Rabbi Shmuel Brazil
The Unique Teshuvah of Rosh Hashanah | Parshas Nitzavim
Iאתם נצבים היום כולכם לפני ה' אלקיכם All of you are standing before Hashem today. Chazal tell us that the word היום refers to Rosh Hashanah. As the passuk says in Iyuv (1,6) ויהי היום ויבאו בני האלקים להתיצב על ה' and the Targum says it was the Yom Hadin which occurs at the beginning of the year- Rosh Hashanah. The Baal Haturim writes on this passuk the mesorah which connects another passuk to it. The second passuk is found at Matan Torah ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר, both events connected by the root word צב. What is the common message that these two events Rosh Hashanah and Matan Torahshare together?
The Aseres Yemai Teshuvah consist of ten days, two days of Rosh Hashanah and one day of Yom Kippur. They are all days which fall under the designated avodah of teshuvah as its name suggests. Yet on Rosh Hashanah we don't find any semblance or rituals of teshuvah as we do during the remaining seven days and Yom Kippur. There is no אשמנו with the banging of one's fist against his heart during viduy, confession of sins, and the regret of doing them, both of which are an essential part of the teshuvah process. Even if we do find a mention of the word teshuvah in davening, for instance in the payit of ונתנה תוקף, there is still no mention of the word חטא . Some authorities are of the opinion that we even omit in the Avinu Malkeinu Tefillah the first one of חטאנו לפניך for it mentions the word חטא.
This deliberate omission of the words of teshuvah and chait during all the tefillos of Rosh Hashanah indicate that although Rosh Hashanah is a day of teshuvah, the character of its teshuvah is different from the remaining eight days in this ten day period.
Chazal tell us that Rosh Hashana on the calendar year corresponds to the sixth day of creation when Hashem created Man. On this very day of creation Man experienced two extremely diverse lives which were literally two worlds, more than a million light years apart from each other. One world was before his eating from the Aitz Hadaas, a world of purity unpolluted from evil's influence, where the light of Hashem radiated from every limb in his spiritual body. He accepted Hashem as the מלך of the cosmos and he was to be his servant in every way and with every breath. That is why the Shiras Hayom of the sixth day of creation is ה' מלך גאות לבש for it was Adam on this very day that accepted Hashem's kingdom to the utmost degree.
The second life began when he was suddenly jolted and dwarfed from his former spiritual dimensions after the chait and he became estranged from Hashem by the infusion of the evil tumah of the Nachash.
The sefarim tell us that all the neshamos of Am Yisrael were contained in the body of Adam Harishon before and after the chait. We therefore carried this legacy and fallout of Adam until Matan Torah whereupon we returned to the level of Adam Harishon before the chait, only to tumble once again into the web and clutches of the Nachash by our worshipping the Golden Calf.
The day of Rosh Hashanah was designated for the day of our judgment for it was the day of Adam's creation and the same day of his judgment. But the day Man was created he possessed two worlds as we explained above. The former world was one that Man desired only the good and a relationship with Hashem that was absolute with no other interest on his agenda. It is on this day of Rosh Hashanah the anniversary of our creation, that we have the ability to return to the level of before the chait just as we were created on that first ערב שבת of creation. During that first period of a few hours of life, aveiros did not exist. Only Man's deepest and closest relationship with Hashem dominated Adam's focus and interest. Therefore, every Rosh Hashanah we have the ability to strive to achieve that relationship with Hashem just as we were created in Adam Harishon before the chait.
This is our avodah on Rosh Hashanah to align ourselves with the stature and spiritual dimensions in which Adam Harishon was created before his falling. That is the reason why there is no mention of chait on Rosh Hashanah because it is designated as the day to return to the state that we were created in, and with the relationship we had with Hashem before chait came about. On this day we must accept Hashem as King the way Adam Harishon did without any other desire other than to serve and love him with our entire existence and focus.
We can bring a support to this concept from the mitzvah of Tekias Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. The Pachad Yitzchak on Rosh Hashanah explains that the blowing of the shofar finds its source of Hashem's blowing of a Neshama into Adam which also occurred on Rosh Hashanah. With Adam's newly created body and soul he accepted Hashem's kingdom upon himself. But another prominent facet of the shofar is that it symbolizes a call to Teshuvah with its wailing and awakening sounds. As the Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuva perek 3,4
אף על פי שתקיעת שופר ראש השנה גזירת הכתוב רמז יש בו כלומר עורו ישנים משנתכם ונרדמים הקיצו מתרדמתכם וחפשו במעשיכם וחזרו בתשובה וזכרו בוראכם
The shofar blowing is a call to awaken from one's sleep and slumber examine one's actions and do teshuvah and "remember your creator". What is this awakening to remember one's creator? We can say that it means to remember the day of the creation of Man who possessed within himself all the Neshamos of Yisrael. The shofar blowing is to bring back the Yid to the first few hours of Adam's existence with the blowing of Neshama into Man, who without any sin, fully accepted the yoke of Hashem's kingdom upon himself. The Baal Hatanya writes
(ליקוטי תורה ויקרא מג) דענין תקיעת שופר בר"ה התעוררות בחינת היחידה משנתה וגורמת לשוב ולגלות את בחינת היחידה הקשורה בה' בדרך למעלה מן הדעת ובחינה זו מתגלה ופועלת באדם בכל כחה והוא מתעלה מרצונותיו הזרים הנחשבים לגביו למציאות ומתקשר רק בהקב"ה שאין עוד מלבדו עכ"ד
When hearing the kol shofar the highest level of Neshama called יחידה, is revealed in the Yid. This is the time when one must strive to attain the level of seeking a life of Deveikus with Hashem without any worldly distractions or interferences nor personal pursuits but rather solely focusing on deepening one's relationship with his creator who he recognizes with the segulah of blowing shofar - אין עוד מלבדו .
With this we can understand the passuk that Rosh Hashanah is called זכרון תרועה (Vayikrah 23,24) as opposed to יום תרועה (Bamidbar 29,1) We can interpret the word תרועה to mean ריע, friend and joined together. The blowing of the shofar facilitates and gravitates one to remember his creator and Neshama which is connected to the Master of the universe. With this connection a Yid only wants Hashem and nothing else – כי חולת אהבה אני . This is also hinted in the passuk (Bamidbar 23,21) ותרועת מלך בו that deep down Yidden are connected to the Melech of the world.
The remaining days of Aseres Yemai Teshuva is to do teshuvah on the aveiros that we transgressed which correlate to the remaining hours of the sixth day when Adam Harishon sinned by eating from the Aitz Hadaas. It is during this period that we go through the regular process of teshuva and tikkun which includes viduy, אשמנו ועל חטא, regret over the past together with the commitment to live a sin free future all of which climaxes on Yom Kippur.
We can now understand the words of Hosheiah Hanavi which is the Haftorah of Shabbos Shuva שובה ישראל עד ה' אלהיך כי כשלת בעוניך קחו עמכם דברים ושובו אל ה' . Why does the second passuk repeat the process of teshuvah when it is already mentioned in the first passuk? According to our explanation we can say that the words of שובה ישראל עד ה' אלקיך concerns the teshuvah כללי of returning to the level of Adam before the chait when he was in total cognizance of his neshamah without any focus on desires and bodily cravings because he possessed none. This is hinted in the words עד ה' אלקיך which Chazal comment תשובה מגעת עד כסא כבוד Teshuvah reaches until the Kisay Hakavod from where the neshamos of Am Yisrael were taken from. One must first realize what his essence and sole ambition were when he was created. None other than the realization of אין עוד . As it says in Pirkei Avos דע מאין באת Know from where you came from and that will guarantee that you won't fall into chait. If you have the clarity of your essence which is so lofty, pure and other worldly, one would not let himself pursue earthly desires. And if he did, he would clean himself up from all his impurities and defilements with teshuvah. Only then is he ready to do a full teshuvah with the details of full regret over his past deeds and a true heartfelt viduy. This is expressed in the second passuk of קחו עמכם דברים ושובו אל ה' take with you words of viduy and return specifically on your aveiros.
This is further hinted in the words כי כשלת בעוניך , because you faltered in your sins. A מכשול is a stumbling block as the passuk says לפני עור לא תתן מכשול . The greatest stumbling block is when a Yid does not realize the unfathomable worth of making himself a subject of Hashem's eternal kovod which doesn't apply with the fulfillment of appetites for physical and material things. The neshama that one possesses is everlasting because it is חלק אלוק ממעל . It is during תקיעת השופר that one can easily connect with the inner neshama of yechidah and thereby become ready to remove himself from the מכשול . This idea is hinted in the acronym of מכשול -שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד to realize that the שם כבוד מלכותו the name of the honor of Hashem's kingdom is neshamah which is לעולם ועד forever. By attaching oneself to anything other than neshama one is faltering by being attracted to a fleeting and unfulfilling life with worthless gaudy trinkets that yield only momentary and empty sensations.
Now we can return to the first passuk of the parsha and its connection to Matan Torah. When we received the revelation of the Torah at Har Sinai we were brought back to the level of Adam Harishon before the chait. The passuk says ויתיצבו תחת ההר they stood underneath the mountain. Hashem picked up the mountain and gave Yisrael an ultimatum. If you receive the Torah fine and if not you will die (Shabbos 88). The Rishonim ask why was it necessary for Hashem to force them when they had already said כל אשר דבר ה' נעשה ונשמע ? To answer this we will bring the interpretation of the Maharsha who explains that the lashon of Chazal כפה עליהם הר כגיגת that Hashem placed on top of them the mountain like a barrel, means a hollow barrel that covered them from all sides. Hashem covered them completely with the mountain which was hollow and said that this alone is the manner of Matan Torah which I desire from you.
According to the Maharsha what was the significance of being totally covered with the hollow mountain serving as the vessel? We can say that in this scenario there is no outside world to observe and to desire. The only reality at this time is the recognition of Hashem as the king and nothing else outside exists for you either to be interested in or distracted with. This realization is likened to the level of Adam Harishon before the chait when Hashem and his neshama were the only focus and reality for Adam. Hashem was telling them that with the help of learning Torah one can attain a level of deveikus with Hashem.
The mesorah of the Baal Haturim is telling us that היום the day of Rosh Hashanah one must be on the level of Matan Torah נצבים just like ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר they stood underneath the mountain with only one focus, Hashem. The outside world which naturally triggers curiosity and lust did not exist for them, only deveikus in Hashem.
One of the reasons of blowing shofar on Rosh Hashanah is that it corresponds to the shofar that was blown from shamayim at Matan Torah. As we just mentioned, Matan Torah was the reconstruction of Man on the level of prior to the chait. The original ויפח באפיו breathing into man the neshamah on the sixth day of creation, was mirrored at Matan Torah with the blowing of the Shofar וקול שופר חזק מאד. It was at MatanTorah when Yisrael attained that former level of Adam of יחידה as if we were created anew at מעשה בראשית with a fresh breath of life. It is during תקיעת שופר that we bring ourselves to return to the state of ויתיצבו to stand underneath Har Sinai and "remember our creator" in order to become one with Him צמאה לך נפשי כמה לך בשרי
That is why we say immediately after the blowing of the shofar the passuk אשרי העם יודעי תרועה ה' באור פניך יהלכון (Tehillim 99, 17). Chazal (Vayikrah Rabba 29) explain this passuk to mean שיודעים לרצות את בוראם they know how to make their creator wanting for them. When our sole desire is to attach ourselves to Hashem it causes that His sole desire in creation, is to attach to us.
- Rabbi Shmuel Brazil