Rosh Hashana 5779

Monday, September 17, 2018

Certain parshios are to fall out at certain times of the year. For example, Mikeitz is always during Shabbos Chanukah; Devarim is always the shabbos before Tisha B'Av. Parshas Nitzavim always falls out the week before Rosh Hashanah. Why is that? Is there some sort of message connecting back to the Yomim Nora'im found within this short parsha?
The Ramban (30:11) explains that there surely is a connection. From 30:11-14, the Torah talks about a mitzvah that is attainable and easy to implement. However, it isn't clear which mitzvah is being described. The Ramban explains that these four verses are working off of the previous paragraph that details the mitzvah of teshuvah (repentance). The Torah is teaching us that doing teshuvah is easy and accessible; it's not a foreign concept that no one can reach. This is surely appropriate as we enter the Yomim Nora'im and prepare ourselves with Selichos, davening, and asking for forgiveness from those we have wronged.
However, despite what the Ramban says, there are still two questions that arise. Firstly, is teshuvah really that simple? Even though it's described as a four-step process by the Rambam, each of those steps aren't the easiest things in the world. Secondly, if the message is about teshuvah, why didn't Chazal then set up the calendar for Nitzavim to fall out on Shabbos Shuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik in "Before Hashem You Shall Be Purified" discusses how Rosh Hashanah isn't really about teshuvah. The day is about re-anointing G-d as our King and praising Him. There are even customs to not mention any kind of confession of sin, a step in the teshuvah process, from the prayers on Rosh Hashanah; for example, some leave out a few of the lines from Avinu Malkeinu because it states that "we have sinned." But, says the Rav, there is a small aspect of teshuvah within the Day of Judgment. Rosh Hashanah represents "Hirhur Teshuvah", the mere thought or consideration of repenting. We see from Chazal that even the minute thought of thinking of doing teshuvah holds water and is crucial. The Gemara in Kiddushin (49b) gives a case of when a man betroths a woman on condition that he is a tzaddik (righteous person) that the betrothal is binding even if it's known that he's a rasha (wicked person); this is because he may have had a "hirhur teshuvah" at that very moment. That split second is powerful enough to make his betrothal binding. We see from here that hirhur teshuvah does wonders despite its minuscule moment and effort.
Using the Rav's idea, I would like to suggest that the Ramban may be referring to this idea of hirhur teshuvah. Out of the whole process of Teshuvah, that first spark of consideration is quick and easy; anyone can have that thought and it can motivate a person to continue the process despite the challenging steps that follow. This may be why Nitzavim is before Rosh Hashanah and not during the Ten Days of Repentance; its message of hirhur teshuvah *only* works for Rosh Hashanah. It is a good way to kick off the Ten Days of Repentance as we move towards Yom Kippur. May we all build upon the momentum of hirhur teshuvah and complete the process not only with Yom Kippur, but through the rest of our lives.


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