Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Vayelech (plus Netzavim and thoughts on Teshuva)

Although I would normally blog on the R' Frand shiur from this evening, there was no live R' Frand shiur this evening on TCN as they were taping the Teshuva Derasha (which I hope to write up and  post on Monday after it is publicly shown). Rather than leaving the blog without a vort for shabbos, I am attempting to repeat a vort heard from R' Eli Mansour as recorded on This vort was uploaded earlier this month and links parshios Netzavim, Vayelech and Teshuva. Same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce the vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the maggid shiur.

In Devarim 24:1-4, the Torah discusses the concept of divorce and marriage. The Torah writes that after a man divorces his wife, if she marries another man who then divorces her too, the original husband may not remarry her. The Torah emphasizes this by stating that a man who remarries his ex-wife (who had been married to another in the interim) is a "toevah" or abomination. R' Mansour question the use of this term as the person did not eat a disgusting object or engage in illicit behavior. This man divorced his wife under the halachic guidelines. Another man married her - legally. The second man then divorced her. Now the first husband married her again - by the book. So why is it barred, let alone a toevah?

R' Mansour first gave the explanation of the Ben Ish Chai who explained that if this was permitted it would be like wife swapping or legalized adultery. But then he gave another explanation from R' Chaim Zeichik (sp?) which is the theme of the shiur.

R' Mansour cited to a Ramban which explains the concept of Nazir -- the current mesechta being studied in Daf Yomi. The Nazir who completes the 30 day period has to bring a Chatas - sin offering. This is curious as he has not done anything wrong. However, the Ramban explains that the person became a Nazir and had a moment of elevation. If  a person has completed his period and then goes back to the way that he was, he has fallen. This warrants a Karban Chatas.

R' Mansour analogizes this to a person who sees gains in the stock market.  A good investor will take his gains and sell, while a novice will stay in, even as the stock slips.

R' Mansour then mentioned various types of people who take upon themselves to make improvements in certain areas of their life and then fall back and stop observing the halachos.

R' Mansour gave another example which he attributed to R' Zeichik. A person who dedicates his field to the Beis Hamikdash and then wants to redeem it -  must pay a redemption tax of 20%. However, if an outsider wants to redeem he just pays market value. Why? Because the donor saw the light and donated his property. If he then takes a step back and wants the property from the Beis Hamikdash he has to pay the "backwards tax."

R' Mansour then tied this back to the man who divorced his wife.  In making this decision he realized that there was a real problem (ervas davar). The woman then marries again and she is divorced again. Rashi explains that the first one got rid of marshaas from his home and the second one took her in. The second one confirmed the first husband's thinking by divorcing her as well. The Torah then says he cannot take her back - because the first was right in divorcing her and he was proved right. So now by taking her back he has regressed.

R' Mansour observed that Parshas Netzavim always is read before Rosh Hashanah. Why? Because the word Netzavim means stability. The Torah is telling us - don't give back your profits - your religious gains. The commitment that you made should stay as a commit - stand on your principles. 

R' Mansour next quoted a Medrash which states that Moshe is more loved than Noach. Why? Because in the beginning of his life (Bereishis 6:9) Noach states that he was a Tzaddik, but at the end of his life (Bereishis 9:20) he is called an Ish Adama - man of the earth. In contrast, Moshe at the beginning is called an Ish Mitzri - an Egyptian man (Shemos 2:19), but at the end of his life he is called Ish HaElokim - a man of G-d (Devarim 33:1). Noach regressed and Moshe improved.

R'  Mansour said that this is the message before Rosh Hashanah - take the gains from 5775 and lock them in so we don't back off our commitments. 

R' Mansour next made reference to the Ma'amar Chazal which states that Hashem tells people - open for Me an opening like the eye of the needle (for teshuva). R' Mansour asked - why use the example of an eye of a needle instead of the hole made by putting one's finger in sand or water? He answered that when removes his hand from the water or sand - the hole fills in. People should not make improvements and then back off. Therefore the Torah says a person needs to be among the Netzavim.

R' Mansour took a step beyond this theme by quoting a pasuk from Shoftim which states that a person should not make a Matzeivah which is hated by Hashem (Devarim 16:22). The simple explanation is that a Jew should not build like the idol worshippers. But the sefer Ma'or V'Shemesh explains that a person should not be comfortable or complacent with their Matzav - their spiritual situation. The pasuk is thus explained that a person should not be complacent with where they are in life in life, as Hashem hates that person too. 

This is the reason that Vayelech follows Netzavim. A person must cement and enforce his commitment. But he cannot just stop where he is. The person must then take the next step and move on in his religious observances.

R' Mansour linked this to the Vilna Gaon who explains that a person cannot stay in one place in religion. If the person stays still, gravity will pull him down. So in order to break the pull down, he has to move up. R' Mansour gave the analogy of a person who is on a plane and the captain announces - we have gained our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet so we are going to turn off the engines.  This cannot be done because the plane will crash. Instead energy has to be expended to keep the plane in the air.

[In a momentary cross-over R' Mansour quoted R' Frand for the analogy that life is like a down escalator - you need to keep running up, or you will be dragged down].

R' Mansour also quoted the Squarer Rebbi who explained a Gemara which states that the Yetzer Hara says today "aseh cach" (do this) and tomorrow he also says aseh cach until he convinces a person to worship idols. The simple explanation is that the Yetzer Hara chips away and chips away until he gets the person to worship idols.

The Rebbi asked - why does the gemara use the same expression twice? Why does it not say tomorrow do that or do something else? He answered that Yetzer Hara is telling the person - keep doing what you are doing. Tomorrow do that same thing as well. Because if the person stagnates and does not move forward, the person will fall back until he does do avodah zara.

R' Mansour also tied this to the concept of Tashlich. Why do we go to throw the bread in the water? Because the water always has movement - it is going in one direction or another. The person needs to find something and then move forward in that direction. Once the person asks for another year of life, he needs to make the commitment to do something with that life.

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