Parashat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20) and Parshat Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1–30) are usually read together, and always in the time of the year when repentance is at the forefront, due to the approaching High Holy Days, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The Baal Shem Tov comments,

“You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L-rd your G-d” (29:9) “This day” is a reference to Rosh Hashanah, the day on which we all stand in judgment before G-d (the Torah reading of Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah).”
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, cited at Chabad.org [1]

According to the Talmud, repentance is one of the seven things created before the universe,

“Surely it was taught: Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah.”
Pesachim 54a, Soncino Press Edition

The Midrash Tehillim (Psalms) says,

“This shall be written for the generation to come; and a people that shall be created shall praise the L-rd.” (Ps. 102:19)…These words refer to those generations that are guilty because of their wicked deeds, but who come and repent and pray before You on New Year’s Day and on the Day of Atonement, and thereby scour off their deeds, so that the Holy One, blessed be He, creates then anew, as it were.”
Midrash Tehillim on Psalm 102, translated by Rabbi William Braude, Yale University Press, Volume 2, pg 155

HaShem is always offering us the opportunity to be created anew, to become a beriah chadasha, a New Creation. How is this accomplished?

HAKHEL – הקהל

In our Torah portion, there is a commandment to assemble Israel at the end of every seven years, during Sukkot, to hear the Torah read,

“At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of Shemitta, in the feast of Sukkot, when all Israel has come to appear before HaShem your God in the place which he shall choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and your foreigner who is within your gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear HaShem your God, and observe to do all the words of this law…”
Deuteronomy 31:10-13

The Aderet, Elijah David Rabinowitz-Teomim (1843—1905)

The Aderet, R’ Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim (1843—1905), is credited with the idea to revive the observance of the Hakhel in modern times. During Sukkot in 1945, the first official ceremony celebrating the Hakhel was performed. Gathering and uniting Israel is a miracle in and of itself, and there is even a special blessing for seeing a “crowd” of 600,000 Jews together. The Talmud says,

“Our Rabbis taught: If one sees a crowd of Israelites, he says, ‘Blessed is He who discerns secrets, for the mind of each is different from that of the other, just as the face of each is different from that of the other.”
Berachot 58a, Soncino Press Edition

Why the number 600,000? Whenever Israel was counted in the Torah, they numbered 600,000 (Numbers 1:46, 26:51) s. R’ Ari Kahn says,

“The Zohar carries this numeric parallel even further, stating that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah which are meant to parallel the 600,000 souls. (See Zohar Hadash Shir HaShirim 74d.)…Every one of Israel has for his soul one letter of the 600,000 letters of the Torah … Indeed, Israel is an acronym for yesh shishim ribo otiyot laTorah, “there are 600,000 letters in the Torah.” (Migaleh Amukot, Section 186).”
R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish: Bamidbar, The Nation of Israel, Aish.com [2]

Like the number of souls in Israel, there are 600,000 letters in the Torah. The Moroccan Mekubal R’ Yaakov Abuchatzeira,(1807-1880) comments similarly that the name “Israel” is a notarikon (acrostic),

“The word “Israel” can be read as an acronym for “Yesh Shishim Ribo Otiot LaTorah“, meaning: “There are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah
600,000 Souls, 600,000 Letters, Rabbeinu Yaakov Abuchatzeira, Petuchei Chotemparashat Ki Tisa, as anthologized in Peninei Avir Ya’akov, p. 213; Translated by M. Steinberger and E. Linas, Chabad.org [3]

The tradition that the Torah contains 600,000 letters is repeated in multiple sources, however if one counts the letters the number will be 304,805. Torah Scrolls cannot have one letter more, or one letter less. So how may this contradiction be resolved? Chabad.org explains,

“There are 304,805 plus letters in the Torah, but as you noted, we often hear of the 600,000 letters in the Torah…[One] view explains that the count of 304,805 letters includes only those that we see, black ink against white parchment. But there are also the letters in white against black. The heavenly, non-physical version of the Torah is described as black fire on white fire, and both the black and white are equally meaningful. The black are the letters we see, while the white, the inverse space between the black, are the letters we don’t see. The count of 600,000 includes both the black and the white letters.”
Where Are There 600,000 Letters of the Torah?, Malkie Janowski, Chabad.org [4]

There are 304,805 black letters in the Torah, and 295, 195 white letters in the Torah. The white letters are concealed among the black letters. Every letter equals a soul.

Interestingly, the Talmud says,

אין בן דוד בא עד שיכלו כל נשמות שבגוף

“The son of David will not come until all the souls in the body are complete.”
Yevamot 63b, Soncino Press Edition

R’ Ari Kahn illustrates an incredible insight,

“We may now conclude that there are 600,000 souls — even though there are more than 600,000 people: more than one person can share the same “soul root.” . .  .Each time the people are counted, the result is 600,000, more or less; in fact, the number 600,000 has become a descriptive term for the totality of the Jewish people. On a mystical level, the number 600,000 is identified with the number of souls comprising the Nation of Israel. The Talmud teaches that the arrival of the Messiah will transpire when all these souls are “complete.”
R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish: Bamidbar, The Nation of Israel, Aish.com [5]

Our Torah portion says that Moshe completed writing the letters in the Torah,

וַיְהִי כְּכַלֹּות מֹשֶׁה לִכְתֹּב אֶת־דִּבְרֵי הַתֹּורָה־הַזֹּאת עַל־סֵפֶר עַד תֻּמָּם

“It happened, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished.”
Deuteronomy 31:24

R’ Ari Kahn makes a shocking insight,

“It is fascinating to note that in 1948 there were approximately 600,000 Jews in the land, and it was not until close to 1967 that there were 600,000 males of fighting age. In accordance with a teaching in the Zohar that Jerusalem will only be united when 600,000 males are in the land.”
R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish: Bamidbar, The Nation of Israel, Aish.com [6]

Israel is like a Tree of Souls made up of 600,000 branches. Because there are more than 600,000 Jews in the world, this means that some share a “soul root” or that some souls on the same branch. For non-Jews who are connected to Israel, they are “grafted in” to this tree, sharing in the nourishment of the Life of the Universe. If souls of Israel form the “branches” who is the Root?

YECHIDA

Rashi commenting on Exodus 19 says,

למשה ולישראל: שקול משה כנגד כל ישראל

“For Moses and for Israel: Moses was equal to all of Israel.”
Rashi citing the Mechilta, cited at Chabad.org [7]

He is citing the Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael which states,

 שקל משה כישראל וישראל כמשה, שקל רב כתלמיד ותלמיד כרב

“Moses is equated with Israel, and Israel with Moses; the master, with the disciple, and the disciple with the master. “that the L rd had taken Israel out of Egypt”: We are hereby apprised that the exodus from Egypt is over and against all the miracles and acts of might that the Holy One Blessed be He wrought for Israel.”
Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael 18:1, Sefaria.org [7]

Moshe Rabbeinu, and by extension Mashiach, is the yechida, the universal, all encompassing soul, of Israel. While it is beyond the scope of this article, there are five levels of the soul:

Nefesh > Chaya > Neshama > Ruach > Yechida

The highest level is the Yechida. DailyZohar comments on Isaiah 52,

“The soul of this ‘new life’ comes from the highest level of Keter.”

“הִנֵּה יַשְׂכִּיל, עַבְדִּי; יָרוּם וְנִשָּׂא וְגָבַהּ, מְאֹד”

“Behold, My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high” “Only when all four sides connected in unity the soul of Mashiach could be ‘delivered’ in Malchut. The five levels of soul Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chaya and Yechida. The first level of Nefesh exists in all living. Ruach and Neshamah can be achieved by righteous people. The level of Chaya was given to Moses and for other high level souls in the spiritual level. Only one soul can have the level of Yechida and it is the Mashiach that is called ‘King’. His soul level is one with the Endless light at the level of Keter.”
DailyZohar.com #1325 [8]

We will explain these concepts, b’ezrat HaShem, in forthcoming articles. Suffice to say that the level of Mashiach is extremely exalted. R’ Yitzhak Ginsburgh says,

“The two words which form the name Adam Kadmon allude to its paradoxical nature of being, on the one hand a created being–Adam–while on the other hand a manifestation of primordial Divinity–Kadmon. For this reason, Adam Kadmon is often seen to represent the archetypal soul of Mashiach, the general yechida of all the souls of Israel, the ultimate “crown” of all of God’s Creation, the Divine “intermediate” which reveals primordial Infinity to finite created reality.”
R’ Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Adam Kadmon, Primordial Man, Inner.org

When Adam HaRishon (the First Man) sinned, all souls were bound up in his like a patchwork quilt. Adam had the level of yechida, containing all souls within himself. When he sinned, all the souls were stained by the counsel of the serpent. Likewise, the Soul of the Mashiach is an all encompassing soul. When one makes teshuvah, repentance, his soul is taken from the Soul of Adam HaRishon and woven into the Soul of Adam Ilaya (the Heavenly Adam). Paul speaks of this concept in 1 Corinthians,

“The first man (אדם הראשון), Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam (אדם האחרון) became a life-giving spirit…The first man is of the earth, made of dust. The second man is the Lord from heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15:45-47

TESHUVAH OF THE TZADDIK

The Gospels record the following account,

“Then Yeshua came from Galilee to the Jordan to Yochanan, to be immersed by him. But Yochanan would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be immersed by you, and you come to me? But Yeshua, answering, said to him, “Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.”
Matthew 3:13-15

Yochanan the Immerser is confused because he is offering the immersion of repentance. What does the Messiah need to repent for? He is sinless! To discover the secret, we must look to the Sages. The Talmud says of the power of teshuvah (repentance),

“R’ Meir used to say, ‘Great is repentance, because for the sake of a single person who repents, the entire world is forgiven.”
Yoma 86b, Soncino Press Edition

R’ Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin comments,

“This happens because the penitent awakens the thoughts of teshuvah in the hearts of others. But not everyone has the capacity to be this one person [whose repentance can occasion forgiveness for the entire world.] Such a person has not yet existed, for that unique person will only be the Messiah, son of David. [In order to perform this task] his soul must comprise all other souls. . .”
R’ Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin, Zidkat HaZaddik, 159, cited in The Religious Thought of Hasidism, Normal Lamm, pg. 575

He also says,

“Messiah will be the one, on account of his repentance, the whole world will be forgiven.”
Pri Tzaddik, Shlach Lecha 12, The Concealed Light, Dr. Tsvi Sadan, Vine of David, pg. 32

Rebbe Nachman says,

“The Tzaddik repents on behalf of Israel. Therefore the closer people are to him the easier it is for them to repent and return to God. Because the Tzaddik repents for them.”
Likutey Etzot, Tzaddik, 105, translated by R’ Avraham Greenbaum, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 251-252

R’ Dresner explains in his amazing book Zaddik, how the Righteous One identifies with the people, and connects to them,

“The guilt of the zaddik, on the other hand, may be a guilt of complete fiction. . . It is a guilt which in fact does not exist at all. But there are times when the zaddik must go  beyond what is just and in love accept the plight of the people as his own, though no fault of his own is involved.”
R’ Samuel Dresner, The Zaddik, The Doctrine of the Zaddik According to the Writings of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoy, Schocken Books, pg. 201

Rebbe Nachman says of the true tzaddikim,

“The true Tzaddikim atone for sins, as it is written, “but the wise man will bring atonement.” (Proverbs 16:14)
Likutey Etzot, Tzaddik, 14, translated by R’ Avraham Greenbaum, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 227

BORN AGAIN

In a famous, yet little understood, passage in the Gospels (John 3:1-10) we read of the following interaction between Yeshua of Nazareth, and the famous Pharisee Nicodemus. Let us examine the text,

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.”

“Nicodemus” renders the Hebrew Nakdimon. Many scholars point out that he is known is the Talmud as נקדימון בן גוריון Nakdimon ben Gurion. Taanit 19b-20a tells the story of how he acquired the nickname ‘Nakdimon,’ through a miracle of the sun standing still for him (as it did for Moshe and Yehoshua) and that his original name was Buni [9]. The text says,

“The same came to him by night, and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.”

Notice how Nakdimon says that WE KNOW that you are a teacher from God. We (Pharisees) know this. Yeshua answered,

“Amein, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he cant see the Kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mothers womb, and be born?”

“Yeshua answered, “Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he cant enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born anew…Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things? ”
John 3:1-10

Based on Yeshua’s response, this should be a well-known teaching within Judaism. In fact, the Talmud says,

גר שנתגייר ־ כקטן שנולד דמי

“…one who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born.”
Yevamot 22a, Soncino Press Edition

There is a Chassidic story told of the Rabbi of Lublin,

“They asked the Rabbi of Lublin: “Why is it that in the holy Book of Splendor, the turning to God which corresponds to the emanation ‘understanding’ is called ‘Mother’? He explained: “when a man confesses and repents, when his heart accepts Understanding and is converted to it, he becomes like a new-born child, and his own turning to God is his mother.”
Tales of the Hasidim, Early Masters, Martin Buber, Schocken Books, pg. 314

Note that Yeshua says “that which is born of flesh, is flesh, that which is born of Spirit, is spirit.” The one giving birth below is the mother. Based on the concept of “as above, so below” we may liken the Spirit to “mother.” It is important to note that this is not literal, only that as finite beings, we may relate to HaShem’s Attributes in ways that we can understand. Rebbe Nachman echoes this concept,

“Ha-EiM (the mother) alludes to Binah – which corresponds to IMma (mother) – and the Upper Sefirot.”
Rebbe Nachman’s Torah, Volume III, Breslov Research Institute, pg.

While it is beyond the scope of this article, this statement links the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to the Partzuf of ‘Upper Mother’ (Imma Ila’a) from whom souls are born from above, becoming new creations. Regarding the Partzuf of the ‘Lower Mother/Daughter‘ (Imma HaTata’ah). This is mentioned in Revelation 12:1-6, 21:2. There is a text entitled the Gospel of the Hebrews in which Yeshua identifies the Spirit as “his mother,”

“Even so did my mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs and carry me away on to the great mountain Tabor.”
Origen, Commentary on John 2.12

While this explanation is insufficient, the wise will understand. We will revisit these concepts in future articles, b’ezrat HaShem. At this point, it is important to focus on the concept of becoming a new creation, a beriah chadasha, as 2 Corinthians says,

“Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation (בריה חדשה). The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

BEYOND TIME

R’ Chaim Kramer describes the awesomeness of Mashiach,

“…Atik includes all time and space – yet transcends it all. The soul of Mashiach “resides” in within Atik, and it is from this level that all his powers will be drawn. And, since he transcends time and space, Mashiach can transcend every transgression ever committed and rectify it – for since he can transcend everything ever done, he can bring each person to a state prior to his having sinned. . . With the power inherent in this exalted level, Mashiach will be able to bring the world to a state of perfection.”
Mashiach, Who, What, Why, How, Where, When, by Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 209

R’ Noson writes,

“There are people whose souls are severely damaged. Even when they come to the Tzaddik they are still sunk in all their bodily desires…It might seem an impossible task to elevate these souls and renew them like an unborn child in the womb. But there is a Tzaddik who has reached the most awesome of levels and who does have the power to elevate even souls which are severely damaged as these. He can renew them like a newly-formed child growing in the womb.”
Likutey Etzot, Tzaddik, 25, translated by R’ Avraham Greenbaum, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 230

When his friend Michele Besso passed away, Albert Einstein said,

“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Albert Einstein

Rebbe Nachman wrote 100 years before Einstein,

“In reality there is no such thing as time. Time is only an illusion…Our notions of time are pure illusion. Someone who thinks about this carefully will certainly put all his strength into abandoning the vanities of this time-bound existence and putting all his hope in that which is beyond time. You should have faith in the One who is beyond time. Then nothing in this world can throw you down. Wherever you are, you will always be able to remind yourself, “This day have I given birth to you” (Ps. 2:7). These words refer to Mashiach who is in a realm beyond time. There everything finds healing. Time past is annulled completely.. . There is only today. Today you were born. Literally! All that is wrong with the world is a part of the “Evil work that is done beneath the sun” in the time-bound world. . . what remedy is there for all the days and years, all the time that [one] wasted in wrongdoing? His only hope is in the realm beyond time. From there comes all healing. It will be as if he were born again today. So long as you have faith – in God, in the World to Come, and in the Messiah who is beyond time – you have eternal hope.”
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Meshivat Nefesh, Restore My Soul, Translated by Avraham Greenbaum, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 88-89


REFERENCES

  1. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, cited at Chabad.org
  2. R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish: Bamidbar, The Nation of Israel, Aish.com
  3. 600,000 Souls, 600,000 Letters, Rabbeinu Yaakov Abuchatzeira, Petuchei Chotem, parashat Ki Tisa, as anthologized in Peninei Avir Ya’akov, p. 213; Translated by M. Steinberger and E. Linas, Chabad.org
  4. Where Are There 600,000 Letters of the Torah?, Malkie Janowski, Chabad.org
  5. R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish: Bamidbar, The Nation of Israel, Aish.com
  6. Rashi citing the Mechilta, cited at Chabad.org
  7. Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael 18:1, Sefaria.org
  8. DailyZohar.com #1325
  9. Nakdimon ben Gurion is mentioned in Taanit 19b-20a, Ketubot 65a-66b, Gittin 56a, Avodah Zarah 25a, Sifre to Deuteronomy 305, Mekhilta Bachodesh 1, Pirkei de-Rebbi Eliezer 2, Lamentations Rabbah 1:16, Kohelet Rabbah 7:11, Avot de-Rabbi Natan 6:3,  and possibly Sanhedrin 43a. See entries in the Jewish Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Judaica