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Parsha Nitzavim

Shalom, I hope you are doing well this month of Elul a great time of Repentance or as I like to call it Teshuvah. This weeks Parsha thought will deal a little bit with Teshuvah, as it is incredibly linked to redemption. So I will focus on one verse in particular which has been growing on me over the last few years, as to its importance. We will begin with Devarim 30:6 and Sforno’s comments there. Rashi is silent on this particular verse.

Sforno states about ‘And Hashem your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your children to love.’ “He will open your eyes so that you might turn away from the errors which confuse man’s understanding and knowledge of the truth. This shall occur when you attempt to cleave to him in such a manner that you will recognize his goodness and perforce love him. This you shall do that you may live forevermore.” Wow, I just was blown away as I was writing this because I know what else I am writing this verse. Sforno was very influential in the Mussar movement, and so he always seeks to focus on us bettering ourselves. Loving Hashem, and recognizing his goodness, by having our heart circumcised by Hashem will give us essentially eternal life, this is really truly powerful and perhaps later on you will see more why.

Sforno goes on in verse 8, he states that we will have peace when “Messiah the Righteous one will reveal himself following the destruction of the Nations…” This term of reveal indicates that there was a hidden aspect of his existence. Which is truly quite remarkable- The Ramchal writes of several stages of redemption and one of them is a stage in which Messiah is revealed, hidden and then revealed again in his Sefer Ma’amar Hagilgulim. Let us continue on to other commentators on this verse to get a better picture of what is being said here.

The Baal Haturim comments on this verse and we get a picture of some deeper meanings. Here he begins with Elul, the month we are currently in, Your heart and the heart of. The initial letters of these words spell the name of the month Elul in Hebrew. Accordingly, it has become customary to rise early to recite the Selichos prayers from the beginning of the month of Elul and onward……’Your heart and’ The gematria of this phrase (862) is equivalent to that of the Days of Moshiach.” This is interesting as the notes to my edition of Baal Haturim say to “see Succah 52a. according to the Ramban cited by the Baal Haturim in Peirush HaTur HaAroch, the phrase G-d will circumcise your heart refers to the destruction of the evil inclination within man. For from the creation of man until the advent of the Messiah, the evil inclination provides man with the possibility of spiritual growth by presenting him with the enticements of sin and evil. By overcoming this inclination and choosing righteousness and good, man accomplishes his purpose on earth. But in Messianic times, G-d will circumcise your heart, so that man will no longer face enticement to sin. Our verse thus refers to the days of Mashiach.” What I gather from this, before I go off on the two places quoted to look at, is that man will no longer be given merit for overcoming sin in the times of Mashiach- so what if anything could he be given merit for? And it is very close to the verse in Galatians which talks about “therefore the Torah became our guardian to lead us to Messiah, so that we might be made right by trusting” which is not to say that the Torah should not be done, but that we should keep the Torah as it is an eternal law for Jews, but that our merit does not come from overcoming our enticement to sin, but instead, as the Sforno writes, to love Hashem and do what is right and recognize his goodness and live forevermore! It is not that the Torah should stop being done by Jews but that our merit comes from a different place. I digress, let us look at the two places mentioned by the Baal Haturim.

First, let us begin by looking at Sukkah 52a (insert Sukkah 52a-b here) so we see here from this portion of the Talmud that Chazal were of two opinions that in the Time of Moshiach ben Yosef there would be a Hesped, and that this Hesped would be either for the Evil inclination or for Moshiach ben Yosef. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 “it states that he made the one who knew no sin to become sin (evil inclination) that we might become his righteousness” and this actually resolves this dispute in the Talmud quite nicely, Moshiach ben Yosef is both Moshiach and the evil inclination, thus the reason for a Hesped for it. If you say that sounds crazy that is not how Judaism works- don’t argue with me, argue with the R Chaim Vital who stated in the name of the Arizal “The matter is that a righteous person should pursue this ‘evil’ person, to bring him merit, to him through mitzvos because it could be said to him, perhaps this evil person has some sparks that were lost from you, and his evil sparks were given to you. By befriending him with longing and love, then the good in him will be removed from him and given to you, an you will become complete with all the good, while he will become complete with all the evil”

For my Christian friends who read this and think I’ve lost it- think about the song Jesus Messiah- He became sin who knew no sin that we might become his righteousness, love so amazing. The fact is we receive the righteousness of one who knew no sin, because he became sin, and thus the transfer can be made, and our righteousness is actually his righteousness he gives to us and his becoming sin, is our sin, he became our sin. Notice- that Zechariah 12:12 a proof for Mechitzas (the divider between men and women during prayers) in Shul, in fact it is the verse that proves we need Mechitzas to separate women from men. The verse states “They will look to me about those who are slain (Pierced) and they will lament over him, like the lament over an only son” The Yalkut Me’am Loez speaks of this verse in this way “Some explain that the scripture here speaks of Messiah son of Joseph, who will be killed. When this happens G-d in his anger will destroy all the nations who came against Jerusalem” then in verse 11 the Yalkut Me’am Loez continues “To save Israel from calamity, on that day G-d will pour upon the house of David…. The spirit of grace. Look to me he will tell them. Repent. Behold the death of Messiah son of Joseph and blame yourself. For you pierced him by your iniquities. Whereupon they will repent. To achieve total atonement ,however, they will have to exert themselves greatly by offering a great lament.” This is the kind of Teshuvah that could bring the redemption. In fact it is my only goal in life is do all the things necessary to bring redemption. This is part of it, I have the commandment of Aeirvus (to be a guarantor for other Jews,) and this is part of Torah as Rambam states in Hilchos Meluchim whoever does not believe in Messiah or his coming is as if he denied the whole Torah and has no place in the world to come.

I will now go to the other commentary mentioned in Baal Haturim, regarding Devarim 30:6 and that deals with Ramban’s commentary. ON this verse we see that he does in fact tie the circumcision of the heart with Messiah. Ramban there states “But in the days of the Messiah, the choice of their genuine good will be natural. The heart will not desire the improper and it will have no craving whatever for it. This is the circumcision mentioned here, for lust and desire are the foreskin of the heart, and circumcision of the heart means that it will not covet or desire evil. Man will return at that time to what he was before the sin of Adam, when by his nature he did what should properly be done, and there were no conflicting desires in his will….. It is this which scripture states in the book of Jeremiah, Behold the days are coming saith the Eternal, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant I made with their fathers etc. but this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Eternal, I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart I will write it. This is a reference to the annulment of the evil inclination and to the natural performance of the heart to its proper function. Therefore Jeremiah said further and I will be their G-d, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying know the Eternal for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them….. and so it is declared by Ezekiel A new heart will I also give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will cause you to walk in my statues. The new heart alludes to man’s nature, and the new spirit to the desire and will. “

In other words Grace and love will be the law of the day. Grace with each other we will all without compulsion serve Hashem with keeping the Mitzvos or seven Noachide laws, we will be filled with love and grace towards one another. You may ask well if Yeshua was Messiah why is that not the case now, it says in R Shimshon David Pinchus commentary on Rosh Hashannah “that it will not rain unless the earth first comes up 2 tefachim” so we must do our part, for the final aspect of redemption to exist, we were given the job of bringing Teshuvah to all of Israel, and to motivating every Jew to keep Torah as best they can, which to my mind includes the injunction of the Rambam to believe in Messiah and in his coming.

May it be speedily in our days. May his merits protect us, and may it be Hashem’s will that we all join ourselves to Messiah that he may take our sin, and we can take his righteousness.

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