By Rav Shmuel Brazil
The parsha begins with the statement that Yisrael is standing today all of them before Hashem Elokeichem. The Zohar says that the word Hayom – today refers to Rosh Hashana. Being so let us ask how does one prepare himself enough to be able to stand firmly and securely on this awesome day of judgment? I think that one of the answers lies in the interpretation of the Baal Haturim on this passuk. He makes a connection between the word “nitzavim” and the passuk by Matan Torah “vayisyatzvu beasachtis hahar” and the Jewish people stood underneath the mountain. The Baal Haturim is hinting to us that by standing underneath Har Sinai we will be empowered to stand securely on the day of Rosh Hashana. However this too is=2 0still enigmatic and the connection between the two needs further explanation.The gemarrah explains that the interpretation of these words ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר literally means that Hashem picked up the mountain to top of their heads and delivered an ultimatum. Either they accept the torah or they will be buried right then and there. The Rishonim find this interpretation very difficult to fathom since the Jewish people already declared נעשה ונשמע which gave an open commitment to whatever Hashem commanded them. Therefore, the placing of Har Sinai was totally unnecessary.
However with the Maharsha’s explanation of this gemarrah this question disappears. The term that is used כפה עליהם הה=D 7 כגיגית does not mean that Hashem suspended the mountain on top of the heads but rather He surrounded them completely with the mountain which was hollow inside. For we find the same term used in the gemarrah if one finds chametz during the Yom tov of Pesach since it it muktza he should proceed to be כופה עליו את הכלי cover a vessel over it. According to the Maharsha’s interpretation we can say that the covering of Yisrael from all sides with the mountain was not a threat for refusing to accept the Torah for that was not in question at all afterנעשה ונשמע . Rather it was a message of advice to them that the way to preserve the Torah and themselves is by not being enamored by the outside culture. Sure it looks enticing and the stimuli are incredible. However history has taught us over and over again without exception that the more we attempt to “culturize” ourselves the more tzaros and anguish we get from them. “שם תהא קבורתכם ” over “there” by those goyim whom you bend backwards to befriend and please.
So it seems that the way to approach Rosh Hashana to have a successful judgment is to put ourselves under the mountain. One great tzaddik said that this is really what the passuk suggests when it states ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר they encamped opposite the mountain. It is not just that they faced the mountain but rather that their backs were to the world. A Yid must live his life as an exporter not an importer. He must export Torah morality, wisdom, justice, refined character, modesty, respect of spouses in marriage, compassion, and chesed to the world and not import their decadence, partying, sensuous music, and lifestyles of emptiness and non fulfillment.
The Nesivos Shalom in the introductory perokim of the first sefer brings down a note that the Peisetzne Rebbe ztl wrote=2 0to himself when he reached the age of forty. “With what can I improve myself. I am a masmid when it comes to learning Torah. I am not one who seeks physical pursuits. I just have to become a Yid. I will convert and become a Yid”. Can you imagine that someone as holy as this Rebbi whose entire life was dedicated selflessly to Hashem and inspiring Yidden until his last day in the ghetto reprimands himself that he is not enough of a Yid. Sure one can do mitzvos, even a lot of them, and one can learn Torah, and even be a big masmid, but nevertheless he can still be missing the title of Yid in his essence. Yes he was born Jewish and he may act Jewish but there can be parts of him that are not essentially Yiddish. Maybe it is as subtle as an attitude or perspective or a style. It might be even unconsciously such as the usage of the word weekend which means that the week starts on Monday not like we say in davening in the tefillas of היום יום ראשון לשבת All this indicates that we are not yet totally enveloped under the mountain of Sinai.
To come before Hashem on Rosh Hashana in a secure mode we have to first commit ourselves to become essentially Am Yisrael. Notice that we don’t say שעשני ישראל in the birkas hashachar. Born Jewish yes שלא עשני גוי, but becoming essentially Jewish that takes a lot of work by man himself with his bechiros. This is what the passuk hints to when it says אתם נצבים היום כולכם לפני ה’ אלקיכם on Rosh Hashana one has to stand securely. How is that to be accomplished? כולכם לפני ה’ one has to try to eradicate any galus from his body enabling all of him to stand before Hashem.
That is why on Succos we are commanded to take the four minim. The Medrash says that they are the symbol that our judgment was victorious and not the goyim’s. why should the four minim be the barometer of our success? It is because the Medrash parallels them to the major organs of man. He waives them before Hashem as if to say that he as a total being belongs to Hashem and not to the goy. This is what he accomplished on the Yamim Noraim. It is on the yom tov of Succos that this accomplishment is reveled to the world.