Friday, September 7, 2018

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Nitzavim

       Midrash can be one of the most enjoyable ways to study the parsha. Its combination of stories, parables and Jewish wisdom are easily given over and understood by people of all ages. The difficulty of learning Midrash is understanding where it comes from. While our knowledge of the information contained in Midrash is ultimately the result of it being passed down through the generations, the stories don’t appear in the text; the lessons seem unconnected to the verses from which they are deduced.  How are Chazal able to deconstruct pesukim in order to know all of this information?
       There is an example in this week’s parsha which helps explain how the meforshim work, how different commentaries read the pesukim in order to arrive at their explanations. The pasuk says, “וְלֹא אִתְּכֶם לְבַדְּכֶם אָנֹכִי כֹּרֵת אֶת הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת וְאֶת הָאָלָה הַזֹּאת. כִּי אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֶשְׁנוֹ פֹּה עִמָּנוּ עֹמֵד הַיּוֹם לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנּוּ פֹּה עִמָּנוּ הַיּוֹם“Not only with you am I making this covenant and this oath, but with those standing here with us today before Hashem, our God, and also with those who are not here with us, this day.” (Devarim 29:13-14). The pasuk seems to indicate that this oath Hashem made with Bnei Yisrael was not just placed on the ones alive at that time, but even those who had not yet been born! Millennia of Jews were subject to a deal they had no part in. Many commentaries question how this was even possible!
       The Midrash offers an answer; Hashem brought the souls of every Jew, including those who had never been born, to be present at this oath. While this would certainly solve the issue, how do we see this in the pesukim? The first half of pasuk 14, when describing those present, says, “with those standing here with us”. The second half, describing those who aren’t present, writes, “also with those who are not here with us”. How come the second half doesn’t describe the people as “not standing”, the opposite of the first half? The Kli Yakar explains that this is the point in the pasuk from which the Midrash learns out the well-known tradition of all Jews being eternally beholden to the covenant with Hashem. The people being referred to in the second half of the pasuk are not standing because they cannot stand. They don’t have a physical form at this point in time; they are unborn and still in their spiritual form known as a soul.
       There are other words in the pasuk and subsequent pesukim that solidify this point even further, but the point has already been made. Midrashim don’t come out of nowhere; they have a solid tradition of being passed down through the generations, the same way all of world history has been passed down. The only difference is we also have proofs to each story and piece of wisdom, buried in the words of the Torah. The ultimate book of wisdom containing the secrets of the universe has our tradition just waiting for us to uncover its mysteries.
Shabbat Shalom!  

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