Parshat Nitzavim is read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana, which is extremely appropriate because during this time a Jew’s thoughts should be geared towards teshuva. In perek lamed of Nitzavim, the Torah speaks about Bnei Yisrael’s returning to Hashem and Hashem’s promising that when He sees Bnei Yisrael do Teshuva He will have mercy on them and gather them from all over the world. In this parsha, Hashem shows Bnei Yisrael that even if they do a lot of bad and turned away from Hashem, their teshuva will always be accepted. Hashem also shows us that it may be hard to stay on track after doing teshuva but Hashem will have mercy and if we do our part, Hashem will help us with the rest. Rabbi Akiva expresses Hashem’s willingness to help Bnei Yisrael if they do their part through his explanation of pesukim in Navi. Rabbi Akiva says: “How fortunate are you Yisrael- before whom are you purified? Who purifies you? Your Father in heaven. As it says: “I will throw pure water on you and you will be purified.” (Yechezkel 36, 25) And it says, “God is the mikvah of Israel.” (Yirmiyahu 17, 13)
Netivot Shalom explains another beautiful way of Hashem through the bracha of “Hashiveinu”. A person who was immersed in sin in the past may have a difficult time staying on track once he has done teshuva, which is why we say “Return us our Father to Your Torah, and bring us close our King to Your service” before we ask “and return us in complete teshuva before You.” We do this because we understand that it would be impossible to do a full teshuva without first having a connection with Hashem and with the Torah and Mitzvot.
While teshuva is extremely important during the time of Rosh Hashana, teshuva is also something to be thought of everyday. Rav Moshe Feinstein explains a beautiful way to look at teshuva at all times of the year. Rav Moshe says that every day that a person wakes up is a new day for him, he has the option to choose right or choose wrong. A person could have sinned his whole life and turn it around in one day or a person can be the most righteous man but every day he still has to make the right choices. Each person should feel everyday as if his past does not matter and he should start now by choosing what he feels is right. Hashem shows us this message in the way that he reveals to Bnei Yisrael that it does not matter what they did in the past but it what they choose to do now and in the future that matters.
Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi explains the power of teshuva even after a person has been immersed in sin. He says “The power of teshuvah is so great that, as soon as a person thinks about doing teshuvah, his thought soars up at once. It soars up to a height not of ten mil, nor of twenty, nor of a hundred, but to a height that would require a journey of five hundred years to accomplish — soaring not merely to the first heaven but all the way to the seventh heaven…until his thought stands before the throne of glory itself.
At this time before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipur, it is crucial to remember that even if a Jew feels that he has done many sins, Hashem will always accept his teshuva. A person has to take the first step in doing teshuva and Hashem will have mercy and help with the rest. Not only should we have a Rosh Hashana of teshuva but we should be able to do teshuva for our negative actions everyday.
Thank you again for this incredible opportunity.
Wishing you a ktiva vichatima tova.
Student studying in MMY