Parsha Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5769: Communal Responsibility and Hashem’s Covenant of Unity

by Moshe Burt

Parsha Nitzavim begins:

“Atem Nitzavim HaYom…Today you are standing before Hashem, your Lord… You are thus being brought into the covenant of Hashem, your Lord, and [accepting] the dread oath that He is making with you today. He has established you as his nation, so that He will be a G’d to you…” (Devarim, Perek 29, posukim 9-12

L’l Mode U’Lamed comments on these first few p’sukim of Nitzavim noting;

That all members of Klal Yisrael, from the greatest of leaders to the simplest woodcutter, stood together as equals before Hashem…. Thus the poor woodcutter who is devout in his ways and who raises his children as true Jews is elevated to the same level as the wealthy supporter of Jewish causes. No man should consider himself too insignificant to be a partner in the covenant between the Jews and Hashem. (L’l Mode U’Lamed on the Weekly Parsha, Parsha Nitzavim, page 183)

In the renewal of Hashem’s covenant with B’nai Yisrael, this equality reflects itself through the introduction of the concept of mutual responsibility for one another where every Jew is obligated to help others to cleave to Hashem, to observe the Torah and to restrain them from violating Halacha.

This mutual responsibility seems best expressed in our Parsha, per the translation rendered in the Stone Chumash:

“The hidden [sins] are for Hashem, our G’d, but the revealed [sins] are for us and our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah.” (Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Sefer Devarim, Parsha Nitzavim, Perek 29, posuk 28, page 1091)

When first reading this posuk, one might come to think that it could be understood to mean that one would not be held accountable for one’s sins committed to now as individuals, in private, but that one would be held accountable for a sin committed in public by an individual until now and in the future. In fact, the citings below indicate that we collectively would be held accountable for an individual’s sins in public whereas we collectively would not be accountable for the individual’s private sins as only Hashem knows what is in any individual’s heart.

Rabbi Artscroll cites the Or HaChaim who noted:

“…That Hashem would not hold them responsible for the sins that had been done secretly, but that they would be liable for transgressions committed openly.” (Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Parsha Nitzavim, page 1086)

Artscroll then states that:

“This is essential to the world view of the Jew, for it 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.” (Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, Parsha Nitzavim, ibid)

And in Torah Gems, a Maharal is brought on “Atem Nitzavim HaYom Kulchem l’fnai Hashem …” which teaches that;

Moshe assembled them before G’d on the day of his death, to enter them into the covenant (Rashi). Only … on the threshold of Eretz Yisrael were they able to enter into the covenant, because it is Eretz Yisrael which unites the Jewish people. (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Nitzavim, page 297)

It would seem that this concept of collective responsibility for each other is not restricted to the Asseret HaDiv’rot, refraining from loshen hora or pointing out to our fellow Yid the position of his Tefillin Shel Rosh when need be. And it would seem that collective responsibility for each other extends beyond Tzedakah. It would seem that this concept of collective responsibility extends to such Halachot as Pidyan Sh’vu’im — redeeming our Jewish brethren held captive; be it by their home nation, by a foreign nation or by an enemy nation. To expand on this point, it would seem therefore to behoove the Frum world to bring to bear every type of pressure available to it to facilitate Israeli governance acting in concrete, public ways to bring about the release of Jonathan Pollard from prison in the US and to bring about, by force (as a necessary alternative to releasing blood-stained terrorists to kill, maim or kidnap more Jews), the liberation of chayal Gilad Shalit.

And it also seems that collective responsibility extends to bringing about renewal of national unity, i.e. that an attack, whether perpetrated by an external enemy against any part of the Jewish nation, or to an attack perpetrated upon the Jewish nation by it’s internal enemies, namely an Israeli government bent on the destruction of anything Jewish represents a desecration of Hashem’s name.

The non-action, political cheshbonot and equivocation of successive Israeli governments has resulted in Jonathan Pollard’s continued incarceration in prison in the US for the “crime” of having a Yiddishe Neshama and for having put his life on the line in acting to save 10s of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands or millions of Jewish Lives.

Our failure to assert the mitzvah of Pidyan Sh’vu’im with regard to Jonathan Pollard, to captive Gilad Shalit, the other MIAs such as Ron Arad and Zachary Baumel and tendency of the government of Israel and many Israelis toward equivocation and relinquishment regarding our Divine legacy of and inalienable right to Eretz Yisrael seem to meet the Or HaChaim’s criteria of collective liability “for transgressions committed openly.” For collective responsibility cannot be sloughed off as in the recent State Comptroller’s white-wash of Israeli government criminal negligence regarding Jonathan Pollard’s continued imprisonment.

And collective responsibility also extends to asserting our inalienable, divinely-given legacy — our right and inheritance, Eretz Yisrael.

For these transgressions have been done openly, obviously, before the entire gentile world. The malfeasant, incompetent, anti-Jewish government of Israel persists in creating and perpetuating Chillul Hashem; embarrassment to Hashem’s name, Chas V’Challiya placing blots upon the nation which Hashem took as his own.

As the Yom HaDin approaches, 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, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem and that 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 the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos! L’Shana Tova!

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.