Points to Ponder
Parshas Nitzavim 5775
You are Nitzavim here (29:9) – Rashi comments that Bnei Yisrael were scared after they heard the Tochacha and wondered who would be able to survive. Moshe encouraged them by noting Atem Nitzavim HaYom – you stand here – you’ve made it thus far. Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlop ztl. explained that the people thought that the Klalos were merely a a punishment but Moshe showed them that they were really a Beracha. The intent of the Tochacha was to serve as a deterrent from performing sin and to give the people an extra push against the desire to sin. If they would fail, it would be the proof to Hashem of insanity on their parts (who would sin knowing the dire consequences if not one who is ill) and make them not liable.
Your tribal leaders and elders (29:9) – Rashi comments that the leaders come first on purpose. Why is that so? Why does Moshe single out leaders before the rest of the people? Rav Yehuda Amital ztl. cited a Yirushalmi (Chagiga 2:2)about Shimon ben Shetach and the fate possibly awaiting him for taking a mantel that wasn’t his to have. More adherence is demanded of Jewish leadership. One who takes the mantel must stand up and be held to the higher standard and thus gets called out first.
Lest there be among you a man or woman …whose heart turns away from being with Hashem (29:17) – The Gemara (Sukkah 46a) explains that while man fills empty vessels, Hashem can ONLY fill a vessel that is full. Rav Wolbe ztl. explained that when the Tora explains L‘Maan Sifos Harava Es HaTzmeia (adding the watered to the thirsty) it means that when one has tried sin and satiated his soul with that Avaira, he will again thirst for it. The trick to avoid that cycle is to be involved and immersed in Mitzva performance. One who is too busy to sin, usually does not do it.
The Hidden things are to Hashem (29:28) – When we say Vidui on Yom Kippur we note this Possuk as well – noting that the hidden Aveiros are for Hashem while the revealed ones are our responsibility. What does this mean? Rav Schachter shlita would often point out that the intention here is to note that when it comes to public Torah observance and non-observance, we have a collective responsibility of Avreivus for one another. This is the source for that concept in Judaism. What we mean to state is that we cannot be responsible for Nistaros but the things that are revealed are ours La’asos – meaning we have the responsibility to be miaseh others to join us in mitzvah observance.
If there shall be refugees in the midst of the heavens (30:4) – Shouldn’t the promise be if there are refugees in the midst of the earth? Why in the midst of the heavens? Rav Zaidel Epstein ztl. commented that sometimes the holding onto of some spiritual ideas (Lo Shinu Es Shmosam etc.) serves as the connection and antidote to assimilation. So long as we are connected on some level to Shomayim, the salvation can come.
It is close to you – it is in your mouth and hands to do it (30:14) – Ramban tells us that the “it” is Teshuva. Why would one think that the ability to Teshuva was far off? Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztl, Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva used to say that when one is close to Torah – that is the Torah of Middos – then Teshuva is a close issue for him. However, when he is far removed from it, it can make Teshuva look very far away.
And you will choose life (30:19) – Why does the Torah set this up as a choice and then tell us which choice to make? Rav Noach Weinberg ztl. explained that man is a composite of physical and spiritual. While the spiritual side wants life, the physical – it seems – wants death. Pleasure comes to a person tackling challenges and meeting them. Comfort and complacency are a step removed from death itself. We need to realize that we make choices every day – but Hashem is cheering for us not to be complacent – to choose life.
Haftorah: As a Chosson wearing priestly glory and a Kallah beautified with her garments (Yeshiahu 61:10) – Rav Hirsch notes that the translation is a bit contrived here as the correct Hebrew would be K’Pe’er Yichahein Chosson . Therefore he offers a different translation: K’Chosson Yichahein Pe’er – in Judaism, it is not the clothes that make the man or woman – it is the person who gives the status to the clothing. Wear clothing that is undignified and the wearer looks ridiculous. Wear a uniform that is unbecoming of one’s station and it looks like dress up. The person makes the status of everything around him.