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Nitzavim-Vayeilech - Vol. 6, Issue 52
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Atem nitzavim hayom kulchen lifnei Hashem Elokeichem (29:9)
In this week’s parsha, Moshe begins his address to the Jewish people by emphasizing, “All of you are standing today before Hashem.” Since it was self-evident that they were all gathered together, why did Moshe stress this fact?
The Darkei Mussar suggests that Moshe was teaching the people the importance of achdus (unity) and togetherness among the Jewish people. When all of the Jews come together as one nation, they merit a spiritual uplift which allows them to stand in Hashem’s presence.
With Rosh Hashana almost upon us, this lesson is quite timely, as the Alter of Kelm uses this concept to resolve an apparent contradiction regarding the nature of the Yom Tov. On the one hand, it is legally considered a festive day, on which we dress in our finest clothes and eat enjoyable meals. On the other hand, the tone of the day is solemn. Hallel isn’t recited due to the fear and trembling which accompany the knowledge that the books of life and death are open on this day. The Alter explains that as a nation, we are confident in Hashem’s mercy and conduct ourselves with joy and optimism. At the same time, each individual is filled with dread and terror at the recognition that he has no such guarantee.
As the Day of Judgment approaches, we may find comfort in the message of the Alter. If we live in our own vacuums, we will be judged on our own merits in less than a week, a scary thought. However, as Moshe stresses in this week’s parsha, if we affiliate ourselves with a community, becoming part of our synagogues and volunteering to help with communal projects and organizations, we will share in their collective merits. As a result, we will enjoy an inscription for a year of health, happiness, and blessing.
Hachaim v’hamaves nasati l’fanecha habracha v’haklala u’bacharta bachaim l’ma’an tichyeh atah v’zarecha (30:19)
Moshe exhorts the Jewish people: “I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse. You shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring.” These instructions seem redundant. Since Moshe already mentioned that the alternative to life is death, wouldn’t it have been sufficient to merely command us to choose life? Why was it necessary to add the phrase, “so that you will live, you and your offspring,” which seems superfluous after we were already told to choose life?
Rav Moshe Feinstein suggests that Moshe’s intention wasn’t to explain why a person should choose life or to spell out the self-evident consequences of doing so. Rather, he was adding critical information: the type of life that we should choose, namely one that will result in our children electing to follow in our footsteps.
Rav Moshe writes that the financial situation for many European immigrants was grim. Their refusal to work on Shabbos made it very difficult to find and keep a reliable paycheck. When they came home, they complained constantly about how hard it is to be an observant Jew. Although they remained committed to their religious ideals, they unintentionally educated their children to believe that Judaism is painful and requires great sacrifice. Not surprisingly, many of these children chose to abandon their family traditions. On the other hand, if parents stress the warmth and happiness which our faith offers, their children will naturally want to follow in their footsteps, and it is precisely this kind of life which Moshe commands us to choose.
Vayomer aleihem ben meah v’esrim shana anochi hayom (31:2)
In addressing the Jewish people on the last day of his life, Moshe emphasized that on that day he was 120 years old. The Gemora (Sotah 13b) derives from here that the righteous die on the day on which they were born, as Hashem completes the years of the righteous from day to day and from month to month. Because Moshe was born on 7 Adar, he lived out his last year and also died on 7 Adar. The Maharsha (Kiddushin 38a) points out a major difficulty with this calculation. If Moshe completed his final year, shouldn’t he have died on 6 Adar – the last day of his 120th year – and not on 7 Adar, which was the first day of a new year which he didn’t live to complete?
In his commentary Chochmas Shlomo on Choshen Mishpat (35:1), Rav Shlomo Kluger uses this question as novel support for an original position. Most commentators assume that a boy becomes a legal adult at sundown on the day of his 13th birthday. Rav Kluger maintains that this occurs not at sundown, but only at the time of day when the boy was actually born. He suggests that although Moshe was born on 7 Adar, he couldn’t die on 6 Adar, as this wouldn’t be considered a finished year. Rather, he died on 7 Adar just at the time he was born, thereby completing his 120th full year. For practical purposes, it should be noted that the majority of commentators disagree with this fascinating and original opinion.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Moshe told the people (30:12) that the Torah is not in Heaven. The Gemora in Bava Metzia (59b) understands this to mean that after the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, it is up to the Sages to decide legal matters, which are no longer within the jurisdiction of Hashem. When the Gemora is left with a difficult question which it is unable to answer, it concludes "teiku," which is traditionally interpreted as an abbreviation indicating that Eliyahu will come and resolve the difficulty. Of what value will it be to hear the opinion of a prophet if legal questions may not be decided by Divine intervention? (Tosefos Yom HaKippurim Yoma 75a, Mishneh L’Melech Hilchos Ishus 9:6 and Gilyon Rav Akiva Eiger, Shu”t Chasam Sofer 6:98, Birkei Yosef Orach Chaim 32:4)
2) Moshe commanded (31:12) all of the people – men, women, children, and converts – to gather together to hear the reading of the book of Devorim by the king during the festival of Sukkos every 7 years. Why was it read specifically on Sukkos instead of Pesach or Shavuos? (Kli Yakar)
3) May the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah (31:19) be fulfilled through the purchase of books on Torah subjects? (Rosh Hilchos Sefer Torah 1; Chinuch 613; Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 270:2 with commentaries of Shach, Taz, Biur HaGra, and Pischei Teshuvah; Tur Yoreh Deah 270 with commentaries of Beis Yosef, Bach, and Perisha; Levush Yoreh Deah 270; Shaages Aryeh 36)
4) If a person fulfilled the mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah (31:19) and the Torah subsequently became lost, has he still fulfilled his mitzvah, or is he required to write another one? (Toras Chaim Sanhedrin 21b, Pischei Teshuvah Yoreh Deah 270:3, Minchas Chinuch 613:5)
5) Each year the reading of the entire Torah is finished on Simchas Torah. How is it possible for a complete Hebrew year to go by without the reading of one of the 54 portions of the Torah?
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