Parsha Encounters



Parshas Netzavim-Vayeileich

Fighting Back

Rabbi Moshe Wilner

He is very smart.

He knows what you are trying to do and knows exactly how to block your efforts.

Here we are again. Elul is coming to a close, and before we know it Rosh Hashana will be here. The Jew feels it is time to take inventory. How many mitzvos, how many aveiros. and then "He" enters, "You know this is not your first Rosh Hashana.  Who are you kidding?  You are the way you are and that's it!" Or he will tell you "After all the terrible despicable behavior you've shown Hashem up until now, do you really think He's interested in your teshuvah?  You're long gone, so give it up!"


The Yetzer Hara has us up against the ropes, and we are almost ready to give in. T.K.O. Then Hashem sends us Parshas Nitzavim. The parsha speaks so strongly about the power of teshuva, and how it can reach the throne of the A-mighty. Even in Golus, Hashem waits for our teshuva.   The posuk states, "Ki Hamitzva Hozos..Ki Korov Eilecha Hadovor Meod Beficha Ubilvavcha Lasoso." This mitzvah, which the Ramban explains to be referring to teshuva, is not far away from you, but rather very close - in your mouth and heart to do so.

The Torah is telling us not to give in to the Yetzer Hara. It is in your hands to return no matter what you have done, or how much you must change. You can do it.


Interestingly, the Torah does not refer to teshuva outright here, but only alludes to it by calling it "Hamitzva," or "the mitzvah". (In fact, Rashi argues that the posuk is talking about all mitzvos.) Perhaps the message is that teshuva is just like any other mitzvah. We do not ask questions. We accept that if Hashem commands us to do it, then we have the ability to do it, and we can successfully carry it out.


The Kochvei Ohr points out that it's known that when the Satan hears the Kol Shofar on Rosh Hashana he gets shaken up and thinks the time of Moshiach has come.  Even though so many years have gone by with the blowing of the Shofar, and still Moshiach has not come, the Satan still thinks "Maybe now the time has come." The Jew, caught in the chains of despair (yeush), thinking he has gone through so many Rosh Hashanas and still has not done complete teshuva and is thus hopeless, is actually being worse than the Satan himself! At least "he" thinks we can do a complete turnaround.


This strategy of the Yetzer Hara, of trying to "psyche us out" is found, according to some, in Parshas Shelach, by the Meraglim. The Meraglim/spies, come back from their trip through Eretz Yisroel and tell the nation, "This land isn't for us, we can never make it there. There is much kedusha holiness there, but look how hard it is to maintain! The side of tumah is just as strong.people were always being buried while we were there, because they couldn't keep up with the kedusha. Even the Giants there who were really Angels sent down to this world, turned into Reshaim. Forget it, the tumah is too strong!"


Yet Kalev fired back with an answer. We must ingrain in our hearts " V'Yomar Aloh Nalleh Verashnu Osah Ki Yochal Nuchal Lah" "We shall surely ascend and conquer it for we can surely do it!" The answer is clear. We cannot fear the yetzer's disheartening words, for if Hashem is giving us an opportunity for kedusha, then we must have the ability to absorb and live it.


It is interesting to note that the word used in parshas Shelach for spying is translated by Unkelos as "lealila", very similar to the name of the month of Elul.  R'S.Z. Auerbach zt"l explains the connection as follows.  Elul is all about spying on ourselves and giving ourselves a thorough check-up. Let us not make the same mistake as the meraglim, who only focused on the daunting challenges of Eretz Yisroel.  True, we must focus on our shortcomings, but only after we see ourselves in a positive light, after we realize our strengths. Yes, "he" is  very smart.  But B'E'H, we can outsmart him!


Rabbi Moshe Wilner is the newest full-time member of the Chicago Community Kollel.

Halacha Encounters

Davening on Rosh HaShana that Coincides With Shabbos

Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein  

With Elul already upon us and Rosh HaShana around the corner, this is a time of year that many of us place an extra focus and emphasis on our tefillos.  It is a time of year that we try to focus on what is truly important to us and lay our supplications before Hashem and trust in His goodness to answer our tefillos for the best.  For many of us, our Elul davening reaches its climax on Rosh HaShana when we spend hours in shul, pouring our hearts out to Hashem.  This year, the first day of Rosh HaShana falls on a Shabbos.  In this week's Halacha Encounters we will examine some of the issues that this coinciding of days can bring.


Personal Requests in our Shabbos Tefillah

While Shabbos is a day for spending more time than usual on our tefillos [1] - even at the expense of time that could be devoted to learning Torah [2] - we are told that Shabbos is not a day to make personal requests of Hashem in our Tefillos. [3]   It is for this reason the normal weekday Shmoneh Esrei is not said on Sabbos. [4]   So too on Yom Tov, we refrain from making personal requests. [5]   There are several reasons given for this halacha, some halachic and some more philosophical in nature. [6]


Exceptions to the Rule

There are certain circumstances where one is permitted to make personal requests, however.

In thought - HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt"l ruled that it is only forbidden to verbalize personal requests on Shabbos.  One may, however, think his or her requests to Hashem. [7]   Therefore, if, for example, one would like to daven for a particular choleh (ill person) in their Shmoneh Esrei, they may think their prayers to Hashem while they say the words "rofei cholim" in the second brocho of the tefillah. [8]

If one accidentally began reciting the weekday Shmoneh Esrei - If following the brocho of "Ha-el HaKadosh," one accidentally began the brocho of "Atoh chonein l'adam da'as," he should complete the brocho (all the way to "chonein hada'as"). [9] This halacha pertains to any brocho that one began accidentally.  If, for example, one completed Chonein Hada'as and began the following brocho of Hashiveinu, he should then complete that brocho as well before resuming the normal Shabbos Shmoneh Esrei, and so on.  There are two exceptions to this rule, however: 

1 - If at Maariv or Mincha one began the brocho of Atoh Chonein but only said the word "atoh," he should not continue with the word "chonein."  He should rather continue with the regular Shabbos Shmoneh Esrei, as the first word of the middle brocho is "Atoh" in those tefillos as well.  Even though he thought he was saying a weekday Shmoneh Esrei, he may "use" that "atoh" for his Shabbos tefillah.

2 - During Mussaf, no matter what portion of the weekday Shmoneh Esrei he began to say, he should stop wherever he is [10] and begin the middle brocho with "Tikantoh Shabbos."

In all other cases, he should complete the brocho he began. [11]   He should do this even though he would be, in effect, making requests in his Shmoneh Esrei on Shabbos.

Davening for spiritual needs - As one can see from the Shabbos Shmoneh Esrei, [12] there is no doubt that asking for growth and assistance in spiritual needs is permissible. [13]


Personal Requests on Rosh HaShana

One must strive to strike a balance in their Rosh HaShana tefillos - on the one hand, it is a day dedicated to recognizing and accepting Hashem's malchus, sovereignty, in the world.  On the other hand, however, it is a day if intense closeness with Hashem - a unique opportunity to have our tefillos heard.  It is therefore permissible to make personal requests on this Yom Tov. [14]   However, it is certainly stressed that one should not devote their tefillos strictly to their personal needs.  They should not lose focus of what the day is all about. [15]

This being said, the poskim rule that even when Rosh HaShana falls out on Shabbos, as it does this year, it is permissible to make personal requests in our tefillos. [16]

May we all be zocheh to find favor in Hashem's eyes and have our tefillos for a kesiva vichasima tovah for ourselves and all of Klal Yisroel be answered.


Rabbi Rosenstein learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.



[1] Vayikra 25:14 

[2] Teshuvos Rema, Siman 10

[3] Shor Harziyon 648-76, See also Ahavas Chesed 5-6

[4] Teshuvos Rema, Siman 10

[5] Ahavas Chesed 5-7

[6] R' Fuerst Shlita Quoting Dayan Fisher zt"l and yb"lch Hagaon R' Elyashav Shlita, R' Dovid Cohen Shlita

[7] Ahavas Chesed 5, Footnote 12

[8] Baba Metzia 71a

[9] Ahavas Chesed 5-6

[10] Baba Metzia 71a

[11] See Journal Kol Torah Choveres 42, page 301

[12] Choshen Mishpat, Teshuva 31

[13] Journal Kol Torah ibid

[14] ibid

[15] Hilchos Matnas Aniyim 10-


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