Divrei Torah

PARSHAS NITZAVIM 5778

In this week’s Parsha, in addition to what we are supposed to do, the Torah indicates what we are not supposed to do. The Torah states, “And it will be, that when he hears the words of this curse, he will bless himself in his heart, saying  ‘Peace will be with me, for I will go as my heart sees fit - b’sherirus leebi eilech’”. This verse is discussing a person who does not take seriously the multitude of curses threatened in the previous Torah portion.

Rashi explains the expression “sherirus leebi” to mean, “the way my heart sees it”. In other words, whatever my heart perceives as being the correct path, that is how I will proceed. This is the simple interpretation of the expression.

The Torah is teaching us that this approach is wrong and is also dangerous. We don’t have options as to which Mitzvos we want to do or which we want to ignore. We don’t have options as to which sins I will avoid and which I won’t be too particular about avoiding. We cannot say, “this Mitzva makes sense to me so I will do it . . . this sin makes sense to me to avoid, so I will avoid it.” All the Mitzvos in the Torah are G-d given and we do them for that reason. You want to try to figure out logic for a particular Mitzva? That is fine. But, you must be aware that the reason you come up with might not be the correct reason. However, that is no reason not to do the Mitzva. The Torah warns us in today’s Parsha that such thinking will lead people to be estranged from the ways of Judaism.

Rabbi Yissachar Frand suggests another idea. He quotes Rabbi Mordechai Gifter ZT”L, the late Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva, Ohio. Rav Gifter says that the word "sherirus" actually should be spelled -- shin reish YUD reish vov sof. However, it appears without the yud. So, when reading the letters without vowels, the words sound like "b'serarus leebi" - by the rule of my heart. Rav Gifter says that if a person wants to follow the inclinations of his heart, eventually his heart will rule over him. His heart will control him.

The task of every Jew is to rule over the dictates of his heart. Once a person says, “I want to go my own way, I will indulge and have a good time”, ultimately, he will be so controlled by his heart that he will be incapable of saying ‘no’.

When one goes after the vision of his heart – sherirus -, he ultimately winds up controlled by the dictates – serarus - of his heart. Our resolution for the new year that is upon us should be to rule our hearts as the Torah instructs us and not let our hearts rule us. Through that resolution we pray to G-d, “תכל שנה- the year and its curses should be finished. “ותכל שנה וברכותיה – and begin a year and its blessings.  May the coming year be a year of bracha, health, prosperity and peace for the entire Jewish people.