Parshat Nitzavim 5779: The Eternality of the Nitzavim Covenant

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua for Nitzavim is sponsored by Sender and Shoshana Schwartz and family ( of Ramat Beit Shemesh who wish all of Ramat Bet Shemesh a Kesiva Vechasima Tova. To the Schwartz family, many thanks for your sponsorship, and a thank you to Sender Schwartz and staff at PC Works for speedily and efficiently handling, expediting and resolving computer problems and facilitating a new laptop after the previous one died, and transferring all of my programs, files and data in record time. As that Phillies announcer, who passed several years ago used to say, Sender Schwartz, “You ARE the Man.” And PC Works is easily THE best computer lab in all of Beit Shemesh. And many thanks 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.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Nitzavim 5779: The Eternality of the Nitzavim Covenant

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, Keilokim [your G’d]…. So that you pass into the Covenant of Hashem, Keilokim and into His oath which Hashem Keilokim contracts with you today, in order to establish you today as a people to Him and that He be to you a G’d, as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Avraham, to Yitzchak and to Yaakov. And not with you alone do I contract this coventant and oath, but with whoever is here, standing with us today before Hashem Keilokim and with whoever is not here with us today.” (as rendered to English by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” page 307, Sefer Devarim, Perek 29, posukm 9-15)

Last year, we asked, 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 Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash introduction to Parshat 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.

Now, the focus of our vort on Parshat Nitzavim is on posukim 14-15 about which Rabbi Goldin writes; “obligate[s] the Jews of all time to a contract that only they [the generation of Bamidbar] are present to hear and accept” :

And not with you alone do I contract this covenant and oath, but with whoever is here, standing with us today before Hashem Keilokim and with whoever is not here with us today.” (as rendered to English by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” page 307, Sefer Devarim, Perek 29, posukm 14-15)

Rabbi Goldin cites several commentators and a number of approaches regarding this covenant which Moshe pronounces in our Parshat Nitzavim, but the vort will focus on Rav Goldin’s citings of The Abravanel, The Malbim and Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik:

The Abravanel…. explains…. as the nation stands in the plains of Moav poised to enter their land… Hashem is about to grant them the Land of Israel, not as a gift, but as a loan, on trust that they will continue to obey Hashem’s will and pay homage to NO other gods. (Rav Goldin citingThe Abravanel on Parshat Shemot, Perek 24, posuk 7)

…In his third approach [of three approaches], the Malbim… totally redefines the nature of the covenant between Hashem and the B’nei Yisrael. An all-powerful Hashem, the Creator and Sustainer of all, the Malbim argues, does not need “agreement” or “acceptance” from His subjects when He obligates them to a particular task. The B’nei Yisrael would have been required to observe Hashem’s law whether they “accepted” the covenant or not. The purpose of the covenant was instead to involve them, to enable them to view their newfound responsibilities as a product of their voluntary choice. Such a perception would serve to root these obligations more firmly in their hearts and in the hearts of their children across the generations. The obligations exist with or without their agreement. The B’nei Yisrael of Moshe’s generation are instead teaching themselves and their children to view Hashem’s law as a gift they would have chosen to accept, even had they not been obligated to do so. (Rav Goldin citing The Malbim on Sefer Devarim, Perek 29, posuk 14)

Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik draws a powerful distinction between the two agreements [the Sinaitic covenant and the Nitzavim covenant].

The covenant at Sinai is a collective agreement representing the “sanctity of the patriarchs.” Through this agreement each member of the B’nei Yisrael, whether by birth or by choice, becomes included in an inherited shared sanctity passed down from generation to generation. (Rav Goldin citing Rav Joseph Soloveichik on Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 44a, based on a passage in Yehoshua, Perek 7, posuk 11)

The Nitzavim covenant, the Rav maintains, is vastly different. This covenant represents a direct agreement between Hashem a each Jew, individually across the face of time. The terms of the agreement are personal and reciprocal, as each Jew is Divinely invested with individual sanctity in return for his commitment to observe the Mitzvot. Moshe thus states to the nation, concerning the Nitzavim covenant alone, that the agreement is contracted directly, not only with those present, but also with whoever is not here with us today.” When a Jew sins, in any generation, the Rav continues, this personal covenant is damaged and must be repaired.

The Sinaitic covenant and the covenant enacted in the plains of Moav, the Rav argues, are both essential components in the ongoing relationship between Hashem and His people. Each Jew… is… a signatory to a personal agreement with Hashem, dramatically contracted in the plains of Moav on the last day of Moshe’s life. This personal agreement with the Divine carries clear responsibilities and must be perpetually maintained. (Rav Goldin citing Peli, “On Repentance,” 214-20)

It seems to this author that this discussion of the “Covenant of Hashem” of our Parshat Nitzavim, and its subsequent reiterations, renewals and reminders, throughout Tanach, are crucial and bear remembrance by the Kehal — the Am, as well as today’s political governmental leaders, and for Rabbanim to internalize and ponder long and hard during Rosh Hashana and Asseret Yomei Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentence before Yom Kippur).

Asserting and taking Mutual and unified responsibility, as The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash introduction to Parshat Nitzavim indicates — 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 and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five 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 prevent Chas V’Challila 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!!!

Good Shabbos! May You, All of My Brothers and Sisters, be Inscribed and Sealed for another Year of Life… Now and always!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.