Friday, September 11, 2020

Dvar Torah for Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech

       Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech always comes out the week before Rosh Hashanah, and it’s fitting that it does. As Moshe wraps up his final instructions and guidance for Bnei Yisrael before his death, his focus on this parsha turns to Teshuva. The idea that the nation will make mistakes (to whatever degree) is taken for granted; the key is they should repent. Moshe tells them how Hashem will be with them every step of the way, guiding them back to Him behind the scenes. And when they reach their goals, the relationship between them and Him will be stronger than ever before.

       One of the most famous series of pesukim in the entire Torah is found in Parshas Nitzavim, and gives us a great idea of the connection we intrinsically share with 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 Ohr HaChaim asks several pertinent questions on these pesukim. Why does the Torah differentiate between the commandment being hidden or far away? Couldn’t distance be included in the concept of ‘hidden’? Furthermore, what’s the big deal about something being across the sea? It’s one thing for it to be in the heavens, it’s impossible for any living being to get it. But across the sea, while it may be difficult, it’s still possible for one to go there. Even more so nowadays!

       The Ohr HaChaim suggests that perhaps the phrases in the pesukim can be discussing different concerns. The Torah was a completely God created document; Man had nothing to do with it at all. Factor in everything that went into Bnei Yisrael receiving it at Har Sinai, one could easily think that there are aspects of the Torah that are completely inaccessible, or ‘hidden’, to man. It’s just that everything about it is completely out of the realm of man, physically and intellectually. And it’s not as if one could go up to the heavens to discover those esoteric ideas! The Torah responds directly to these concerns. Explains the pasuk, nothing from the Torah is hidden from us (though some aspects may be more difficult to understand than others), because someone already went up to the heavens to get it (Moshe)! It has no come completely into the realm of Man and is completely accessible.

       The second set of phrases then corresponds to the performance of mitzvos. The pasuk suggests that we may be worried about how far away the mitzvos are from us, and how could we go all the way across the ocean to do them; what would this parable be referring to? The Ohr HaChaim explains that once our concern about going up to the heavens for the Torah was answered by Moshe, another concern has arisen. Moshe will not be able to fulfill all the mitzvos as there are many that can only be performed in Eretz Yisrael and he won’t be entering with the rest of Bnei Yisrael. Perhaps if Moshe, the one man capable of bringing us the Torah, can’t fulfill all the mitzvos, then neither can we! So the pasuk tells us that while Moshe may not be entering Eretz Yisrael, the rest of us are. The mitzvos are not “across the sea”, they are in fact “very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to perform it.” You don’t have to go up to the heavens like Moshe, and you don’t need to be someone who could like Moshe, in order to take ownership of the Torah and become a true servant of Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom!

Click here for last year's Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Nitzavim & Vayeilech

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