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Friday, September 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim

This short parsha contains a most important discussion of the significance of teshuvah and the study of Torah. The pesukim proclaim

 "For this mitzvah (the whole Torah, according to Rashi) that I command you today is not removed from you, nor is it far. It is not in the heavens that you may say who will go up to the heavens and take it for us and teach it to us and we shall do it. Nor is it across the sea that you may say who will cross the sea and take it for us and teach us and we shall do it." (30:11-13)

At first glance, this passage seems to be letting us off the hook, comforting us that Torah and  teshuvah are not out of our grasp. These are not difficult things for us to achieve. However, R' Kulefsky, zt"l, points out that Rashi reveals that in fact, the passage may be indicating the exact opposite. Rashi quotes from the gemara (Eiruvin 55a) that while the Torah is reassuring us that it is not across the sea or in the heavens and therefore, one need not journey there to attain it, it is implying that if it were, we would be expected to go such lengths. The Torah is, in fact, relating a stringency in HaShem's expectations of us. No matter how far from our reach the Torah is, no matter what extremes are necessary to grasp it, those extremes are nevertheless expected of us.

R' Kulefsky would illustrate this idea with a story that was told of R' Zalman of Volozhin, the brother of R' Chayim. When studying late at night, if he were to need a sefer which was not immediately available to him, he would not simply move on. He would travel even to another city to obtain that sefer. His actions were based on the above. If the Torah were across the sea or in the heavens, one would be expected to go there. If the Torah he seeks is in another city, surely he is expected to make the journey.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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