Parshat Nitzavim 5775: The Closeness of Torah and Jewish Collective, Unified Responsibility

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat HaShevua Nitzavim is being sponsored by Ari and Aliza Rosenstein and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh and dedicated Lilui Nishmas in memory of Aliza’s Mother, Anne Samson A’H: Rochel Rivka bat Mattityahu HaKohen. To the Rosenstein family, many thanks for your sponsorship and continued kindnesses.

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Nitzavim 5775: The Closeness of Torah and Jewish Collective, Unified Responsibility

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 covenant 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 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.

This citing from Sefer Shem Mishmuel therefore jives with Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer “L’lmod U’lamed”, citing Shabbos 67 (page 183):

All Jews are princes (that is, all Jews have equally noble ancestry — the poor like the rich).

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 of unity and collective responsibility which would apply for all time. Rabbi Katz 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.

R’ Katz then cites Sefer Devarim, Perek 30, posukim 11-14 (pages 183-184) with special emphasis on words like “we” and “us” and comments:

“For this commandment which I command you today is not hidden from you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven that you could say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us and make us hear it that we can do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea that you could say, ‘Who will go over to the other side of the sea for us and bring it to us and make us hear it that we can do it?’ But the matter is very near to you: in your mouth and in your heart, that you can do it.”

With this passage, Torah reminds the Jewish nation that the secret of life lies not in a hidden, unreachable treasure, but directly in the Torah accessible to all.

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.

In the same way as R’ Hirsch explains about the common responsibility of all of Am Yisrael upholding and fulfilling Torah and its laws, 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 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, as should the remains of the two Chayalim from last summer’s Gaza war. 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 any piece 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!

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.

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