1. The Shabbos before Rosh Hashana is technically Shabbos Mevorchim however for Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, we are not mevarech the Chodesh. The Magen Avrohom says because it says בכסה ליום חגינו and therefore it is to be hidden. The Levush writes the reason is כדי לערבב את השטן. Perhaps another reason is as follows. The Gemara in Megilah 31b explains reason we have the Klalos of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah is כדי שתכלה שנה וקללותיה and the same is with Brachos as the Gemara says תחל שנה וברכותיה. Just like every year has its Klalos and we don’t’ want them to carry over from year to year, the same thing with Brachos. As we say in davening ברך עלינו וכו' את השנה הזאת, that every year has its own specific Brachos and we don’t want the Brachos of the previous year to carry over to the next year. Therefore we aren’t Mevarech the Chodesh of Tishrei in order not to carry over the Brachah from the previous year. Usually, we might not be able to feel it because we don’t see it, but there are cosmic affects that happen in the world over Rosh Hashanah. If not for the fact that we are part of a Jewish community, we wouldn’t be able to feel such affects because they can’t be seen and therefore are hard to believe. But they are nonetheless very much happening. But this year, is slightly different and we can learn something from the Corona virus. The virus is something that affected the whole world but is something that can’t be seen by the human eye. So we see things are happening physically that can’t be seen by the human eye. The truth is many of the most important things in life are not tangible and are invisible such as love and hate. Such things can’t be measured or seen. So to the Neshama, that we are all aware that it exists, yet it is something that can’t be weighed or quantified and therefore we must develop a sensitivity to the things that we can’t see but nonetheless have to have an awareness of it.
  2. In the end Parshas Vayeilech, Moshe says the following: כי אנכי ידעתי את מריך ואת ערפך הקשה הן בעודני חי עמכם היום ממרים היתם עם יקוק ואף כי אחרי מותי, כי ידעתי אחרי מותי כי השחת תשחתון וסרתם מן הדרך אשר צויתי אתכם וקראת אתכם הרעה באחרית הימים כי תעשו את הרע בעיני יקוק להכעיסו במעשה ידיכם. (לא, כז כט) Moshe Rabbeinu was very hesitant to take on the leadership of the Jewish people as he said הן לא יאמינו לי, to which Hashem had to convince him that גם בך יאמינו לעולם that they’ll trust you. But if you follow the history of what went on, Moshe was pretty right as there was Korach, then the Meraglim, and it was one thing after the next. Now in the above Psukim, it seems like Moshe Rabbeinu is summing up his tenure as a total failure. He says that it was bad, it is bad, and that it’s going to get even worse. Therefore it sounds very pessimistic and angry. But why is he saying this now and why does he sound so angry? What is he really trying to say now? Really the message that Moshe is trying to convey is that although it was terrible, I never gave up and I continued. Once he committed to this mission with all the hardships, he never gave up. Therefore, optimism is a tremendous thing, but it needs to be balanced with realism. A person has to hope for the best and expect the worst. Because if not, then a person will be crushed when he experiences setbacks. Moshe is expressing to the Jews that there have been many setbacks and times that they could have given up, but nevertheless they got until there and they are only going to continue and go further. Entering Eretz Yisrael is going to be a tremendous achievement but afterwards there will be setbacks. But, they must never give up because this is something that will take generations and generations until we perfect the model. It’s not something that happens overnight. This is an important reading to be read in the ימי התשובה because although not everyone is a leader of the Jewish people, but he is a leader of his own life. And people may expect immediate and complete change in their lives and if they don’t experience that, they give up. However, if they would understand that it requires multiple tries and with every time they should make some improvement and that they shouldn’t be crushed when things go sour. Nothing gets lost and each effort adds up to something and in the end we will reach the עולם התיקון and be in a different place. Knowing and expecting the setbacks is very important not only for Moshe Rabbeinu but for every individual leading his own life, he must recognize the stubbornness within himself, as we are an עם קשי עורף. But if he doesn’t give up, then he will go very far for like how far Moshe Rabbeinu got the Jewish People. (Similarly, as they say in the name of Winston Churchill, the definition of success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.) If a person doesn’t give up, then he will go very far. As we see Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t give up and we see what he was able to accomplish with the Jewish people. Because in spite of all the setbacks, faults, and failures, still its מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ. All the efforts added up in the end and created a people like no other.
  3. Rashi in the beginning of Parshas Nitzavim quotes the Medrash that explains why the קללות are next to Nitzavim: 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(כט,יב) According to this Medrash, the statement of Moshe Rabbeinu אתם נצבים היום is seemingly undermining and contradicting the idea of the קללות that even though we anger Hashem and error, we are still around and therefore we shouldn’t worry? The answer is that Parshas Nitzavim qualifies the קללות. Only because the Jews were הוריקו פניהם was Hashem מרחם on them. When we reach a point where its לא יוכלו עמוד, then even when we anger Hashem, it will still be אתם נצבים היום. Only someone who is fearless and doesn’t worry from the תוכחה will have to worry about the eventuality of all the קללות. The טור סימן תקפא writes how the Jews on Rosh Hashanah are different than others because Jews on Rosh Hashanah approach their judgement day with confidence, wear white clothing, get haircuts, eat and drink, and celebrate the day like a יום טוב because we are confident that Hashem will perform for us a miracle. The Bach asks if this is the case, then why don’t we wear בגדים מרוקמים וצבעי ארגמ. He answers that too much wouldn’t be good because then it wouldn’t be clear that we are fearful for the day of Judgement and then it’s not בטוח. The Rambam in Hilchos Yom Tov writes שבעת ימי הפסח ושמונת ימי החג עם שאר ימים טובים וכו' וחייב אדם להיות בהן שמח וכו'. The only other Yom Tov that wasn’t mentioned is Shavuos, yet the Rambam says שאר ימים טובים, in plural indicating that there is a Yom Tov with a חיוב שמחה besides for Shavuos. In the sefer משנת יעבץ written by ר בצלאל ז’ולטי, he is מדייק that the Rambam is including Rosh Hashana. Additionally, the Rambam in Hilchos Chanuka writes that we don’t say Hallel on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur because they are not ימי שמחה יתירה. So we see that they are ימי שמחה, just not יתירה. On Rosh Hashanah, we are celebrating the creation of man. Now even though we say נח לו לאדם שלא נברא משנברא, life is not about being comfortable but it’s nonetheless good. And we are celebrating the fact that Hashem is confident in us to carry out this mission and that we are capable of carrying it out. It’s a celebration of Human Responsibility. It’s clear from here that the יראת הדין וחרדת המשפט are the cause for the שמחה on Rosh Hashanah because only then are we confident that Hashem will perform a miracle or us. Just like its only אתם נצבים היום כולכם for those that are פניהם מוריקים ומתייראים שלא יכלו לעמוד. It’s a balance between hope and despair. The Ramban in the beginning of Sefer Devarim describes what the purpose of Mishneh Torah is and he ends with the following: וטרם שיתחיל בביאור התור' התחיל להוכיחם ולהזכיר להם עונותיה' כמה ימרוהו במדבר וכמה שהתנהג עמהם הקדוש ברוך הוא במדת רחמי' וזה להודיע חסדיו עמה' ועוד שיוכחו בדבריו שלא יחזירו לקלקולם פן יספו בכל חטאתם ולחזק לבם בהודיעו אותם כי במדת רחמי' יתנהג עמה' לעולם שלא יאמר אדם לא נוכל לרשת את הארץ כי אין אדם אשר לא יחטא ומיד תהיה מדת הדין מתוחה כנגדנו ונאבד ולכן הודיעם משה רבינו כי הקדוש ברוך הוא רחמן מלא רחמים כי הסליחה והמחילה ממנו ית' סיוע ועזר לבני אדם בעבודתו וכענין שאמר הכתוב כי עמך הסליחה למען תורא. It’s really a message of rebuke together with hope that a person shouldn’t think being that sin is impossible, what’s the point. But rather Moshe was telling Klal Yisrael that Hakadosh Boruch Hu is a מלא רחמים and there is the opportunity for סליחה ומחילה. The Ramban ends with the Pasuk in Tehilim כי עמך הסליחה למען תורא. The question is how is סליחה meant to bring about fear, on the contrary, when we know that we can be forgiven, it can undermine the fear? Rashi and the Radak explain the Pasuk למען תורא that only Hashem has סליחה and a person shouldn’t turn to anyone else for סליחה except to Hashem. But it’s difficult to understand because who else would have the ability to give forgiveness. The Ibn Ezra says the following: הטעם כאשר תסלח לעוני ישמעו חטאים וישובו גם הם ויניחו חטאם ואם לא תסלח לא ייראוך ויעשו חפצם ככל אות נפשם Only because Hashem forgives is a person able to leave his sins. But if there wouldn’t be forgiveness, then he wouldn’t fear Hashem and he would continue doing everything and anything that he desires. Therefore, forgiveness is for the sake of fear because only by having that סליחה can there be ירא. The Pasuk in Vayikra says that a Korban need to have salt on it. Why is it that Korbanos need to have salt on them? Salt is usually to preserve food, but here we are burning it here and now and therefore what is the point of putting it here? The Daas Zkeinim Mbalei Hatosfos say the following: לפי שהוא דבר המתקיים להודיע כי הקרבנות ברית לעולם לכפרה ולא לצורך הקדוש ברוך הוא שהרי אין לפניו לא אכילה ולא שתייה אלא לזכו' בהם את ישראל כי כשאדם חוטא ומקריב קרבן ומתכפר לו ויודע שהוא נקי מחטאו הוא נזהר אחרי כן מלחטוא ומלהיות עוד מלוכלך בעבירו' אבל אם לא היה מתכפר היה מוסיף לחטוא כמו שאחז"ל כיון שעבר אדם עבירה ושנה בה הותרה לו הותרה לו ס"ד אלא נעשית לו כהיתר. משל לאדם שבגדיו צואים אינו משמרן מן הטיט אבל אדם שבגדיו נקיים ויפים משמרן מכל טינוף ועל זה אמר שלמה בכל עת יהיו בגדיך לבנים The reason we put the salt is because we are highlighting that Korbanos is not just about removing sin because that’s just temporary. Rather Korbanos are about removing sin and enabling the person to continue in Avodas Hashem. Therefore, we apply salt because it’s a דבר המתקיים, and the idea is that Korbanos with the salt are meant to sustain the person moving forward. Korbanos are not just about erasing the past but its about giving the ability to build a future. This is a similar idea to what the Ibn Ezra explained. The purpose of Korbanos is not for Hakadosh Boruch Hu rather they are for Klal Yisrael and the salt which is a דבר המתקיים is to tell us that Korbanos are a ברית for כפרה. When a person does an Aveirah and brings a Korban and knows he’s been cleansed from sin, then he will be more careful to remain clean and not to sin again. However, if there wouldn’t be כפרה, then he would continue to sin. If a person’s clothing are dirty, then he doesn’t feel the need to prevent further dirt from making him even dirtier. But if he has clean clothing, then he will be careful to not get dirty from anything. כפרה is not only to fix the past and get rid of a person’s sins, but rather it’s for the future in order to help him stay sin free. Reb Akiva in the Mishna in the end of Yoma says מקוה ישראל ה' מה מקוה וכו' so we see that מקוה is hope and hope is purifying because without hope a person would not have the incentive to purify himself and he wouldn’t take the initiative to do so.
  4. The Psukim in Nitzavim say as follows: פן יש בכם איש או אשה או משפחה או שבט אשר לבבו פנה היום מעם יקוק אלהינו ללכת לעבד את אלהי הגוים ההם פן יש בכם שרש פרה ראש ולענה: והיה בשמעו את דברי האלה הזאת והתברך בלבבו לאמר שלום יהיה לי כי בשררות לבי אלך למען ספות הרוה את הצמאה (כט, יז-יח) The simple explanation of these Psukim, because the Pasuk is referring to a שרש פרה ראש ולענה-root flourishing with gall and wormwood, is that he’s not such a good person even before he hears the קללות. And then when he hears the קללות, he’ll be confident and be והתברך בלבבו? Why should that be? On the words והתברך בלבבו, the Targum Yonason says ויתייאש בלביה. He explains the word והתברך to mean יאוש, meaning that the heart is bent over. Like it say ויברך את הגמלים, meaning kneeling. So really this person is not confident rather once he hears the קללות, he experiences despair. When a person is מתיאש that will push him away. He won’t engage with Hashem because of the fear, rather the fear will overwhelm him, push him away, and he’ll throw in the towel because he can’t live up to these expectations and therefore he’s בשררות לבי אלך. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 76b says והמחזיר אבידה לנכרי - עליו הכתוב אומר למען ספות הרוה את הצמאה. Rashi explains the reason the נכרי is referred to a הרוה and the ישראל is the צמאה as follows: נכרים ששבעים ואינן צמאין ליוצרם, צמאה - זו כנסת ישראל שצמאה ותאיבה ליראת יוצרה ולקיים מצותיו. We see from here that in the context of talking about such a person who is שרש פרה ראש ולענה, the lowest of the low, nonetheless once he hears the קללות, he is brought to despair. As a result, his real inner intentions are revealed and uncapped and therefore he is still referred to in the Pasuk as a צמאה and not a רוה.
    The Chidushe Harim says that Roshei Teivos of שרש פרה ראש ולענה is שופר. According to everything that was said above, there is a deeper שורש, of despair, and when we blow the Shofer, we are digging into the real me. The real me is someone who is שצמאה ותאיבה ליראת יוצרה.
  5. The Pasuk in the beginning of Nitzavim says אתם נצבים היום כלכם לפני יקוק אלהיכם ראשיכם שבטיכם זקניכם ושטריכם כל איש ישראל. It starts with כולכם, everyone, then goes ahead and individualizes and talks about how there are people with different stripes and different types, and then concludes כל איש ישראל, going back to everyone. The message is that it’s important to stand untied, that’s the אתם נצבים היום כלכם. However not in a way that the differences are erased. Because there must be different types and we must recognize and acknowledge that there are different types of people and we aren’t all the same. Unity does not mean uniformity. Therefore the כל איש ישראל is accomplished by not ignoring the differences among people, but by embracing the different types. It says in seforim, in the פענח רזא and others that אתם נצבים היום alludes to Rosh Hashanah. The Zohar says that the word היום plain refers to Rosh Hashanah. The idea is that when we come to Rosh Hashanah, it’s important that we stand united but recognize that not everyone is the same.