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אם יהיה נדחך בקצה השמים משם יקבצך ד' אלקיך

If your dispersed will be at the ends of Heaven, from there Hashem, your G-d, will gather you in. (30:4)

Horav Yechezkel Levinstein, zl, interprets this pasuk pragmatically. If your dispersed will have a relationship with spirituality in such a manner that they just cling to the ends of Heaven, where they have a faint positive acknowledgment of spirituality, of Yiddishkeit, of Torah, of mitzvos – this will be considered sufficient for their ingathering and redemption. The Sefarim HaKedoshim teach that this is why the human body contains a small bone which does not decompose. It is from this tiny, indescribable bone that the person will be resurrected during Techiyas HaMeisim, Resurrection of the Dead. Thus, from there b’ktzei ha’Shomayim,…

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ושב ד' אלקיך את שבותך

Then Hashem will bring back your captivity. (30:3)

Rashi comments: “Our sages derived from here that the Shechinah resides among Klal Yisrael when they are in exile.” Why is the word shvuscha, your captivity, used instead of the more practical galuscha, your exile? Horav Lazer Brody, Shlita, suggests that shvuscha refers to a specific exilee, the tinok she’nishbah, child taken captive. In our modern day vernacular, this refers to the assimilated Jew who never had a chance to learn about the beauty of Judaism and its observance, who has been, so to speak, taken captive by the culture in which he was raised. Without the opportunity to learn…

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ושבת עד ד' אלקיך

And you will return unto Hashem, your G-d. (30:2)

“And you will return to Hashem.” Is this not obvious? If one has experienced a deficit in the spiritual sphere of his life, it would be understandable that his return be unto Hashem. I think the Torah is conveying a powerful message with regard to teshuvah. It is not unusual for one who is dealing with personal and familial issues to blame it on Hashem and renege his observance as a means of avoiding or assuaging his own painful burdens. In such a circumstance, returning to Hashem will be difficult, since “returning” means going back to one’s point of departure…

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ושבת עד ד' אלקיך

And you will return unto Hashem, your G-d. (30:2)

Teshuvah should address three concepts: the sin; the sinner and before whom/or to whom one has sinned. The Nesivos Shalom explains the words, Atem nitzavim hayom… lifnei Hashem Elokeichem, “You stand here today… before Hashem, your G-d.” Remember before Whom you have sinned, and repent accordingly. Teshuvah which addresses a sin committed to a human being will not cut it. It is insufficient until one takes to heart that he has also sinned before Hashem Yisborach. He must consider who he is, his spiritual stature, his failings, but also his incredible potential, and how this sin affects who he is…

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פן יש בכם שרש פרה ראש ולענה

Perhaps there is among you a root flourishing with gall and wormwood. (29:17)

Gall and wormwood? What is the meaning of these terms? One who is a sinner is evil. The Torah is speaking about a person who does not see the evil that he perpetrates. Such an individual will say, “Peace will be with me.” In truth, he agrees that there are others who are evil – but he is not one of them. He is one of the “good ones” who have the audacity to bless themselves and contend that they warrant blessings in their lives. Apparently, a wide gap exists between reality and this person’s perception of himself and his…

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ושבת עד ד' אלקיך

And you will return unto Hashem. (30:2)

Teshuvah means return. One returns to his source, his beginning, from where it all began, so that he can start over again and repair what requires restoration. This is not consistent with the objective of society, which focuses on the future, ignoring the past. What happened, happened. Forget about it. Move on. What society ignores is the dross which envelopes us. Unless we expunge it, it accompanies us wherever we go. Focus on “Why? “Where? How did it all start?” A pathologist searches for the sources, the etiology. Teshuvah is a pathology, searching for the beginning, “Why? How? Where did…

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החיים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים

I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life. (30:19)

One would think that choosing life is a decision that requires little to no mental effort. Why would the Torah exhort us to choose life? This question has inspired much commentary. Obviously, the meaning of “life” in Torah-speak is different than the mundane, physical existence to which many have become accustomed. Furthermore, as Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, observes, the Torah implores us to choose life, so that our children will live. The message is clear: the decision we make for ourselves affects our families. What our children will be in twenty years, their demeanor – moral, ethical and spiritual –…

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כי המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוך... לא נפלאת היה ממך ולא רחוקה היא... כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו

For this commandment that I command you today – it is not hidden from and it is not distant… rather, the matter is very near to you – in your mouth and in your heart – to perform it. (30: 11,14)

This mitzvah? To which mitzvah is the Torah referring? What mitzvah might we think is distant, inaccessible to the average person? Rashi implies that the Torah refers to the mitzvah of limud haTorah, Torah study. Many people err in thinking that Torah erudition is beyond them – almost impossible to master. While it is true that Torah knowledge has no limit, nonetheless, through constant diligent study, one can achieve a high degree of Torah scholarship. Torah is Divinely authored, thus making it impossible for the human mind to grasp its profundities without Divine intervention. When Hashem sees that a Jew…

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כי קרוב אליך הדבר

Rather, the matter is very near to you. (30:14)

Veritably, the term “near” (to you) is relative. One could be standing on top of something, but, if he is unaware of it, the item remains elusive. It could be under him, but, in his mind, it is across the ocean. If one does not know where to look, distance plays no role. I remember during the sixties when many spiritually lost people went searching for religious meaning and spirituality in the mountains of Tibet. They, of course, returned empty-handed, because they did not know what to look for. Had they had an understanding of the meaning of Judaism, they…

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כי הוא חייך ואורך ימיך

For He is your life and length of your days. (30:20)

Torah is our life, without which we are unable to survive. In a famous dialogue between Papus ben Yehudah and Rabbi Akiva (Berachos 61a), the Tanna expressed this idea. It was during the period when the ruling pagan government forbade Torah study. Their decree, which – if ignored – was punishable by death, did not seem to matter to Rabbi Akiva, who maintained his normal routine of studying and teaching Torah. When Papus ben Yehudah questioned his actions, Rabbi Akiva compared it to the wily fox who saw fish swimming quickly from place to place. He asked them from whom…

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