Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5783: Preparing for R”H & Feeling the Shabbos

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Part 1: Preparing for R”H: Standing in His Presence

Part 2: Feeling the Shabbos

Are You Aware You Are In Front of Hashem?

Our parshah begins (Devarim 29:9) with the following words:

אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם זִקְנֵיכֶם וְשֹׁטְרֵיכֶם כֹּל אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל

“You stand this day, all of you, before Hashem – your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel.”

A few pesukim later (verse 12), Rashi brings a Midrash Tanchuma which explains the connection between Parshas Nitzavim and KiSavo, which had the klalos (curses).[i] What is the connection between the curses that Moshe foretold, in the name of Hashem, that will befall Klal Yisroel if they misbehave and the statement of אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים? So the Chazal tell us: לְפִי שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאָה קְלָלוֹת חָסֵר שְׁתַּיִם – Klal Yisroel heard 98 curses – that’s a lot of curses, a lot of evil that could befall them. And this is besides the 49 curses recorded in Parshas Bechukosai. So it says that they were overwhelmed, הוֹרִיקוּ פְנֵיהֶם, their faces turned colors – the blood drained from their faces, and they said, מִי יוּכַל לַעֲמֹד בָּאֵלּוּ, who could withstand all of these?!

So Moshe Rabbeinu calmed them down. He told them, “Despite everything you have done, you are all still alive, standing here before Hashem.” But we must note that Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t just simply say, “Look, you’re still alive and well.” He said, “You are standing here before Hashem.” What he was saying was: “Let me explain to you the secret of how a person could face even the greatest of fears. How person can face 98 klalos plus 49 klalos. What hope is there to overcome them?” So Moshe told said to them: אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם. The secret to a person’s success in life in overcoming the most overwhelming and the most frightening situations is to be aware that he isלִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם. Let me explain what that means. The nature of a person is that when he gets scared – and people get scared by many things – like going to a doctor and finding out that they are carrying a stillborn and they are only in the second or third month of pregnancy and they have to carry a not alive child for the next 6-7 months – this makes most people scared. Or people get scared when they go to a doctor and they get the worst news of their lives. See, most doctors don’t preface their diagnosis by saying, “My dear son or my dear daughter,” as many of them are cold – טוב שברופאים לגיהנם (Kiddushin 82a). They tell you, “You’ve got the ‘dreaded disease’ and you are going down, prepare yourself. These are your options. How slow do you want to die?” These doctors scare you and they frighten you. And people call me up with this news. I can’t imagine what they feel like! People get fired from their jobs, people lose their homes, a person may lose a child, r”l. People face many challenges throughout their lives.

The Fear Factor

Now, we need to understand that fear is an indication that a person is not together with Hashem. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that your father was your doctor who had to operate on you. You wouldn’t be afraid. Maybe you wouldn’t be excited, but you would not be afraid or overwhelmed. If your father told you: “We are going through a dangerous stretch of road but don’t worry, because I brought security along with us, so you have nothing to be afraid of.” So a person would be at ease in this situation. The biggest difficulty that most people have in this world is that they live in a vacuum without Hashem. For most people, Hashem is somewhere “out there.” Hashem is like the government. Do people live with the government? There were some governments that people were more afraid of like communist governments who had their eyes and ears in everybody’s house listening in on you, so you felt that the government was intruding on your life. But most people have a tremendous craving for independence and they convince themselves that they are living in a bubble, and when they go into their house and they close their door they are in their own world. But this is utter silliness, and at worst, it’s arrogance or simple stupidity. The reality is not like that. Hashem is with you at all times. Whatever room you go to, Hashem is with you even in the innermost chambers. But people don’t want to hear that. They want to go into their bedrooms or in their house, dress like they want, and act like they want, because “I’m in my own home and I am a king. Every man is a king in their own home.” But when the person gets scared that’s frightening. So Moshe Rabbeinu told Klal Yisrael that as long as you are aware that you are לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם, you don’t have to be afraid, and the more the person is aware that Hashem is with him, meaning the closer you are to Hashem – the safer you are!

Exercise of Acquiring Bitachon 

We find this concept in the famous war incident between Yaakov and Eisav’s angel, as the verse says (Bereishis 32:26), וַיַּרְא כִּי לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ – “And he the angel of Eisav saw that he couldn’t overcome him Yaakov.” When I was a little kid and used to read this pasuk, I wondered what “moves” Yaakov used on the angel to keep him at bay. Was it karate, krav maga, MMA, or judo? But the Seforno explains the words, לֹא יָכֹל לוֹ, as follows: לרוב דבקותו תמיד בקל ית’ במחשבה ובדיבור – he was extremely attached to Hashem in his thoughts and in his speech.

Yaakov was extremely attached to Hashem במחשבה ובדיבור. Talking to Hashem and thinking about Hashem makes a person דבוק to Hashem – that was the reason the Satan could not overcome Yaakov. The fight was about whether the angel could scare Yaakov and get him, for a moment, to forget about Hashem and not to think and talk to Hashem. And Eisav’s angel  saw that he couldn’t accomplish that.

We know that every one of us faces the Satan, the Yetzer Hora, on a daily basis – it’s the same fight. And people want to know, “How can I fight him?” The answer is: that same way! The more you are aware  במחשבה ובדיבור, that Hashem is with you, that will make you safe and the Yeitzer Hora won’t be able to scare, overcome or move you. You have to exercise this, Rabbosai. There is a pasuk in Tehillim (91:2): 

אֹמַר לַה’ מַחְסִי וּמְצוּדָתִי אֱלֹקי אֶבְטַח בּוֹ – “I say Hashem, You are my refuge and stronghold, G-d in whom I trust.”The zeide (Rav Avigdor Miller) used to say: “What is the purpose of saying to Hashem, ‘You are my fortress and my safety net?’ Because saying that is an exercise in acquiring bitachon. That’s what this exercise is.” You want to have bitachon in Hashem, you want to feel secure? Practice this. I will give you an example. Let’s say you walk out of your house at 3 am to walk down the block alone. The natural thing is that your ears are perked up, and you are always thinking maybe someone or something will pop out of the woods – maybe a skunk, a racoon, a wolf, or some unsavory character will quickly approach you and try to rob you. You look around and your mind begins to play all kinds of games with you, imagining they are looking for you. That’s how people are. That’s called fear. And if you read such stories, then you are certainly afraid. So what do you do in such a case? The answer is, before you leave you say, “Hashem, I am going to walk down the block with you.” When you were a little child, you said, “Mommy, could you take me across the street?” When you got a little older, maybe you said, “Mommy, could you stand by the door while I walk down the block?” When you are an adult, you do the same thing! What you do is you train yourself to say, “Hashem, I am walking down the block with you,” which means, “I know you are walking with me.” And your fears will dissipate. I practiced that many times. I used to walk very early in the morning around here, hearing all kinds of noises coming from the woods. After a few weeks of doing this, I had no fear anymore. I was never walking alone. And then I imagined that someone would come rushing at me from the back, but I am still not going to be afraid – I know Hashem is with me. And these are the exercises that you need to do.  So every time you walk down the block, you train yourself.

Facing and Overcoming Our Fears

I knew a fellow who was petrified of raccoons. They would come around the back of his house when he would turn into his driveway, and they would hiss, and this guy would get very nervous. I told him, “Try to test this, because Hashem is with you. It’s not a place of שכיח הזיקה, where ‘damage is common’ – raccoons usually don’t attack people. They are more scared of you than you are scared of them. So a person has to train himself to think this way. Here is someone who has to go to a doctor to potentially hear some bad news, here is what he should do. He has to say before he goes to the doctor, ‘Hashem, you are going with me to the doctor. You are going to accompany me, and You will hold my hand, and You will sit with me, and You will help me hear the news the doctor has to say – Hakodosh Boruch Hu, I am לפניך כל היום, I am always in front of you.’ And if you do that, all your fears will dissipate.” That’s what a person has to know.

Dovid HaMelech said, גַּם כִּי אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת לֹא אִירָא רָע כִּי אַתָּה עִמָּדִי – “Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness, I fear no harm, for You are with me” (Tehillim 23:4). You have these guys who put up bumper stickers on the back of their trucks, l’havdil, that say: “No fear.” My zeide used to say that this is usually the sign of a guy who’s petrified. They put “no fear” to try to get themselves not to be afraid. I remember, as a kid, seeing a bumper sticker, “Single and Loving It.” My zeide used to say,  “This person, you should know, cries himself to sleep every other night, and they soak their bed in tears over their loneliness.” What a silly thing to say! They are trying to convince themselves that they are single and loving it against the backdrop of being depressed over their single status. A person has to know that the only way you are going to overcome any fear is if you will train yourself, and you must train yourself! Try to imagine yourself in a fight with someone, or try to imagine a criminal is coming over to you and asking you for your money and all of a sudden you say to yourself, “Hakodosh Buruch Hu, you are with me. Hakadosh Buruch Hu, you are with me.” But people cannot do that because their fear becomes so overpowering that the last thing they want to hear about is Hashem. They don’t think of Hashem as a reality in their life. But Hashem is the reality, it’s the only reality in your life!

R’ Chaim Volozhiner’s Amazing Segulah

This is the amazing segulah brought down by Rav Chaim Volozhiner (Nefesh Chaim, Sha’ar 3, 12:8). This is an amazing principle of Yiddishkeit and an amazing segulah. He was not a “Chassid” – he doesn’t bring segulos, but if he does, you can take this one to the bank! This is not like sticking your fingers into Havdalah wine and getting your eyes wet with it, or waxing your pockets or stains in your jackets, etc. No, this is not what it’s about. This is a truly amazing segulah! What is it about? He says the following:

ובאמת הוא ענין גדול וסגולה נפלאה להסר ולבטל מעליו כל דינין ורצונות אחרים שלא יוכלו לשלוט בו ולא יעשו שום רושם כלל. כשהאדם קובע בלבו לאמר הלא ה’ הוא האלקים האמתי ואין עוד מלבדו יתברך שום כח בעולם וכל העולמות כלל והכל מלא רק אחדותו הפשוט ית”ש. ומבטל בלבו ביטול גמור ואינו משגיח כלל על שום כח ורצון בעולם. ומשעבד ומדבק טוהר מחשבתו רק לאדון יחיד ב”ה. כן יספיק הוא יתב’ בידו שממילא יתבטלו מעליו כל הכוחות והרצונות שבעולם שלא יוכלו לפעול לו שום דבר כלל

“And truthfully, this is a great matter and a wondrous segulah that takes a person out of the realm of any other judgments and the desires of others, so that they can not control him, nor make any impression at all. When a person fixes it in his heart to state, that after all: G-d is the true Elokim and there is no other power in the universe, nor in all the worlds at all other than Him, and everything is filled only with His (blessed be His name) simple unity. And in his heart, he completely nullifies all others, and does not attend (or pay attention) to any power or will in the universe, and harnesses and adheres the purity of his thoughts only to the One and Only Lord (blessed is He), and then He will make it happen for him, that all of the powers and desires that are in the universe will be nullified from upon him, so that they will not able to affect him in any way at all.”

Falling Down the Stairs

And I will tell you even a bigger chiddush I will share a story with you. One day I came home from the Yeshiva. We lived in a basement apartment at the time. There were about eight steps going down to the basement and I took those steps too quickly. There was a banister on one side; on the other side, there wasn’t. And all of a sudden, I went flying head first. My foot got stuck on one of the steps and it bent underneath me when I went flying. When I saw the bottom of the steps and I saw my face was headed toward the tiles, I knew that I was heading for a disaster. So the first thing I did was with Hashem’s help, I took my two hands and plastered them to the two walls. I was hanging in mid-air and I “glued” my hands to those walls and I prayed that they would become like one of those suction cups. I was suspended like this, and then I slowly got myself up. I sat down on one of the steps and then I took a look at my foot and realized that my foot was snapped. One of the strongest tendons in a person’s body is the tendon that goes from the hip to your knee (i.e., iliotibial band); it’s a thick tendon that controls everything, and it’s very unusual for it to snap – that’s what the doctor told me. Now my knee bone was sticking out and was pressing very hard against my pants. My knee went out and I was looking at it, and I knew it wasn’t good. On the spot, Hakodosh Boruch Hu was with me. I closed my eyes and with all my strength I thought, “Hakodosh Boruch Hu you are with me and I am with you, ואין עוד מלבדו – there is no other koach in the world other than you.” I got into such a zone, into such a deep meditation – hodu l’Hashem ki tov – that the next thing I knew my wife came to the steps to see what was going on, and she saw my knee sticking out and she called 911 right away. When the paramedics came, they said that I was in a very serious shock and not cognizant. I wasn’t interested in any of their questions, like “how old are you, and how much do you weigh, etc.” What difference does it make? I heard them say, “That’s some serious shock.” They somehow managed to stick a sheet under my body, and three guys took me out of the basement, put me on the stretcher, and drove me straight to the emergency room.

In the emergency room, the doctor said, “We need to take an X-ray.” I said, “Take whatever you need.” I was totally with Hashem, אין עוד מלבדו.They took an X-ray and came back a little while later and asked me, “On a scale of 1 to 10 what is your pain level?” I said, “Zero. It’s uncomfortable, but I have zero pain.” They said, “You are hemorrhaging profusely – that’s what the X-ray showed, and you should be experiencing the worst pain possible.” I said I had no pain. They asked, “Do you have a high tolerance for pain?” I said, “I dislike pain just like you do. I don’t have a high pain threshold, and I don’t like pain.” They called another doctor to look at an X-ray and he asked, “Do you mind if I touch it?” I said, “If it would make you feel better, go right ahead.” They started touching and pushing my bone down and they couldn’t believe that I wasn’t screaming from pain. And I told them that I truly didn’t feel any pain. They said that’s not possible and that I needed emergency surgery.

I learned from this story a peledike zach. A person can get into that zone of אין עוד מלבדו – even on the physical level. You see, I always thought that this concept worked only for הכוחות והרצונות אחרים – when someone else wants to hurt you. You could be ’מתדבק בה and that diminishes the koach of others. But, no, it even works for natural things in the world. And if a person gets into that zone, he can rise above pain, and he can nullify all things because now he is with Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

The Thought Process on Rosh Hashanah

We are standing before Rosh Hashana. The period before Rosh Hashana is a frightening time, but to us, it’s not frightening because we are all zombies and bobbleheads, we don’t believe in Rosh Hashanah, we don’t believe in the yom hadin. We all think, “Nah, it’s not going to happen to me. It didn’t happen last year, it won’t happen this year.” Ay, the last guy said the same thing and look what happened to him? There was a fellow riding a bicycle last week who was run over and went to the next world. Do you think he thought it was possible to happen to him? No. When you ride a bike, you think you are riding “for life.” Last Rosh Hashanah that person got a din.  Look how many houses were flooded this year, and how many were damaged by fire or wind, in Texas, and in Los Angeles. It didn’t happen last hurricane season, Rabbosai. It all happened last Rosh Hashanah! When the chazan said, “Mi ba’mayim,” in his tefillos, that’s when Hashem stamped the city of Miami for flooding, and each individual house that flooded as well! Hashem meant business, He gave them chances. You have to know this is a very serious time! It all happened last Rosh Hashanah!

What if this person has someone sick in the family or is himself sick, lo aleichem, lo aleinu – how do you deal with it? 

What should be your thought process on Rosh Hashanah? The avodah of Rosh Hashanah is to proclaim Hashem as the King, to coronate Him, to elevate Him. But since we are on such a low level, it is hard to tap into this. If I were to ask you to be mamlich Hashem, you’d probably burst out laughing from now until Rosh Hashanah. This means nothing to most of us. “I want to go to sleep right now and I don’t want to be bothered by Hashem. What’s this coronating Hashem?! I don’t see Hashem, I don’t feel Hashem.” So what’s the avodah of Rosh Hashanah for us then? Yes, we all sing “Hashem melech, Hashem malach, Hashem yimloch leolam voed,” with all kinds of nigunim. But what’s the avodah of the day? When you are sitting and you are tired, and you are not sure what to fill your mind with, don’t fill it with nonsense. The avodah of this day is one thing: throughout Rosh Hashanah, in every one of your tefillos you should be thinking as many times as possible – 100, 200, 300 times a day the following thought: “Hakodosh Boruch Hu, I am with you, You are the One to whom I turn.” Say this passuk: אֹמַר לַה’ מַחְסִי וּמְצוּדָתִי אֱלֹהַי אֶבְטַח בּוֹ (ibid). “You are my refuge,” and think about every single part of your body; think about your life, your parents’ lives, your wife’s life, your children’s lives, think about yesurim and suffering that others have had and think, “Hakodosh Boruch Hu, you are with me, everything is from You.”

Two Important Steps

See, in order to make Hashem a Melech, you first need to acknowledge that there’s a Hashem in your life! If you don’t acknowledge there’s Hashem in your life, you can’t make Hashem a Melech! It doesn’t work. So the first thing you do is acknowledge that there is Hashem in your life. Then you say to Hashem, “I acknowledge you are the Melech. Maybe I can’t get to a high madreiga when I am mamlich You, but I can get to a level where I acknowledge that everything I have is from You, Hashem, and there is no other power in the world.” Here is a guy who’s standing and thinking, I hope this rich guy gives me a job. I hope this rich guy gives me money. I hope I win the sweepstakes.” That is stupidity. A person should think, “Hakodosh Boruch Hu, You are the only One who is with me.” And if a person wants to know how he can be נִצָּבִים לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם – even in the face of 98 klalos – remember that you are לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם! That’s what you have to remember. You have to remember two things: 1) there is Hashem in the world 2) Hashem is אֱלֹקֵיכֶם – He’s your personal Hashem. And even if a person gets yesurim from Hashem, he has to know one thing – that yesurim are not a clap, they are a “mussar” – Hashem is waking us up to come back to Him, and if we come back to Hashem  then we won’t need yesurim. So do that and you will be able to have a kesiva v’chasima tova. Take Hashem seriously. Acknowledge that Hashem is in your life, He is with you and you are with Him, and you will be safe from all terrible things.

Part 2: Feeling the Shabbos (2010)

The Body Can Feel Kedushas Shabbos

Let’s begin with a vort from the Avnei Nezer (R’ Avraham Borenstein, 1838-1910), the famous Sochatchov Rebbe, an adam gadol with many teshuvos.[ii]He left over a kesav yad called Neos Hadesha, where he writes there a short vort that was very insightful to me. For a while I’ve been thinking and asking myself: How do you feel and sense kedushas Shabbos? How does the kedushah of Shabbos manifest itself in my life?

So the Sochatchover says there’s a concept of ner Shabbos which the gemara says is משום שלום בית. He explains the deeper meaning behind shalom bayis. He says that every person’s body is a bayis for his soul. Your guf is the house of your neshamah. But there’s no shalom in this bayis.That is, there is no shalom between the neshamah and the bayis, the guf, because the neshamah‘s whole desire is to serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the guf’s is drawn toward cheftzei haguf (bodily desires). This, in turn, creates a tremendous lack of shalom bayis. The neshamah wants to accept malchus shamayim, while the guf views malchus shamayim as an ol, as a yoke. The superiority of the neshamah over the guf, he says, is כיתרון האור מן החושך – like the superiority of light over darkness. And our job is to subdue our guf to the will of the neshamah and be mekabel upon our guf the ol malchus shamayim.

However, he explains that it is only during the weekdays. On Shabbos, on the other hand, whatever was considered to be an ol (burden) on the guf, is transformed to become an oneg (pleasure). When the pasuk (Yeshayahu 58:13) says: וקראת לשבת עונג, it teaches us that the shem ha’etzem, the essence of Shabbos is called an oneg. And it is shayach for the guf to actually express that and feel it. Oneg is a physical perception. It’s not in the mind. You feel oneg. The mitzvah of oneg Shabbos is to eat a shtickel chulent, or a good piece of gefilte fish. That’s called oneg Shabbos. The oneg Shabbos is mesbateh (expressed) in the guf, where it enables the guf to do mitzvos on Shabbos without an ol. He says that the guf itself is מתרצה למלכות שמים. An incredible idea. But how does it work?

How it All Happens

What happens is Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives you a neshamah yeseirah. Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives you an additional neshamah. A whole week you have such a neshamah and such a guf. On Shabbos, what Hakadosh Baruch Hu does is He gives the guf an injection of an extra neshamah and this lightens the darkness of the materialism, whereby on Shabbos, it is nesgaleh, it becomes revealed to the guf the oneg that exists in mitzvos because it’s me’ein olam haba. This is the  secret of how ner Shabbos represents shalom bayis. When you see the ner of Shabbos, it represents the neshamah of Shabbos. That is shalom bayis because now it becomes בין איש ובין ביתו, which creates shalom bayis between איש ביתו – between the guf and neshama.

Then he says, there’s a proof for this idea from the Zohar. The Zohar says on Shabbos a person is patur from עול מלכות שמים. And what represent the עול מלכות שמים? Tefillin. But chas veshalom to say on Shabbos you’re exempt from עול מלכות שמים – that can’t be! So then what are you exempt from on Shabbos?! The answer is, on Shabbos you are exempt from the ol aspect, meaning to say, that on Shabbos mitzvos are not an ol – it’s not a yoke for the body to do mitzvos, as it is during the week.

Winning the Real War

Now we’re going to try to get some clarification in our understanding of this struggle, namely, the lack of shalom bayis within ourselves and the inner turmoil that exists within us against our will. You have to know that during the week, a person is in a state of milchamah, in a state of war.There’s a famous Chovos Halevavos that says in Sha’ar Yichud Hama’aseh that there was a chassid that saw some warriors come back from a battle and they had taken a lot of spoils and felt overwhelmed. The chassid told them that what they returned from was a small milchamah. That’s what he said. “I wish you well in the big milchamah.”They asked him, “What milchamah are you talking about? The milchamah is over. We won.” He said, “Milchemes hayetzer vechayalav, the milchamah of the yetzer and his soldiers.”[iii]

A mentsch has to know that the essence of this milchamah is that each side strives to get the other one to be machnia (subjugate)itself. The guf tries to get the neshamah to machnia itself to the guf and the neshamah tries to get the guf to machnia itself to the neshamah. But,  as Chazal have told us, there is something unique about this milchamah. In a regular milchamah how do you win? You surround the enemy and try to destroy them. You have to go to the enemy and you have to mamash beat them up. That’s what you have to do. Over here, though, the job is not to go and beat up the yetzer hara. What is the milchamah of the yetzer? How is this milchamah fought?

The Rambam in his preface to mishnayos in Zerayim famously writes about the חורבן הנפש, the destruction of the neshamah.[iv] Do you know what destroys the neshamah? תיקון הגוף, when one is mesaken his guf. The tikun haguf is the churban of the nefesh. ותיקון הנפש, you want to know what’s mesaken the nefesh? בחורבן הגוף.If a person strengthens his koach haseichel and his connection with his neshamah, that will automatically weaken the kochos haguf. So it comes out that the war with the yetzer hara is not that you have to go attack the yetzer hara. You have to strengthen your relationship with your spirituality. You have to be  mechazek your connection to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. You have to be ma’aleh yourself, elevate yourself.Once you have strengthened the koach of your neshamah, the result is your guf becomes weak. A person who is mekabel ol Torah, תורה מתשת כחו של אדם, the physical koach of a mentsch becomes weak. And it works fakhert too. If a person is osek in inyanei haguf more than is necessary – not just to be mechazek the body, but leshem tikun haguf -that is going to be machriv his neshamah.

Now the emes is that in this war you want to make shalom between two enemies. What do you usually do to make shalom? You try to find a compromise. So in this milchamah many people also tend to compromise. But what comes out from this yesod is that the compromise is the churban.Let me explain what I mean. Let’s say a person says, “You know what? I’m going to compromise. That means there are going to be times when I’m going to fulfill the will of my guf. I’m going to dedicate this time, whether it’s bein hasedarim, bein hazmanim, weekends, evenings, whatever I decide is the time, הנני מוכן ומזומן למלא רצון הגוף and during the day I’m going to learn shtark. During the zman, I’ll learn shtark and that will be the compromise.” That’s not going to work. Do you know why? Because any time you’re draw after the chumriyus, anytime you’re mesaken the guf you create a terrible turmoil between yourself and the neshamah and that’s its own churban.

So what is the way a person can have shalom? Shalom could only be achieved if a person makes the neshamah, or his spirituality, dominate his guf. He needs his guf to become batel (subservient) to his neshamah. The whole tachlis of Hashem creating ra, the whole tachlis of the yetzer hara within us is in order for that ra to become batel to the tov. You have to understand this because it’s a tremendous yesod. That means the ratzon hatemidi (constant desire) of every mentsch should beto want to do the ratzon Hashem and for his guf to want to do the ratzon Hashem. But he has to train himself how his guf should work for his neshamah.

The Yeitzer Is Rooting For You!

There’s a famous Zohar that the Ba’al Hatanya quotes. The Zohar says that the yetzer hara really has tremendous pleasure when you beat it. As opposed to other battles that a person has, there is nothing more humiliating than an enemy getting beaten. When an enemy becomes batel,he hates the guy who won. But the yetzer hara is different because the yetzer hara is really working for Hakadosh Baruch Hu and the yetzer hara really wants that a person should not concede to him, not give in to him. A yidis supposed to be mevatel the ra and then Hakadosh Baruch Hu has tremendous nachas ruach from the him. But if the yetzer hara is able to pull a yid down and break him, the yetzer hara ends up being on Hashem’s bad list. He knows that’s not the purpose of the ra. That’s not the purpose of his creation. His purpose of creation is that Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s children should be mesgaber over the yetzer hara and be matzliach.

Rav Yerucham writes this and he says that in this milchamah the yetzer becomes your best friend. Where do we find that? By Moshe Rabeinu, he says. When Moshe Rabeinu went up to get the Torah, the gemara says he had to have a vikuach (argument) with all the malachim. And at the end, even the Malach Hamaves became his friend. The Malach Hamaves gave him the secret of the ketores which is the secret of life, how to be saved from the yetzer hara, from the Satan. That’s because the Satan wants the ra to become batel to the tov.

Desiring the Real Oneg Shabbos!

So it comes out that on Shabbos, ‘טוב להודות לה, we have to mamash be modeh to Hakadosh Baruch Hu that He gives us – His banim ahuvim – an opportunity in this dark world, where the ra is overpowering and so many people are failing, a chance to pashut have a shtickel menuchah. He gives us a chance to taste what menuchah sheleimah is. Menuchah sheleimah means you’re at rest. There’s no battle – there’s no inner struggle between the guf and the neshamah. That’s menuchah sheleimah. And Hakadosh Baruch Hu gives us that, as we say in the zemiros וְשָׁם יָנוּחוּ יְגִיעֵי כֹחַ – “there exhausted ones rest.” Over there in olam haba you’re going to have ינוחו, those who have toiled, the weary ones, will rest. Therefore, Shabbos is taka that day. Shabbos is a day when Hakadosh Baruch Hu teaches us, “I’m going to imbue you with the neshamah yeseirah. I’m going to give you a chance to taste what the guf should want and find oneg in doing the ratzon Hashem.”

So the first thing you have to do is you have to want that. That’s the first step. Sometimes a person is in such choshech, such darkness – where he is so downtrodden and beaten already – that he doesn’t even understand that this is what he really wants! But baruch Hashem we want that. We want to aspire to that. We want that our guf should want to feel the מלכותו ברצון קבלו עליהם. On Shabbos, a person should attempt to see if he can get away from his guf, get away from strengthening his guf and attempt to taste the neshamah yeseirah, attempt to taste the benefit of that kedushah yeseirah that Hakadosh Baruch Hu presents us with. This is done by sleeping less – which is one of the strongest physical drives, having shorter meals, and maximizing learning of the Torah, halacha, etc.  This koach ruchni that Hashem gives us through our neshamah yeseirah, which strengthens neshamah actually creates a churban haguf. The direct result is בנין הנשמה חורבן הגוף., as the Rambam explained.That’s what happens.

This has a tremendous hashpa’ah. This is the musag of Shabbos. If a person will now go and look into the words of davening, they’ll see many indications of this. Many of us miss this beauty of Shabbos and we think that Shabbos, rachmana litzlan, is a time for tikun haguf. There are many, many people who think about Shabbos this way, especially if they are a learning person! You learned during the week a little bit, so Shabbos is the time for you to have tikun haguf. The Arizal says that the purpose of sleeping on Shabbos for a talmid chacham is to be able to be masig hasagos that he couldn’t get during the weekday. On Shabbos he could get it through his sleep and comprehend certain inyanim! That’s the purpose of sleeping on Shabbos not to cover yourself under the blankets and forget about the world for 3 hours. So the tikun haguf is never the purpose of Shabbos. That brings the churban haneshamah.

The Mashal That Only Rav Miller Could Give!

Let us hope we can key a little bit into this idea of tikun hanefesh, the binyan haneshamah and experience the churban haguf and not allow our guf to be machriv our neshamah. If we’ll do this, we’ll make a kinyan on this, Rabbosai! It will be a kinyan olamis for ourselves. It will be an everlasting kinyan. We’ll be able to sense it. My grandfather mamash explained this in a very simple way. When you come to the next world if you have not struggled in this world to attain tikun haneshamah and churban haguf and you spend your life on tikun haguf, you’re going to come to the next world and they’re going to sit you in a room with a big clock and they’re going to give you a big gemara and they’re going to say you can sit and learn for the rest of your life, for the rest of time! And you’re going to go bananas! You’re going to go berserk because your whole avodah in this world was tikun haguf. You’re going to say, “Where are the snacks? Where’s the nosh? When do you get recess here? How long do we have to sit here? Can’t I go see so and so?” There’s nothing else to do! Nothing else is going on here, my friend. So you’ve got to prepare yourself. And that’s what happens, unfortunately, when a person is machriv his neshamah and mesaken his guf, instead.The result of this churban is the lack of shalom bayis, which creates a tremendous pressure, a tremendous force that a person feels when somebody is forcing him to be mekabel ol malchus shamayim. Our entire purpose here is to get in touch with olam haba because olam haba is lenetzach netzachim. That’s for real. If you’re not going to be ready for it, you won’t get it. Every Shabbos is a practice of this tremendous yesod, Rabbosai.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu should be mezakeh us that we should be able to get in touch with this on Shabbos and we should be able to be oleh ma’aleh ma’aleh.

The Bottom Line

Moshe Rabbeinu taught Klal Yisroel that the secret to overcoming the most overwhelming and frightening situations in our lives – such as standing before the din of Rosh Hashanah – is to become acutely aware that we constantly “stand” in the presence of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם. Our drive for independence and the resulting desire for self-reliance, however, make us live in a vacuum, without Hashem, which is the biggest danger and klalah. The more we become aware that we are לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם, both in our thoughts and speech, the safer we’ll be. Repeatedly saying various pesukim of bitachon to help us realize that Hashem is constantly with us will help us to begin to acquire bitachon, which is the only way to overcome the challenge of fear, pain, and other dangers that may surround us. This Rosh Hashanah, to properly be mamlich Hashem over the world, in a most meaningful and sincere way, I will first be mamlich Hashem over myself, by reminding myself that I am in the presence of Hashem and by thinking, as much as possible: “Hashem, You are with me, You are my refuge. You are in charge of every aspect of my life, health, etc. Everything that I have is from You!” Finally, since Rosh Hashanah this year also falls on Shabbos, I will, bli neder, think about the amazing vort of Avnei Nezer, of how the neshama yeseira enables my body to feel the pleasure, a menuchah, on Shabbos, to perform mitzvos without any burden since the guf and neshama are in a state of shalom bayis, whereby the oneg of mitzvos becomes revealed to the guf! This is really the deeper meaning of the shalom bayis concept that ner shel Shabbos represents. And if I can remind myself of this idea and even practice some aspects of תיקון הנפש by slowly increasing my Torah learning (and gradually minimizing my sleep, etc), I will begin to train my body to actually enjoy mitzvos and be zoiche to feel a schtickle olam haba in the process!

[i] לָמָּה נִסְמְכָה פָרָשַׁת אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים לַקְּלָלוֹת? לְפִי שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאָה קְלָלוֹת חָסֵר שְׁתַּיִם חוּץ מִמ”ט שֶׁבְּתוֹרַת כֹּהֲנִים, הוֹרִיקוּ פְנֵיהֶם וְאָמְרוּ מִי יוּכַל לַעֲמֹד בָּאֵלּוּ? הִתְחִיל מֹשֶׁה לְפַיְּסָם – אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם, הַרְבֵּה הִכְעַסְתֶּם לַמָּקוֹם וְלֹא עָשָׂה אִתְּכֶם כְּלָיָה וַהֲרֵי אַתֶּם קַיָּמִים לְפָנָיו

[ii] ענין נר שבת משום שלום ביתו. כי הגוף בית הנשמה, ואין שלום בין איש הזה וביתו. כי הנשמה כל חפצה לעבוד את בוראה, והגוף – להבלי העולם, ומלכות שמים לעול עליו. ויש יתרון להנשמה מן הגוף כיתרון האור מן החושך, והנשמה מכריחה את הגוף בעל כרחו לקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים. וכל זה בחול, אבל בשבת כל מה שהיה על הגוף בבחי’ עול מתהפך בשבת לעונג, וגם הגוף מתרצה בעצמו למלכות שמים. וזה ע”י הנשמה היתירה שמאירה חשכת החומר, ומתגלה בשבת העונג שבמצוות, כי הוא מעין עולם הבא. וזה: נר שבת משום שלום ביתו, כי נעשה שלום בין איש וביתו, כנ”ל. וראיה מזוהר, שבשבת האדם פטור מעול מלכות שמים דאיהו תפילין, וח”ו לומר שפטור ממלכות שמים, רק מעול, והיינו שבשבת אין מלכות שמים לעול . (כתי”א סי’ נ”ח, וכן כתי”ג פ’ חיי שרה) (נאות הדשא – א)

[iii] ואמרו על חסיד שפגע אנשים שבים ממלחמת אויבים ושללו שלל אחר מלחמה חזקה אמר להם שבתם מן המלחמה הקטנה שוללים שלל התעתדו למלחמה הגדולה אמרו לו ומה היא המלחמה הגדולה אמר להם מלחמת היצר וחייליו (חובות הלבבות, שער חמישי – שער ייחוד המעשה ה׳)

[iv] והחכמה היא אשר תוסיף על כחו הפנימית ותעתיק אותו ממעלת בוז למעלת כבוד שהרי היה האדם בכח וחזר אדם בפועל והאדם קודם שישכיל וידע הוא נחשב כבהמה לא נבדל משאר מין החיות אלא בהגיון שהוא חי בעל הגיון רוצה לומר בהגיון שהוא מצייר לנפשו המושכלות. והנכבד שבמושכלות לצייר לנפשו אחדות הקב”ה וכל הנלוה לענין ההוא מהאלהיים ששאר החכמות אינם אלא להרגיל בהם עד שיגיע לדעת האלהי והדיבור בזה הענין עד כלותו יאריך מאד. אבל עם ציור המושכלות יתחייב להרחיק רוב התענוגים הגופיים כי תחלת השכל יצייר שחרבן הנפש בתקון הגוף ותקון הנפש בחרבן הגוף. שהאדם כשיהיה רודף תאוות ומגביר המורגשות על המושכלות ומעביר שכלו לתאותיו עד יחזור כבהמה אשר לא תצייר לנפשה אלא האכילה והשתיה והתשמיש. אז לא יתודע הכח האלהי רוצה לומר השכל. וישוב אז כאלו הוא בריה גזורה שוחה בתוך ים ההיולי ופירש ים היולי תהו. ונתברר מאלו המוקדמות כי תכלית העולם וכל אשר בו הוא איש חכם וטוב. וכאשר יתברר לאיש שהוא ממיני האדם הדעת והמעשה. ר”ל בדעת לצייר בשכלו אמתות הדברים על פי מה שהם עליו ולהשיג כל מה שאפשר לאדם להשיג. והמעשה. הוא תקון ויושר הדברים הטבעיים ושלא יהיה שטוף בתענוגים ושלא יקח מהם אלא מה שיהיה בו תקון גופו ותקון המדות כלם, וכו’. (הקדמת הרמב”ם למשנה י״ז)

[i] To access “Part 1” from last year, please visit and search for Parshas Ki Savo from 5782

[ii] בפסוק “זה אי ואנוהו” אמרו חז”ל בשבת דף קל”ג הוי דומה לו מה הוא חנון ורחום אף אתה, והרמב”ם ז”ל פ”א מה’ דעות ה”ו כתב דרשה זו מקרא דוהלכת בדרכיו מה הוא רחום וכו’ וכ”כ רבינו יונה ז”ל ומקור לזה כתבו שהוא מספרי עקב, וכנראה מדברי הרמב”ם ז”ל שזהו מ”ע מדאורייתא. ובגמרא סנהדרין צ”ב אמרינן כל אדם שאין בו דעת אסור לרחם עליו שנאמר כי לא עם בינות הוא ע”כ לא ירחמנו עושהו וכו’ ואר”א כל הנותן פתו למי שאין בו דעה יסורין באין עליו שנאמר וכו’, והדברים צריכים ביאור גדול שהרי אפילו על בהמה ושאר בע”ח מצוה לרחם וכדאמרי’ בב”מ דפ”ה אי שא”ל רבי לאמתי’ שבקי’ ורחמיו על כל מעשיו כתיב וכש”כ על אדם שאין לו דעת כגון תינוק שבודאי מצוה לרחם עליו לעזרו ולמלטו מכל צרה וצוקה [בזמן שאין לו מי שיפקח עליו]. ונראה בזה בעה”י שני גדרים אמיתיים, האי דלא נקרא רחמנות אלא במה שלא חייבתו תורה ליתן וכגון אם הוא עני הרי חייבה תורה לכל ישראל להחזיק בידו ולתת לו די מחסורו וכן השבת אבדתו ופריקה וטעינה וכל כיו”ב אין העושה נקרא מרחם אלא עושה מה שחייב לעשות וזה ודאי חייבים לעשות לכל אדם ואפילו למי שאין בו דעה ואפילו אם הוא אדם בעל מדות קשות ורעות שכל זמן שהוא בכלל אחיך חייבים לעשות לו כמו לשאר עניים שבישראל אבל ענין רחמנות המדובר כאן הוא לענין לתת לו לפנים משורת הדין דהיינו יותר ממה שחייבה תורה וזהו מצד הרחמנות בלבד ועל זה אמרו שלמי שאין בו דעת אסור לרחם עליו והטעם הוא כמשי”ת בעה”י. נראה עוד גדר בזה דודאי מי שאין בו דעת כלל לא לטובה ולא לרעה וכגון ילד וכיו”ב מצוה גדולה להטיב עמו ולרחם עליו בכל מה שהוא צריך, אבל הגמרא מדברת כאן במי שאין בו דעת ורגש להכיר טובה למטיבים עמו ולהכניע מפניהם, אבל יודע לבעוט בגאוה ובוז על המרחמים עליו ומביט עליהם כעל נחות דרגא הנכנעים לפני מעלתו, ותחת להכיר ביקרת לבבם של המרחמים עליו ובמעלת נדיבותם, הוא הושב בדמיונו שכ”ז הוא חולשה מצד מרחמיו שהם כמוכרחים להטיב עמו וכי לכבוד הוא להם להיות בתומכיו [ובדמיונו מצוייר כאילו זה מגיע לו באמת וכמעט שקובע בלבו שהוא עושה. טובה עמהן במה שהוא נאות לקבל מהן] והוא מתברך בלבבו לאמר הגה נפל לידו בר נש שאפשר למצוץ ממנו, וכבר הוא אצלו בהרשימה של משועבדיו. והתוצאות מהרחמנות על שכזה המה רעות רבות. א’] אין שמחזקים את גאותו של זה ובפרט שיתגאה בלבו על מטיביו, ב] שהלה אינו מכיר טובה כלל והו מדה רעה מאד וכמשי”ת בעה”י, הג’] שבכדי להראות שהוא איננו נכנע כלל להכיר טובה, הוא אדרבא משלם רעה תחת טובה ומעמיד פנים כאילו הוא נפגע מהם, וכאילו הדריכו את מנוחתו, וכידוע ליודעים. וזהו מדה מנוולת מאד. והד] שבהתנהגות כזו, הרי הוא מעורר קפידה גדולה אצל מטיביו, ונמצאו באים לידי שנאה תחת אהבה שהיתה ראוי לבא ע”י מדת ההטבה. והה’] שכפי הרגיל האדם הלזה מוסיף דורש בתוקף שיחזרו ויתנו לו ורוצה שיתנו לו דוקא כאשר בתחילה, וכפי הרגיל גם בפעם השני מרחמים עליו קצת אבל לא כאשר בתחילה והלזה מתקצף כאילו גזלוהו כו’, וסוף סוף שדורש וחוזר ודורש עד שמסתלקין ממנו לגמרי והלזה נעשה שונא גמור למטיביו, וכ”ז בא ע”י שרחמו על מי שאין בו דעה להכיר טובה, ולכן אחז”ל שאסור לרחם על כיו”ב כי תוצאותיו הם צרות רבות ורעות וכשנ”ת. ואפשר דזהו נמי מה שאמרו דיסורין באין עליו [על המרחם למי שאין בו דעה] דהיינו יסורין של שילום רעה תחת טובה, ושל קטטות ושנאה כבושה וכנ”ל. ועיין עוד חולין דף קל”ג ע”א בגליון. ומניעת הכרת הטובה הוא מדה רעה ומרה מאוד ועיקר הדרך לאהבת השי”ת ביארו החסיד בחו”ה על יסוד הכרת הטובה. והנני מעתיק מש”כ בברייתא משנת ר”א פ”ז מ”ל אין לך קשה לפני הקב”ה יותר מכפיית טובה וכו’ לא נטרד אדה”ר מג”ע אלא על כפיית הטובה כו’ אף אבותינו במדבר לא כעס עליהן הקב”ה אלא על כפיית הטובה כו’ וכשהיו אבותינו בארץ לא היו רוב חטאותיהן אלא כפיית טובה כו’ מפני מה ענש הכתוב ביותר לכפויי הטובה מפני שהוא כעין כפירה בעיקר כו’ האדם הזה הוא כופה טובתו של חברו למחר הוא כופה טובתו של קונו כו’ שכפיית הטובה הוקשה לכפירה בעיקר כו’, הזהרו שלא תכפו טובה שכפוי טובה אינו יכול לקבל מלכות שמים, וע”ש.

[iii] ולפיכך אמרו (אבות פ”ב מ”א) הוי זהיר במצוה קלה כבחמורה שכולן חמודות וחביבות מאד, שבכל שעה אדם מודה בהן לאלקיו וכוונת כל המצות שנאמין באלקינו ונודה אליו שהוא בראנו, והיא כוונת היצירה, שאין לנו טעם אחר ביצירה הראשונה, ואין קל עליון חפץ בתחתונים מלבד שידע האדם ויודה לאלקיו שבראו, וכוונת רוממות הקול בתפלות וכוונת בתי הכנסיות וזכות תפלת הרבים, זהו שיהיה לבני אדם מקום יתקבצו ויודו לקל שבראם והמציאם ויפרסמו זה ויאמרו לפניו בריותיך אנחנו, וזו כוונתם במה שאמרו ז”ל (ירושלמי תענית פ”ב ה”א) ויקראו אל אלקים בחזקה (יונה ג ח), מכאן אתה למד שתפלה צריכה קול, חציפא נצח לבישה (עי’ ערוך ערך חצף). [ומן הנסים הגדולים המפורסמים אדם מודה בנסים הנסתרים שהם יסוד התורה כלה, שאין לאדם חלק בתורת משה רבינו עד שנאמין בכל דברינו ומקרינו שכלם נסים אין בהם טבע ומנהגו של עולם, בין ברבים בין ביחיד, אלא אם יעשה המצות יצליחנו שכרו, ואם יעבור עליהם יכריתנו ענשו, הכל בגזרת עליון כאשר הזכרתי כבר (בראשית יז א, ולעיל ו ב) ויתפרסמו הנסים הנסתרים בענין הרבים כאשר יבא ביעודי התורה בענין הברכות והקללות, כמו שאמר הכתוב (דברים כט כג-כד) ואמרו כל הגוים על מה עשה ה’ ככה לארץ הזאת, ואמרו על אשר עזבו את ברית ה’ אלהי אבותם, שיתפרסם הדבר לכל האומות שהוא מאת ה’ בעונשם. ואמר בקיום וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה’ נקרא עליך ויראו ממך. ועוד אפרש זה בעזרת השם (ויקרא כו יא)]

[iv] תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר חייב אדם לברך מאה ברכות בכל יום שנאמר (דברים י, יב) ועתה ישראל מה ה’ אלקיך שואל מעמך

[v] כְּמוֹ זֶה יִחְיֶה בַגָּלוּת חַיִּים עֲרֵבִים וְיֶאֱרֶה פְּרִי תּוֹרָתוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וּבָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, וּמִי שֶׁהוּא סוֹבֵל הַגָּלוּת מִתְקַצֵּף, כִּמְעַט שֶׁהוּא מַפְסִיד עוֹלָמוֹ וְאַחֲרִיתוֹ. אָמַר הֶחָבֵר: וּמַה שֶּׁיַּחֲזִיק עֲרֵבוּתוֹ וְיִקְבָּעֶנּוּ וְיוֹסִיף לוֹ עֲרֵבוּת עַל עֲרֵבוּת, שֶׁיְּבָרֵךְ תָּמִיד עַל כָּל מַה שֶּׁהוּא מוֹצֵא מִן הָעוֹלָם וּמַה שֶׁמּוֹצְאוֹ מִמֶּנּוּ.

[vi] למרבה המשרה ולשלום אין קץ וגו’ (ישעיהו ט, ו) א”ר תנחום דרש בר קפרא בציפורי מפני מה כל מ”ם שבאמצע תיבה פתוח וזה סתום ביקש הקב”ה לעשות חזקיהו משיח וסנחריב גוג ומגוג. אמרה מדת הדין לפני הקב”ה רבש”ע ומה דוד מלך ישראל שאמר כמה שירות ותשבחות לפניך לא עשיתו משיח חזקיה שעשית לו כל הנסים הללו  .[רש”י: כל הנסים הללו – שניצל מסנחריב ונתרפא מחליו] ולא אמר שירה לפניך תעשהו משיח לכך נסתתם.

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