This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Nitzavim is being sponsored by Dov and Bracha Moses and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh to wish continued refuah shlaima to their son Amitai Yaakov ben Bracha and refuah shlaima to Bracha’s Mother, Chaya Perel bat Rivka.. To the Moses family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Parshiyot Nitzavim 5774: Jews Taking Mutual, Collective, Unified Responsibility — Key to The Ge’ula?
by Moshe Burt
Our Parsha Nitzavim opens with Moshe Rabbeinu addressing the B’nai Yisrael on the final day of his life:
“Atem Nitzavim HaYom… You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your G’d…. for you to pass into the convenant of Hashem, …that Hashem… seals with you today in order to establish you as a people to Him and that He be a G’d to you as He spoke to you and as He swore to your forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov.” (Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Sefer Devarim Perek 29, posukim 9-13)
But why is Moshe speaking here about entering into the Covenant of Hashem? Weren’t the B’nai Yisrael initiated into the Covenant back at Matan Torah when they gave this response?:
“Everything that Hashem has spoken, we will do… (Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Sefer Sh’mos. Perek 19, posuk 8 )
The Stone Chumash introduction to Parsha Nitzavim (page 1086) states on this question:
What is new about this Covenant was the concept of responsibility for one and another, under which every Jew is obligated to help others observe the Torah and to restrain them from violating it. This is why Moshe [as the Stone Chumash cites from Or HaChaim]… said that Hashem would not hold them [presumably the collective — the Kehal] responsible for sins that had been done secretly, but that they would be liable for transgressions committed openly. This…. explains why one may not be apathetic to the shortcomings of others and why public desecrations of the Torah are the concern of every Jew of good conscience.
Sefer Shem Mishmuel (Written by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, the Sochaczever Rebbe, rendered to English by R’ Zvi Belovski) further explains this Covenant (page 421):
This bris [Covenant] was the establishment of unity between all sectors of Jewish society — male and female, great and ordinary. Through this Covenant, they would be able to conquer and inherit Eretz Yisrael.
In other words, this “entry into the Covenant of Hashem” referred to in our parsha represents a renewal of the original Covenant of Matan Torah with an expanded definition which would apply for all time. Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer “L’lmod U’lamed” explains this expanded definition in his summary of our parsha (pages 183-185):
A warning was issued… If the public sinned, then the land would be destroyed. When later generations would wonder about the cause of this destruction, they would be told that it had come about because of the abandonment of Hashem and his ways.
After the Jews have experienced Hashem’s blessings and curse and they have returned to His fold, Hashem would gather them from dispersion and return them to the Promised Land. Then the curse would be transferred to the enemies who had persecuted and oppressed the Jews. The Jews, on the other hand, would experience the blessings of prosperity and happiness, provided that they would accept Hashem’s commandments fully.
Therefore, the people should realize that the choice between life and death — between good and evil — is placed before them. The heaven and earth are eternal witnesses to this offer.
Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch z’l notes in the Hirsch Chumash, Sefer Devarim, Parsha Nitzavim page 692:
…Scripture stresses the common Responsibility of all Israel for upholding the Torah and fulfilling its commandments. According to this principle, the individual does not fulfill his role if he is faithful to his duty in his personal life alone, but does not do his utmost to promote observance of the Law throughout his community.
The posukim cited in the first paragraph above, as well as both the spirit expressed in the Stone Chumash’s introduction to Nitzavim, L’lmod U’lamed’s parsha summary and the citing from Rav Hirsch raise the following questions:
1/ At what point do aveirot (sins) done by individuals, while giving the appearance of having been done “in secret”, actually impact and affect the Kehal such that, while appearing to be “secret”, the aveirah actually occurs and impacts the Kehal “openly”?
2/ Don’t aveirot such as physical and psychological domestic abuse or child abuse and theft whether done by one’s spouse or by one’s fellow, or forgery, solicitation of illicit or fraudulent loans, organized crime activities, serial illegal breaking-and-entering and more actually constitute “transgressions committed openly” even though, at first glance they appear as “having been done in secret”? Isn’t this so, even though the Kehal may not, for whatever reason, be aware of the existence of such violations by such individual(s)?
3/ Don’t we learn that the terms “in secret” and “openly” may actually be euphemisms for Bein Adam L’Mokom (between man and Hashem) and Bein Adam L’Chaveiro (between man and his fellow) respectively and that Divine punishment meted out for wrongs done by man against his fellow are actually more severe than those meted out for wrongs done by man against Hashem?
4/ What about the value of a marriage ketubah? Don’t we learn that parties in a get (divorce) proceeding, despite whatever strife and contention which existed in the marriage which led them to a Get Beit Din, must act in accordance with Torah and not attempt to circumvent Halachot of Ketubah via coercion or extortion of a spouse in a divorce with immunity? Don’t issues of marriage and divorce represent Bein Adam L’Chaveiro issues in terms of Divine retribution?
5/ And what about the “vigilante” criminal fringe of self-proclaimed “observant Jews” who, on their own, strong-arm their communities while either ignoring or terrorizing their own leaders, and who put upon others who they deem to be not like them, i.e. others who don’t dress exactly like them, or who end their Shabbos not according to Rabbeinu Tam time? One could go on and on here.
6/ Finally, isn’t it our collective Torah responsibility and mandate, each one of us both in our private lives and as part of a unified B’nai Yisrael, to cleave, assert and act to possess This Land that Hashem has given us as Our Own? Even if it means physically fighting to win a mandatory war for Torah, or standing against any attempt by a political, anti-Torah governance to hand over any piece of Jewish land to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication?
Undoubtedly, others could add many more issues and questions based on the above citings. And with Rosh Hashana near, is it not appropriate to for each of us to ponder the myriads of such questions?
In regard to the sixth question, Sefer Shem Mishmuel offers the following and echos R’ Hirsch (page 419-420):
Eretz Yisrael is the land given by Hashem to Klal Yisrael. It is firmly the domain and right of the nation, not the individual Jew. Indeed, Chazal tell us:
‘The conquest [of any part of Eretz Yisrael] by an individual does not have the status of a conquest.’ (Gittin 47a)
We may suggest that the reason for this is that the unity of Eretz Yisrael is the unifying force for the nation itself. The laws of mutual responsibility [the original Covenant of Matan Torah with an expanded definition], which demand a single nation, only came into operation after they crossed the Jordan into the land, in order to relate to its special nature, must be performed by the klal, who are… unified by that act of conquest.
…Whether or not klal Yisrael are victorious in their wars is dependent on them functioning as a unified nation.
It seems to this author that these questions, points and more regarding our parsha are crucial both for the Kehal — the Am, as well as for Rabbanim to ponder as Rosh Hashana approaches.
Asserting and taking Mutual and unified responsibility — it may just be key to The Ge’ula!
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!
Good Shabbos Tefillah!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.