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 Vayelech 5773 2012

At the end of his days Moshe is told by Hashem to relate the Shira, the Portion of Ha’azinu, to Bnei Israel. The last verse in today’s Portion of VaYelech ends with the words: “Moses spoke the words of this song into the ears of the entire congregation of Israel”, עַד תֻּמָּם, “until their conclusion”. (Deut. 31,30)

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein asks, how could anyone think that Moshe would not recite the entire song? Why does the Torah say “until their conclusion”? He answers by saying that Moshe was not only to recite the words of the song but also had to provide an in depth meaning of what these words implied. Hence these words do not refer to the recitation of the song but rather to their meaning. They imply that Moshe provided the deepest understanding of their meaning.

This is a lesson that every teacher, every speaker, and for that matter every person, when making a comment or talking to someone, must be clear in his wording and be sure the person understands his full meaning. How often do people become offended by what is said to them when in fact they did not understand what was implied. Students are often confused because the teacher did not express the thought clearly. Too many friendships have been broken and numerous marriages have been ruined because of a misunderstanding of what was meant.

Moshe understood what was meant and explained everything very clearly “until their conclusion”.

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 Parshat Vayelech 2008 5769 דבר תורה פרשת וילך

Moshe informs the Jewish people of the Mitzvah of HAKHEL. He instructs them that after seven years, during the year of Shmitah, all the people were to be gathered together and have the Torah read before them. Although it is already in the eighth year and Shmitah has ended it is still called Shmitah because the produce of that year is still to be treated with the holiness of Shmitah.

Moshe is not satisfied with his words to gather “all the people” but actually enumerates who he has in mind. He says: HA’ANASHIM VEHANASHIM VEHATAF, “the men, the women, and the children…”(Deut. 31,12). The question many ask is that we can understand why the men and women were to be summoned but why the children.

The answer Rashi gives on the verse, based on the teaching of Chazal, is that the reason they are commanded to bring the children is to give reward for those who bring them. Someone asked, surely they had to bring them. Since the men and women came with whom were they to leave the children? Indeed it is true that they had no choice. However, as soon as they are commanded to bring them it becomes a Mitzvah and they are rewarded for fulfilling the Mitzvah.

There are many things that we would do even if it were not a Mitzvah, but since it is a Mitzvah, that is why we should do them and not because we think it is the correct thing to do.

Dvar Torah Nitzavim VaYelech 2007 – 5767 דבר תורה ניצבים וילך

In last week’s Sidra and in the beginning of this week’s we read that Moshe relates to the people the blessings that would come to the them if they follow the teachings of the Torah and the terrible warnings of what would befall them if they leave the teachings of the Torah. Then he adds that after these things will come about, HABERACHA VEHAKLALAH, “the blessings and the curses” (Deut. 30,1) the people will repent, and Hashem will bring them back from exile and grant them His blessings.

There are two things that can bring people close to Hashem. One is blessings. If one finds that he has all his needs and is the recipient of good fortune, then he is grateful and thankful to Hashem. On the other hand, someone may come close to Hashem for the opposite reason. He may be afflicted with ill health or poverty or other misfortunes and He turns to Hashem for help.

This is what Moshe meant. After the blessings or after the curses the people will repent and return. The good prediction was that Hashem will accept the repentance and will redeem the people from exile and bless them in the Promised Land.