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YIP Parsha Project Parshat Nitzavim/Vayeilech

09/18/2014 11:37:37 AM


YIP Parsha Project

Nitzavim                                                                        Adam & Ilana Stock

In Devarim Chapter 30 Verses 11 and 12, the Torah states: "For this Mitzvah that I am commanding you today; it is not hidden from you and it is not far from you. It is not in heaven, [for you] to say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us, and acquire it for us, and inform us of it, and we will fulfill it'?"

During the month of Elul, as each Jew is striving to reach their personal best in Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka, we are reassured, comforted and inspired by these words, but what mitzvah is Hashem specifically referring to?

Rashi uses the Gemara’s interpretation by hinting that the pasuk is referring to the mitzvah of learning Torah. This teaches us that learning the Torah is attainable for each person and we each have the power to reveal its secrets and derive its understanding.

The Ramban and the Seforno interpret the words this mitzvah to be specifically referring Teshuva. As each member of Bnei Yisrael proceeds with their individual journey in every generation, the mitzvah of teshuva, recognition and repentance for our misdoings, is within reach. Though difficult on a personal level, we do not need the help of prophets or wise men, to reach within ourselves, reflect on our actions and make changes in our behavior.

Perhaps we can combine these two interpretations to say these pesukim refer to the overall essence of Parshat Nitzavim, where Hashem reiterates to Bnei Yisrael the importance of the Covenant, the mitzvot, the land of Israel and our obligation to Him. Hashem emphasizes that our commitment to Torah and Mitzvot is within reach, and therefore we must continue to strive to fulfill its commandments. These pesukim are perfectly timed for the month of Elul, as we are thankful for the encouragement Hashem offers as we work hard on our commitments to His Torah and our improvements of ourselves.

Good Shabbos!

Ilana, Adam and Liya Stock

Vayeileich           Insights contributed by the Lorbert family—Vayeileich was Yoseph’s Bar Mitzvah parsha

Overview: Moshe, knowing that this is the last day of his life, prepares B’nei Yisrael for his departure. He summons Yehoshua and publicly transfers leadership to him, and by writing the entire Torah and handing it over to the Kohanim, Moshe assures that the Torah will be transmitted to future generations. Then Moshe mentions the mitzvah of Hakhel, which will be performed in the future, every seven years on Sukkot, when the king will read aloud selections from the book of Devarim to all of Israel--men, women and children. The parsha also contains the positive mitzvah [31:19] that every Jew should participate in the writing of a sefer Torah. Vayeileich concludes with the prediction that B’nei Yisrael will stray from the path commanded by Hashem, but promises that the words of the Torah will not be forgotten.

The parsha begins with the words “וילך משה וידבר את הדברים האלה אל כל ישראל”, “Moshe went and spoke the following words to all of Yisrael.” 

An obvious question is, “Where did Moshe go?”  According to Ibn Ezra, on the last day of his life, Moshe went to each individual tribe’s camp, and the Kli Yakar adds that Moshe did this to prove that his leadership was not ending because he was physically weak, but rather to attest that Hashem was not permitting Moshe to continue. Moshe comforted the people with the knowledge that although he would not be there to teach them Torah, the Torah would still be with them.

Other commentaries address a spiritual going out. According to the Ohr HaChayim, Moshe recognized that his neshama would be departing, so this pasuk refers to Moshe’s spirit taking leave. The Ba’al HaTurim adds that Moshe’s spirit went to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (mentioned in the previous pasuk) to inform them that Hashem would be fulfilling His promises to bring B’nei Yisrael to the land of Israel. And the Ma’ayan Shel Torah states that Moshe went out into the hearts of every Jew. After he passed away, Moshe’s burial place was not known, and so his essence wasn’t physically buried in any known location, rather it went into the heart of every Jew, reminding us to follow the Torah and words of Hashem.

Another question posed by Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer at asks why the mitzvah of Hakhel is mentioned in the parsha of Vayeileich and not in other parshiot that deal with observance of the sabbatical year of Shmita or detail the laws of Jewish kings. He answers that Parshat Vayeileich was delivered by Moshe on the final day of his life as his ultimate message to all of the Jews to observe the Torah. This would be one of the final times that the Jews would be united together, because after Moshe’s death, they would enter the land of Israel and each tribe would occupy separate plots of land. They would be scattered and need to learn to fend for themselves and their livelihoods. Hakhel recreates Moshe’s final address to B’nai Yisrael. The king, representing Moshe Rabbeinu, reads to all the Jews assembled together for this occasion, from Moshe’s Mishneh Torah, including his words in Parshat Vayeileich. And the king reads this to the people just as they are completing the observance of the Shmita year, where they left their fields and focused on their connection to Hashem rather than on farm work. Hakhel addresses the true connection that each Jew has with Hashem and the entire Jewish nation.

Finally, Rav Sa’adia Ga’on writes that the parshiot of Nitzavim and Vayeileich actually are one single parsha, and it is only during certain years that they are split and read separately. A small note at the end of the parsha states that there are a combined 70 verses in the two parshiot and 70 numerically corresponds to the word, אדניה, which translates to “My Lord is G-d.” At a first glance, the words Nitzavim, which means “standing firmly” and Vayeileich, which means “he went,” indicating movement seem to be exact opposites of one another. How can one combine standing firmly with moving at the same time? In his Likutei Sichos, the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote that standing firmly represents stability and strength, while moving represents growth and expansion. Therefore the combination of Nitzavim and Vayeileich represents the ability to grow and expand without compromising one’s prior position of strength. From this we learn that we Jews have the challenge of combining the messages of the two parshiot: we need to combine the stability of our faith in Hashem and at the same time, look ahead towards continued growth and expansion.

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