Dvar Torah Parshat Nitzavim 5775 2015 – It’s Not In The Heavens

Moshe, speaking to Bnei Israel about the Torah before his demise, states that it is not in the heavens nor overseas but: כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשֹׂתו, “Rather, the matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to perform it.” (Deut. 30,14) We see in this verse a connection between the mouth, the heart, and performance.

It speaks to everyone. There are Jews to whom Judaism is connected only to the mouth. They publically proclaim that they are Jewish. There are Jews who add to that their heart. They give charity and similar deeds but executing Mitzvot is not part of their performance. They believe that you can be Jewish with only the mouth and the heart but need not consider the Mitzvot.

Both of these views err critically. Being Jewish requires fulfillment with all your body and all your faculties. The psalmist says: כָּל עַצְמוֹתַי תֹּאמַרְנָה, “All my bones shall say…”, (Psalms 35,10) We also recite this verse every Shabbat and holiday morning when we say נשמת. This verse implies that practicing Judaism requires our entire body and our total ability. The mouth and the heart and the Mitzvot are all part of being Jewish.

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Dvar Torah Parshat Nitzavim Vayelech 5774 2014

Moshe gathers all the people, the men, women, and children, everyone who is in the Israel camp. What is the purpose of this gathering? Moshe tells them the purpose: לְעָבְרְךָ בִּבְרִית יְקֹוָק, “For you to pass into the covenant of Hashem…”. (Deut. 29,11) This was not a new covenant. It was first made with the patriarch Avraham. It was repeated at Har Sinai and was referred to on other occasions.

This covenant stated that Hashem would recognize us as His people but we have an obligation to follow His dictates and live up to the demands of the Torah. It is a tragic fact that among our people there are those who cry that we should be ככל הגוים, we should be like all nations. This is not a new cry but already we hear about it in the days of Samuel when they wanted to establish a government with a king.

When you think of this demand in our times it is certainly not understandable. What nation would these people want Israel to emulate? Almost all nations today are not living up to any moral standards. They are all interested in their own survival and are ready to condemn all other nations, especially Israel.

As things stand today, even though the world is constantly condemning Israel for whatever it does, the truth is that Israel is more ethical and more moral than any other nation. Israel is proud of what it offers the world and how it conducts itself in peace and war.

Torah Portion Nitzavim VaYelech 5773 2013

Moshe appoints Yehoshua to take his place after he is gone. In his instructions to Yehoshua we are told he said: לְעֵינֵי כָל יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ,
“…before the eyes of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous’ ”. What did he imply with this advice to him?

Yehoshua was Moshe’s assistant throughout the wanderings in the Wilderness. Yehoshua understood the personality of Moshe. He knew Moshe was a modest individual. In fact, the Torah tells us about Moshe, וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה עָנָיו מְאֹד מִכֹּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, “Now the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth.” (Num. 12,3)

This is a wonderful trait for a leader but there are times when strength and forcefulness are required. On many occasions Moshe admonished the people and even scolded them. This is what Moshe was saying to Yehoshua.

“You can be modest. That is fine, but if you want to be a true and successful leader, there are times when you will have to act forcefully and resort to means that may not find favor in the eyes of the people. That is why he said to him, חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ, “Be strong and courageous’ ”.

We see around us many leaders who try to be loveable to all and they get nothing accomplished. Leaders must have the courage to take a stand, even if it seems unfavorable to their people. They must be prepared to make decisions even if some people will disagree and may even be hurt by the action. To be a true leader one must act according to his understanding when a principle is involved.

Dvar Torah Parshat Nitzavim 5772 2012

In the Sidra of Ekev, Moshe tells the Bnei Yisrael that Hashem merely asks of us to fear Him, to go in His ways and to love Him. (Deut. 10,12) The Netziv, in his commentary on the Torah, says that not everyone can fulfill this responsibility in the same way. There are leaders, elders, business people, women and children. All of them have different requirements.

The Netziv refers to the opening verse of this week’s Sidra which states: אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם, “You are standing today, all of you…the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers – all the men of Israel; your small children, your women, and your proselyte who is in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water…”. (Deut. 29,9-10)

The question he raises is why was it necessary to mention all the different types of Jewish people? When the Torah states: You are standing today, all of you, everyone is included. Why elaborate and itemize everyone separately?

The reason, he suggests, is that everyone’s obligation is different. The elders cannot do what the leaders can, and the children cannot do what their fathers can, and the elders cannot accomplish what the young can, and the reverse is also true.

We all have our own abilities to fulfill the Mitzvot and our individual strengths to carry out the dictates of the Torah. We are responsible for what we can do and what we actually do.

Dvar Torah Parshat Nitzavim Vayelech 5770 2010

The second Portion we read today begins with the words: VAYELECH MOSHE, “And Moshe went”. The Torah does not say where he went. (Deut. 31,1) In the very next verse Moshe says he is 120 years old and: LO UCHAL OD LATZET VELAVO: “I can no longer go out and come in…”. When Moshe says he can no longer go or come, Rashi explains, it could be understood in two ways. It can mean that because of his advanced years he is physically unable to get around. It can also mean he no longer has the authority from Hashem to lead the people.

A Biblical commentary explains, that is why the Torah states in the first verse: VAYELECH MOSHE, “And Moshe went”. He walked around demonstrating that physically he is still sound but since Joshua was appointed his successor and was given the leadership position, Moshe can no longer act in that capacity.

The message is that a person should know when it is time to give up his position and let someone else take over the reign. It is to be regretted that many people of authority hold on tenaciously to their positions and instead of continuing the good service they provided previously, their efforts begin to deteriorate and they do more harm to the cause than good.

Dvar Torah Parshat Nitzavim Vayelech 2009 6769

The Torah often speaks of what will befall our people if we abandon the teaching of Hashem. One glaring example is found in the second paragraph of the Shema. We are told if we turn away from Hashem then He will restrain the heavens and there will be no rain. This, of course, will lead to famine and utter destruction.

In the portion of VaYelech which we read this week we come across a different threat. Hashem says: VA’ANOCHI HASTER ASTIR PANAI, “…and I will surely hide My face…”. (Deut. 31,18) This implies that Hashem will not mete out the punishment Himself but will merely look away and leave us to the whims of other men.

There is a vast difference between punishment dispensed by Hashem and that of man. Hashem is known as RACHUM VECHANUN, merciful and gracious. Even when He punishes He is compassionate. He is like a parent punishing a child. The punishment hurts the parent more than the child.

When the reprimand is left up to man he can be extremely vicious, cruel and brutal. As proof of how inhuman man can be we need but look at the Holocaust and at what is happening today in the four corners the earth. VA’ANOCHI HASTER ASTIR PANAI can be a horrifying experience.

Dvar Torah Parashat Nitzavim 2008 5768 דבר תורה פרשת נצבים

Moshe gathered all the people and starts his talk to them by saying: ATEM NITZAVIM HAYOM KULCHEM, “You are all standing this day…”(Deut. 29,9) The word “today” is really superfluous. What does it add to his talk?

The Midrash Tanchuma (Nitzavim Daled) makes a very interesting observation. Moshe compares the trials and tribulations of Israel to the day. Just as the day is sometimes cloudy and sometimes bright and clear, so to is the history of the Jewish people.

Sometimes like the day it is cloudy. There are troubles. There is persecution. There is tragic mistreatment. However, it is passing. Just like the day, after a cloudy day the sun can come out and the day becomes beautiful. So too, after a tragic period in Jewish history, fortune can shine upon the Jews and the Jewish destiny becomes bright.

This, incidentally, is true also in our personal lives. We go through dark periods in school, at work, with our friends and acquaintances, yet these can be only passing. If we retain our hope and faith we can weather the passing storm and life can brighten up.