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Learn Torah

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Sep 28, 2005
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"כי המצוה הזאת, אשר אנכי מצוך היום--לא-נפלאת הוא ממך, ולא רחקה הוא. לא בשמים, הוא: לאמר, מי יעלה-לנו השמימה ויקחה לנו, וכו'"
“For this mitzvah, which I command you today, is not too astonishing for you, nor is it far from you. It is not in heaven, for you to say, “Who will ascend to heaven and take it for us (Devarim 30:11-12).…”
The Ramban, Seforno, and Rambam all agree that the Torah, when mentioning the word “Mitzvah,” refers to a specific mitzvah and not to all mitzvot contained in the Torah. They deduce this from the fact that the Torah used the words “ha-mitvah ha-zot,” this mitzvah, rather than the words “kol ha-mitzvah,” all the mitzvot.
This specific mitzvah refers to Teshuva, repentance, according to Ramban and Seforno. The Torah tells us that the ability to implement the act of Teshuva is “karov eileycha be-picha,” close to us through our mouths. This phrase refers to the vidui, confession, in which we articulate our sins. It is extremely painful to listen to ourselves and to criticize our own actions and our own faults. Nevertheless, the precise purpose of the vidui element of Teshuva is to force us to hear these painful words.
The Seforno agrees to Ramban that the Torah is discussing the mitzvah of Teshuva, since this pasuk is a continuation of the preceding verses which refer to the topic of repentance. Those verses say “ve-shav Hashem Elokeycha et shevutcha,” and refer to the act of Teshuva performed by klal yisroel in galut, exile. Moshe Rabbeinu is trying to be mechazek, to strengthen klal yisroel’s awareness of the importance of Teshuva. He informs them of the potential that everyone has to experience Teshuva in one’s life; one does not need nevi’im, prophets, or great sages to explain the mitzvah of Teshuva.
The Gemara in Eiruvin, however, quotes the pasuk of “lo nifleis hi mimcha” in reference to Talmud Torah. Similarly, the Rambam (Hilchot Talmud Torah, 3:8) tells us that “lo ba-shomayim hi,” it is not in heaven, teaches that Torah cannot be learned by those people who possess “gasut ha-ruach,” boastful spirits, and those who involve themselves excessively in business. Rather, Torah is to be learned by the mouths of the humble and the dedicated.
The Rambam (Hilchot Teshuva 7:3) discusses the necessity to work on the gormei ha-cheit, the causes of sin, in addition to the act of sin itself.
"ואל תאמר שאין התשובה אלא מעבירות שיש בהן מעשה, כגון זנות וגזל וגניבה. כשם שצריך אדם לשוב מאלו--כך הוא צריך לחפש בדעות רעות מן הכעס, ומן האיבה..."
“Do not say that Teshuva is only necessary for sins involving action, such as promiscuity and theft. Just as man must repent from these, so too must he search [and repent for] his negative traits … for anger and hatred.”
According to the Rambam, total attention and awareness should be directed towards the middot raot, bad character traits, that cause aveirot. The gormei aveira are also considered aveirot. According to the Rambam, learning Torah is the mitzvat aseh, the positive commandment. In contrast, Teshuva is not only a positive act, but a shev ve-al ta’aseh, a prohibition against inaction; Teshuva is only accomplished by abstention from middot ra’ot. Therefore, the Rambam learned that our pasuk refers only to the mitzvah of learning Torah.
Although Ramban understands our pasuk as referring to Teshuva, he is nevertheless quite aware of the Gemara in Eiruvin that reads it as referring to Talmud Torah. He feels, however, that there is no contradiction between Torah and Teshuva, and that the pasuk can easily refer to both at once. The meaning of the pasuk is that the only way to successfully perform Teshuva is through the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. Rabbi Dovid Soloveitchik Shlita shows from the Gemara in Kiddushin (30b), “if this boor [the yeitzer hora] bumps into you, pull him into beis midrash,” and the Gemara in Bava Batra (16a) “Hashem created the yeitzer hora, but created Torah as its antidote,” that the only way to rid oneself of the yeitzer hora, which causes aveiros, is through Talmud Torah in the beis ha-midrash. Take advantage of the opportunities of Torah in the beis midrash; this not only fulfills the commandment to study Torah, but also strengthens our Teshuva and allows us to become closer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, reaching the level of “shuva Yisroel ad Hashem Elokeycha,” return, Israel, to Hashem your G-d. Chazak ve-ematz!

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Einayim L'Torah - Parshat Nitzvaim 5765

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