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Parshat Nitzavim- Zeve Kornwasser
The First Step
In this last week’s Pasha, Ki Savo, the Torah describes the commandment of writing “kol hamtizvah asher anochi mitzvah eschem” on stones and making them into a mizbeach on Har Aival. This event, while commanded prior to the Jews’ entry to E”Y was to take place in the time of Yehoshua. The Gemara in Sota 35b discusses a lack of clarity in the procedure of this mitzvah: were the B”Y to write the Torah on the stones first and then plaster it into a mizbeach or the reverse?
The Gemara there cites a machlokes tanaim with a tanna taking each side. R’ Yehuda says that the B”Y were instructed to first transcribe the Torah onto the stones of the mizbeach in the seventy nations of the people of the world then plaster over it. R’ Shimon, R’ Yehuda;s opposition in this machlokes asks the oblivious question: if the purpose of the writing of the Torah into seventy different languages was so that the nations of the world would never be able to claim to Hashem “we never had a chance to learn the Torah and thats why were are the way that we are” how would this be effective? The Torah was being plastered over! R’ Yehuda answers that the nations of the world were given a special siyatta dishmaya; with this siyatta dishmaya they were able to scrape off the plaster and send their scribes to copy down the Torah to bring back in their nation’s dialect.
R’ Shimon has a different take. He explains that the Jews wrote the Torah on top of the plastered mizbeach and at the bottom of each column they wrote “lmaan asher lo yilmidu eschem laasos kichol toavosam”. Rashi on the daf explains that the reason that this passuk was written at the bottom of each column was to let all of the nations of chutz laaretz know that if they are chozer bitshuva they would be accepted into B”Y with open arms.
This Gemara, which on the surface seems to be irrelevant to us today, can in fact teach us a number of profound lessons in our push toward the Yomim Noraim and our avodas Hashem moving forward. From the explanation of R’ Yehuda we learn that Hashem makes torah accessible to everyone; He even goes so far as to give non-jews a level of siyatta dishmaya to have the ability to study Torah when obstacles are in the way. R’ Shimon teaches us that tshuva, something at the forefront of our minds, is accessible to everyone as well. If Hashem makes these two opportunities accessible to the nations of the world so much more so in regard to us the Am Hanivchar.
This idea also presents itself in this week’s Parsha. The passuk says “lo bashamayim hi laymor mi yaaleh lanu hashamayama viyikacheha lanu” . The Ramban and other Rishonim explain two possible mitzvos that this passuk could refer to. They are Torah and Teshuva, the very two principles that are discussed in the Gemara in Sotta.
The story is told about a certain wealthy man who walked into the Yeshiva. He proceeded to explain to the Rosh Yeshiva that he was looking for the best bachur in the Yeshiva to marry his daughter. As a wealthy man this would obviously come with great financial benefits.
The gvir and the Rosh Yehsiva walked around the Beis Medrash together. The Rosh Yeshiva pointed in different directions calling one young man “the biggest masmid” another “the best lamdan” and yet another the “greatest tzaddik in the yeshiva”. The gvir grew a bit irritated, “this is all very nice but who is the best bochur?” The Rosh Yeshiva took the gvir to one bachur and said “him. He is the beset bachur in the yeshiva.”
The gvir was tremendously confused. The Rosh Yeshiva had just pointed out the the biggest masmid, the best lamdan, and the greatest tzaddik in the yeshiva, but this young man was the best bachur how could this be? The Rosh Yeshiva explained “this bachur is the biggest mevakesh- he wants to grow more than any of the other bachurim.” That bachur was the Steipler Gaon.
The lesson for us is clear. Throughout the year Hashem provides us with accessibility to two of the most profound ways to connect to Him; all we have to do is be a “mivakesh” and take the first step. In the days leading up to R”H and the Aseres Yimei Teshuva we should all be zoche to take those steps thus giving Hashem an extra reason to be mezakkeh us in din. Shanna Tovah.