Parshas Nitzavim / Rosh Hashana - Be. Here. Now.
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
This article was inspired by the wonderful sefer "Living in the Presence" by Rabbi Dr. Benjy Epstein. To purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Living-Presence-Jewish-Mindfulness-Everyday/dp/1602803196 (Highly recommended!)
This article was generously sponsored liilui nishmas Kayla Bas Rav Mordechai Tzvi and in honor of Rav Burg's father whose Bar Mitzvah Parsha is Parshas Nitzavim.
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אַתֶּ֨ם נִצָּבִ֤ים הַיּוֹם֙ כֻּלְּכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֖י יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֑ם רָֽאשֵׁיכֶ֣ם שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֗ם זִקְנֵיכֶם֙ וְשֹׁ֣טְרֵיכֶ֔ם כֹּ֖ל אִ֥ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל: טַפְּכֶ֣ם נְשֵׁיכֶ֔ם וְגֵ֣רְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּקֶ֣רֶב מַֽחֲנֶ֑יךָ מֵֽחֹטֵ֣ב עֵצֶ֔יךָ עַ֖ד שֹׁאֵ֥ב מֵימֶֽיךָ: לְעָבְרְךָ֗ בִּבְרִ֛ית יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּבְאָֽלָת֑וֹ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ כֹּרֵ֥ת עִמְּךָ֖ הַיּֽוֹם: לְמַ֣עַן הָקִֽים־אֹֽתְךָ֩ הַיּ֨וֹם | ל֜וֹ לְעָ֗ם וְה֤וּא יִֽהְיֶה־לְּךָ֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּר־לָ֑ךְ וְכַֽאֲשֶׁ֤ר נִשְׁבַּע֙ לַֽאֲבֹתֶ֔יךָ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּלְיַֽעֲקֹֽב:
You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel, your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water drawers, that you may enter the covenant of the Lord, your God, and His oath, which the Lord, your God, is making with you this day, in order to establish you this day as His people, and that He will be your God, as He spoke to you, and as He swore to your forefathers to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Devarim 29:9-12)
Rashi citing the Medrash explains the juxtaposition between our Parsha and Parshas Ki Tavo which contains all of the curses that will fall upon Klal Yisrael if we do not follow the ways of God.
ומדרש אגדה למה נסמכה פרשת אתם נצבים לקללות, לפי ששמעו ישראל מאה קללות חסר שתים, חוץ ממ"ט שבתורת כהנים, הוריקו פניהם ואמרו מי יוכל לעמוד באלו, התחיל משה לפייסם: אתם נצבים היום: הרבה הכעסתם למקום ולא עשה אתכם כלייה והרי אתם קיימים לפניו
היום: כיום הזה שהוא קיים והוא מאפיל ומאיר, כך האיר לכם וכך עתיד להאיר לכם, והקללות והיסורין מקיימין אתכם ומציבין אתכם לפניו....
Why is Parshas Nitzavim juxtaposed to the curses [in parshas Ki Tavo]? Because when Israel heard these ninety-eight curses [delineated in Ki Tavo], besides the forty-nine [curses] stated in Leviticus (26:14-38), they turned pale, and said, “Who can possibly endure these?” [Thereupon,] Moses began to appease them [as follows]: You are… standing this day: You have provoked the Omnipresent to anger many times, yet He has not made an end to you. Indeed, you still exist before Him [“standing… before the Lord”]. — [Tanchuma 1]
this day: [You exist now] Just as this day exists. For [although] it becomes dark [for a period, nevertheless] it shines [again]. So too, here, God has made light for you, and He will again make light for you in the future. And the curses and sufferings preserve you and enable you to stand before Him [the curses, by preventing you to stray from serving Him, and the sufferings, by cleansing you of your sins].
Moshe has seen the fear in the faces of Klal Yisrael. The burden of the potential curses weighs upon them heavily. Moshe consoles Klal Yisrael. You are all standing this day...
But what exactly is the consolation?
Clearly Hashem meant what he said. If we are deserving the Klalos will happen. If we are not deserving they won't. What does Moshe Rabbeinu mean when he says that we have angered God before and yet we still stand here today?
Furthermore, it clear from the pesukim that the word הַיּוֹם֙, this day, is critical to the consolation.
Rashi explains that just as it is light today it will one day be light in the future. Though we go through dark periods ultimately it is those dark times that preserve and cleanse us, bringing us back to a time of light.
But this too needs to be understood. Moshe could have said that we will go through dark times and those times will purify and cleanse us bringing us to a time in the future where it will be light. What difference does today's light make?
Imagine a man who has lost his whole fortune. His business has been wiped out. If we say to him you used to have money so undoubtedly you will have money again? Maybe he will and maybe he won't. Just because he found success in the past does not mean that he will surely find success in the future?
The same argument could be made to Moshe Rabbeinu in his attempt to console us. It is true that today we are standing. Perhaps we will fall and the Klalos will fall upon us. Just because it is good today does not mean that it will be that way in the future. So what exactly is the consolation?
Mashiach Doesn't Lie
The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) records a conversation between Rav Yehoshua ben Levi and Mashiach which is followed by a conversation between Rav Yehoshua ben Levi and Eliyahu HaNavi.
אזל לגביה אמר ליה שלום עליך רבי ומורי אמר ליה שלום עליך בר ליואי א"ל לאימת אתי מר א"ל היום אתא לגבי אליהו א"ל מאי אמר לך א"ל שלום עליך בר ליואי א"ל אבטחך לך ולאבוך לעלמא דאתי א"ל שקורי קא שקר בי דאמר לי היום אתינא ולא אתא א"ל הכי אמר לך (תהלים צה, ז) היום אם בקולו תשמעו
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi went to the Messiah. He said to the Messiah: Greetings to you, my rabbi and my teacher. The Messiah said to him: Greetings to you, bar Leva’i. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to him: When will the Master come? The Messiah said to him: Today. Sometime later, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi came to Elijah. Elijah said to him: What did the Messiah say to you? He said to Elijah that the Messiah said: Greetings [shalom] to you, bar Leva’i. Elijah said to him: He thereby guaranteed that you and your father will enter the World-to-Come, as he greeted you with shalom. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to Elijah: The Messiah lied to me, as he said to me: I am coming today, and he did not come. Elijah said to him that this is what he said to you: He said that he will come “today, if you will listen to his voice” (Psalms 95:7).
Mashiach told Rav Yehoshua ben Levi that he was coming היום, today. The day passed and Mashiach had not yet come. Rav Yehoshua ben Levi accuses Mashiach of lying to him. Eliyahu HaNavi explained that when Mashiach meant today he was not lying but he was citing the passuk from Tehillim: היום אם בקולו תשמעו, “today, if you will listen to his voice.”
What a strange Gemara! If Mashiach meant היום אם בקולו תשמעו why did he just say היום? It certainly seems misleading. Obviously this cannot be the case but what was Mashiach teaching Rav Yehoshua ben Levi with his cryptic response?
Be. Here. Now.
What is the secret of היום?
Rebbe Nachman in Likkutei Moharan (Torah 271:1) writes:
הַיּוֹם אִם בְּקוֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ (תהילים צ״ה:ז׳).
זֶה כְּלָל גָּדוֹל בַּעֲבוֹדַת הַשֵּׁם, שֶׁלֹּא יָשִׂים לְנֶגֶד עֵינָיו כִּי־אִם אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם, הֵן בְּעֵסֶק פַּרְנָסָה וְהִצְטָרְכוּתוֹ, צָרִיךְ שֶׁלֹּא יַחֲשֹׁב מִיּוֹם לַחֲבֵרוֹ, כַּמּוּבָא בַּסְּפָרִים, וְכֵן בַּעֲבוֹדָתוֹ יִתְבָּרַךְ לֹא יָשִׂים לְנֶגֶד עֵינָיו כִּי אִם אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם וְאוֹתוֹ הַשָּׁעָה,
כִּי כְּשֶׁרוֹצִין לִכָּנֵס בַּעֲבוֹדַת הַשֵּׁם, נִדְמֶה לְהָאָדָם כְּאִלּוּ הוּא מַשָּׂא כָּבֵד, וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לִשָּׂא מַשָּׂא כָּבֵד כָּזוֹ. אֲבָל כְּשֶׁיַּחֲשׂב שֶׁאֵין לוֹ רַק אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם, לֹא יִהְיֶה לוֹ מַשָּׂא כְּלָל,
וְגַם שֶׁלֹּא יִדְחֶה אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִיּוֹם לְיוֹם, לֵאמֹר: מָחָר אַתְחִיל, מָחָר אֶתְפַּלֵּל בְּכַוָּנָה וּבְכֹחַ כָּרָאוּי, וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה בִּשְׁאָר הָעֲבוֹדוֹת, כִּי אֵין לְאָדָם בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כִּי אִם אוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם וְאוֹתוֹ הַשָּׁעָה שֶׁעוֹמֵד בּוֹ, כִּי יוֹם הַמָּחֳרָת הוּא עוֹלָם אַחֵר לְגַמְרֵי.
הַיּוֹם אִם בְּקוֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ – הַיּוֹם דַּיְקָא, וְהָבֵן:
“Today! if you heed His voice.” (Psalms 95:7)
This is an important rule in the service of God: One should focus only on today. Whether with regard to his livelihood and personal needs—he should not think about one day to the next, as is brought in the holy books—or with regard to his serving God, he should not consider anything beyond this day and this moment.
For when a person wants to enter the service of God, it seems to him a heavy burden; he cannot possibly bear such a heavy load. However, when a person considers that he has only that day [to deal with], he will find it no burden at all.
In addition, a person should not procrastinate from one day to the next, saying, “I’ll start tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll pray more attentively, and with the right enthusiasm”; and likewise for the other devotions. For a person’s world consists only of the present day and moment—tomorrow is a different world entirely.
If you have ever known someone who has attended drug or alcohol addiction treatment, you may have heard the saying, “ live one day at a time.” Sobriety can be a daunting task. When an addict looks to the future and imagines a life where they will never take another hit or another sip of alcohol, the task seems too overwhelming to actually accomplish. Never is a very big word. And if I know that I won't be able to do this forever then I may as well fall off the wagon today.
While the future is daunting for an addict the past is haunting. As they look back on their lives, the mistakes they have made, the relationships they have damaged... it too can be a trigger for a relapse. Shame is the feeling that we are unworthy of love and connection. When an addict looks back on the past and is ashamed of their behavior it too can be a trigger for a relapse. Today becomes framed by yesterday. I know who I really am. I will never be able to escape my past. My life doesn't matter. And from there is a quick slide right back into old behaviors.
To those people and to all of us Rebbe Nachman says: the burden of the future is too great to bear. Tomorrow is a different world. The only thing that is real is today. It is true we cannot handle the overwhelming burden of our entire future at once. The good news is that we don't have to do that. All we have to manage is today. The past is gone. Who knows what will be in the future. Today is manageable so let's just handle today.
As Travis Dultz said, "Yesterday is relative, tomorrow is speculative, but today is electric. That's why it's called current.
Personally, I prefer the way Bill Keane put it in The Family Circus newspaper cartoon: "Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a GIFT. That's why it's called the present."
A Different World... Literally
What exactly does Rebbe Nachman when he says tomorrow is a different world? Surely it is the same world just a later time.
Every day in Shacharis we say המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית, in His goodness renews every day, continuously, the work of creation.
Why must God continuously renew creation? Why can't he create the world once and then be finished just as a carpenter is done when he finishes a table?
But in truth our world cannot be compared to a carpenter and a table. The table exists as wood and is merely being fashioned into another form. When we say God created the world from nothing it means that the true state of the world is non existence. The only way the world can exist is if God continuously recreates it to counter the natural state of non existence.
An example of this would be someone who throws a rock. Gravity naturally pulls the rock downwards. The only way to keep the ball in their air is if their a force that constantly propels the rock upwards. As soon as the opposing force runs out the rock will naturally descend back down to earth.
The Baal Shem Tov explains that this is what it means when the Mishna in Avos (5:1) says that the world was created with ten utterances. In Tehillim (33:6) Dovid HaMelech writes, "By the word of G‑d the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth, all their host." and "Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands in the heavens" (119:89). God's speech is unlike human speech. When we speak our words are gone the moment they are spoken into existence. God's speech is everlasting. Consider the light in your room. The light did not turn only because you flipped a switch. The switch creates the circuit but the energy that flows is what actually creates the light. If the energy should cease, even for a moment, the light will be extinguished until the energy is renewed.
The same is true of our world. The natural state of the world is non existence. To maintain existence there needs to be a constant force of energy that propels the world. That energy is the word of God. While we don't see the constant renewal of energy in our lights we understand that is what is occurring beneath the surface. So too in creation, while we many not see the constant recreation that takes place at every moment, we can understand that this is what is going on behind the scenes.
So when Rebbe Nachman wrote that tomorrow is a different world he truly meant it. The world that exists today is a fundamentally different world then the one we are living in right now. Tomorrow is not just a later point in time but a fundamentally new creation.
וְאַתֶּם֙ הַדְּבֵקִ֔ים בַּֽיהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֑ם חַיִּ֥ים כֻּלְּכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם:
But you who cleave to the Lord your God are alive, all of you, this day. (Devarim 4:4)
Who is truly alive?
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (Bereishis 47:29) citing the Arizal says that a persons soul contains many sparks. Each spark enlivens a day. When the sparks run out that is when a person's life is over.
The difference between the Tzaddik and the common man is an awareness of the continuous renewal of creation. The recognition that each day is enlivened by a spark of our own soul and that it only exists today. Tomorrow is an entirely different world.
Those that cleave to God are those that understand that our entire lives are contained in today. The only thing that's real is the present moment. This is the secret of intimacy. When someone is living in the past or the future they cannot possible be connected to the people that are in front of them right now. So many wives are frustrated by husbands who take out their phones in the middle of a conversation. Intimacy requires presence. The same is is true of our relationship with God. If we are living in the past or the future there is no dveikus. All of life is contained in today.
This is the meaning behind the Gemara in Brachos (18b) which says that reshaim, the wicked, even in their lives are called deal while tzaddikim, the righteous, even in death are called alive. The rasha does not appreciate the incredible opportunity that inheres in every moment. He has no connection to life. The Tzaddik who values every moment and knows the preciousness of each day is connected to the source of all life even in his death. Thus he can never be truly described as dead. Our connection to the present moment connects us intimately and eternally to life.
This explains why when it comes to the deaths of Moshe and Avraham the Torah speaks about their days.
Regarding Avraham the passuk says:
וְאַבְרָהָ֣ם זָקֵ֔ן בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִ֑ים וַֽיהֹוָ֛ה בֵּרַ֥ךְ אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם בַּכֹּֽל
"And Avraham was old he came with his days. (Bereishis 24:1)
How does one come with their days?
When we live in the past or the future we lose out on those days that are right in front of us. Only when we live in the present renewed reality of creation do our days actually come with us.
Regarding Moshe the passuk says:
בֶּן־מֵאָה֩ וְעֶשְׂרִ֨ים שָׁנָ֤ה אָֽנֹכִי֙ הַיּ֔וֹם לֹֽא־אוּכַ֥ל ע֖וֹד לָצֵ֣את וְלָב֑וֹא
"Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come..." (Devarim 31:2)
Rashi explains: Moses went…I can no longer go or come: One might think [this means] that Moses’ strength had ebbed [and that is why he could no longer go or come]. Scripture [however] states [regarding Moses], “His eye had not dimmed, nor had he lost his [natural] moisture” (Deut. 34:7)
Moshe was physically healthy. At one hundred and twenty years old he was as young as he was at twenty. Aging occurs when we see our days as cumulative. For Moshe each day was brand new, unattached to the one that came before it. Perhaps this is why it was significant that Moshe Rabbeinu died on the day of his birth. For Moshe, birth and death are the same day. Every day is a rebirth as Hashem has created the world anew. The end of every day is death as the world as we knew it is recreated.
The story is told that at the funeral of the Imrei Emes of Gur, his son, the Beis Yisrael, commented "my father enjoyed length of days." The listener was perplexed as the Imrei Emes died at the relatively young age of sixty six. The Beis Yisrael explained, "I did not say he had length of years but length of days."
Some people live longer live while other live shorter lives. The question is, how did we spend our days? As one Rebbe of mine once said, Time is not money. Time is Life. The question is, how do you spend it?"
HaYom - The Purpose of the World
The Ramchal in the beginning of Derech Hashem writes regarding the purpose for the creation of the world:
התכלית בבריאה: הנה התכלית בבריאה היה להטיב מטובו ית׳ לזולתו והנה תראה כי הוא לבדו ית״ש השלימות האמיתי המשולל מכל החסרונות ואין שלימות אחר כמוהו כלל. ונמצא שכל שלימות שידומה חוץ משלימותו ית׳ הנה איננו שלימות אמיתי אלא יקרא שלימות בערך אל ענין חסר ממנו אך השלימות בהחלט אינו אלא שלימותו ית׳ וע״כ בהיות חפצו ית׳ להטיב לזולתו לא יספיק לו בהיותו מטיב קצת טוב אלא בהיותו מטיב תכלית הטוב שאפשר לברואים שיקבלו ובהיותו הוא לבדו ית׳ הטוב האמיתי לא יסתפק חפצו הטוב אלא בהיותו מהנה לזולתו בטוב ההוא עצמו שהוא בו ית׳ מצד עצמו שהוא הטוב השלם והאמיתי.
The purpose of creation: See that the purpose of creation was to give from His goodness, may He be blessed, to another besides Him. And behold, see that His alone is true perfection, devoid of all deficiencies. And there is no other perfection like it at all. So it comes out that any perfection that resembles [it], besides His perfection, may He be blessed, is not true perfection. Rather it is called perfection relative to something more deficient than it. But complete perfection is only His perfection, may He be blessed. And therefore since His desire, may He be blessed, was to do good to others, it would not be sufficient for Him to do a little good, but rather [only] in giving the full goodness that is possible for the creatures to receive. And in His, may He be blessed, alone being the true good, His good desire would only be satisfied in His giving to others that very good that is within Him, may He be blessed, from the angle of Himself - which is the true perfect good.
To summarize, God creates the world because he is a מיטב, a bestower of goodness. God being the ultimate goodness wants to give the ultimate good which is Himself.
Interestingly, the gematria of the word מיטב is the same as the word היום.
Furthermore, the Medrash in Bereishis Rabbah (1:1) בתורה מביט ה“הקב היה העולם את ובורא, Hashem looked (מביט) into the Torah and created the world.
The Gematria of the word מביט is also the same as the word היום.
Those that are attached to the purpose of creation, even to the method of creation (Hashem looked into the Torah) are those that live with the understanding that reality is only today.
Today is Real
How real is today?
Consider the following question that was asked to the Radbaz (Shut Radbaz 4:13):
Question: Reuven was imprisoned in jail and was not able to leave to pray with [a minyan of] ten nor to fulfill other mitzvot. He beseeched the minister or governor yet was not granted permission, other than for one day a year – a day of Reuven’s choice. Let the teacher instruct us: Which day of all the days of the year should Reuven choose to go to the Beit Hakneset (synagogue)?
Answer: I have seen that one of the wise men of our generation responded to this question. He dived into deep waters but brought up a pottery shard, and he built his construction upon shaky foundations. At first he said that Yom Kippur is the best [day to choose]. Then he switched it for Purim, because of the Megillah reading and publicizing of the miracle, which requires [a quorum of ] ten. It is not fitting to rely on his words.
Yet, the ruling that one should rely on is based on the principle, “Ein ma’avirin al hamitzvot – We may not pass up mitzvot.” There is no opposition to this principle; therefore, the first mitzvah he encounters that cannot be fulfilled while imprisoned takes precedence. We do not pay attention to whether the first mitzvah he encounters is a “light” or a “weighty” one, for one cannot know the reward of mitzvot. This is very obvious to me.
David son of Shlomo ibn Avi Zimra
In truth this is a complex issue. The Chacham Zvi, for example, disagreed with the position of the Radbaz. Nevertheless there is an important lesson in the teaching of the Radbaz. When we have an opportunity to do a Mitzvah we cannot pass it up. Whether it is a light Mitzvah or a heavy one it is the one that is in front of us. Who knows what will be in the future. The reality is today. The Radbaz is teaching us never to pass on the present that is today.
Hayom - Living A Fresh Life
בַּחֹ֨דֶשׁ֙ הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֔י לְצֵ֥את בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם בַּיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה בָּ֖אוּ מִדְבַּ֥ר סִינָֽי
In the third month of the children of Israel's departure from Egypt, on this day they arrived in the desert of Sinai. (Shemos 19:1)
Rashi citing the Medrash explains: on this day: It could have said only, “on that day.” What is the meaning of "on this day"? That the words of the Torah shall be new to you, as if they were given just today
וְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָֽנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיּ֖וֹם עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ
And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart. (Devarim 6:6)
Again Rashi explains: which I command you this day: they should not appear to you as an antiquated edict (דְּיוּטַגְמָא) which no one cares about, but as a new one, which everyone hastens to read.
וְהָיָ֗ה אִם־שָׁמֹ֤עַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֹתַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָֽנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם לְאַֽהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ וּלְעָבְד֔וֹ בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶ֖ם וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁכֶֽם
And it will be, if you hearken to My commandments that I command you this day to love the Lord, your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul (Devarim 11:13)
Once again Rashi explains: command you this day: [“this day” suggests] that [the commandments] should [always] be to you as new, as though you had just heard them on this very day. — [Sifrei , 11:32]
Every time the Torah says היום (or similar) Rashi sees fit to speak about newness. How does Rashi know this?
However with all that we have learned thus far it makes perfect sense. Every day of creation is a new day, unattached to the one that came before it and unencumbered by the one that will come afterwards. It is precisely the newness of the day that allows us to live with freshness and excitement. The Torah of today is totally different than the Torah of yesterday and tomorrow. Though the words may look the same as they did in the past, in their inner reality they are totally unique, only here for the moment. Living in the present means attaching yourself to the Torah of the moment. Grab it today because tomorrow it will be gone and a new Torah will take its place.
A New Day - New Challenges and New Opportunities
The Gemara in Succah 52a says:
דרש ר' עוירא ואיתימא ר' יהושע בן לוי שבעה שמות יש לו ליצה"ר
Rabbi Avira, and some say Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, taught: The evil inclination has seven names.
The Maharsha explains:
מבואר כי המעשים של האדם הן לטוב הן לרע מסוגלים לפי הבריאה של ז' ימי בראשית
Just as there are seven days of creation so too the yezter hora has seven names. Every day the Yetzer Hora will come to us with new challenges. Yesterday is gone and we encounter totally new nisyonos.
This is why the Gemara in Chagiga (15a) teaches us that "Every day a bas kol, a heavenly voice, calls "shuvu banim shovavim, return to me my wayward sons." Why do we need a bas kol every day? Just as their are new challenges every day, there is also renewed energy with which we can face those challenges. By actually being present in the moment we can hear the still, small voice inside of us that encourages us to return to Hashem.
HaYom - The Day It All Began
וּמֵעֵ֗ץ הַדַּ֨עַת֙ ט֣וֹב וָרָ֔ע לֹ֥א תֹאכַ֖ל מִמֶּ֑נּוּ כִּ֗י בְּי֛וֹם אֲכָלְךָ֥ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ מ֥וֹת תָּמֽוּת
But of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat of it, for on the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die. (Bereishis 2:17)
What message was Hashem communicating to Adam and Chava by telling them that if they eat from the Eitz HaDaas they will die on that day?
Hashem was not using scare tactics to frighten Adam into abstaining from sin. Hashem was giving Adam insight into the nature of the relationship between sin, death and time. Those who are connected to the concept of היום are connected to life itself. That is to say, as we said above, those who cleave to Hashem understand the value of every moment of life. Sinning represents a failure to connect to God and changes your relationship with time. Tzaddikim even in their deaths are called alive. Remember that we said that Moshe was as fresh on the day of his death as he was on the day of his birth. For Moshe Rabbeinu, time was not cumulative. When Adam sinned, he removed himself from the renewal of time and now the day of his birth is associated with death.
But remember that every moment of created is a brand new creation. Just as Adam destroyed so too he can rebuild. This is the secret of Teshuva. The aveira that we did just moments earlier is subject to rectification because we are no longer bound by the sin. We live in a different world now. Adam also did teshuva on the day of his creation and the Medrash in Bereishis Rabbah (22:1) teaches us that now Adam lived with the days of God. For God, one day is equivalent to one thousand years. Adam HaRishon was meant to live for one thousand years but he gave 70 to Dovid HaMelech so he only lived for 930 years. In other words, two things happened. Hashem kept his word and Adam died on the day that he ate from the tree. Adam did teshuva and connected to Hashem so now he lived with a Godly notion of time. That is the power of living in the present. When we live with a human notion of time we live in the past and in the future. A day is just a day. Mistakes are now on our record so to speak. When we live with a Godly notion of time, every moment is new and fresh. Mistakes can be undone. Teshuva is possible. For people like that, a day is equivalent to one thousand years.
The day of Adam and Chava's creation contained both sin and teshuva. Appropriately that day was Rosh Hashana. Rosh Hashana isn't observed on the day when the world was created, but six days later, on the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Chava. This is what we say in Rosh Hashana davening:היום הרת עולם, היום יעמיד במשפט כל יצורי עולמים.
וַיְהִ֣י הַיּ֔וֹם וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים לְהִתְיַצֵּ֖ב עַל־יְהֹוָ֑ה וַיָּב֥וֹא גַם־הַשָּׂטָ֖ן בְּתוֹכָֽם
Now the day came about, and the angels of God came to stand beside the Lord, and the Adversary, too, came among them. (Iyov 1:6)
The Zohar HaKadosh teaches that הַיּ֔וֹם refers to Rosh Hashana. On Rosh Hashana we define the nature of our relationship to time. By crowning Hashem as our King we choose to live in the moment. Teshuva now becomes possible and so it is fitting that with Rosh Hashana we begin the aseres yemei Teshuva.
This explains the duality of the Shofar blowing. On the one hand it is a call to Teshuva and on the other it is the horn that we blow to coronate Hashem as King. By estabvlsihing Hashem as our King we see our days through the lens of God. Just as God renews time so too we can be renewed and be forgiven by God. Fittingly the passuk in Bamidbar (29:1) says:
וּבַחֹ֨דֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֜י בְּאֶחָ֣ד לַחֹ֗דֶשׁ מִקְרָא־קֹ֨דֶשׁ֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם כָּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה לֹ֣א תַֽעֲשׂ֑וּ י֥וֹם תְּרוּעָ֖ה יִֽהְיֶ֥ה לָכֶֽם
And in the seventh month, on the first day, there shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall not perform any mundane work. It shall be a day of shofar sounding for you.
The Gemara in Nedarim tells us that “Dirshu hashem Behimatzo — seek Hashem where He may be found” (Yishayahu 55:6) is referring to the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. By connecting to the moment we find Hashem and return to Him. This is why one each day of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva we have the ability to rectify that day for the entire year. So for example on Yom Rishon of Aseres Yemei Teshuva we have the ability to rectify every Yom Rishon of the prior year. By connecting to the essence of the day we are connected to every day. By doing teshuva on Yom Rishon we have done teshuva for every Yom Rishon throughout the entire year.
Hayom - Redemption
With all of this in mind we can understand why Mashiach told Rav Yehoshua ben Levi that he was coming on that day. Of course Mashaich wasn't being dishonest. He was giving over the secret of redemption. Living in the present means cleaving to God. If we would live for that day we would be worthy of Mashiach's arrival. Rav Yehoshua ben Levi thought Mashiach would come that day. When he didn't, he was disappointed. Eliyahu HaNavi explained that Mashiach meant היום אם בקולו תשמעו, today if you will heed my voice. Eliyahu was not filling in the remainder of the sentence, he was explaining what the nature of היום truly means. Those who live with the present moent follow God's word. Those people are worthy of bringing Mashiach.
Perhaps this is why redemption itself is associated with היום as the passuk in Yeshaya (27:13) says, “It shall be on that day that a great shofar shall be blown.”
HaYom - No Fear
We are now ready to return to the consolation of Moshe Rabbeinu.
Moshe was not minimizing the Klalos, he was giving us the antidote. Those who live with the concept of היום understand that if yesterday we were deserving of the Klalos, today is a brand new day. Living in the present allows us to frame the Klalos as purifying. It allows us to live one day at a time. The knowledge that we have had days where we were truly present gives us the inner confidence to reclaim our days. The addict knows that he has kicked his habit before and he can do it again. Falling is part of the process. Today is a new day. One day a time and there is no reason for fear.
The Gemara in Megillah 31b teaches:
תניא ר' שמעון בן אלעזר אומר עזרא תיקן להן לישראל שיהו קורין קללות שבתורת כהנים קודם עצרת ושבמשנה תורה קודם ר"ה מאי טעמא אמר אביי ואיתימא ריש לקיש כדי שתכלה השנה וקללותיה
It is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: Ezra enacted for the Jewish people that they should read the portion of the curses that are recorded in Leviticus before Shavuot and the portion of the curses that are recorded in Deuteronomy before Rosh HaShana. The Gemara asks: What is the reason for this? Abaye said, and some say that it was Reish Lakish who said: In order that the year may conclude together with its curses, and the new year may begin without the ominous reading of the curses.
לכך נראה לי הטעם שאנו מחלקים אותן לפי שאנו רוצים להפסיק ולקרות שבת אחת קודם ר"ה בפרשה שלא תהא מדברת בקללות כלל שלא להסמיך הקללות לר"ה
Ki Tavo needs to be two weeks before Rosh Hashana so that we can read Nitzavim the Shabbos before Rosh Hashana. Only when we drink in the lesson of firmly standing היום are we ready to approach Hashem and crown Him as King.
HaYom - Today is the Only Day
Let us conclude with a story.
Rabbi Sholom Schwadron had noticed that one of the students at the yeshiva was missing on Sunday and Monday. Tuesday morning he approached him, inquiring to the reason he missed those two days.
“I know you for two years. You never missed a day of yeshiva. I am sure that something important is happening. Please tell me what’s going on.” The boy did not want to say, but after prodding, the boy finally blurted out. “I would tell, but, Rebbe, you just wouldn’t understand.”
“Try me,” begged Reb Sholom, “I promise I will try my hardest to appreciate what you tell me.”
“Here goes,” responded the student, conceding to himself that whatever explanation he would give would surely be incomprehensible to the Rabbi, who had probably had never seen a soccer ball in his life.
“I missed yeshiva because I was at the Maccabi Tel Aviv football (soccer) finals. In fact,” the boy added in embarrassment, “I probably won’t be in yeshiva tomorrow as well. It’s the final day of the championship.”
Rabbi Schwadron was not at all condescending. Instead, he furred his brow in interest. “I am sure that this game of football must be quite exciting. Tell me,” he asked, ” How do you play this game of football? What is the object? How do you win?”
“Well,” began the student filled with enthusiasm, “there are eleven players, and the object is to kick a ball into the large goal. No one but the goalkeeper can move the ball with his hands or arms!”
Rabbi Schwadron’s face brightened! He knew this young boy was a good student and wanted to accommodate him. “Oh! Is that all? So just go there, kick the ball in the goal, and come back to yeshiva!”
The boy laughed. “Rebbe, you don’t understand! The opposing team also has eleven men and a goalkeeper, and their job is to stop our team from getting the ball into their goal!”
“Tell me,” Rabbi Schwadron whispered. These other men the other team. Are they there all day and night?” “Of course not!” laughed the student. “They go home at night!”
What was the Rabbi driving at? He wondered.
Rabbi Schwadron huddled close and in all earnest continued with his brilliant plan. “Why don’t you sneak into the stadium in the evening and kick the ball into the goal when they are not looking! Then you can win and return to yeshiva!”
The boy threw his hands up in frustration. “Oy! Rebbe! You don’t understand. You don’t score if the other team is not trying to stop you! It is no kuntz to kick a ball into an empty net if there is no one trying to stop you!”
“Ah!” cried Reb Sholom in absolute victory. Now think a moment! Listen to what you just said! It is no kuntz to come to the yeshiva when nothing is trying to hold you back! It is when the urge to skip class is there, when the Yetzer Harah is crouching in the goal, that it is most difficult to score. That is when you really score points. Come tomorrow, and you can’t imagine how much that is worth in Hashem’s scorecard!”
Life is a game. Like every game we have a limited amount of time to play. If the game is not in session there is no point. Every day is precious and filled with infinite opportunities to serve God. Let's live it one day at a time.