05 September 2010

"Standing Before HASHEM"

B"H Elul 26 5770

"Atem nitzavim .... You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem...." (Deuteronomy 29:9)
Why "standing"?

We stand to indicate respect and attention. Moses gathered the Children of Israel on the East Bank of the Jordan River on the day of his death "In order to establish you ... as a people to Him and that He be a G-d to you...." (Deuteronomy 29:12)
We stand when the Sefer Torah is carried. We stand for a Torah scholar. We stand for our parents. When the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, "Moses brought the people forth from the camp toward G-d, and they stood at the bottom of the mountain." (Shemos 19:17)
Standing signifies dignity and respect. In the Prayer after Meals (bentching), we ask G-d to "break the yoke of oppression from our necks and guide us erect to our Land." In other words, we don't want to crawl home to Israel at the end of the Exile, G-d forbid. Slaves are bent and depressed; they drag their bodies along in servile lowliness. But we are different; we are Children of the Al-mighty.

"They slumped and fell, but we arose and were invigorated." (Psalm 20)

Every morning, we thank G-d, "Who straightens the bent."

We are royalty, descendants of kings, prophets and great rabbis through whom the light of Torah enters the world.

I recently received the following email:

"After reading your article on how we speak, I thought you might appreciate what we experienced the other day when my husband and I found ourselves in a Walmart in a town where I don't think they had ever seen a religious Jew. The language of the people around me was colored with inappropriate words, which are 'normal' speech for today's times. A teenage daughter was speaking to her mother with only 'four-letter' words.

"Her mother looked at me and my husband and then said to her daughter, 'You know you shouldn't be talking like that.'

"At that moment I realized what G-d wants from us. We are a Holy Nation, an example to others on how to behave. The way we speak affects not only our personality, but it also affects the look on our face, so that someone who looks at us can see it, and I think they did.

"At that moment I was so proud to be a Jew."

What a Sanctification of G-d's Name occurs when the Jewish People act in conformity with our Holy Torah! All we have to do is LIVE IT! When the Nations see us living this way, they remember that there is a G-d in the world. When we remember that we are in the Presence of G-d, the entire world remembers that G-d rules the world! Our purpose in this world is to sanctify G-d's Name ... without embarrassment!

"See, I have taught you decrees and ordinances, as Hashem my G-d, has commanded me, to do so in the midst of the Land to which you come to possess it. You shall safeguard and perform them, for it is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the people who shall hear all these decrees and who shall say, 'Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!' For which is a great nation that has a G-d Who is close to it, as is Hashem our G-d, whenever we call to Him? And which is a great nation that has righteous decrees and ordinances, such as this entire Torah that I place before you this day?" (Deuteronomy 4:6-8)
[NOTE from the blogger: THIS is how we are a light to the nations!]

As the Month of Elul draws to a close, as the week of Selichos begins, as we prepare for the Days of Judgment and the beginning of a new year, it is well to remember the great responsibility resting upon our shoulders. We do not need to try to flatter the other nations by mimicking their lifestyle, G-d forbid. They are always looking for something new to fill the empty bottomless pit through which they are plunging, but we are "sameach b'chelko... happy with our lot" (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1). All we need is to live the glorious life of Torah. This is what will guide and protect us in the darkness until the Great Light shines!

"I will rejoice intensely with Hashem, my soul shall exult with my G-d, for He has dressed me in the raiment of salvation, in a robe of righteousness has He cloaked me, like a bridegroom who dons priestly glory, like a bride who bedecks herself in her jewelry. For as the earth brings forth her growth, and as a garden causes its sowing to grow, so shall my L-rd Hashem cause righteousness and praise to grow in the face of all the nations." (Haftaras Nitzavim/Yeshiah 61:10ff)

We are already here! We do not have to innovate! We have our Torah! We have everything we need! Do you see what happened when the lady who sent me the email simply stood with her husband among the members of the surrounding culture, even in a setting of almost total materialism! They radiated Yiras Shomayim... Fear of Heaven, and they changed the world!

Once, years ago, I was late to an appointment in New York City. It was a winter rush hour, just before sunset. Suddenly, I realized that I had not yet said the Afternoon Prayer. I pulled my car over to the curb in Midtown Manhattan, got out, faced East, and began to say "Ashrei." A police officer approached me.

"What are you doing? Move your car right now!"

"Officer, I ... um ... actually just need about five minutes for my prayers."

Silence. He looked at me.

"You want to pray! Why didn't you tell me?"

And then he said, "Don't forget to pray for me!"

Don't you think they WANT us to pray for them? What do they have in this world except for the Holiness of the Children of Israel? They need us, and they know it! They WANT us to keep the Torah! They are desperate for us to keep the Torah! We are their only hope!

"It is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the people who shall hear all these decrees and who shall say, 'Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!'"
My friends, let's give our Father and King endless nachas this year by returning to Him with "all our hearts, all our soul and all our resources." He is ready to dry all our tears, end the insanity, cruelty and pollution, ready to bring a new dawn to all mankind. It's in our hands.

Let the year and its curses conclude! Let the year and its blessings begin! (Achos Katana)

Roy S. Neuberger