Parshat Nitzavim By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס”ד
לשכנו תדרשו Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
You Stand Upright Today, All of You, Before Hashem Your God
Our Sages teach that every place that the verb root for “standing upright” – “yetziva” – is used it means that Divine inspiration, “ruach hakodesh,” is involved (Mechilta ch. 15). Our Sages use proof-texts to prove this teaching, but simply explained we can also say that standing upright connotes an emphasis on the head in a heightened position. This position signifies the facets of the “head” taking a dominant role. The head is the home of thought, spiritual vision and ultimately the Divine inspiration we are discussing. When we place the “head” in this dominant role we remind ourselves that our souls are “sparks”, so-to-speak, from the Holy Presence, inspiring us with Its inspiration. According to the Midrash (Beit Midrashot II Iyov 1, 6) the term “today” is associated with the special “day” we blast the shofar, Rosh Hashana. Rosh Hashana literally means the “head” of the year. Indeed, this is the time to realize our true Divine potential, to realize that we are “children” of the King of the Universe, thereby transforming our consciousness to that of a prince who takes responsibility for his Father’s Kingdom.
Our title quote from this parsha teaches us to internalize this Divine inspiration – “nitzavim”/”standing upright”- within us, to place our Divine ideals upon our heads at the “head” of this year – “Today.” This, the verse continues, should be done by “all of you,” for all of Israel are “princes” before Hashem. To clarify this, this verse and the next specify ten groups among Israel, so that all Israel no matter how lowly they may seem in their own eyes should realize their great Divine potential – “Before Hashem Your God.” The shofar of Rosh Hashana is like the body of man, who was created on Rosh Hashana. On this day Hashem “blew” life into the body of man, and just as a sound emerges from the shofar, so too a “living spirit” emerged then from the body of man, and similarly so we hear today the cry of a baby at birth. Our Sages teach “one who blows into something blows from his own essence.” Similarly, when Hashem “blew” a soul into man’s body it is as if He “blew from His Essence so-to-speak, as man’s soul is a “spark” from the Divine.
What key do we have in tapping into this Divine inspiration that can enlighten this entire year and also our entire lives? Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim II, 45) explains that one type of Divine inspiration is spurred from taking initiation for a lofty goal. Initiation entails to begin or “head” some matter, and when this matter is a lofty goal, then the “head is heightened” which is exactly the key to Divine inspiration we just explained. This matter also explains why we are taught that parents, when giving a name to their child, are given a type of Divine inspiration (Shaar Hagilgulim p. 23), for a name represents the type of the Divine soul that has come to this world, also which is given at the start and “head” of the child’s life.
Hebron definitely stands at the “head” of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land, and buried within it are the “heads” of our People and also of mankind, Adam and Hava, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Therefore, it is no wonder that from Hebron emerges the initiation for our future redemption – “At that time (the end of days), the three Patriarchs will adjoin with might, and teruah, shevarim, and tekiah will be sounded, and with them the “the earth will shake,” and this will be in the “end of days,” and all these miracles will be in the Land of Israel, for there is located Hebron where the Patriarchs are buried” (Tikunei Zohar 13:28b).
Real Stories from the Holy Land
In the early 1640’s, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire made a journey to places of importance in his domains, one of which was the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron.
When arriving, the Sultan leaned over the famous aperture in Yitzhak’s Hall in Maarat Hamachpela, peering down into it. As he bent over, his precious sword fell from his side, down into the cavity in the ground. The Sultan called the officer of the guard and ordered him to lower a soldier through the hole into the caves below, to retrieve his sword.
No sooner had they done so when, without warning, piercing screams penetrated from inside the hole below. Quickly they pulled up the soldier but he was dead. The Sultan ordered that another soldier be lowered into the caves. So it was, and his fate was precisely as his predecessor’s. The Sultan continued to send soldiers into the caves until it became apparent that all who enter the caves do not exit alive. The Sultan turned to his hosts and exclaimed, “Who will return to me my sword?” The Arabs, looking at one another, answered without hesitating. “Why not send down a Jew? If he dies, none of us would care, and if not, you will have your precious saber back”. So the Jews were ordered, on pain of death, to supply a volunteer to be lowered into the caves to return the Sultan’s sword to him.
The Jews Hebron had heard what happened to the Sultan’s soldiers. How could they send one of their own to his death? They prayed and fasted, hoping to avert the decree. Realizing that they had no choice, they looked one to the other. Who would dare to enter the sacred Caves of the Patriarchs?The elderly Rabbi of the community, the kabbalist and sage Rabbi Avraham Azuli, the author of Chesed L’Avraham, solved the dilemma. “I will enter the Holy Caves. Have no fear”. To be continued next week…
Source: adapted from hebron.co.il