This week, our Parshat HaShevua; Parshat Nitzavim is being sponsored by Jonathan and Debbie Sassen and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for their childrens’ continuing success in learning. To the Sassen family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued your kindnesses throughout the years.
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.
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 Mesechta 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 of unity and collective responsibility in his summary of our parsha in sefer “L’lmod Ulamed (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.
So, this author returns to a theme hit on in a number of recent Parshiyot — Bechira, as applied to observance of Shabbos and the “issue” of transportation of a significant public ridership on Shabbos by oxymoronic “private companies” for the possible sake of achieving a “cultural unity” within Am Yisrael.
We see that at least one political entity seemly justifies a latter-day version of a concept expressed in a commentary in “Studies in the Weekly Parsha,” by Yehuda Nachshoni citing R’Rafael Katzenellenbogen who referred to a citing of R’ Sonnenfeld who noted that Zimri’s distorted sense of “acting for the sake of Shemayim” evolved from;
“…a novel, misleading ideology, that evil must be tolerated by incorporating it into the Camp of Israel, to dissuade the lustful man from finding himself in the camp of idolaters.” (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni, Parsha Balak, page 1115.)
And we’ve watched the political tumult and turmoil which has resulted from the current Transportation Minister’s push to have work done on Israel’s railway system on Shabbos as well as the Mayor of Tel Aviv’s efforts to promote companies being open on Shabbos.
The Torah response to concepts of a public sinning openly in Parshat Kedoshim:
‘Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: ‘Speak to the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G’d. Every man,Your father and mother shall you revere and My Sabbaths shall you observe — I am Hashem, your G’d.'” (Artscroll, Stone Edition Chumash, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posukim 1-3)
The Torah adds one more zinger:
“My Sabbaths shall you observe and My Sanctuary shall you revere — I am Hashem.” (Artscroll, Stone Edition Chumash, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 30)
This author has asked several times in other vorts: How can it be that an entity soo dedicated to Har HaBayit and the restoration of the Beit HaMikdash, to the Ma’arat HaMachpela, to our other Holy Places, to possessing Yehuda and the Shomron, can at the same time soo compromise principles regarding Shabbos observance?
Returning to Rabbi Katz’s explanation defining unity and collective responsibility in his sefer “L’lmod Ulamed (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.
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’nei 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 brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that 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 the Gaza War of two years ago. 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
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.