THE ART OF BITTUL (nullification)

וילך משה Many interpretations have been offered on the issue where did Moshe go since the passuk is not explicit. One of those interpretations is that he went into the hearts of all Klal Yisrael. We can explain this to mean that Moshe Rabbeinu symbolized the ability to negate oneself totally to Hashem. That is why he was known as the humblest of humans ever to exist. This power of bittul creates a phenomenal force in one’s connection to Hashem and fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvos. Moshe was niftar on this day as the passuk says בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי היום today I completed my 120 th year (Ohr Chairm Hakadosh). Moshe was relating to Yisrael that even though he is about to pass away, he will still not leave them totally, for part of him will always be with them, the part of his bittul to Hashem. The last passuk in the previous parsha talks about the Avos, Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov who have given to Klal Yisrael their outstanding middos to become part and parcel of their spiritual makeup. וילך משה the connection of these two pesukim is that Moshe like the Avos imprinted himself onto the neshamah of Klal Yisrael to help them reach a high level of bittul to Hashem.

Rav Wolf Kitzis was the Baal Tokaiah for the Baal Shem Tov. Before Rosh Hashanah he wrote for himself all the kavannos that the Baal Shem taught him for the blowing of the shofar in order to enable him to fulfill the mitzvah to the best of his ability. One year right before the Tekeeos, the paper suddenly got lost and he became very broken over the fact that he would be unable to have the specific kavvonos of his Rebbi during the time he blew the shofar. After the davening the Baal Shem came over to him giving him a radiant smile with the words that he did a splendid job and all the sounds were accepted in shamayim. Rav Wolf could not believe the words that he was hearing for he knew that he did not have the kavvonos while blowing. The Baal Shem Tov told him that his broken heart was dearer to Hashem than all of the kavannos and secrets of the blowing that he would have thought of if had the paper in front of him.

A similar story with the Bobover Rebbe ztl Reb Shlomo, I heard from my Rebbi, Rav Shlomo Freifeld ztl. It was erev Yom Kippur and a Bobover chassid was sitting at a meeting in Manhattan closing a multi million dollar. However, the meeting kept schlepping as the time ticked on and the chossid explained to the participants that he was now in a difficult predicament because he had to return home to Boro Park for Yom Kippur the holiest day of the year and if they could possibly continue the meeting in two days. “No way” was the resounding reply, “it’s now or never?” The Chossid murmured a quick tefillah to Hashem but as time painfully passed it seemed to bear no fruition. By the time the meeting finished and the deal consummated there remained less than an hour to sunset. The Chossid ran down the steps and hailed a cab. It was rush hour and he was going to need a miracle. He took out a hundred dollar bill and told the cabbie that it would be his if he got him to Boro Park in record time, pedal to the medal. Miraculously, the taxi screeched to a halt in front of the Bobover Bais Medrash with one minute before sunset to spare. The chossid did not even have chance to tovail in the mikveh, aside that there was no time for changing into Yom Tov clothing, to don a kittel, to eat a seudah hamafsekes, to bench of his family, to say Tefillas Zakah and Kol Nidrei. But everything else paled in comparison to missing the mikveh in preparation for the Yom Hakadosh. He was so broken over missing the taharah from the mikveh thereby causing his unholy state to make him feel like a traitor, that his emotional dam just gave way and he abruptly burst open with a flood of uncontrollable weeping. This broken mood accompanied him throughout the entire night and the following day. After Yom Kippur he went to his Rebbe, and with tears rolling down his cheek he related the tortuous ordeal that he experienced Erev Yom Kippur and how only by the skin of his teeth, he made it to the Bais Medrash. The Rebbe smiled at his chossid, and with loving and embracing words for which the Rebbe was known for, said that one must not only look at the physical parameters of the mitzvah but also at its neshama. From the aspect of neshama the purpose of toveiling in the mikveh is in order for one to actively negate his existence to Hashem. This is accomplished by submerging oneself under the water since a human cannot survive in that state for very long. Haughtiness is the opposite of self negation. If you felt such a degree of brokenness and remorse over missing the tevillah for the Yom Hakadosh, I do not believe that you could have toveiled in a more holier mikveh than that. The chossid found true comfort in the short life lesson of his Rebbe.

The gemarrah (Berachos 8) says that one should enter the (length) of two doors in the shul before he begins to daven. The meforshim learn that the reason for this is that davening should not appear as a burden and by his close proximity to the door; he is exhibiting just the opposite that he is all ready to exit even before he starts.

Rav Hershele ztl, the Spinka Rebbe, however, gave an incredible novel interpretation to this gemarah. Chazal tell us that Hashem addresses Yisrael with the plea פתחו לי כפתחו של חודו של מחט ואני אפתח לכם כפתחו של אולם )Shir Hashirim Rabba 5,3) Open for me the hole of a size measuring the point of a needle and I will reciprocate with the hole as large as a chamber. When it comes to davening many people feel a heavy challenge because it is an overwhelming experience to daven to the Almighty King of the Universe when you really think about it seriously. Therefore Chazal are giving us an advice of how not to let this challenge dwarf and compromise our tefillos. One must realize that tefillah is like entering two doors or two openings as referred to in the above Chazal. By the mispallel opening a very small aperture of true and sincere bittul to Hashem, he will receive a tremendous shefah and flow of siyatah dishmaya to accomplish a substantial and uplifting tefillah.

The Vinar Rav Shlita takes this insight a step further by relating it to the mitzvah of blowing shofar. When we blow the shofar, in essence we are coronating Hashem as king over ourselves. That commitment is also very overwhelming if we truly mean it. But the shofar also has two holes, one small and one large. His teaches that accepting Hashem as our personal king is not impossible as long as our acceptance is with the bittul of just a small hole but it is with authenticity. By doing so, Hashem will reciprocate and open for us a chamber of Siyatah Dishmaya to help us get to where we really want to go. מן המיצר קראתי יה ענני במרחב יה.

The Rebbe Elimelech from Leszinsk interpreted the name of the month of Elul in the same fashion. The root of אלול is לול a chicken coop which is constructed from wire and has little holes. The letter aleph of אלול symbolizes Hashem who is known as the אלופו של עולם. The avodah of Elul is to open a small hole of bittul to Hashem.

We are now holding during the Aseres Yemai Teshuvah. Our tiny holes have already been widened by Hashem’s siyatah dishmaya through Elul and Rosh Hashanah. Let us daven that by the time the end of Yom Kippur comes around which will be for us the last time we blow the shofar symbolic of והיה ביום ההוא יתקע בשופר גדול, the place that we were yearning for the last forty days to be standing at has now become a reality.

Gut Shabbos
Rav Brazil