The parsha always shows us the way to realize the challenges of the moment, and this week’s parsha, Nitzavim is no exception. We learn how to prepare for the awesome days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The stirring opening words, “Atem Nitzavim HaYom” – “You are standing today” (Deuteronomy 29:9) – speaks volumes. In gematria – numerology – those words also mean “La’amod L’slichos” to stand in front of God and seek forgiveness. During the entire year we “run” from place to place, from activity to activity, and some of us run from relationship to relationship. But now, God’s Day of Judgment is upon us and we are commanded to stand still, probe our souls, examine our hearts, and give an accounting of our lives. The passage goes on to enumerate the various strata of the population: the leaders, the elders, the officers, the men, the women, the children, the proselytes, the hewer of wood, the drawer of water – and the question that arises is that since the Torah already mentioned that all of us are standing before God, what is the purpose of this enumeration which at first glance appears to be redundant?
Rabbi Osher Jungreis explains:The answer given is once again a prescription for this High Holiday season. We are all responsible one for the other. Our destiny is intertwined, so we must pray, not only for ourselves, but for K’lal Yisroel – all our people. This is especially relevant today when our brethren in Israel are in such a desperate state. We must bear in mind that when we study Torah and observe mitzvot, our entire nation is elevated and enriched. But tragically, the converse is also true; our abandonment of Torah and lack of observance diminishes the entire nation. There is a posuk – passage, in this week’s parsha that we repeat during the High Holiday services which truly teaches us our responsibilities: “The hidden matters are for God, but the revealed are for us” (Deut. 28:28), meaning that that which a person does privately and of which others have no knowledge, for that we cannot be held accountable – but that which is public and known, and is countenanced – for that we are held liable, and our silence testifies against us. We have a responsibility to remind one another of our G-d given destiny, of our Jewish heritage. So let’s approach Rosh Hashana with commitment to all our people Let us try to bring our brethren closer to Hashem. Let us unite in love and genuine concern, and in that merit, the Almighty will surely grant us a good, blessed New Year.
In his commentary Shem MiShmuel, the Chassidic commentator Rav Samuel Bornstein asks the question: What need is there to make a covenant before they entered the land; wasn’t the covenant made with them at Horeb (Sinai) enough? Said the Rabbi of Liadi (Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad), the author of the Tanya: the making of a covenant between two lovers is not for the present, at a time when their affection and love is strong. But there will be need for a covenant in the future, when over the passage of time, their love will be weakened. Therefore, they make a covenant that the affection might continue even once the causes that originally made them fall in love have ceased. During the lifetime of Moses, miracles were routine and whatever happened was supernatural. But there was anxiety, lest, when they entered the land and matters like plowing, planting, and harvesting had to happen according to natural laws, that their love for God might weaken. For this reason, a covenant was made, so that the love might never falter, enduring forever like a tent peg stuck deep in the earth.
Prepared by Devorah Abenhaim