Nitzavim-Vayeilech

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מי יעלה לנו השמימה   ל:יב           The Baal Ha’Turim brings that the rashei teivos of these four words is milah, and the sofei teivos is the sheim havayah, indicating that milah is necessary for one to go up to Hashem in Shamayim.  Milah of course means to have a bris milah, but Chazal say that it also includes shemiras ha’bris.  This is a reference to guarding one’s eyes and other related inyanei kedusha.  It is a very difficult nisayon.  It is important to be aware, though, that a) it is a matter of great significance, and b) each time a person has a success in this regard – for example, by not going to places that he should not be going to and/or not looking at that which he is not allowed to look – it leads to further success, as Chazal say “one who tries to become purified is helped”.  Taharah leads to more and more taharah until eventually one is oleh ha’Shamaymah to Hashem. (Audio recording)

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אמר ביום ההוא הלא על כי אין אלקי בקרבי מצאוני הרעות האלה לא:יז                  It seems as though this is a statement of teshuva on the part of Klal Yisrael; that they recognize that their aveiros caused the Shechina to leave them.  However the next pasuk says “v’Anochi haster astir panay ba’yom ha’hu”.  Why would hester panim be the response to teshuva?  The Ramban learns that, yes, the pasuk is a statement of thoughts of teshuva, but it isn’t followed through with proper teshuva on the practical level.  Rav Simcha Bunim mi’Pshischa, though, learns that the statement “ein Elokai b’kirbi” is itself a terrible thing.  The worst thing that can happen is if Yidden think that what is happening to them is not from Hashem, that Hashem doesn’t care about them and has simply cast them aside.  Thinking that what happens is not from Hashem only leads to deeper hester panim in which it becomes even more difficult to see the yad Hashem.  It is critical to be aware that no matter what, everything that happens is always hashgacha. (From Rebbetzin Twersky’s notes and editor’s recollection)

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Punishment vs Atonement           The Rambam says (Hilchos Teshuva 6:1-2) that some sins bring about a judgement of punishment that will pertain to the person’s body or his possessions, or his young children, some sins bring about a judgement of punishment that will take place only in the next world, and there are some sins that bring about a judgement of punishment both in this world and in the next. However, says the Rambam, that is only if the person did not do teshuva, but if he did teshuva then the teshuva is like a shield that blocks the negative consequences. One of my talmidim asked me, how does this statement fit with the Gemara that discusses the four categories of atonement? The Gemara clearly says that there are some aveiros for which teshuva alone does not suffice, and the person will have to endure some form of suffering in order to gain full atonement? The answer to this question is that puranus and yissurim are two different things. Puranus is the punishment that is the result of the sin. Indeed, in Maseches Makos (13) it is clear that if one does teshuva, one will not get punished. However, that does not mean that the sin is fully atoned. He still is in need of atonement. Some sins are of a severity that he can only gain full atonement if he endures some form of yissurim (suffering) – not as a punishment, but as a vehicle of atonement. (From Reb Avraham Twersky)

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Quotables
“Being careful to return sefarim to their proper place, and not leaving them in haphazard piles, is an important expression of our regard for the kevod malchus of the Melech ha’kavod”

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Vignette

One day, during aseres yemei teshuva, I needed to speak to Rav Twersky about something. I found him sitting in the back of the Navhordak Beis Medrash during bein ha’sedarim. He was learning Maseches Yoma, which he learned every year l’iluy nishmas his father, Rav Yitzchak Asher Twersky zt”l, whose yahrtzeit was motzaei Yom Kippur. Every year, Rav Twersky made a siyum on Yoma after his private Maariv minyan. In any event, I entered the Beis Medrash and took the few steps over to where Rav Twersky was sitting. “Rebbi,” I said – somewhat timidly, since I noticed that his intensity was even more heightened than normal – “do you have a minute?” His answer, to my mind, was classic Rav Twersky. “A Yid,” he said to me with his penetrating gaze, “does not have a minute during aseres yemei teshuva. But, if you need to make the time, you make the time!” And he made the time. (Editor)

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