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D'var Torah (September 12, 2020): "Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech" 5780

D'var Torah

This week’s portion is “Nitzavim & Va-Yeilekh” (Deuteromony 29:9 – 31:30). The two portions are read together on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. With four less weeks as this is a non-leap year, some portions are doubled up so we can finish the Torah on Simchat Torah.

Nitzavim (“You stand this day…”) opens up as Moses starts his third and final discourse to the new generation of Israelites that will settle the promised land. Moses addresses everyone: tribal chiefs, elders, officials and all the other men. He also includes children wives and strangers, from woodchoppers and water drawers. They are all entering the covenant of Hashem. This is the covenant Hashem made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and now make with all of them.

Moses also says that G-d makes this covenant with those present and as well as those not present. This can mean either those yet to be born are also under the covenant, or that the souls of every Jew ever born was there as well.

He warns them that some may be considering following idols, but G-d will punish them. People may also decide to follow their hearts or their eyes instead of the mitzvot. People will see the punishment that G-d meted out to the idol-worshipping apostates as well as the whole community if they sin too. Other peoples will see that they were punished for breaking the covenant.

In verse 27, we have a “lamed” in the word “cast them” or “put them” in another land. Large letters are used as a symbol or to draw attention to that word and the concept it conveys. Since a lamed is numerically “30”, it may mean that for their sins, the Israelites will be exiled for thirty generations.

In verse 28, the Hebrew words that mean “for us and our children” have dots over them. Dots over letters in the Torah are used to call attention to that phrase. Since the text talks about hidden sins, which we may not even know we’re committing, we need to be especially diligent in our actions and follow the mitzvot.

Chapter 30 assures the Israelites that when they finally repent, Hashem will restore all their possessions and take them back wholeheartedly. Moses encourages them to heed those words and tells them that to obey or not obey is their choice. If you walk in G-d’s ways, you will thrive.

Nitzavim ends with Moses reminding the Israelites to love G-d.

“Va-Yeilech” starts with Chapter 31 with Moses’ epilogue. He tells them he is 120 years old and can no longer be active. He will not cross the Jordan with them but is turning it over to Joshua, his protégé and successor. He assures them that G-d will lead them into the Promised Land and help wipe out their enemies by delivering them to the Israelites.

In verse 7 he tells them to be strong and resolute.

Moses wrote down these teaching and gave them to the Levis and Cohens. In verse 10, Moses tells them to observe the seventh year as forgiving debts. Succot of the seventh year will also be a year of public reading of Torah.

In Verse 14, G-d tells Moses it is now his time to die and appoint Joshua as his successor. G-d also tells Moses to write down those words since the Israelites may go astray and forget G-d when they thrive. Those words will serve as a reminder.

In verse 24, he put the writing with the Levites to place it beside the Ark.

Va-Yeilekh ends with Moses reciting the words to the congregation of Israel.

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