jewish life. In terms of a Jewish community, it entails every person to be on every committee. Every person needs to volunteer for whatever needs to be done. Every person needs to show up at every event. There is no room for just taking that which I need and if something doesn’t “speak” to me I don’t have to show up, I don’t feel the need to participate. If people choose not to show up, choose not to help or participate, the system will crash causing the entire infrastructure of the community to no longer have the ability  to carry out its obligation to attend to all the community’s events, occurrences and needs.   

The Torah, in the beginning of this week’s Parshas Nitzavim in Devarim 29:9 states:"אתם נצבים היום כלכם לפני ה' אלוקיכם, ראשיכם שבטיכם זקניכם ושוטריכם כל איש ישראל"   “Today you are all standing before God your Lord – your leaders, your tribal chiefs, your elders, your law enforcers, every Israelite man.” There are a handful of times that we as a shul community come together at the same time and place. One of them is the sounding of the Shofar when all men, women, and children listen collectively to the sound of the Shofar. The sound of the Shofar has many meanings, many levels of understanding. One of them is the that the Shofar is a call to action. Just as the trumpets’ blast leads the charge of the army to battle, so, too, the Shofar is the sound of the charge for each and every one of us to join forces with our comrades into the battle - whether we like that particular battle or not. We all need to be there for everyone else. Let the Shofar penetrate the core of our existence to remind us – all of us - that we are here for each other, and if I am here for you, then you will be there for me.

Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Goot Yur

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, December 8 2023 25 Kislev 5784