It’s fitting that Parshas Nitzavim-Yayeilech comes out during Rosh Hashanah and the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah as it includes the source to the concept of Teshuvah in the Torah. One of the most famous series of pesukim in Sefer Devarim is found at the end of Nitzavim and is a good example of this as well as the idea of how we connect to Hashem.
"כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא. לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא ... וְלֹא מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם הִוא ... כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ" “For this commandment that I command you today, it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in the heavens…Nor is it across the sea…Rather, the matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to perform it.” (Devarim 30:11-14). The Kli Yakar gives two explanations for these pesukim.
There are two aspects to every mitzvah, the actual doing of the mitzvah and the intent, the kavanos, the thought behind it. While the actions we take to accomplish the mitzvos are written down in the Torah for anyone to see and perform, the proper intent behind the mitzvos is hidden from the nations of the world as part of our oral and mystical tradition. These ideas were intended only for the Jewish People, therefore, Hashem did not include them in the Written Torah. It is to these two aspects that these pesukim refer.
“It is not hidden from you”, refers to the kavanos of the mitzvos, which were hidden from the goyim, but not from us. The next part of the pasuk doesn’t say specifically “from you”, but a general statement of “it is not distant”; this is because the actual obligations are written out clearly for anyone who desires to see them, regardless of which nation they belong to. The pesukim then continue, “It is not in the heavens”; the wisdom behind the mitzvos was not kept hidden from us in the heavens, Moshe brought it back with him and gave it to us! Furthermore, “Nor is it across the sea”, the opportunities for mitzvos don’t lie in a faraway place where we can’t reach them. But even if they do, we are still covered.
The final pasuk reads, “The matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to perform it.” The heart is where the intent lies, where we consider what we are doing, accomplishing, when we perform a mitzvah. The mouth is where the action lies, even when the mitzvah doesn’t require speech. The gemarah (Menachos 110a) teaches that even when there is no opportunity to do a certain mitzvah (like nowadays when we can’t bring korbanos), studying its laws becomes as if you are performing it. This includes learning the kavanos of the mitzvah, which becomes as if we did the mitzvah with its’ proper intent. So no matter what happens, every mitzvah is always “in your mouth and in your heart.”
The second explanation connects these pesukim to the concept of Teshuvah. The phrase “For this commandment” is usually explained as a reference to the Torah. However, the Kli Yakar wants to say it refers to the mitzvah of Teshuvah, which is brought in the pesukim immediately preceding our topic. Teshuvah is not “hidden from you”. Hashem presents the idea of Teshuvah to us here in the Torah, and Chazal teach us that both the Jewish People and the concept of Teshuvah preceded the creation of the world; this idea is more present to us than to anyone else in the world! “It is not in the heavens”; we don’t need a representative, someone as great as Moshe Rabbeinu, to go ask Hashem for forgiveness, it’s already with us! We know that Hashem will forgive us. If we prepare our heads and our hearts to return to Hashem, He is already returning to us, waiting for the opportunity to exercise the mitzvah of Teshuvah for all of us.
K’Siva V’Chasima Tova!
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